Tackle and Tactics
"Autumn down under".
Alan emailed me with some more fishing stuff from New Zealand this week. He's been pretty busy recently but as Autumn draws on down in the Southern Hemisphere there are obviously still fish about and the conditions look fantastic. Here's what he says, good fishing and a good chuckle -
We went down to Whangamata on Good Friday morning as this allowed me to fish the late afternoon low tide. Once again the steaming mug of tea and hot Yorkshire tea cake greeted us upon arrival but this time I had some time to enjoy a decent chat with my parents before setting up my tackle to venture forth on to the mudflats.
DAY ONE – FRIDAY 6 APRIL
Low tide on Friday was scheduled for 1530 hours. This meant that I had to be out on the mudflats at around 1400 hours which coincided with the hottest part of the day. The weather was fine and sunny and there was a light zephyr from the East. I parked the car and set off purposefully for the main channel. Almost immediately a portly black Pekinese dog appeared from nowhere and decided to accompany me across the mudflats. It was not in the best physical condition but was determined to lead the way. Waddling in front, snorting and panting, it dramatically slowed progress. I nicknamed it Algernon. Every time it paused for a breather I remarked on its parentage and told it gruffly to sod off back home. This advice was ignored and met with further snorts of derision. It was not until we had to cross a side stream and the cold water lapped around Algernon’s sexual quarter that he decided that discretion was the better part of valour and trotted home, much to my relief.
I had decided to fish soft plastic Sassy shad’s under the moored boats while the tide was still running out in the hope of picking up a late season Snapper. First cast in Spot X resulted in a lure donation to the resident horse mussel bed. I replaced the lure with a Grey/Orange Atomic shad and promptly connected with a 2 lb Kahawai on the second cast (see photograph). The fish took the lure gently as it paused on the bottom. Meanwhile the current had caused a small belly of braid to form and when I struck at the pause all hell broke loose. The fish tore off upstream and the following braid scythed viciously through the water as it came up tight. The Kahawai headed further into the channel in a sustained burst but was soon brought back closer to shore with side strain. It jumped twice (so much for my theory on side strain) and shook its head like a Tarpon tryitg to shed the lure. Eventually after about 5 minutes I managed to calm it down enough to beach. This fish was destined for the table so was despatched quickly and placed underneath a damp cloth. The lure body was damaged beyond repair and had to be replaced.
I threaded on another identical body and cast out again. This time I kept the line tighter and could feel every tap on the lure, no matter how minute. The lure drifted downstream and was monstered in roughly the same spot as the Kahawai had taken. This was a much better fish and was no Kahawai. It shook its head angrily, tore off purposefully upstream and in seconds had wrapped the line around the nearest anchor warp. Cursing my luck I broke the trace and freed the mainline from the warp.
I re-tied on a shock trace and a Ginger Beer Powergrub whirl tail (Sounds tasty ML). Three casts later a small Snapper snaffled this and was quickly landed and released. This was a good sign as it proved that the Snapper were still in the estuary. The next 20 minutes was most frustrating as the tide flow was waning and with the lack of movement I seemed to catch a horse mussel on every cast. Three lures were donated in this period (Thank heavens we don't have horse mussels here ML). As the tide approached dead low I decided to try the Yo-Zuri Magnet F floating minnow that was so deadly on yellow eyed mullet last time out. 30 casts later and with no follows or bites I decided to call it a day and head home. The most interesting feature of the session was how aggressively the fish took the lure as it drifted under the hulls of the larger motor launches and how quickly the activity slowed once the tide flow slackened.
DAY TWO – SATURDAY 7 APRIL
Tim decided to accompany me the next day as he was dead keen to catch a Snapper. The weather was once again warm and overcast and there was a light breeze from the South West. Thankfully this soon swung to the West which greatly improved casting distance.
Buoyed by our success with soft plastic lures the day before, both of us opted to tie on a Sassy shad at the outset and fish under the boats positioned over the horse mussel beds while the tide was running steadily. 30 minutes later and bite less, Tim decided to switch to a small jointed Rapala sinking lure with a dive depth of 2.4 metres. Within 3 casts he had landed and released a small kahawai. I persevered with a small Grey/Orange Atomic shad and was rewarded about 15 minutes later with a little trevally. Tim landed another small kahawai on the Rapala shortly after and that was it until low tide.
At dead low tide, just as the boats started to swing 180 degrees on their moorings, I decided to put on a large Sassy shad and prospect as close as possible to the side of the hulls of the boats as they rotated to see if I could pick up a snapper. This was a revelation. The first cast resulted in a savage strike and the lure body was roughly ripped in half where the hook point exited. The fish swam off with the rear section. This happened twice in succession and each time the rear of the lure was removed neatly behind the hook. There were teeth marks all over the remaining piece of the body but I could not seem to hook up. I kept on trying but once the boats had turned to face the incoming tide the action ceased.
DAY THREE – SUNDAY 8 APRIL
Once again the weather was warm and overcast and Tim wanted to join me out on the mudflats. Unlike the previous days there was no breeze to ruffle the water and it was dead still. The heat was very oppressive and after the walk to the main channel I soon felt the rivulets of sweat running down my spine.
I had tied an Eddystone eel onto my trace about 15 cm above a ball sinker with a Palomar knot and was keen to see if this could tempt a snapper. Within two casts it had gone, unfortunately not to a Snapper but a horse mussel shell. I then spotted a lot of fish activity upstream. It looked like yellow eyed mullet were being harassed by something large and they were jumping clean out of the water. Tim was keen to work beneath the motor launches with a soft body so I decided to tie on Yo-Zuri Magnet F again and move upstream to check out the disturbance.
I had not moved more than 50 paces when Tim yelled out that he was hooked up. Unfortunately it was a small kahawai and he soon beached and released it himself. I continued upstream and started to cast about 50 metres from the disturbance. I hooked and landed a yellow eyed mullet first cast but it was only around 25 cm and gave a poor account of itself until it was beached when it went absolutely ballistic. I persevered for 45 – 60 minutes and was not able to encourage any other fish to strike the lure.
By this time Tim had gone off to collect some Pipis and the tide was near dead low so I tied on a large Orange Sassy shad soft plastic lure and went back to fish under the moored launches. Second cast near the bow of a turning launch and I received a solid take only to retrieve the lure to find the paddle tail neatly removed and the body pock marked with teeth holes. I quickly threaded on another body and lobbed the lure close to the bow again. This time the fish took without hesitation and steamed off parallel to the shore shaking its head madly. There was no doubt it was a decent snapper and after a tug of war lasting about 5 minutes a solid fish of around 32 cm was muscled onto the sand. Tim was adamant that we should invite this fish home for dinner as we had well and truly earned it. Pan fried in butter with black pepper and lemon juice it was delicious and the fitting end to an excellent weekend on the water.
The secret to fishing under the moored boats seems to be to keep the line tight when the current is running and work it across and down like a streamer fly. However, when the tide is low (and the moored boats start turning) allowing the lure to sink and retrieve it slowly with a single short rip followed by a long pause seems to attract the Snapper.
Very best regards
Alan sent me a second email about a boat trip -
We went out yesterday as planned. The weather was absolutely stunning, a typical Auckland autumn day. Pleasantly warm, a few high cotton balls of cloud in the sky and a faint breeze to occasionally ruffle the surface of the harbour.
The fishing is probably best described as hard. I acted as ghillie for the first couple of hours and only held rods when othr anglers were taking a break. We shifted from spot to spot and got very few bites on pilchard and squid baits.
Peter then decided to drift fish at the mouth of Matiatia harbour (Waiheke Island). The settled wind and minimal tidal flow was a perfect arrangement for casting and retrieving soft plastic baits so I headed for the bow of the launch and started playing about. I tried a 9 cm. Orange sassy shad initially and this got nibbled regularly by small snapper. It was soon pock marked with holes. After about 45 minutes a larger Snapper snaffled the bait on the rise and after a solid tussle a 3 lb fish came to the net. I persevered for another 30 minutes or so but did not have any other hook ups.
The fishermen at the back of the boat were also finding it difficult and by 11.30 am. they only had 5 fish in the chilly bin (minimum boat size of 30 cm.). Two of the crew were keen triathletes and they decided that a decent swim was in order before lunch. Over the side they went and stroked their way purposefully to Waiheke Island which was around 0.5 km. away. I decided to change lures to a Black/Pearl Sassy shad and work it from the back of the boat. No sooner had I dropped the lure over the back of the boat than the remaining client hooked up on a good fish. Peter followed suit in short order and was into another keeper. Meanwhile my lure was still plummeting slowly to the bottom. All of a sudden the descent of the lure stopped abruptly and the rod was nearly wrenched from my hands as a better fish grabbed the lure. Triple strike! My fish tore off line against the drag in short bursts and it was obvious from the head shakes that it was a bigger Snapper. The tug of war continued for about 5 minutes and slowly the fish was drawn up to the boat and into the waiting net. 6lb of prime snapper on rubber.
Nothing much happened after that burst of excitement and the others only landed a further 5 boat sized keepers before the boat docked back at the marina. The swimmers returned, we ate lunch while fishing and marvelled at a 4’ shark that swam past about 30 minutes later where the swimmers had been in the water. You can imagine the comments this sighting elicited!
I fished on for 3 hours with soft plastics and only hooked up twice, both fish landed. The 6lb fish was the largest landed all day and the other was amongst the better ones caught. I learnt a lot about handling a soft plastic shad lure and where to put it to get the best drift and most bites. It was a most enjoyable day.
Many thanks and very best regards,
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan in action.
Tim plays a fish.