Land Based Fishing: Tired of Catching Small Snapper?

It can be quite frustrating to land one small (throwback) snapper after another. Actually, this happened about two weeks ago when I went fishing with a mate. The first snapper I landed was about 30 cm, I threw it back anyway thinking that I’ll catch bigger fish. Yeah right! Fortunately, my mate landed another similar sized snapper, otherwise we would have left empty-handed. I was disappointed and also slightly frustrated. Mainly because I knew I screwed up.

Catching a few decent snapper is much more fun than landing heaps of small ones.
Catching a few decent snapper is much more fun than landing heaps of small ones.

Instead of writing about what I did wrong last time, let me write about what I did yesterday, when I went for a land based mission in Schooner Bay. When I go fishing, I expect to land a feed. Period. Anything else is a disappointment. For the fishing mission to be a success, a couple decent snapper (40 cm+) have to be caught within 2 hours.

Living on Great Barrier Island enables me to set such a standard and this is how I go about achieving it:

  • Instead of going fishing (potentially for a long time) when you’ve got time, make some time to go fishing when conditions are good
  • when good spots are accessible, when the tides are the way you like them, when the tidal currents are very strong, when…. I could go on, fish eat every day!
  • It takes me usually less than 2 hours of fishing time to catch a feed for a couple of days
  • Don’t skimp on the bait; rather spend 10 bucks more and come home with a full bag of fish than coming home with less than a feed
  • If you don’t want to spend the money on bait and berley, you must spend the time to catch, salt down bait or freeze and to make your own berley and so forth. This is perfectly doable and also commendable, but you’ve got to spend either the money or spend the time!
  • If you are sick of landing one throwback snapper after another and start saying stuff like: ‘hmm, only small ones here today…’ focus on catching fresh bait!
  • Seriously, this is the main advice I can give. Focus on attracting and catching a small kahawai, mackerel, mullet, piper
  • Especially, when you are fishing with a mate. Don’t both just keep doing the same things. Keep your eyes on the water, put a small enough hook on your second rod, have it close by, when that kahawai rushes through, make sure to catch it
  • Take two rods with you! One with your favourite rig, one with a rig designed to land bait fish – after fishing a spot a few times, you’ll know which bait fish are most likely to appear
  • When you’ve landed a small kahawai, cut its head off, put two hooks through it and cast it out far on the big rod
  • Once you have fresh bait, cut the frozen bait into small cubes and chuck them into the water, right next to your feet
  • Cut small strips of kahwai flesh and fish – using the small rod – the water at your feet
  • While the big rod is in the rod holder, you fish with the small rod the area right in front of you, where the berley and the bait cubes are dispensing

Essentially, this means that the big bait is far out and you can safely put the big rod in the rod holder and just leave it. Chances of getting snagged on the bottom are much less when you cast out far.

I actively fish up close and passively fish out far, I hope that makes sense. You would be amazed how many big snapper hide further back and happily eat on the berley chum, especially on an outgoing tide. At the same time, you’d amazed by the few big, unnoticed snapper that are actively feeding right at your feet.

By fishing the two rods, you are targeting the aggressive big fish that are so often not seen right at your feet, and you are targeting those that are a bit more shy on the bite. They might merely nibble at your frozen bait, but can’t resist that bloody, fresh kahawai bait.

I had my first bait in the water at noon yesterday. By 1230, more than 3/4 of the berley had dispensed into the water and I still didn’t have a solid bite or any sign of usable bait fish. It was really calm, I was getting nervous. After 10 more minutes, the small kahwai appeared and I was smiling!

My bait rod, rigged and baited, was right next to me and it took me 5 minutes to land 3 small kahawai. Off came a head and out far it went. It got hammered before sinking to the ground.

I had a 40 cm snapper in the rock pool. Now I was even smiling more. Second head, another 5 minutes and another, slightly bigger, snapper in the pool. I kept cubing the frozen pilchards and emptied the remainder of the berley.

I can’t even say that I was that surprised to land the fish off the day on the bait rod right at my feet. It had a dozen pieces of pilchard in its stomach…

Three decent snapper, then a bigger kahawai for the dog and it was just 1330. I cast another kahawai head out and started gutting and cleaning the fish. Well, the bait got taken but I just didn’t get the hook up.

So I packed in and walked back home. The outcome could have been very different though, I could have just caught throwback snapper.

Often you have to catch a small kahawai first to catch those nicer snapper...
Often you have to catch a small kahawai first to catch those nicer snapper…
A successful land based fishing = catch a bit more than a fish within a few hours
A successful land based fishing = catch a bit more than a feed within a few hours





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