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).

Whangamata musings!

Still no bass for me, although the other morning I found lots of kelp bits and Idotea woodlice in the water so surely it won't be long until the bass find them! Here's a bit more from Alan in New Zealand to keep the pot boiling.

Hi Mike,

Interesting weekend at Whangamata which I will describe in more detail below.

SESSION ONE - Friday

Low tide was at 4.30 pm and it was to be the lowest of the weekend. I ambled across the mudflats at 2.15 pm full of anticipation as it had been a month or so since I last wet a line at Whangamata. The wind was gusting gently from the East but not enough to hamper casting. It was cloudy and the sun was shining directly onto the estuary. Perfect! As I neared the main channel it was obvious that there was a lot going on. Grey mullet were jumping all along the margins and there were large congregations of mullet swimming in concert, occasionally running across the backs of each other. Every now and then a pack of juvenile kahawai finned past lazily scanning the margins for easy prey.

The tide was moving out very quickly so I attached a 1/6 oz. jighead and a small PowerBait minnow in order to get to the bottom. The mudflats were pockmarked with depressions caused by snapper grubbing for shellfish and crabs so I was pretty confident of hooking up with one as soon as I started. I lobbed the lure slightly upstream and it arched gracefully into the current. I threw in a quick mend, removed the slack and followed the drift down. The lure bounced beautifully along the bottom through the drift but remained untouched. This pattern continued for around 1 hours and covered 600 700 metres of channel. Cast, remove slack, drift, retrieve, cast. Not a touch!

By now Id reached the point where a major stream was entering the harbour and there were small fish rising and jumping everywhere, mainly mullet (yellow eyed and grey) and kahawai. There was a steep lip in front of me so I thought that Id try a much quicker retrieve and target kahawai as there would inevitably be some larger specimens present. Out went the lure and as soon as it touched the bottom I started a quick jerk, pause, jerk retrieve. Nothing happened until the lure started to rise up the lip. As it started to lift off the bottom it was hammered by a 10 kahawai. This fish was not big enough to pull line against a heavy drag so it was quickly hauled in and released. Out went the lure again and the result was exactly the same. Believe it or not I hooked 18 kahawai between 8 12 in the next 24 casts. It was carnage. I kept on fishing in the hope that something bigger was lurking...but it was not to be.

After an hour or so I gave up on the small kahawai and retraced my steps. On the way back to the starting point I hooked another couple of small kahawai so the faster jerky retrieve seemed to be universally applicable. By now Id given up on any hope of catching a snapper or larger kahawai so I changed to a Yo-Zuri S 3D vibe bibless minnow for the 15 minutes or so before dead low tide. This lure went much further into the channel and I hoped that it would be able to attract something much more substantial. Fourth cast, half way to the shore and the lure got absolutely annihilated by something much bigger than Ive ever hooked before in the estuary. The weight on the arched rod was unbelievable and when I struck to set the hook the cork butt was slammed back into my chest with amazing savageness. Line was pulled from the reel against 2 kilograms of drag. In a blur as the fish charged off towards the sea in a withering 100 metre burst. I clamped down on the spool to turn its head and walked back from the waters edge to keep the fish inside the numerous mooring buoys. The fish followed me towards the shore but then decided against shallow water and charged away again on a short run before it dropped hard on the bottom. The taut line started to whistle as the wind got up and the clouds covered the sun. I settled in for the inevitable tug of war, neither fish nor angler wanted to concede advantage. After 10 minutes my arms were starting to feel the strain so I decided to try backing up again. This stirred the fish from its malaise and it charged off again only for the line to rub against the sharpened face of the split ring and sever completely. B*gg*er! Despondent, I reeled in the line surveyed the damage and trudged off home all the while wondering what it was that Id hooked. XOS snapper or large kingfish?

SESSION TWO - Saturday

Id promised to take a family friend spinning over the weekend so we arranged to meet at the car park for the walk across the mudflats at 2.45 pm. I thought the best option was to try again with the small soft bait as my colleague, Bruce, was dead keen on catching snapper first and foremost. We started at the same place that Id lost the big fish yesterday and I spent the first 15 minutes showing Bruce how to cast and keep control of the lure hoping all the while that hed hook up. Everything was the same, mullet and kahawai patrolling the margins and a warm sunny day interspersed with overcast patches. Once I was confident that he knew what he was doing I started to fish myself moving steadily downstream. I was also fishing with a small soft plastic in the hope of catching a snapper. Nothing happened for 15 minutes or so. Then, as I was idly staring downstream, a 20+ lb kingfish materialised about 30 metres away and cut a swath through the baitfish in the shallows, yellow tail flapping in the breeze as it turned and headed back out into the depths. Was this the fish that Id hooked yesterday?

Needless to say I frantically reeled in my lure and dug out my tackle box to find the largest popper I was carrying. Unfortunately I only had small popper but I attached it (with extra thumbs and rapidly beating heart) and spend the next hour fruitlessly turning the estuary surface to foam trying to entice a strike from the behemoth. Eventually Id made my way to the side stream where the kahawai and mullet were massed so I decided to switch back to the soft bait and try again to catch a snapper or kahawai. First cast and I was in to a small kahawai so I stopped and whistled Bruce to come and have a go. It took him 5 minutes to hobble to where I was stationed and he began casting in earnest. I watched for 5 10 minutes but despite dropping his lure in the right area he could not seem to get a bite. I cast out to see if the fish were still there and got smashed on the first cast by a small kahawai. They were there but why could he not hook up? We discussed retrieves and the importance of keeping the line tight before I left him to it to work the productive lip downstream.

Just as I finished talking tactics, Tim arrived with a small bucket. Hed opted to walk across the estuary to get a feed of pipi rather than stay at home and muck about. Attaboy! As I greeted him he excitedly pointed out another full on kingfish attack where Id been flogging my puddings out poppering. I promptly tied on a Yo-Zuri S bibless minnow, walked upstream to the scene of the activity and proceeded to work this lure through the area unsuccessfully for 20 minutes.

Bruce by now had walked along the lip without hooking up and given up fishing to concentrate on helping Tim collect shellfish. Seeing this I re-traced my steps to fish downstream of the shellfish gatherers as the stirred up sediment often triggers some aggressive feeding. I worked the downstream area hard for 30 minutes to no avail. There were fish everywhere but they were all packed tightly together and seemed to be scanning the deeper water nervously. I wonder why?!

Once Tim and Bruce had collected enough pipi we packed up and headed home. We tracked up the new channel to the marina and I noticed that there was a deep hole fed via a small weir just above the marina entrance. I pointed out to Bruce that there was a current seam running through the middle of the channel and told him that the kahawai would be holding on the bottom under the seam. You could see from his expression that he thought I was pulling his leg so I casually flicked the bibless minnow through the seam and hooked two 10 kahawai in three casts. He was gob smacked.

SESSION THREE Sunday

Daylight saving had kicked in overnight so low tide was at 5.10 pm. The weather was the worst of the weekend, overcast with an intermittent but gusty wind from the SW (right up the estuary). The wind had stirred up the margins so it was hard to spot fish and there was a small chop to content with. Tim had opted to come with me so I rigged him up with a 10 popper on a 9 fibreglass salmon spinning rod. He was dead keen to hook up on a kingfish and was prepared to put in the hard yards to do it. Dont you love his style!

We started out where the fish had been showing yesterday and Tim set about his work with steely determination. The popper shot out of the way across the estuary landed like a brick and was retrieved at speed across the surface splashing and gurgling enticingly. While he was going about his work, I attached a floating, deep diving bibbed Rapala minnow (15 cm) and started to prospect the depths upstream of the commotion being caused by the popper.

Nothing happened for about 20 minutes. Then, during mid retrieve the Rapala got monstered by a solid fish. The fish charged powerfully into the current pulling line against the solid drag setting. Next it started shaking its head and then started running parallel to the shore. At first I picked it for a snapper, then a trevally. As I began to gain control and work it into the shallows it flashed brown so I called it for a snapper again as it took off back into deeper water to slug it out. Again I carefully worked it back in close using side strain only for it to take off again on a 30 metre run. This time as it turned I saw darker stripes on its side...Parore! Must be foul hooked? Eventually I managed to beach the fish and imagine our surprise to see that it was cleanly mouth hooked. 3 pounds of mouth hooked vegetarian. Why did it take the large Rapala? My pick is that the lure crossed into its territory and it tried to chase it away nipping at the tail of the interloper.

Tim kept on poppering for another 20 minutes until he cast the lure off in an attempt to achieve greater distance. It was spectacular! Best cast of the day as well. He then opted for a break and shot off to gather some more pipi and some cockles for us to have for lunch today. I kept on persevering with the Rapala for another 40 minutes before switching to a larger Yo-Zuri S bibless minnow for the remainder of the session. No more strikes but I did see a large kahawai charge in to harass some baitfish so they were around.

Upon returning home I checked the stomach contents of the parore and found a couple of crabs and... digested weed. Not sure whether anyone would have expected to see the crabs so it was a minor revelation? We are having the fish smoked for dinner tonight.

All in all a very interesting weekend. Obviously the kingfish are in the estuary to harass the innumerable baitfish. Theyd probably take a live bait in a instant. Next time Ill set Tim up under a balloon. I suspect that the bigger kahawai are hiding huddled together in the deeper holes fins a quivering!

Photographs attached of the Parore, the 7lb kahawai that I caught on the last Intrigue trip (the photographs do not do it justice as it was bloody thick across the back and in the front 1/3) and a bowl of pipi ready to be turned into fritters.

Tight lines and best wishes,

Alan Bulmer

I think I could just about enjoy fishing for kingfish - even if they're a bit thin on the ground. New Zealand obviously has some serious shore fishing potential.

Parore

Interesting that they eat crabs and will take plugs - just like wrasse really - except that they seem to fight harder.

Kahawai.

Fantastic streamlined battlers these - another good reason to take a trip down under.

Pipis.

Anyone who likes shellfish will enjoy this picture I'm sure.