Tackle and Tactics
"Down under again".
Now that I'm back into the saltwater angling again myself I shall switch any foreign fishing pieces to the Tack-tics pages. Certainly the fish are different species to the ones we catch here but the approaches have a lot in common and there is much to be learned from the tactics of anglers in other parts of the world. Anyway, my pal Alan in New Zealand sent this to me recently with some lovely pictures of his fish. I felt that it could have been me catching mullet, bass and wrasse in Dorset."
I trust this note finds you and Lilian in good health and spirits. We have just got back from Whangamata and the weather in Auckland is overcast, warm and windy with patches of sea fret. All right if you are a duck!
SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2007
We reached Whangamata just as New Zealand was reading the last rites to England at the Cricket World Cup. The weather was very warm under a thick blanket of high, concrete grey cloud. The oppressive humidity was dampened by a gusty NW wind of 15 – 20 knots. Low tide was 12.30 pm so after a quick cup of tea, coupled with a few slices of Yorkshire tea cake fresh from the oven, I assembled my tackle and headed off alone to fish the last 1.5 hours of the ebb tide.
It was very pleasant on the mudflats. The bright sun was peaking through the clearing cloud mass regularly and the gusty breeze was from exactly the right direction to make casting lures effortless. I decided that the best option was to target snapper holding over the horse mussel beds so tied on a Pearl / Black sassy shad. The estuary was postcard perfect and it felt fishy. I methodically started casting where the fish were holding 3 – 4 weeks ago and expected to feel the telltale nibble of snapper biting on rubber as soon as the lure started to sink. It was not to be however and after 35 minutes of inactivity I decided that a change in lure was in order.
While casting the soft bodied lure, I had noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was the odd decent splash in the shallows about 500 metres upstream. This looked very much like large kahawai harassing baitfish so I thought that a change to a bibbed minnow was probably a good option. Resisting the urge to tie on an L-minnow, I attached a very slim profile 9 cm. Yo-Zuri magnet system floating lure as this looked like a larger version of the minnows holding in the margins. Carefully moving upstream, I started to flick out and retrieve the Yo-Zuri lure in quick bursts to mimic startled prey. Nothing happened for the first 10 casts so I slowed the retrieve a touch and started to introduce the odd pause. I was contemplating whether to change lure when a small fat kahawai (~ 25 cm) slammed the lure and took off for deeper water. Keeping the rod low and applying side strain, this fish quickly got into a pattern of running parallel to the shore and was promptly beached and released (see attached).
This was the signal for the most frenetic Whangamata estuary fishing session that I have had for years. It was like fishing in the “highlights” and the lure seemed to be snaffled on every second or third cast. I caught a further 14 fish over the next hour and there were fish rising and chasing bait fish all around. Amazingly 8 of the fish landed were yellow eyed mullet. The rest were 5 kahawai and 1 small trevally. Most of the yellow eyed mullet were around 20 cm. but the largest would have nudged a respectable 30 cm. Many bigger fish were swirling in the shallows but feigned disinterest in passing lures. They were taking the rear treble cleanly and were all hooked in the front of the lips (see photograph). Almost without exception the yellow eyed Mullet took the lure immediately after a pause. They gave a good account of themselves and the fight was punctuated with short bursts and vigorous head shaking.
I have never caught more than 2 or 3 yellow eyed Mullet in a session (and only on the L-minnow) so this was a revelation. The slim profile lure and slow erratic retrieve, punctuated with the odd pause, seemed irresistible to the larger specimens. I suspect that it will be difficult to repeat this success on mullet unless the lure has some inbuilt action which holds fascination for them.
The small trevally hit the lure savagely and I thought that it was a much bigger fish. I was disappointed to discover that the front treble had caught the fish just above the pectoral fin and this was why it proved more difficult to land.
The activity started to slow at dead low so I thought it was worth another try for Snapper with a soft bodied lure. I tied on an orange Eddystone eel (rigged on a home made jig head) and worked the area around and downstream of the mussel beds hard for 30 minutes. Remarkably I did not even get a nibble. The baitfish were huddled in the margins but nothing else was moving, except for the odd large stingray which drifted past gracefully like a cloud shadow. The fish would probably have started moving again once the tide started to flow in but by now it was well past lunch time and food suddenly took priority over fishing.
On the way back to the car I was harassed by the now infamous pair of screeching seagulls who seemed to be protecting fully fledged offspring. I could see the shadow of one slipstreaming me for much of the journey back and was annoyed to find that it had deposited a smelly calling card on the back of my fishing jacket.
(No wonder you had such good luck! ML)
I played all of the fish using side strain and none jumped or threw the hooks. On a couple of occasions the lure got monstered mid retrieve but the assailant did not hook up. I was sure that it was only a matter of time before a large fish stayed attached to the lure but it was not to be.
The infrared thermometer proved that the brackish water running in to the estuary from the stream was around one degree warmer than the main body of water which was not entirely unexpected. In the winter, I expect that the reverse would be true. Yesterday the fish were not active near the confluence of the two bodies of water which was a surprise as was the lack of Snapper. I suspect that Mark Hoffmann is correct that Snapper feed most strongly at first light and this would neatly explain the lack of action.
I hope that you have been able to get out fishing again. The 22 lb. Pike was an absolute corker.
Very best regards,
Alan and Sandy Bulmer
Good stuff eh! In years past I've caught quite a few thicklipped mullet on plugs. There is just the odd occasion when they seem keen to nip at the tails of other small baitfish and they are almost invariably lip-hooked on the tail treble of the (sometimes quite large) plug.
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 - email@example.com
Yellow eyed mullet.