Conditions & Tide
Low tide 1630, tidal flow very strong, overcast, calm sea, no wind. Sunset at 1745, and the plan was to burley hard and catch decent snapper before it got dark.
In German they say “Aller guten Dinge sind drei” (Third time’s a charm), however, they also say “Einmal ist keinmal” (Once doesn’t count), so where does that leave us? I don’t know, it’s not important anyway, what needs to be highlighted though, is that Dad and I went rockfishing, for the third time, and it was almost perfect.
When I got home from work yesterday, I hurried Dad, “Come on, we need to go, where are the torches, are you ready?…” “I just made tea Son”, he responded. “We don’t have time for tea Dad, we’re going fishing.” “Aah, there is enough time for a tea.“, Dad drinks his tea and then mine…
I’ve come to realise that when it comes to rockfishing, especially when I’m not on my own, I generally rush with the rationale to getting to the spot by a set time, preparing everything and observing the conditions. The funny thing is that, once I’ve cast a few baits and got a feel for the situation, I calm down, feeling confident and on top of things, whereas the person I take fishing starts rushing.
A bit later than 1430 and we’re fishing. The burley is dispensing, the water has retreated significantly more than the last times we were here, it must be a very strong tidal flow, everything is quiet and calm. We get a few nibbles here and there, our baits get bitten off the hook, we don’t get any action for more than an hour. No kahawai, but there is a school of piper feeding happily on the burley.
Focus On Catching Fresh Bait
Most of the good snapper I’ve caught off the rocks were landed on fresh bait. When the fishing is slow and you don’t get any excitement using the baits you brought along, there are two things you can do. Continue doing what you are, or acknowledge that the fishing is slow and use this time to catch fresh bait. Easily said, but it is in reality a battle. “Should I re-rig and catch piper?, or cast one more time?, surely the moment I switch to small hooks a big kahawai cruises by, or a big snapper…” It’s challenging, but believe me, unless you are fishing two rods, switch your gear and catch fresh bait.
It’s been a while since I targeted piper, I must admit, and it took a quarter of an hour until I hooked and landed the first one. A madman, a landbased fishing extremist, a man too big for any pair of jeans and a man with whom I hope to fish again showed me how to target piper. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that another madman and dear friend showed the former madman how to rig for piper (hold on, am I a madman, too?); the important thing here is that it works and I’ve used this method for years. I shall share this knowledge with you at some stage, unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the rig. It is very “un-Kiwi” though, and involves a float…
It is about 1600 o’clock and there are seven piper swimming, well, dying in the bucket, I switch back to my two-hooked rig and see a small kahawai. I arrest it and put it into the bucket. It is about dead-low tide, the water is far out, Dad is fishing hard, he casts, waits, feels the nibbles, then nothing, he retrieves, the bait is gone, he re-baits and casts again.
Go For a Walk At Low Tide – unless you’re targeting kingfish
I cease this extremely low tide and go for a walk and come back with heaps of big kina. I ask Dad to stop fishing, “let’s have a break and a feed”. We open the kina, enjoy the roes and throw the shells into the water. “This will attract the big snapper to come in close Dad.”
We’re back into the fishing and I’m casting halved piper out far, Dad is fishing in close, in about 2m of water covered with sea weed.
As I see Dad’s rod bent and line spooling off his reel, I retrieve my bait quickly and remind him to keep the rod aiming high. He adjusts the drag, increasing it by one, then another notch. He knows what he’s doing. He isn’t snagged, there is clearly a fish on and he is managing it. I wonder what his drag setting is.
We see some colour, it is a decent snapper. Dad remains calm and utters in farsi “this one is going nowhere”. Less than a minute later and I grab the leader and pull his fish up onto the rocks. “Woohooo, nice one.” Dad is impressed and measures the fish. “That’s more than 50 cm.” We take a couple pictures, it is about 1700 and I remind him that now is bite time. We’ve been burleying, we’ve been casting, we’ve ground baited with kina and cubed pilchards, the change of light is soon, we’ve got fresh bait, in other words, we’re in the zone.
Dad lands another 40 cm snapper. I’m still casting far out, nothing really. He lands a third snapper, he keeps casting into the same spot where he got the big one. Our bag looks healthy, three decent snapper. I cast another piper and get a hook-up on the surface. The fish fights strongly and changes direction. “Finally, a bigger kahawai”, I think. The fish jumps out of the water to our mutual excitement, and yes, of course it is a kahawai. Not big, but good fun and good eating.
I know that Dad will fish until he can’t see a thing, so I start packing in a bit, getting all the gear together and address our catch. It is a good idea to get yourself sorted out before dusk, otherwise you might forget something or spend heaps of time in the dark trying sort things out.
The Kahawai Head – Big Snapper Just Love It
It should be no surprise to my regular readers that I wasn’t just scaling and gutting the catch, my rod was secured in a rod holder and there was a fresh, bloody kahawai head hooked to the end of the line far out. I finish cleaning the fish and find it somewhat surprising that nothing touched the kahawai head. Hmmm, I retrieve it. Indeed, untouched. So out it goes again. I walk to my bag and eat some chippies, I see my rod bend for a brief moment, a bit of line is taken.
The bag of chips is dropped and I jump to my rod, tighten the drag, take the slack out of the line and strike. WHOOOOOM, line peels off the reel, I’m not sure how strong the drag setting is, instinctively step onto the highest rock next to me and aim the rod up high. I fight a strong fish for about 5 seconds, and then, something I’m not accusmoded to, “piiing”, the line breaks. I know it, I feel it but am only convinced after retrieving the line. Yupp, cut clean on the main line. SHOOT.
I check the drag. It is a bit tighter than I would have arguably liked it, but hey, it is shallow waters, the bait got taken more than 50 m away, you don’t have much time goofing around in such conditions. Stop the fish first, only decrease the drag when you’ve gained at least some line. I am gutted though.
Up to know the fishing was perfect. It would have been much better had I not gotten that take.
After a good day’s rockfishing I like to stop at someone I know who lives on the way home and give them some fresh fish. Giving fish away is much better than freezing it for later. When there is no one home, I help myself to their kitchen and put the fish into the fridge. What a nice surprise when you come home and find a decent, fresh snapper (gutted, scaled and washed in sea water). Perhaps also a surprise to my readers, no one locks their doors here on Aotea.
The more you give away, the more the word gets spread that you catch fish. For myself, this creates another challenge. There used to be a time when I was just glad to get out there, then came the time when I went out to catch a feed and now I’m at a time in my rockfishing, when I also want to catch a feed for others…
The Gist Of It
Fish: Snapper – Caught Rockfishing: April 2015 – Bait: Kahawai head – Where: South East Coast – Weight: 5 lbs – Gear: 15 lbs Main Line, 30 lbs Trace – Fish landed half an hour after low tide