Rockfishing in Harataonga

I love it when a plan comes together. Yeah, you’ve heard this before from Hannibal Smith and I wish I could say the same. My plan was to catch a king fish off the rocks in Blind Bay. Believe me, the plan was sound, the tides and chosen fishing spot were quite promising as well, but the onshore westerly winds and the marine forecast upset the plan. Nonetheless, Sinclair and I were keen to fish off the rocks and obviously when it is windy on one side of the island the other side should be calm. I arrived at Sinclair’s place at about 0930, he was having yet another beer…., and we discussed our options, consulting a Great Barrier Island chart map, and decided to go to Harataonga on the East Coast. Since I’ve only fished there once, some 5-6 years ago, and am keen to get to know new fishing spots, I was excited as. 

We arrived at the Harataonga campsite, one of the campsites managed by the Department of Conservation. Besides a couple of flocks of sheep and lambs there was no one else.

It's a short walk from here to beautiful and secluded Harataonga Beach.
It’s a short walk from here to beautiful and secluded Harataonga Beach.

The sun was shining and perhaps because of this and my keenness, I decided to take my king fishing gear as well. So many times have I dragged heaps of gear with me on the rocks and ended up only using one rod and about 20% of the tackle. But I don’t learn, do I? A 20 l bucket with salted bait, rod holders, knives, rope in one hand, 4 rods in the other, a hiking back pack with around 15 kg of gear. It just adds up, you know. A gimbal, a couple of poppers, four reels, a VHF radio, first aid kit, water, tackle, camera, a blanket for the dog to sleep on, bait, berley, etc, and suddenly you’ve got a heavy-ish bag. We walked to the end of the beach and kept on walking over the boulders, the tide was going out, and it didn’t take long until my boots got wet. Here’s a tip, wear socks! Socks do have their purpose. Wet gum boots, naked feet and walking/climbing on rocks don’t go too well. My arms were heavy, my toenails were bent forward and since Rani, my dog, was whining pretty much all the way, there was certainly a bit of cursing done on my side.

But we, finally, arrived at a nice looking ledge with good current, deep water, white water and solid structures to left and right. My first thought was, f***, why did I bring my king fishing gear? There was some side-on wind and realistically you couldn’t land a king fish there, because there were too many rocks sticking out of the water right in close.

There was much more structure to the left, also close in, and I believe you need some luck to land a king fish here.
Arid Island in the background.
The berley attracted some maomao and sweep, but no piper or kahawai in the trail at all.

We had about 3-4 hours before having to head back. This is a low tide fishing spot and you can easily get caught out there. I heard stories from people jumping from one rock-face to another to avoid having to go for a swim, but these days I’m freaked out a bit about doing dangerous stunts. At least I have a VHF with me to call for help, but I don’t want to be that poor fellow who doesn’t make the jump and breaks his knee somewhere in the nowhere….

Anyway, we fished hard, we berleyed hard and we hoped hard, too. There was heaps of foul and current which made straylining a bit difficult. We landed a few pan-sized snapper, I noticed Sinclair losing a bit of gear to the bricks. He left his bait out much longer than me, which essentially is a good thing, but you run the chance getting snagged off. At the same time I believe that when the big one takes the bait and your bait is already in foul area, chances are very high you lose the fish to the bricks. Better enticing the fish to come up and take the bait where there is less weed and foul. Anyway, we did our best and weren’t too happy with the results. Thus the decision was made, half an hour before low tide, to get the magic, green berley out.

Believe it or not, the secret weapon of the rockfisherman did the trick, once again, and the bites were harder, the fish heavier and the action more plentiful. Then Sinclair pulled another trick out of the hat. He said:”Sorry Ben, but this is it! Gonna catch a big one on this.” Talk about self-confidence and feeling for fish. He casts his bait out, it was a poor cast too, grins like he already caught a twenty pounder and who could have known it, less than five minutes later, I had a bait out there too, you know, his bait got taken. It got taken big time. He struck, turned the drag up 2 notches, held the rod tip high and had a strong fighting position up high, the fish still took line, he turned the drag up 2-3 notches more. Still the same and after adjusting the drag even more, it was all over. The fish was gone, his rig didn’t come undone, the line didn’t break, the fish was just gone. Ooooh, I can tell you, the initial grin that he had was (suddenly) also gone. He got ‘smoked biiiiiig time’ and he knew it. And if he didn’t, he certainly did so after I reminded him about 20 times that he got smoked biiiig time.

On the positive side, and there are always positive sides, the fish got away cleanly, no trace and hooks in its mouth, Sinclair had a good, strong fight, which no matter how you look at it builds experience, and we both knew that the long walk with all the gear was worth it. There was a big fish there and both of us had a chance of catching it. Since he landed a 15 pounder two weeks ago on the same rod and reel, it’s fair to say that this was a much bigger fish.

That’s about it, I’m afraid. We had a great day, my arms had stretched by a couple of centimeters, our rock pool contained 7 snapper ranging from 35-45 cm and even the dog got a workout.

It doesn’t look as steep on pictures but I wouldn’t want to climb down there.
Wished I had only brought the essentials.
The three fish I took. One for the dog, one for dinner and one for lunch.

We got back to the beach, cleaned our fish and enjoyed the solitude and beauty of a winter’s day at Harataonga Beach.

Moreover, we had a chat about the two hook fishing rig for straylining. Both of us use a similar rig, in which both hooks are firmly snooded to the leader. Sinclair told me he started fishing 3 years ago, I started about 8 years ago and thus obviously neither of us have learned fishing from our grand dad and I’m not intending to be a smart arse and claim what rig is better for catching snapper off the rocks. However, I recall fishing the Kings of the Coromandel Competition once and reading the terms and conditions before entering this tournament. It turned out that I was the only one from our fishing team who had done so. A mate landed a winning kahawai. His catch was however disqualified because he used a rig with a running hook.

So for you guys out there swearing on the two hook rig, on which one of the hooks is dangling or swinging or as we say in New Zealand running, you might want to consider the IGFA (International Game Fish Association rules). I understand it is prohibited.



1. For live or dead bait fishing no more than two single hooks may be used. Both must be firmly imbedded in or securely attached to the bait. The eyes of the hooks must be no less than a hook’s length (the length of the largest hook used) apart and no more than 18 inches (45.72 cm) apart. The only exception is that the point of one hook may be passed through the eye of the other hook.

A hook may not precede bait, lure or bait/lure combo by more than one hook’s length.

2. The use of a dangling or swinging hook is prohibited. Double or treble hooks are prohibited.

3. A two hook rig for bottom fishing is acceptable if it consists of two single hooks on separate leaders or drops. Both hooks must be imbedded in the respective baits and separated sufficiently so that a fish caught on one hook cannot be foul hooked by the other.

4. A photograph or sketch of the hook arrangement must accompany all record applications made for fish caught on two-hook tackle.


11 thoughts on “Rockfishing in Harataonga”

  1. Love reading these reports mate and glad to hear green burley still works for ya. Acutally thought it would be a too common technique over on the Barrier!

    Re the 2 hooks, I’m firmly a single hook man nowadays! Less snags and more fish. Don’t use swivels either. Cheaper too!

    And if you were talking about Georges big kahawai in kings of coro that was caught on sabikis whilst trying to catch bait. Two many hooks was the problem there not fixed vs running.

    1. Cheers Jade, man, if I could I’d just go fishing and hiking and writing. Perhaps one day. I’m convinced to get rid of swivels too. Recently heard that you catch more fish on just one hook. Now you are saying it, too. Gotta take that on board! Okay, stand corrected then, was thinking of George’s KY. Looking forward to hearing back from some locals on the running hook though. Kind of have a feeling that the conversation ends with either:”Who cares about IGFA?” Or”I’ve been doing that for years and I’ve been here longer than you.” I like to polarize and like to stir things up, but since this is a very small community, I’m learning that it is often not about being right or wrong, but about not upsetting people. As a result of that I have stopped putting a marker on the Google Maps for the fishing spots.

  2. Fantastic pictures! And you will land that super-sized kingfish from the rocks sooner or later. Just keep hauling all the gear wherever you go fishing and believe in it.

    1. Cheers Lars. The other day Dan was talking about catching XOS fish with a hand-line and that you feel the take much better because you are holding the line in your hand. A mate’s grandma caught a 80 or so pound kingi on a hand-line. I don’t even own a hand line…

  3. Hey mate,

    Love your work… Good to stir the pot in a while… Otherwise the Massaman burns!

    chilling here on Koh Samui in Thailand and saw a story bout a boat sinking of Gt B Isl, photo looked like familiar person. Was it you?

    1. Heya Gav, you’re right, there was some mayday call and emergency, but I don’t know anything about it. Took a dive on the quad last week though. Was pretty late and I was juiced, hit a tree stump and landed in the mud. Keep keepin’ it real over there, B

  4. Hey Behny. I’ll have to wade into the debate on hooks here too especially since my view is not the same! Personally I like that running/keeper hook as it is eternally adjustable depending on the size of bait being used, which for me often changes as I’m fishing for snapper briefly and then maybe some kahawai turn up which it is critical you don’t hook deep and they’re being fussy, so you put a cube on your fixed hook and leave the other empty and bang, hit every one! Also useful for John Dory if you target them as they will very often turn a single hook back into a livebait and so the free one above is the one that sticks. But hey you guys all do more snapper fishing than me and so I’ll almost end it there. I will add that my biggest snapper have been caught on single hooks, for the simple reason they’ve eaten livebaits. And I’m not a record recording kind of guy either, if I happen to catch a fish anywhere near that size it would be instantly released with minimal handling, so I’d never know the real weight anyway….. Paul xxxxx

    1. That is some solid advice on ‘putting a cube on the fixed hook, leaving the sliding one empty’. I have got to start live-baiting again. As you say, king fish aren’t the only fish that take live baits. I’m going to start using single hook leaders for snapper fishing, too. Reputed fishermen, like yourself, prefer the single hook, and no doubt, two hooks increase the chances of snagging more than two-fold. I’ve been using the two fixed hooks since Rudy showed me his rig and I like to tell myself that I’m catching more and bigger snapper with this rig, and lose less fish, but then again, it is hard to prove. Sliding hooks are prohibited by IGFA and perhaps this is so because the chances of (partly) foul hooking the fish with the fixed hook are greater.

      You keep some records on your landed king fish though, but I know what you mean. It is for me hard to see that well experienced fishermen take big snapper, although they aren’t competing in a tournament – which BTW is another (sad) story – and although they have landed many big fish before. I’ve never caught a 20 pounder snapper and it is one of my goals to catch one off the rocks. I also like to take a picture of myself with a big fish, which is obviously quite hard when I’m fishing on my own and intend to release the fish. So yeah, I think keeping a big fish – when not competing in a tournament – is predominantly about bragging and nothing else. We go hunt, land a big fish, which is a rare thing, and we like to have proof and show others our ‘MANLY’ accomplishment. In this world where he or she who owns the biggest is deemed the most successful, let’s not forget that it is the humble people who are the true heroes and the ones we shall look up on to.

  5. Be careful mate, you might be starting to sound like “Mabel and the Marlin”!

    I do keep records of fish landed for myself and notes on what lead up to their capture to hopefully refresh me at the start of each season when I’m green (not berley!) on the water. I wouldn’t however claim any record fish landed mainly because I am very careful with any good size fish not required for the table. Basically any snapper that looks to be 10lb plus goes back, preferably unhooked in the water and not messed around with. Any larger kingfish to be released are preferably unhooked in the water (Even if I get wet). I appreciate when I’m fishing in NZ I have the luxury of time on my hands and therefore if a “working man” (or woman) with more limited fishing time takes a low double figure snapper for the table then for sure that’s ok. What concerns me is the killing of trophy fish (ie 20lbs plus) when they are very few in numbers and pretty poor eating. These fish do deserve respect, careful handling and release by all recreational anglers whether in a competition or not, or they will become a distant memory. That message is generally coming across more and more in the fishing press and is hopefully going to start sinking in. Shame the commercials aren’t in a position to behave that way too…..

    I’m sorry to preach conservation, but here in the UK our snapper equivalent the sea bass has a hell of a time from overfishing and a big fish (10lb) may be considered the fish of a lifetime. I’ll never know whether my big fish 3 years ago was 10lb (I don’t think it was quite there!) because it went back pretty quickly and it was quite a moment to watch it swim away. I have made the mistake of taking a big snapper (not quite 20lb!) years back and made the decision “never again”!

    You are in the right part of the country for a 20lb snapper mate, and it’s only a matter of time (and most likely a long walk!) before you get one. The trick will be to set a good example and put it back. I wish you good luck. Now how about an update on what’s going on on your site, house etc?….

    L&K, Paul xxxxx

    1. Thanks for your comment Paul. There are certainly some wise words for other anglers to think about and act upon. I saw pictures of the 28 lbs snapper that the old fella kept, I’m going to ask him if he feels sorry about taking the fish retrospectively. He fishes at least every other day and as assumed it turns out that his neighbor had to throw a smoked fillet away, as it ‘was disgusting to eat’. So yeah, your message is right up there mate! Fish for tomorrow, let the big ones go, handle them with care and perhaps one more; keep it or release it, but never freeze it.

      Not much going on my site. Looks like when you were here, perhaps there is a bit more rubbish out and about… hehe. She’s full on though mate and I could use a holiday. At least a couple of weeks just on my site to tidy things up and deal with day to day things. Oh, how I wish I could turn my phone off for a month, don’t go to work for a month and live…


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