Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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SEA FISHING

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).

19 March 2008

Banana boat.

Alan has been out in the boat catching snappers again. It's building up into quite a good picture of how to tackle these hard fighting denizens of the seas down under. It also shows how superstition is a global phenomenon.

Hi Mike,

I am pleased to see that the weather has allowed you to get out fishing and that the Pike and new season’s Bass have been cooperative. Here in NZ, autumn has arrived with the inevitable cooler days and nights. Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons as the temperature is like Goldilocks porridge…just right! The Snapper fishing around Auckland is still in full swing with good sized fish available to those who put in the effort to chase them, especially mid week.

We went out fishing on Tuesday and Peter went again on Friday. Of the two sessions the Friday one yielded the better quality fish with a couple of 8 lb. snapper falling to bait and soft plastic.

TUESDAY 11 MARCH

Daybreak was an uncharacteristically dull affair and slate grey clouds began circling ominously as I ambled down the drive to collect the newspaper in the half light. No sooner had I got back inside than the heavens opened. Fortunately the downpour was short and ferocious, as is the norm at this time of the year. By the time I collected the other anglers and got to the marina the weather had settled into a pattern that would characterise the day. High concrete grey clouds most of the time, interspersed occasionally with squally bursts of showers, scattered sunny periods and warm breezes. The wind was panting up to 15 knots from the NW which backed up the tide flow in the morning.

We set out from the marina to find that Stuart had brought aboard bananas to snack on during the day. In this part of the world bringing bananas on a fishing trip is an ugly portent which guarantees a bleak day. Peter began twitching and cursing as soon as the package was unwrapped. It did not take long for the beads of sweat on his forehead to clearly announce his discomfort to all.

He decided to anchor up on the edge of the Rangitoto channel to take advantage of the strong current accompanying the incoming spring tide. No sooner had the lines with cut pilchard baits hit the bottom than it was fish on and in short order a nice pair of 38 cm. fish were drawn to the surface, netted, carefully Iki’ed and placed on ice. Common sense 1: Bananas 0.

I had moved up to the bow of the boat as it was very difficult to fish soft plastics effectively from the stern at anchor. My technique in this situation is to cast upstream allow the lure to touch down and walk it steadily down the side of the boat towards the stern. The gently bouncing action of the Zoom White Ice lure was interrupted a couple of times on the first few drifts but I was unable to hook the fish mouthing the soft plastic. Third drift and it all changed. I was about amidships when the line stopped; I struck and came up tight onto a feisty 3 lb. Snapper. It pulled line off against the drag in short bursts and steadfastly resisted my efforts to get it to the boat for around 5 minutes. Eventually it came to the surface where it was netted, unhooked and returned to the water by Stuart.

This signalled the start of a slack period and it was not long before the bait fishermen began to bemoan the effect of the bananas on the catch rate. Common sense 1: Bananas 1. At this point, to save Stuart’s blushes, Peter decided to up anchor drift fish in an effort to put the crew back onto some fish. This was perhaps not the best decision in hindsight as the cumulative effect of tide and wind meant that it was not possible to drift slowly enough to allow soft plastic lures on ½ oz. jig heads to get to the bottom and bounce along enticingly. We probably should have deployed a sea anchor to slow our drift and increase the chances of success. We drifted around at high speed for about an-hour-and-a-half and the bait fisherman continued to catch enough fish to keep them interested. (Captain Kirk from Star Trek would have called the boat speed Warp factor 1 and told Scotty to throttle it back a tad). I managed to also pick up a couple but only by casting well upstream of the boat, feeding slack line to get the lure to the bottom and then tightening up well before the boat passed over it. In short, I was fishing for about ¼ of the time the lure was in the water. Common sense 2: Bananas 1.

The wind started to gust more strongly so Peter decided to move into the Motuihe channel as this area was in the lee of Rangitoto Island and theoretically less exposed. Unfortunately Rangitoto did not provide the protection we were after as the wind was funnelling around the cone so he decided to head further out into the Rakino channel. This was a little better but we had no longer settled at anchor than the tide changed and the sea got choppy again due to the wind working against the tide flow. We stuck this out for a couple of hours, caught a couple of undersize Snapper on bait, had a break for lunch and then headed back to where we started. Common sense 2: Bananas 2.

By now it was late afternoon and the wind was starting to run out of puff. The outgoing tide was also slackening and the conditions were perfect for drifting. All of us were keen to enjoy the best conditions of the day and launched our baits and lures into the water as soon as the boat came to a standstill. We did not have long to wait. My Zoom Smoking shad soft plastic touched down, bounced twice and was monstered by a solid Snapper. Again the fish pulled line from the reel in spurts but not in the determined way that the larger Snapper do and it was not long before it was led into the net boatside. I landed 3 other fish on this drift and my companions all had similar experiences. Common sense 3: Bananas 2.

The overall tally for the day was 20 fish landed (not kept) and roughly half of these came on soft plastic (I had 8). The bait fishermen would have caught twice as many fish as those using soft plastics but many were around 30 cm. or less. All of the 'soft plastic caught' fish, bar one, were over 35 cm.

One of the interesting learning’s from the day was that it is necessary to keep on changing the weight of the soft plastic jig head to ensure a steady, fluttering descent to the bottom and a consistent “tap-tap” of the lure on the bottom during the drift. If the lure does not get to the bottom quickly enough then it fishes the barren zone above the bottom. If the jig head is too heavy then the soft plastic drags rather than bounces which seems to be less attractive to the Snapper. I also missed a lot of fish during the day and this was probably due to the drift speed being too quick. My guess is that the fish were grabbing the lure tentatively only to have it dragged from their mouth by the combined effect of drift and strike.

As for whether Bananas affected the fishing…the results speak for themselves namely Common sense 3: Bananas 2!

Give my best regards to all the family and tight lines.

Alan Bulmer

There you have it! Plenty of good common sense information about using soft plastics from a small boat. I'm sure that the same tactics will produce pollack, coalfish, codling, whiting and probably bream in our own waters. We don't make enough use of leadheads for any of our fishing - I must try and do a bit more of it this year.

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 - docladle@hotmail.com

Baitfishers.

Straight to the bottom with a cut pilchard bait.

Anticipating a tasty meal.

Four cracking snappers of about 3.5lb apiece.

Full cool box.

At least when you catch them on rod and line you can let the undersized ones go.