Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

Information Page


For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

27 March 2006

It's the same the whole World over!

I'm off to Italy next week (taking rod but not hopeful) so not much more stuff on the web 'til I get back.

One of my New Zealand friends, Alan Bulmer, has been in touch again. As always his fishing trips are very interesting. Not only does it give me a real 'feel' of going fishing (it's almost like hauling up those snapper myself) but it's very compelling stuff when it comes to testing tackle. To fill in the story - Alan and I had an exchange of lures a couple of weeks back. I haven't used his lures yet but I sent him some little plastic eels like the ones I use as bass flies. When I sent them I mentioned that I always change the hooks for stronger stainless ones. I'll put this letter in more or less verbatim because I enjoyed it so much ----

Dear Mike,

As I mentioned earlier, the day dawned splendidly. Not a breath of wind, clear blue skies and the temperature rose steadily to reach a pleasant high of 22 C. A few wispy puffs of smoke that could loosely be counted as clouds. Perfect conditions for fishing. The Maori calendar said it was an "Average" day for fishing and high tide coincided with the bite time at 10.30 am.

We set out from the OBC marina at 9.00 am in the beautifully appointed 40' Oliver Royale motor launch and headed for a spot near Number 2 buoy in the Rangitoto Channel. It was necessary to take care to avoid some of the large commercial vessels that were weaving their way out of the harbour. The harbour was flat calm with a faint hint of breeze.

I was using a locally manufactured 6-8 kilogram rod (Albagraph by Composite Developments) matched to an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500C3 baitcaster loaded with 8 kilogram braid. Attached to the braid was a shock trace of 15' of nylon and a two hook ledger rig. A 4 oz. tear drop weight was threaded onto the loop at the base of the trace. A Black / Pearl Sassy shad was threaded onto the top loop and a small Mustad circle hook adorned the loop nearest the weight.

All of the other fishermen (3) were using 8-10 kilogram rated rods and 10 kilogram nylon. The business end was a running rig (sinker above the trace) with a 4' trace and a pair of 5/0 Octopus hooks. One of the hooks was snelled onto the trace and the other is free to drift up and down the trace (keeper hook). We started catching small snapper (~ 25 cm) immediately and these were being returned in a steady stream almost as quickly. They were taking cut pilchard and squid with abandon and it did not seem to matter which bait was on offer. Those using the running rig only came up solid on about 15% of strikes and were complaining about the difficulty in hooking up. There was current running and the fish were taking the bait about 2' above the bottom. The ledger rig was about 5 times more effective as it was possible to keep the line tight on the descent, especially in the zone where the fish were mouthing the bait. I was catching fish on nearly every drop, almost exclusively on the small Mustad Circle hook. I did have a couple of touches on the rubber bodied lure (teeth marks) but was unable to connect until I attached a small strip of squid. (I will send you a separate note on Circle hooks as I have been using a particular Mustad hook for about 6 years and have recently tested some new prototypes for Mustad Australia).

We persisted for about an hour and still did not have a "boat legal" fish in the chilly bin (ice box). The legal limit for snapper is 27 cm. but the boat minimum size limit is 34 cm. Our agreement is that anything less than 34 cm is returned unharmed. The decision was made to up anchor and head to Sergeants Channel at the back of Motuihe Island, a short trip of about 20 minutes. There was a large shoal of Kahawai working in the approach to Sergeants Channel and I would have given my right arm for my lure spinning tackle. Unfortunately nobody else on board was interested in trying to catch Kahawai so my squeals of excitement and protestations fell on deaf ears.

We anchored up around about dead high tide and there was very little current flow. I changed the Sassy shad on the top dropper for a Pearl Eddystone eel before lowering the rig to the bottom. Once again we were plagued by small snapper. Unlike the previous spot, we did start to land the odd koheru up to 1 lb. At least, I started to land the odd koheru....on the Eddystone eel. This pattern changed quickly to become every cast I was landing a koheru or snapper on the unbaited eel once the tide changed and the current began to flow. Then it happened. I got absolutely slaughtered by a big fish. This fish took line at first in short bursts with alarming power. 50 metres would disappear and I would pump it all back only to see it all evaporate again immediately. The fish was angrily shaking its head like a puppy fighting to hold onto a short piece of rope. The rod was bent double and after about 10 minutes I was starting to make progress (the attached photographs labelled "Large snapper pulling string" and "Hooked up on Large snapper" show the rod bend). After another 5 minutes I had got the fish close enough for us to see colour and guestimmate the weight at 15 lbs. Several passing boats had stopped to see what we were struggling with. I continued to pump it up to the boat and just when the net man was getting ready to pounce the fish turned for the last time and gained its freedom. I had assumed that the fish had taken the baited hook and was playing it accordingly however it had taken the Eddystone eel and the hook had straightened (see attached photograph). You had warned me to change the hooks on the eels but in my haste to get fishing I had ignored your advice.

I immediately changed the hook on the tattered eel (no paddle remained at the end of the tail but the tail still wiggled enticingly in the current) rebaited and carried on. I also snelled the Mustad Circle hook onto the bottom dropper rather than simply threading it onto the loop to see if there was any difference in hook up rate. Experience has shown that it is pointless to dwell on the loss of big fish. We fished for another 30 minutes and still had not landed a boat legal fish so the decision was made to move further into the channel where the current was stronger. At the new spot we caught a couple of keeper snapper, the largest being ~ 6 lbs. The eel continued to consistently score on koheru. Nobody else had the faintest sniff of a koheru. The fish soon started to decrease in size and when the wind freshened from the NE we made the decision to head back closer to home.

We anchored briefly in the lee of Motuihe Island and again started to catch the occasional small snapper. For my sins I still managed to keep on catching both snapper and koheru. After lunch and a wee "drinks" break we upped anchor and headed back to a favoured hole in the Rangitoto Channel to fish the last two hours of the outgoing tide.

Safely anchored in the new position, we immediately started to catch keeper snapper around 35 - 40 cm. The action was fast and furious. I managed to catch three double headers of snapper and koheru. One of the other crew members finally caught the only other koheru of the day. I have attached some photographs to give you an idea of what we were catching and one clearly shows the Eddystone eel pinned through the scissors of a pan sized snapper. By the time it reached dead low tide the fish had gone off the bite and we had caught 8 boat legal snapper and brought our total for the day to 10. This was a couple of decent fish each to take home for dinner. A thoroughly satisfying end to a terrific day on the water.

What did I learn:-

If Mike Ladle says change the hooks then that is what he means!

Eddystone eels are extremely effective when used on a ledger rig for koheru and snapper. The final count was 30 koheru and 10 snapper on the eel versus 1 koheru on a baited running rig. (I take some convincing but these results seem significant to me!)

Big snapper will take tiny Eddystone eels.

Braid and ledger rigs outfish running rigs about 5 to 1 in current. I landed around 100 fish during the 7 hour day using a ledger rig whereas the best running rig result was 20 - 25 fish. Included in the ledger rig result were 6 doubles. Obviously a better catch result is expected when using twice as many hooks but running rigs seem to be very hard to use when fished below a boat in current, especially when the bait is being picked at rather than engulfed.

Small Mustad circle hooks are much more effective fish catchers than Octopus hooks. They work even better when they are snelled onto a single strand dropper rather than simply threaded onto a dropper loop.(I don't know why anyone still uses 'Octopus' hooks they are brittle and awkward to handle and give no advantages.)

A rough estimate is that my hook up rate with a snelled Circle increased by 20% over a looped Circle. The Circle hooks I use are significantly smaller than anything that is available in NZ and I import them in boxes of 200 from Australia. The Mustad agent for Australasia does not ship any of these hooks to NZ.(I see in the Angling press complaints about the heavy wire of circle hooks - clearly most of our retailers haven't got the message yet.)

Squid is a better bait than pilchard for snapper as it is harder for small fish to remove from the hook.

The Maori calendar is a crock of shit.

I hope that you have managed to thaw out from your early morning fishing expedition. It reminds me of when my father and I used to get up before dawn to fish for Winter trout in the Tongariro. There always seemed to be a frost on the ground and the flyline stuck in the rings from the ice. I admire your tenacity. Do surgical rubber gloves offer any respite from the cold? I have a pair of Neoprene gloves with an exposed index finger which help considerably when fishing in the cold. Can you get them in the UK?

Keep up the good work. Thanks for all your help and encouragement.

Very best regards and Tight lines.

Alan Bulmer.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -

Beautiful snapper.

Anyone should be happy to catch fish like this.

Snapper on plastic eel.

I find these better than any fly for bass and they obviously work just as well Down Under.


Alan's big snapper makes another bid for freedom.


The hooks sold with these lures are just not up to the job.