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NZ's greatest land-based spots revealed

By Forsyth ThompsonNZ Fishing World
NZ's greatest land-based spots revealed

Forsyth Thompson is a self-confessed land-based addict and has fished off rocks all around New Zealand. Here’s five epic locations that Forsyth just loves to hit.

As part of the on-going therapy for my LBG obsession, I spend as much time as possible travelling to remote and wonderful parts of New Zealand with the baby Stabicraft in tow, fishing in some truly extraordinary spots. 

The fishing is often spectacular but New Zealand is so blessed with top-class fishing locations that to mention them all in one story would be impossible. 

From North Cape, right to the bottom of New Zealand, there’s so much to be explored. There are five spots in particular that always spring to mind so here’s a detailed rundown of these locations and how to fish them.

Karikari Peninsula

This is one of my go-to spots because not only is it fishable in just about any weather pattern, there’s a huge amount of different terrain to fish.

Launching is very simple at either the beach in front of the Whatuwhiwhi Top 10 Park (my accommodation of choice up there), or from the beach at Waikato Bay. 

If leaving from Whatuwhiwhi, you head round E/NE. A couple of kilometres around is a long reef system running out into the bay, make sure you keep an eye on this and either go all the way around it, or pick a spot through nearer the coast if conditions and tide allow. 

The first part of the coast is shallower and more broken. Once you get past the stream and head towards Knuckle Point (the SE corner), the spots tend to be more and more ledges with deeper water in front of them. 

Fish tend to hang in very specific areas around the ledges here. 

Along this south side I’ve seen kingies come through every time so definitely bring a livey setup and top water if you’ve got it. There’s plenty of foul through here so it would be rare to snapper fish with anything under 15kg, particularly as I’ve had kings come through and take deadbaits unexpectedly. 

Launching out of Waikato Bay, you have to make an immediate call to head north or south. To the south there are so many options and the terrain generally gets easier to land on as you head further down towards Knuckle. Right through Whangatupere Bay there are plenty of great options and a lot of resident fish in the area. 

When you’re motoring in, stay out past where you’re going to fish and try not to disturb the area around where you’re going to set up. 

I had a 7.2kg first bait, just chewing on the berley bag, followed by an estimated 12kg (a shade under 90cm) which we released on a spot through here, followed up by a fish that was significantly bigger still but eventually put its teeth through 80lb fluoro. I know of a lot of 20lb-plus fish taken land-based in this area, so bring the right gear. 

North out of Waikato and you’re into what is slightly different country once you get to the top of the peninsula. 

Often the spots are steeper to land on, so you need to pick your conditions carefully with the swell. It screams kingies although a mate of mine had not one but two 20lb snapper in a day up around here and didn’t see a king all day. 

Houhora to North Cape

Starting from Houhora, launching is from the Wagener Holiday Park on the south side of the Heads and is pretty straightforward. Be polite and drop in to the office to let them know you’re launching and to ask where they want you to leave the trailer.

Head north once you’re out past the Heads and you’re into some ledges almost straight away. A couple of years ago two of the most experienced and best LBG fishers I know had what one of them described as his best day ever through this section of coast between here and Henderson. 

Not just big snapper but packs of kings up to mid-twenties all day long: for LBG addicts that’s hard to beat. For boat fishos there have been some outrageous fish caught from the mussel farm and I know of many, many 20lb-plus snapper and a few 30s caught land-based from through this area. 

There are some areas you can fish which are pretty reefy and foul in this area, but also some where you could find yourself fishing pretty much straight out on to sand if you chose to, giving the opportunity to perhaps drop down in line weight a bit. 

The islands just to the north are the Simmonds Islands, and no matter how tempting they look, they are strict no landing zones and policed by DOC so you need to stay off them.

Parengarenga with its bar is a different proposition altogether. 

There’s an enormous mass of water pouring through here and you need to take every precaution possible. If there’s swell running, just stay away from it, there is no LBG spot in the world that’s worth risking your life over. However, when you get a weather window and there’s no swell running, this is the gateway to fishing you just couldn’t believe. 

Launching is from Paua and you need to get and pay for the key for the gate from the store at Te Kao. Give them a call on 09 409 8866 and they’ll sort you out even if you’re coming through outside shop hours.

The launch is straightforward enough but once you’re off high tide there’s a big flat exposed which is good and hard to drive on and means you can launch straight into the river/harbour itself. 

From there run out to the entrance and stop and watch the bar for a good amount of time before committing. Again, if you’ve got any doubts at all, just don’t go. 

Fortunately the fishing inside the harbour itself is spectacular and with it being over white sand, this is paradise for light line specialists. The trevally here are monsters, kings are plentiful and snapper too and all very catchable from a range of sandy spots in the harbour. 

Great Exhibition Bay itself is simply stunning and there are a few sets of ledges in between the extensive sandy beaches (I’ve not fished off the beaches but I’m absolutely sure  it would be productive). 

Off one of those sets of ledges I experience the most exciting and frustrating land-based day ever. We had kings chasing snapper baits and livies, followed by the biggest king I’ve ever seen at 35kg-plus inhaling a livebait pretty much under the rod tip in full view of all of us. 

This spot is the reason I now livebait in these kinds of areas with an Everol 50 loaded with 37kg and a wind-on leader. The same session saw a period of about an hour and-a-half where we were simply monstered by big fish on deadbaits, one after another reefing us despite using max drag, thumb pressure and a lot of choice language. 

If weather permits and you can persuade yourself to go past these ledges then you’re going to end up on Murimotu Island, which is what many people think of when they think North Cape. Whilst this is one of my absolute favourite spots in the whole country, I’ve never landed a 20lb-pus fish here, not for want of trying. 

Ultimately, this whole area not only produces exceptional fishing, but is truly beautiful and unspoilt, a great reminder of what it would once have been like right around our country.

Cape Maria van Diemen 

There are two choices for launching, both of which require a huge amount of care and risk assessment and are not to be taken lightly at all. The way I did it was by launching off the beach at Tapotupotu and then going round Cape Reinga but even in perfect conditions it was still pretty daunting. 

The alternative for the IRB guys particularly is to come off the beach at the top of the 90 and come in that way. Motuopao Island (with the lighthouse) is another strict no landing area, so please respect this no matter how tempting it looks. 

Between the island and the mainland the current rips through and big current means big fish! 

Just before this gap is another ledge which I’ve fished and which produced kings, good snapper, great trevs as well as the biggest bronze whaler I’ve ever seen. We had 4-6kg trevs at our feet in the berley, kings cruising through pretty much all day and when the snapper bite was on, it was red hot. 

South of the cape there are a couple of sections of ledges which I can’t wait to get back to unfortunately there was just a little too much swell coming up from the south to make them a good prospect on our last visit.

Given the inaccessibility of the area and the quality of fishing, it rightly deserves its place in New Zealand fishing lore.

East Cape from Cape Runaway to Lottin and beyond 

A big snapper tamed at Lottin Point.

East Cape is one on everyone’s bucket list and so it should be. I normally stay at Sally and Jim Kemp’s rental place just by Cape Runaway itself, although Lottin Point Motel is another great option. 

Launching is either from the stream at the top of Whangaparaoa Bay or from the beach at Lottin. 

If on the beach at Lottin, we always unhitch the trailers at the top and push them down by hand, using long ropes to pull them back up at the end of the day. 

Don’t back down off the top of the shingle! Remember you’ve got no cellphone coverage here and the nearest fuel (if Waihau store is shut) is a long way away.

Obviously Cape Runaway can be pretty rugged to go round, so like all areas, pick your weather. There are a couple of islands straight off it which I’d love to land-base but the combination of steep sides, current and swell has prevented us ever doing so. 

However I’ve seen plenty of guys jigging decent kings all around them so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we get conditions to give them a go! Once you’re round Runaway you really are into a long, long stretch of tremendous country.

I wouldn’t mind betting that you could pick any one of the ledges you find between here and all the way down to Lottin, and have a really good day’s fishing. 

There truly is so much good looking country that the trick is to pick a spot and stop driving up and down looking at it! My good mate Brenton and I had a 7kg-plus snapper and a 19kg king off the same spot within an hour of each other and this is one area where I’d feel like I was just as likely to get kings as to see snapper. 

Sometimes the first fish that turn up in the berley are kings, so make sure you bring your topwater gear if you’ve got it. And if you haven’t, probably invest in some! 

This is tiger country, and seeing big snapper put their teeth through 80lb trace after long fights is always heart-breaking, so leave all but the serious gear at home. 

Launching at Lottin opens up a whole new area to the east, down to Medway and beyond. Lottin itself is justly famous! Just round from Lottin is a bay and a huge ledge running all the way out: many, many good kings (and snapper) have come from here, so no need to get fooled into going further. 

But of course you’ll want to explore…The options are pretty much endless, some steep ledges and some awesome rocky broken country, the spots we fish tending to be dictated by conditions rather than anything else. 

Coromandel top coast

My PB snapper came from here and my PB king too, so it’d be fair to say that it’s close to my heart. 

I’ve put a heap of my mates onto PBs up here and seen some truly outstanding action on both big kelpy reds and big angry kingfish. 

Whilst the section of coast from Fantail to Port Jackson provides plenty of walk-in access and the top coast has some well-known spots like Northernmost Point and the Pinnacles, the best fishing I’ve had through this coast has all been on spots that you’d have to be incredibly keen to even attempt to walk into.

Kings are plentiful and the Coromandel has a deserved reputation as a bit of a Mecca for land-based kings. 

It’s best to use gear much heavier than perhaps the size of the fish dictates, but of all the places I fish, my lowest rate of hooked to landed fish would be from this area.

Launching for small boats is fantastic: Fantail Bay, Port Jackson, Fletchers, Stony Bay, Sandy Bay and Post Charles all providing launching opportunities of relative ease. 

From these you can of course access pretty much any part of the coast you like and the opportunities are hugely varied. 

Kahawai are my livebait of choice in the top of the Coromandel: whilst I’ve swum all sorts of other baits, they seem to be consistently best for land-based kings. 

As a rule of thumb, I normally find the couple of hours either side of low are when the kings are most likely to be coming through.

As for the snapper fishing, there is so much likely looking country through the area that the difficulty is in picking the spot you’re going to stop on, not in finding one that you like the look of. 

Everywhere we fish through here is of course foul and kelpy, so keeping in touch with your bait is pretty important. A guy I know swears by fishing braid and circle hooks, and has a fantastic success rate up in this coast; braid to cut through the kelp and single circles to help prevent snags. 

His success rate is high on this and whilst I’ve never given this a go, when you see the fish he gets like this, it’s hard not to want to try something new too.

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