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Shore based tactics - What are the X-factors

By Joel WestcotNZ Fishing World
Shore based tactics - What are the X-factors

Rock fishing success can often be attributed to understanding the important influences that cause fish to inhabit one area over another.

The makings of a great spot X usually come down to a number of key factors, many of which change on a daily basist. This means for one reason or another a spot that was red hot last week might be stone cold the next. The idea is to identify as many factors as possible that contribute to specific spots being productive.

Weather

It is often the first thing we consider when deciding to go fishing or not. Things like; is it too windy or is it going to rain? The problem is that these factors often revolve around our own comfort rather than fishing success. Some of the best days fishing are had in less than ideal conditions especially when targeting snapper.

Cloudy, rainy days mean there is less light penetrating the water column and because of this, fish tend to be less wary and more inclined to accept the angler’s offering. Likewise, a bit of wind or chop is far more preferable for snapper fishing than a glassy day, as it not only affects the light but creates natural noise and in shallow water can stir up the bottom to release food. The end result being bolder, more actively feeding fish.

Of course fishing all day in a storm is a fool’s game but fishing in crappy weather for a well-timed couple of hours can yield royal rewards. I know of a place not far from Auckland that is like many shallow water snapper spots in that if you fish it mid-afternoon on a calm midsummers day you’ll come away with little more than sunburn and rotten pilchard under you nails. However, if you fish here at daybreak when there’s a bit of chop and low cloud, a solid bag of pannies is the norm.

The spoils of summer! This kingy took a small kahawai livebait from one of the Hauraki Gulf’s many kingfish holding ledges. This one in particular is blessed with a relatively clear bottom making landing fish a little easier.

This particular spot, like many others in the region is only fishable for a couple of hours over the low. This means if low tide coincides with daybreak and ten or so knots of wind-it’s a goer, if not, go somewhere else.

There is another spot not far from the one described above I regularly hit in the summer for kingfish and success here is determined by quite an opposite set of factors. The weather factor here revolves around water clarity, as this has strong and widely recognised influence when targeting kings and seems especially important for inner harbour fish.

This area, like many other Waitemata kingfish spots fishes great at daybreak about two hours either side of high tide. However if it’s been blowing a gale or raining a lot in the days leading up to your planned attack, either sleep in or fish for snapper as muddy waters will greatly diminish your chances of success. 

Wind is an obvious and universal weather consideration for the landbased fisherman. If you have a twenty knot southerly blowing in your face, fishing is damned near impossible, not mention down right unpleasant. So if the wind is howling, find somewhere in the lee or at least somewhere you can get your back to the wind. This way you will be able to cast your bait and your livey balloon won’t end up at your feet.

If you’re planning to fish on a specific day, give yourself a couple of options. Google Maps are a great way to ascertain what areas will be out of the wind.

Jack Lusk with another foul weather cracker! This snapper took an un-weighted pilchard in the midst of some nasty weather on the islands off Amodeo Bay in the Coromandel.

Water movement

We land-basers are at the mercy of tide and swell as they influence not only how a spot will fish but if it can be fished at all. Access is key and tied to this is safety, if you plan on exploring a new area then fishing three hours either side of low is a safe option. This way you know you won’t get wet, stuck, drown your phone, keys or yourself! Low tide allows you to access a lot of productive water such as reefs and weedlines that are easily overlooked.

If you are looking for a new spot to fish, again get on Google Earth. Here you can view low tide photos, figure out access points and scope out likely looking water.

On the open coast, the bottom end of the tide is great for snapper, kahawai and kingfish. While the tide is slack things inevitably slow down but as the current picks up, crustaceans move from their nooks and crannies, plankton and other morsels become available to baitfish and our target species will follow.

If you haven’t fished the low tide shallows before you are in for a treat. You will be amazed at the size of snapper that can be caught and how hard they fight in only a meter of water! There are fantastic shallow water opportunities around areas such as Whangaparaoa and Waiwera, look out for fingers of reef jutting out into the sea and don’t be put off by water that appears ‘too shallow’.

Swell

Too much swell is dangerous and if you have any doubts about your safety then don’t fish. In deeper water spots, the right amount of swell creates white water that provides fish with cover and dislodges food held on the shoreline and surrounding reefs.

A day or two after a big swell has gone through can be dynamite with the bottom stirred up and all kinds of prey and food made available to predatory and scavenging fish. Even a small amount of swell can make all the difference and success in some areas is dependent on it, so be sure to factor in the current and previous day’s swell. Conversely if you are targeting kings, water clarity is key and areas such as Whatipu on the Manukau are known to fish best after a few days of low swell on the west coast.

Current Areas

With lots of current are often excellent producers of all species, especially kingfish. The most successful areas seem to be where rocky points or ledges run into current lines. These can be distinguished by lines of foam, rougher water and even bits of floating rubbish.

Current is great when berleying and can attract fish from afar and is especially good when trying to attract baitfish. Swimming live baits between strong current and weed lines in the middle of summer is a sure fire way to get a crack at a land based king. All you have to do then is land it...

After a ferry ride and a long walk along the coast we managed to find a spot out of the wind and were met by some willing snapper. If you can access islands you can greatly increase you chances of finding a sheltered possie.

Structure

When choosing a spot look for places with plenty of structure but bear in mind if you are targeting kingfish, structure can be a double-edged sword. The same weed and oyster covered boulders that are providing habitat for the kingfish’s prey is exactly where his majesty will head when hooked.

Even the rocks at your feet have caused the loss of many a fish. So if you are planning on targeting kingfish, where possible do so in areas that will hold fish but are still possible to land one from.

Losing fish is no fun for the angler who spent the day casting poppers for just one shot at a fish or for the fish that is stuck with a length of heavy mono and a stick bait hanging from its gob.

If big snapper are your quarry, areas of structure such as kelp, rocks and reef are where you want to head (the more the better). Good gear with the grunt to pull them out of the reef is another essential ingredient to success. Once again Google Earth will give you a wealth of info on where you will be able to fish and what you can expect below.

Snapper often seem to hang out in quite specific areas too. So don’t just cast in the same spot every time, work your way around casting 180 degrees till you find fish and if you don’t, walk 20 meters down the line and try again.

All the factors above undoubtedly contribute to land-based success but there are of course many others. The more you fish an area, the more you will learn about the idiosyncrasies that contribute to landing fish on the bricks such as tide, swell, rain, water clarity and all the other factors big and small. You can’t spend enough time exploring new places and it’s often quite profitable to just go for a walk with out the rod and scope out areas before you fish them.

The more spots you know, the more options you will have. To get to know the spots you just have to fish them and fish them some more!

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