Tackle and Tactics
New Zealand snapper.
Alan Bulmer has been trudging along the shores of New Zealand again. I felt as though I was standing beside him when I read this email -
Kia Ora Mike,
Trust that you had an enjoyable time with your visitors this week and that the weather picked up for the weekend.
When I got up this morning it was perfectly still. The only thing rustling the leaves on the plants was the heavy breathing of amorous insects. Low tide on the Manukau was at 10.00 am so there was time to tackle up and head off for a 1 ½ hour session before the inevitable onshore westerly breeze ruffled the surface of the harbour.
It was gloriously sunny as I walked down the steps to the harbour foreshore. Shafts of sunlight streamed through the bush canopy which surrounds the track like an envelope. When I reached the bottom there still was not a breath of wind. I opted to go left and prospect a new section of the channel before moving to the normal spot with one hour of the ebb tide left to run.
I tied on a gold Binsky blade and started to systematically search my way upstream along the channel against the outflowing tide. In the distance a feeding shag took umbrage at my presence and flew off to a more placid section of the estuary. The conditions were stunning even though the fish were uncooperative. I soldiered on and travelled about 100 metres in 30 minutes before opting to call it a day and move to the “honey hole”.
Upon reaching Spot X I noted that the water was remarkably clear, due in no small part to the lack of wind. No sooner had this dawned on me than the breeze started to pick up appreciably and hold at around 10 knots, directly into my face. I persisted with the Binsky blade for about 30 minutes without success. I even tried changing the position of the snap clip on the back of the blade to increase the frequency of the vibrations. Nothing seemed to make a difference.
By now it was around 45 minutes to dead low so I opted to change to a ¼ oz conical jig head and threaded a 3” Berkley PowerBait shad onto the hook. As I cast the lure and it arched gracefully towards the middle of the channel I decided to let it sink and pause for a few moments before retrieving. This worked a treat. First twitch and the lure got monstered. The fish charged off parallel to the shore and started shaking its head. This had to be a snapper. The runs were short and the head shaking pronounced. I was determined to get the fish to the shore as I was sure that it was not a kahawai. The to-ing and fro-ing went on for a few minutes but the fish was no match for the 8’ rod, 14 lb braid and firm drag setting. As it came into the shallows I glimpsed gold and knew immediately that it was a small snapper. Yahoo! My first lure caught Manukau snapper (see photograph). It was around 26 cm and too small to keep so I let it go with a quick shake of the jig head.
As I was examining the jig head and plastic for damage I noticed a couple of flashes in the clear margins at my feet. My brain initially said it was the small snapper but then it dawned on me that it was a school of bait fish and they were being balled up by something bigger. I quickly side armed the lure back into the channel. It splashed into the water and within seconds it was smacked powerfully by a much larger fish. This fish headed off at speed staying close to the surface. Kahawai and a good ‘un. I could see it clearly as it cart wheeled on the surface in front of me. It scythed through the water running parallel to the shore. There was no way that this fish was coming in any time soon and I was treated to a spectacular aerial performance at close quarters. The fish was probably close to 6 lb and it was as round as a barrel. Eventually I managed to get a modicum of control and began to draw it towards the rocks, interspersed with screeching bursts of protest from the drag mechanism of the Zeebaas reel. Then, as it got close, it managed to turn on the surface and in a flurry of foam was gone. The light gauge hook on the jig head had simply bent out of shape due to the pressure and the fish had slid off the hook point. Bother, or words to that effect!
I straightened the hook point and went back to casting and retrieving. Around me there was the odd boil on the surface as large kahawai trapped terrified prey. Then as soon as it started it was over. The wind increased in tempo and the margins started to colour. Nothing moved as the waves started to build in size. In my peripheral vision a mullet took to the air, its pectoral fins cleverly formed into a V for Victory sign. By now it was 9.50 am so I chose to head home for a well earned coffee. I was well pleased with two fish in one hour of actual fishing, especially that one of them was a snapper.
I checked my diary when I got home and realised that in my first 11 sessions on the Manukau I had one successful session. To date in 2010 I’ve had five successful trips and four blanks which is a much better result. What is becoming evident is that still conditions and clear water are pre-requisites for success on the Manukau. It is very hard work fishing with lures when the water is the colour of milky tea. Soft plastics also seem to be the key to unlocking the secrets of the Manukau.
Tight lines and best wishes,
I enjoyed that! Wherever you fish in the world it takes time to get to know the foibles of the different spots and Alan's improving results are typical of any angler trying to 'feel the way' with spinning gear. I'm sure there's more to come.
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