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).

Snapper on bait or lures?

Wherever you fish in the World there is always a sort of inertia involved. What I mean is that the 'tried and trusted' traditional tactics are the ones that everyone is inclined to use because they know that they 'work'. However, although I'm no different from the next angler when it comes to 'using what works' if I'd always approached things in this way I'd never have caught the thousands of bass, mackerel, pollack and mullet that I've had on fly gear or the many spectacular catches of bass that I've landed on lures, or the numerous big bonefish that have taken plugs and so on and so on.

My pal Alan Bulmer, in New Zealand, thinks in the same way. Although his pals catch countless snapper on a variety of baits Alan has recently persisted in the use of leadheads and soft plastics, particularly from the drifting boat. Sometimes he catches nothing while others are 'bagging up' but his successes are suficiently frequent and interesting for him to persist. Here's his latest account - he's getting there -

Hi Mike,

We’ve been trying for weeks to get out on Intrigue but the weather and other commitments had prevented us from doing so, until yesterday. With a “weather bomb” imminent we took the opportunity to fish the small window of calm before the inevitable storm.

We’d decided that an early start was necessary to maximise fishing time and agreed to rendezvous at the boat at 7.30 am sharp. I was up at 6.15 am and it was calm with a hint of Autumn chill in the air. Perfect! Low tide was at 8.40 am and by the time we weighed anchor the air temperature had started to warm up. The skies were concrete gray, it was humid but the humidity was tempered by the invigorating chill of the air as Intrigue sliced through it en route to our first fishing spot.

Swish was in charge of the boat. First spot that he selected was in 6 metres of water. Less than 1 kilometre from where Intrigue is berthed. Sign on the sounder, reverse thrust and out goes the anchor even though there was no wind or current to speak of. The lads were at the bait board before the motors had stopped vibrating and messy baits were hurtling in all directions before you could take a slurp of coffee.

To my delight Peter (usually a bait fisher) tied on a ½ oz. fluorescent red/pink jig head to his 10 kilogram nylon and threaded on a natural 3” Gulp! Alive shad (it's nice to have company). He cast this out at around 45 degrees downstream across the current and allowed it to drift in an arc astern. A couple of turns of the spinning reel handle to keep the line tight followed by a steady retrieve once the lure was dead astern. His rod was pointed directly at lure so fish strike directly against drag. No sooner did the lure reach the apex of its arc, than it was taken. He struck vertically, viciously and was into a decent string puller. It took a couple of minutes to land but it was worth the effort as it would have dragged the needle on the spring balance to 4.5lb. He repeated this at least five times in the next 25 minutes. The main take from this virtuoso performance is that there is a way to fish soft baits at anchor.

Meanwhile the others were doing the same, albeit with bait. Their fish though were noticeably smaller. One angler had a couple of solid fish on bait but nowhere near the quality of what Peter was scoring on soft plastic. I initially tried a Whirl tail Sassy shad (dark brown body with orange tail) on a ¼ oz jig head. There were touches but no takes. Tiring of this after 15 minutes, I switched to a 3 ¼” Rapala Clacking Shad bibless hard body and worked this systematically for 25 minutes without success. Eventually I changed to an identical rig to Peter but couldn’t manage anything more than a few touches, even when I fished the same way. Peter loaned me his rod while he dealt with the hot cross buns and I had one solid strike but failed to hook up. There was obviously a technique involved that I’d have to master. More on this later.

After an hour or so the fishing slowed so we opted to move to where the channel dredging barges were anchored, which coincidentally is over an area strewn with horse mussels. Again the death rattle of the anchor sounded (you'll gather that Alan prefers to drift). I tried bottom bouncing a paternoster rig with Eddystone on bottom and PowerBait minnow on top. No touches on this irrespective of how it was retrieved. The action was slow on soft plastic and marginally better on bait so Peter reverted to bait. There was a noticeable lack of current flow at this spot and this undoubtedly affected results. A certain party, who will remain nameless, managed to catch the smallest snapper ever on a 7/0 hook while fishing at this spot. To avoid losing tackle I switched to different jig head, mushroom in profile with the hook shank set at 45 degrees up from the horizontal, and used with Gulp! Shad with limited success.

Eventually, tiring of the inactivity, we moved closer to Rangitoto lighthouse (abreast of a red pole marker) as there were schools of kahawai active and a throng of supporting fairy terns to highlight where they were feeding. I hooked a 2.5 lb kahawai as soon as we started drifting which gave an excellent account of itself before finding the base of the net. Swish’s eyes lit up at this point and the kahawai was surreptitiously filed in the bait bin. I followed the kahawai with a couple of keeper snapper but then we anchored and to target the snapper with bait. We caught a few keepers at this spot as well as a small trevally but nothing meritorious.

After lunch we moved to fish a small reef amongst the rocks to the NE of the lighthouse. Again the anchor chain rattled as the Danforth sped towards the ocean floor. I managed to catch three tiny snapper on an angled jig head with Gulp! Shrimp at this spot which was probably the best result of anyone. Tiring of the nibblers we opted to moved back in close at 4.30pm.

By now the tide was once again flowing out. The action was less frenetic than earlier in the day with snapper seeming to pass through the spot in shoals. Amazingly I caught two decent snapper in consecutive casts using an unscented Zoom silver shad attached to ½ oz jig head (bent shank with cone head). I attached a longer trace than than when we'd first fished the spot. Just as Peter had done I fished the lure behind the boat, across and astern. Very slow retrieve with pauses. The fish took on the pause. This time several good fish were also landed on bait.

The tally for day was around 30 fish in bin between four anglers and the largest were three fish of around 4.5lb. The rest would all have been in the 32 – 36 cm. bracket. In hindsight, I think that it is necessary to use a longer monofilament trace when fishing in shallow water. It also seems critical to use jig heads with fine wire hooks as they hook up better. The Zoom lure fished weedless on cone jig head with a bent shank has promise. I’m sure that pointing the rod tip at the lure plays a role in hook up rate but I’m not sure why. Any ideas?

Tight lines and best wishes,

Alan Bulmer

It seems to me that the tight line, which results when the rod is pointed at the lure, is probably the main reason for the success. Anyway, it all adds to the picture and for sure there'll be more to come in the future.

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 -

Snapper on bait.

Alan labelled this as an 'average' fish - a slight exaggeration.


This one's certainly on the small side.  Quite an achievement for a  7/0 hook.