Rockfishing Adventures On The Barrier

I had the pleasure on Friday to take a keen father and son on a rockfishing adventure. Granted, our timing could have been better, but we had a great, memorable and successful fishing day nevertheless. The team (Morlin & Benjamin) came from Auckland to the Barrier for one important purpose, fishing. As we were walking on a rocky beach toward a productive ledge, they told me that the previous two days charter fishing had not been rewarding. They were struggling to catch a feed on the first day and nothing was landed on the second day.

I was astounded to hear that because my pick for the best day out of the week was the previous day (Thursday). So yeah, the pressure was on me. We had about 5 hours of time before they had to catch the ferry back home, and I had no intention of sending them back empty-handed…

Conditions & Tide

Low tide was at 1130, hardly a cloud in the sky today and the best word to describe the overall conditions would be calm. It would take us about 40 minutes to reach the ledge and we had all in all about 4 hours of solid fishing ahead of us.

Whilst walking and talking, heading to the headlands of a small bay, Rani started barking and something growled back at her. It turned out to be a baby seal sun bathing on the rocks.

A baby seal relaxing in the sun on the rocks. It was still there on our return and seemed pretty mellow and happy.

A baby seal relaxing in the sun on the rocks. It was still there on our return and seemed pretty mellow and happy.

Watch The Water Closely

There were a couple of slow swimming, baby kahawai in the burley stream and while I was preparing further rods, a squid was spotted. After a few attempts at hooking the squid, I presented a rod with a squid jig and Morlin landed his first squid. He was very glad, and judging by his expression and remarks, I felt that even if he did not land anything else today, he’d still be happy.

I usually do not fish myself when taking people out on adventures. Instead, I try to get everything sorted and be there to assist and/or provide tips and tricks. However, as those small kahawai turned out to be very shy to take any presented baits, and due to our time constraints, I decided to have a go at arresting one. It wasn’t as easy as it should be, but by 1000 o’clock Morlin and Benjamin were casting dead baits and fishing very eagerly and I had sent a live kahawai out under a balloon.

The other kahawai was eventually caught and at that time I felt very hopeful. We had a live bait swimming in strike zone, heaps of frozen bait and burley, fresh bait and I was constantly cutting bait up and ground baiting to attract the big moochers.

How To Keep Snapper Out Of The Weeds

It took about an hour before the first snapper showed up. Morlin caught it effortlessly, it was about 35 cm. After watching him play the fish, I suggested he should work the rod more actively, and reel more quickly, as bigger fish would bust him off in the weeds.

If you want to minimize the chance of losing a fish to the weeds, do the following:

  • After striking, get onto higher ground and keep the rod facing up
  • Always set your fighting drag so you can increase it by two half turns (if needed) without worrying about the line to break
  • When the fish is taking line, keep the rod aiming high, stand firm and let it take line whilst increasing the drag
  • When it is not taking line, you should wind in as quickly as you can whilst simultaniously bringing the rod down, aiming toward the horizon (keep the line tight).
  • Gently, keeping the pressure on the fish, pull the rod back up, aiming high into the sky (don’t use the reel now)
  • Remember that if you manage to keep the fish’s head up, it can only swim toward you
  • Change your position if necessary
  • When the fight is nearly over and you brought the fish in close (you might be able to see the colour by now), decrease the drag and be extremely aware of the weed line.

Lunch Break & My New Species

A couple snapper were lost to the weeds unfortunately, and things went very quiet at low tide. Morlin and Benjamin decided to have lunch. Time for me to cast a bait. First bait, a good take about 20 m out, nothing major but always good to feel some weight at the end of the line. To my big surprise, I caught a species I had never caught before. I was so surprised, didn’t even know what I had caught…

It was a tarakihi (there are two more species on my list that I need to catch: Gurnard & John Dory)

Second cast, wait for a bit, let the bait sink slowly and BOOOOM, another good take, this time there was a bigger fish at the end of the line. It was a 3-4 pound snapper with beautiful colours.

The Hookup

About an hour after low tide, Morlin’s reel is making the sound all anglers like. He had hooked a decent fish and did everything right. Well, eventually. It was amusing to watch him try to fight the fish whilst sitting. He figured moments later that it would be a lost battle. So he got up, increased the drag, worked the rod and reel and when he realised that the fish was on an undesirable angle to where he was standing, he moved down toward the ledge. All this happened quickly enough to keep the fish out of the weeds and we were glad to see the wonderful red and orange of a decent snapper moments later.


Morlin with the catch of the day. A decent snapper off the rocks landed on light line. Best of all, he told us he’d catch a good one before casting. Well done!

Doing Everything Right & The Last Bait

As aforementioned, our timing was not ideal but we had a great day and did everything right. We had a live bait, which did not receive any action. We used frozen pilchards and squid, had burley bombs deployed the entire time and tried kahawai fillets and even the infamous kahawai head. Unfortunately, our efforts did not grant us a big moocher or any kingfish action, but we did very well in terms of catch diversity. We landed three decent snapper, a few kahawai, one trevally (which was released due to being small), one tarakihi and a squid (why did I not take a photo of the squid? arrrrgh)

Boat-fishing vs. Rock-fishing

In a nutshell, rockfishing proved more productive than two successive fishing sessions of a boat. Furthermore, as Benjamin noted, rockfishing is more comfortable, you don’t rock from side to side, you’ve got space to move and enough time to take photos and go for a wander around the coast. When the fishing was very slow, we gathered some kina and a had a small feed on them.

The Gist Of It

Fish: Snapper – Caught Rockfishing: August 2015 – Bait: full pilchard – Where: Tryphena – Weight: 3 lbs – Gear: Not sure, he was using braid though on a small reel, 50 lbs Trace, quarter ounce lead – Fish landed an hour after low tide

My Dinner

I’ve got two more photos for you.

A small snapper and tarakihi for me and the dog...

A small snapper and tarakihi for me and the dog…

Fish curry with coconut cream, sweet potato and other stuff...

Fish curry with coconut cream, sweet potato and other stuff… The trick to a good fish curry is to cook the fish last, with the lid on and in the steam of the curry rather than on direct heat.

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