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Top water fishing from Tauranga

By Mark ArmisteadNZ Fishing World
Top water fishing from Tauranga

Heading to a new fishing destination can be both daunting and exciting; for a lot of us fisher people it can be easy to keep returning time and time again to the same location where we have had success in the past.

For a lot of us fisher people it can be easy to keep returning time and time again to the same location where we have had success in the past.

But prospecting new waters and testing your skills in new waters should be an exciting challenge, and you never know, you may find that your new location is better than where you have previously fished.

Out of all the locations I have fished up and down the country, Tauranga would have to be one of the easiest and most user-friendly locations for the visiting angler.

The facilities for the boat fisherman are second to none, the accommodation can cater for a wide range of budgets and, most importantly, it is the gateway to the mighty Bay of Plenty which produces some of the best fishing in the country.

As winter draws to a close and the days start to become a little bit longer, the entire bay becomes paradise for plankton, and from here the food chain begins. During the spring months huge shoals of mackerel and kahawai turn up to feast on the bounty, then there are squid, and then in come the predators.

Snapper and kingfish preparing for the spawn take full advantage of the bounty gorging them prior to the big event. Late spring and into the summer the water temperature creeps up a bit, announcing the arrival of the much anticipated pelagic fish.

These days it is the striped marlin that forms the mainstay of the game fish fleet, but in the past it was the mighty yellowfin tuna that the Bay of Plenty was renowned for.
As the days get shorter the game fish start to move off to more exotic locations, but some years they will linger as long as the water stays warm.

Once again the snapper and kingfish start to hunt in preparation; this time they are readying themselves for the winter, packing on the fat to help them through the colder months. Over the winter things can slow down a bit but, for those who are keen, this is the time to seek your trophy snapper or kingfish and for the more adventurous to seek out the mighty broadbill swordfish.

Where to start

 When planning a fishing holiday to any new destination the first investment should always be a set of charts – not only will it help you with safely navigating around the area, but it will also be an invaluable tool to aid you in finding some fish.

Chart 54 is the one that covers the entire Bay of Plenty it is a good starting point, but for those coming specifically to Tauranga to fish then I suggest you obtain some of the more detailed charts such as charts 541, 542, 5411 and 5413.

So once you have your charts, what exactly should you be looking for? As the Bay of Plenty is really an open vast expanse of water, you should begin by picking out any obvious structures.

In the harbour a lot of the structure will involve shelving banks or drop offs – when you combine some good current with these areas you find the bait and generally this is followed by the bigger fish. Look for any obvious drop off areas, but when you head offshore from Tauranga you may end up coming across some of the most famous reefs in the country.

Areas like Astrolabe Reef, Penguin Shoals and Tuhua Reef deserve their reputation as Bay of Plenty hotspots. On their day they can fish as good as any other location in the country.  
These may be the better known areas but there are many more within easy reach of Tauranga.

In the east there is Motiti Island, one of the most productive snapper locations in the bay. Keep heading east and you will come across Plate Island and Schooner Rock, both abound with life and for good reason. They sit close to very deep water and are exposed to the current, the combination of which helps to form nutrient rich upwellings full of fish life.

In the west you will find the rugged Karewa Island. It’s always worth stopping here for a cast with a soft plastic for snapper or a stick bait for kingfish. Heading further to the west just outside of Waihi is Steeles Reef which can often be loaded with good sized snapper, along with the odd big kingfish.

Shark attacks on hooked kings are not uncommon

In the north is the magnificent Mayor Island – this is the place where anything can happen and often does. There is a lot of structure around Mayor Island and for this reason it is often difficult to know where to start, but as a general guide there is a drop off that runs around the entire island.

Along this drop off the water drops from around 20 metres to 50 metres rather quickly, and there are numerous areas along this drop off that will, for one reason or another, hold fish. I often cruise along the drop off studying my sounder intently until I find some fish sign worth fishing. One tip here is to drag a stick bait along behind you while searching – this tactic has helped us land some very big kings in the past.

To the east of Mayor Island there is a huge area of seamounts known as the Mayor Knolls. You never quite know what you will come across here – on these seamounts in the deep you will find bass, bluenose, hapuka and big kings.

These areas regularly produce spectacular marlin fishing when they are in season. It is on one of these seamounts where I caught my first ever broadbill swordfish – this is well known haunt for some very big swords.

Tips and tricks

When visiting a new location it is always wise to try and glean as much information about the area as you possibly can. You will often hit a few brick walls as fisher people can be a funny bunch when it comes to sharing information with strangers, but there are a few things you can do to give yourself a bit of a head start.

The numerous tackle shops in Tauranga are well stocked and some of the staff are very knowledgeable. These businesses rely on visiting anglers to keep them afloat, so it is in their best interest to help you out.

Get yourself down to the boat ramp and talk to people who have been fishing, I wouldn’t advise asking a direct question like “where did you catch those big fish?”, but instead aim for getting minor details that will help you build up a knowledge base.

Questions like “did you get those snapper out on the sand?” or “did you have to go far to get those big kingfish?” are not as direct and will help to open dialogue, leading to more information.

One of the most valuable tools in my research arsenal has become thewww.seasurface.co.nz site; I use it both when travelling to another area and fishing my local waters. This site has up-to-date sea surface temperature data which can be useful for a wide range of things – changes in water temperature often hold loads of baitfish.

Charts are invaluable for finding fishing spots.

You can also use the charts to help plan the timing of your holiday – you may wish to simply keep your holiday on hold until the sea hits the temperature that will be best for your target species. The site has up-to-date sea colour charts which aid in finding areas of high nutrient value and, as I have mentioned, find the nutrients and you will find the fish.

I also use this site to keep a close eye on the currents forming in the bay. Being a bay, the currents can often be unpredictable but a quick look on the maps available takes the guesswork out of which direction the currents are heading.

Facilities - Boat Ramps

Sulphur Point 

Easily the best and most widely used area for recreational boaties to access the water; here there are two separate areas to launch your vessel.

One is the old ramp and the other is, of course, the new ramp. This one is located further north and is the one I use for the vast majority of my launching. It has great pontoons, a good depth of water at all tides and can handle very large trailer boats.

The only drawbacks of this ramp are that it can get very busy during the peak season and it also can get extremely slippery at times, so please be careful. The old ramp is not quite as good but it still is a very easy ramp to use. The only real drawbacks are that the pontoons are not as good and the ground can be a bit uneven under your trailer in some spots.

Totara Street ramp

Just over the bridge heading to the Mount is a small ramp, has loads of parking and is a concrete all tide ramp. Be aware it can get a little windswept on the rough days.

On the outskirts of town there are some other launching areas. In the east there is a ramp at the end of Bell Road which puts you into the Kaituna river and involves a bar crossing. At Maketu there are more launches into a river and again a bar crossing is involved.

When launching at either of these locations it is advisable to seek local knowledge or advice on how best to approach the bar crossings.

In the west there are some launching facilities at Omokoroa, Tanners Point, Athenree and Waihi Beach. All of these ramps will see you launch into the Tauranga Harbour.

If you are intending to head out to the sea, the last three ramps will take you to the Bowentown end of the harbour whilst the Omokoroa ramp will see you head out through the entrance at the base of Mount Maunganui.

The Bowentown end requires a bar crossing and I suggest seeking some local advice here or contact the local coastguard for assistance prior to crossing.

For those of you travelling down in a launch then this area boasts some superb marinas where you can rent a berth for a fee. The two main marinas are Tauranga Marina and Tauranga Bridge Marina.

Both are excellent facilities that have refuelling stations and plenty of room for vehicle parking.

Accomodation

Because these are tourist hotspots you will find a wide array of accommodation options, from budget backpackers to luxury accommodation.

If you are visiting with a boat then it is important to check that the motel will have enough room for you to park your vehicle and trailer.

Trolling a stick bait produces some big kings.

Generally our visiting anglers use the Papamoa Top 10 Holiday Park, which has some very well-equipped cabins right on Papamoa beach. The other popular choice is the Anchorage apartments in Mount Maunganui – self-contained units that suit a lot of our guests, but it would be well worth talking to them about boat parking before you head down.

The other option we use a lot is the Trinity Wharf Hotell, located in Tauranga itself. Trinity Wharf offers comfortable accommodation along with a fantastic restaurant, but there is one other feature that can be very useful for visiting anglers – the private jetty right out the front.

For me, the ability to pick up and drop off clients to their front door is invaluable. I have seen quite a few boats recently using the jetty to tie up their boats while visiting on holidays and this option removes all the stress involved with repeated boat launching while on your holiday.

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