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Bruce Duncan's HQ Fishing Report | March 2023

Bruce Duncan's HQ Fishing Report | March 2023 | Haines Hunter HQ

Finally, it looks like the weather is improving with the change of season. I am picking we could be in for good weather and some great fishing in the next couple of months.

With the extreme weather pushing a hell of a lot of debris and silt out into the inner gulf it's not surprising the Snapper are moving about. I got to the point of not bothering to find schools like I normally would, rather now looking for even just a few fish. Further out on the worm beds, there are a few small workups but on closer inspection of the surrounding bottom, there is only the odd Snapper showing. North of Tiri and out from Shearers' rock the water is clean with more bait fish snapper and Kingfish showing.

Targeting Snapper with soft baits and jigs is very hit-and-miss as not only are the fish spread out, they are very soft on the bite. Normally at this time of the year, Snapper would be really fired up aggressively feeding as they need to rebuild their body fat and condition post-spawning to get them through the winter months.

Post floods, I had a look at a number of spots in Area 3 from Rangitoto light to Billy Goat point thinking the water would be cleaner with less silt covering the foul and what I found was that all spots had way fewer fish than normal. Spot 6 always holds Snapper as it has a large area of foul coming out from the shore. Every Snapper I caught was just on or under legal. Rather than potentially harming them, I was just pulling in a couple of lines when I was hit by a freight train of a Snapper that I just could not stop.

Fresh bait is the absolute key to hooking and catching fish. The fish are not aggressive and are just mouthing baits. In winter when you get just the crushed-up head of the Pilly bait back when you wind it in, this is not to say they are small fish it's simply the way and manner of how they are feeding.

Heading out onto the flat open sand to the North of A buoy there are just the odd fish marks. In the past, I would never bother stopping, but this year is different. You need patience and to think outside the box. Ground bait and burly had every bait getting mouthed and trying to get a solid hookup was a mission. Dropping a baited Black Magic Sabiki flasher soon put a number of Jack Macks in the live bait tank, small ones were butterflied big ones were cut into two baits.

With big tough strong baits, Snapper became more aggressive. Once you feel them crunching on the bait by opening the bail arm and letting them have a bit of line they take in resulting in a solid hook-up. With all the burly bringing in the bait fish, a good size Kingfish followed up a Snapper. Dropping a live bait in seconds, it was hooked up, measuring 85cm. Steaking, plus a little Sashimi off the backbone and ribs fed a heap of people.

Just to prove a point, I tried a couple of spots close in on the foul with freshly caught bait. Again small bites but let them have a little slack line these small bites resulted in Snapper (35 - 42cm). What a difference to a few hours before.

Out around the Noises where the water is cleaner, Snapper are still very slow on the bite. There is no point moving from spot to spot but if you set a game plan to fish the one spot over the whole run of the tide, use fresh bait and ground bait plus burly and you will get a feed.

Omaha is proving to be challenging as the erosion of the sand dunes has dumped roots shoots and leaves out to around the 14-metre mark. Outside of that, there are plenty of Snapper feeding across the bay from 14 - 23 meters but they are moving around with each tide change.

Dragging the bait net at the boat ramp for sprats and then anchoring in 14 meters directly out from the surf club, are where the tough sprat baits were constantly being picked at, giving them slack line then striking had the rods bent over with every Snapper bar two (34 - 35cm) in the (45 - 65 cm) range perfect for the smoker. Not needing a lot of fish we released a number of big Snapper up to 20lbs.

What a difference a day makes. Heading out the next day to the same spot, every fish was hard to hook and only resulted in very small fish. Time to think outside the box and try the southern end of Omaha bay in 23 meters.

With not a lot of sign on the bottom it's hard to say there are few fish in the area. Ground bait in this depth spreads out quite away slowly bringing fish to where your baits are. Use just a small sinker as the more you can present the bait in a natural way with Snapper just mouthing and chewing the bait. Allow them to pick up and move the bait with very little resistance, as they tend to drop a bait that has weight behind it. Cast a pattern of baits as far from the boat as possible just let them slowly sink so the small sinker stays on top of the bait. Keep the rod tip down so you see when a fish has picked up the bait. Wait for the line to straighten out then strike hard to set the hook. Deeper water proved to be the right call with most fish caught in the (35 - 45cm) range with a few in the 65cm range released. Not fast fishing but an enjoyable challenge.

In my lifetime of fishing, I have not seen a summer with constant wind and heavy rain affecting the fishing as it has. Where it goes from here I don’t know, but will keep you up to date. All I can say is get out on the water think outside the box catch fresh bait and just embrace and enjoy the wonderful Hauraki Gulf.