Things change over the Christmas holidays, no longer do you need to put pressure on yourself to go fishing, now (at least for a couple of weeks) you can enjoy just being on the water taking it all in so it’s the perfect time to try and do things differently. The big focus in the last ten years has been on targeting snapper on jigs or soft baits, now that’s okay as I occasionally do it but what do you learn?
When I talk to the young guys I realise that there are generations of fishos that have been brought up thinking the only way to fish is with lures jigs etc. This is largely due to social media over the last ten years, being new to fishing or having not been brought up in a fishing family you naturally think that this is the only way to go when all you see on TV fishing shows, YouTube video’s and photos in magazines are of big work-ups.
To be honest much of this type of fishing is just good luck. I put three mates all very good lure fishos to the test. Alone, I was back at the ramp with 7 snappers between 42-52 cm in under three hours, three of them took six hours to catch 11 snappers around the 34-42 cm mark. What this proves to me is not only knowing the habitat but also knowing how to fish with the right size hooks and bait, setting a game plan and sticking to it.
Recently I took a keen young guy (who only lure fishes) out in my Haines 485 to teach him how to strayline. I now call him Sponge as he just sucked up and understood what I was explaining in regards to how to interpret what we were seeing on the sounder, the way snapper feed on open sand and why snapper bite in different ways due to the food type. Over the next three hours, we released around a dozen pannies and kept several bigger fish from 45-67 cm for the smoker.
The last thing I want is for people to think I am being a smart arse, but when I see boats heading out wide coming home at the end of the day disappointed when so often all they needed to do is head out onto the sand for a few hours, I simply just want to share my knowledge to help families catch a feed and have quality time on the water.
Firstly, to catch fish they have to be there, snapper change their habitat and the way they feed at different times of the year. Go back to the spot in winter where you caught fish in summer chances are they will have moved. Depending on the time of year snapper will only be where there’s food, work-ups its bait fish, over foul or around the kelpy shore line its limpets’ crabs’ snails and on open sand its worms’ crabs and shell fish even the way the snapper feed is vastly different between winter and summer.
Under work-up lures work best as they emulate bait fish, around fouls and shorelines soft baits work but bait is often more effective, on a flat sandy bottom soft baits work but again I find bait by far is best.
When it comes to bait fishing several factors play a big part, having the bow of the boat facing into the wind and tide to allow you to cast out the stern so your baits are directly behind the boat. This means you can see any line movement, and feel the smallest of bites, and when striking a fish there is direct contact between you and the fish. Fishing ledger rigs will not get many fish and most will be small.
Fresh bait is ideal as it is tougher and takes more chewing by the smaller fish and this action brings in the larger fish. I use a sabiki rig with a heavy 3oz sinker to keep it close to the boat, dropped to the bottom I raise it up at least a meter to keep it from catching baby snapper. Spend quality time with the kids on a bait-catching mission, kids get a hell of a buzz catching their own bait and then catch a snapper on their own bait.
Stray lining like a lot of fishing techniques can be over complicated, so called experts tell you, you need to use certain size swivels hook trace weight and length, it is bull shit. Keep it very simple, use the smallest weight sinker 1/8th to 1/4 quarter oz which is more than enough to get a bait to bottom even in 23 meters. The lighter the sinker weight there is less line resistance when a fish takes the bait so the greater the chance of a hook-up.
I do not use trace but simply slide the sinker on the line and then tie a 7/0 or 8/0 hook, big hooks are easier to rig gut hook less fish and best of all have a far higher hook-up rate than smaller hooks.
Cast the bait as far from the boat as possible, once the bait hits the water do not let out more line just let it sink as this keeps the bait and sinker together so you can feel the weight and stay in touch with the bait. Ground bait and burly will help a lot but make sure the burly pot is set no deeper than half the distance to the bottom, as it is spread over a greater area than if lowered to the bottom.
Keeping the rod tip down allows you to see any line movement, now wait for the line to straighten out coming up tight at the rod tip before you strike. Small bites more often than not small fish even when your bait comes back munted, it’s just the way snapper feed on the sand.
Over the holidays why not take the kids fishing just off the beach, toss out a couple of stray lines and get the kids catching bait the best thing of all is catching memories of quality family time.
If you want to learn more about stray lining contact the team at Haines HQ for a copy of Hauraki Gulf Fishing Hots Spots 150 fishing spots but every spot has the GPS marks a screenshot of the bottom and all the info you need on how and when to fish it. The first few chapters go into detail about rigs baiting etc, there are very few copies left so if you need knowledge on how to do spots to fish call the team now and get your copy.