Rockfishing With My Dad

Having my dad over for a visit is great. It is his first time on beniSland and one thing I wanted to make sure of was that his first rockfishing mission on the Barrier would be a success. Partly because I want him to land and eat decent fish, but also because I would probably not hear the end of it, if I took him fishing and we ended up empty-handed. Fishing is an awesome sport and I’ve come to notice that anyone feels like an expert and is hardly ever shy of making suggestions, theorising and making conclusive remarks based on, well, pure assumption and thin air.

When it comes to taking less experienced people rockfishing I’ve learned that the recipe to success is to NOT let them participate in the decision-making part of when and where to go fishing. Another important thing is to assure them that getting up early is mandatory.

My dad is very fit and able (for his age), but the old knees and tendons are not used to our rocky shores, thus, unfortunately, he cannot experience fishing those remote ledges that I love to hike to. It would be just too much of a mission and beat the purpose.

Finding The Right Spot

Somewhere easy to get to that does not involve climbing. It shouldn’t be more than half an hour of easy-grade walking. Moreover, the spot should have plenty of foul close by so that casting far is not necessary.

This photo was shot after we packed up and were about to leave. We got in at dawn.

This photo was shot after we packed up and were about to leave. We got in at dawn.

Conditions & Tide

Saturday, 28.03.2015, Great Barrier Island, calm sea, overcast, variable 5 knots of wind, early morning. Low tide at 0830. We had the burley deployed and the first baits in the water by about 7ish.

The Rig

A two hooked rig is not appropriate for less experienced anglers when fishing off the rocks in shallow, foul-laden waters. There are few reasons for this:

  1. Increased chance of snagging on the ground and losing gear.
  2. Assisting with the snag and re-rigging the line further reduces the amount of active fishing time.
  3. Every nibble and bite feels like a monster fish to a less-experienced angler and therefore they start fiddling about and striking too often.

My dad warned me that he would not be keen to snag in the foul. Moreover, he warned me that he would not like to go somewhere were there are little fish, he doesn’t like hooking into one small fish after another. Geez, speaking of pressure and the fun of fishing, aye?

So I rigged his line with a 6/0 sized circle hook. A simple rig, about half a meter of 50 lbs trace, no weight and uni-knot-tied hook at the end. The only other thing I did was explain to dad how the circle hook works and that he shall not strike when he feels a bite.

The Hookup

After landing and releasing about a handful of under-sized snapper, dad got a feeling for how to cast and to operate rod and reel. This was quite evident when I, while re-rigging my line, told dad that he was hooked up and his only gesture was a to show me his hand, as in: “Yupp, I know what I’m doing.”

He increased the drag and had a secure footing while playing his fish. The waters here are very shallow and the kelp is omnipresent, so I feared for the worst as he was taking his time to land his fish. Eventually, he got snagged and I went to assist him. I had no clue what he was fighting, for all I knew it could have been another 15 cm snapper. I wrestled the line out of the weeds and felt a good thumb plus some weight, so I immediately gave him the rod back and told him to land his fish.

Dad reeled in a nice snapper, the fish of the day and I’m sure he was enthusiastic inside.


My dad with the snapper of the day, estimated at 3 lbs.

What Else Happened

Well, I managed to hook a trevally but lost it at my feet and the same thing happened with a kahawai. There were plenty piper in the burley stream but I didn’t have my piper rod/reel on me. As we did not land any fish suitable for using as bait, and because the waters were simply full of extremely aggressive snapper, we went through a bag of pilchards and squid pretty quickly, landing 4 keeper snapper. The best thing I could have done today was to try to land a few piper with a sabiki rig and send one out under a balloon, with the intention of landing a big snapper. I’m sure there was one around today…

Dad landed a couple more snapper and we fished actively for about 2 hours. The circle hook rig worked fine, he lost the rig on his last cast and was therefore able to fish actively for the whole 2 hours. Good fun, good fish for the table and I assume he might smile when he lands a fish twice that size. He didn’t seem impressed today… So yeah, let’s see what we can do on our second trip.


The Gist Of It

Fish: Snapper – Caught Rockfishing: March. 2015 – Bait: Squid – Where: South East Coast – Weight (estimated): 3 lbs – Gear: 15 lbs Main Line, 50 lbs Trace – Fish landed 30 minutes before low tide


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