Spring fishing is often longed for in the Hauraki Gulf after a long, cold and usually wet winter.
Winter is when only the hardy fish on a regular basis, with a few out on the good days with mixed results. Generally winter fishing is confined to the coastline, straylining amongst the rocks and weed-lines, as this seems to be where the snapper live. I guess this is why land-based fishermen and those hardy boat fishos who don’t mind getting their boat in amongst the bricks do ok.
Out in the middle grounds, in the wide-open spaces it can often be a desert. Occasionally you find the odd school of fish accompanied by a small flock of birds. They can be damn hard to find, so unless you’ve received some very recent gps marks of a school, it’s hardly worth the gas to head out wide.
Then along comes spring and all that changes. The sea and air temperatures start to rise a little and in late September or early October the snapper sweep into the Hauraki Gulf to spawn and its all on in both the fishing and breeding departments.
It’s now that two things conspire against the fisherman and serve to protect large numbers of breeding snapper. The government in its infinite wisdom has reduced the catch down to seven fish of no less than 300 mm in length, per angler, per day. Not too hard to live with I guess but it does seem strange that the commercial fishing sector got off Scott free from catch reductions. Maybe it was large fishing corporations with lots of donateable money that whispered in the government’s ear (is that just a naughty suggestion?)
The pain of the equinox
The other, but even greater influence is Mother Nature. This change of season also delivers the equinox wind (the wind of change), a sou’wester of disruptive strength.
For us fisher people this wind can upset our fishing plans to varying degrees, some years it comes strong and constant for weeks on end, blowing up to forty knots. Other years it’s lighter, infrequent and from varying points of the compass. Most years it seems to sit in between these two extremes. However take my word for it; between October and December for the small to medium boat fishermen of the Hauraki Gulf, it’s mostly a monumental pain in the arse.
Marine Chart 532
All maps used are created by LINZ / New Zealand Hydrographic Authority and made available by Creative Commons 3.0 and can be downloaded from http://www.linz.govt.nz/sea/charts
Maps should not be used for navigation
To get the best out of this spring fishing bonanza you need to be fishing from a forty foot, fifteen ton or larger launch, or be in a position to drop every thing at a moment’s notice and go when there is a break in the weather.
As few of us have, or can do, either of these we are left with one last option; take advantage of the inner gulf’s amazing geographical lay out when the sou’wester is pumping. Take a look at Marine Chart nz532 (approaches to Auckland), which gives a good over view of the gulf. If you laid a ruler from sou’west to nor-east through the compass rose in the centre of the chart and moved it to the top of the chart to Kawau Is, you will notice that wind from the sou’west quarter blasts a large area of the gulf. Fortunately, there are still plenty of places that give protection from the annoying Sou-west wind.
Waiheke Island options
Let’s have a look at some of these places in more detail and break the gulf up into three parts. There are three marine charts that give much good detail, so we’ll start with chart nz5324: Tamaki Strait and approaches and the bottom end of Waiheke Is.
Rakino Channel and the north eastern side of Rakino Island are good places to fish in early spring and can provide good shelter from south west winds.
Bruce Duncan wrote a great article on this very area in the last issue of NZ Fishing World (issue 87) from Omaru Bay to Thumb Point, so I wont need to cover this again. I will add that the eastern sides of Ponui, Rotoroa, and Pakatoa Islands offer some great sheltered fishing, particularly the top end of Ponui from Scully reef and north around to the edge of Ruthe passage.
On the northern side of Waiheke, Owhiti Bay and Carey Bay with Spray Rock in the centre offers good fishing but getting there and back can be a bit bumpy. A safer option may be between The Needles and Thompson’s Point in Onetangi Bay or just around the corner at Hakaimango Point.
Crossing to Motutapu Island, from Home Bay through the Rakino channel and as far as Billy Goat Point can fish very well. My pick would be close in along the Rakino channel edge as far out as the wind will let you. Rakino’s eastern side will also give good cover and the fishing can be excellent in here at this time of year. One last place on this chart is the northern coast of Rangitoto. Some monster snapper have been caught in the shallows on either side of Boulder Bay.
Just remember all of these places can require some travel to get to and although they may be protected when you’re fishing, you still have to get home. You have to take into consideration driving home into the wind, which may have picked up throughout the day.
Rangitoto to Mahurangi
The second section is covered by Marine Chart nz5321 (Mahurangi to Rangitoto Is). This covers a huge coast from North Head up to and including the Mahurangi Harbour. Including the northern side of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and Tiri-tiri Island, this coast offers a good number of sheltered beach launching ramps and apart from Tiri, all the fishing is close at hand.
Getting in close to find shelter will often mean straylining with juicy baits to tempt the fish.
From North Head to Cheltenham, you can get out to the Rangi Channel edge or hide under the Takapuna cliffs. From there, all the way up to Toroa Point, the rocky coastline including Browns Bay Reef offers lots of scope. Just remember Long Bay is a marine reserve with no fishing at all.
Tiri channel tucked under Whangaparaoa head can fish very well on all tides in the spring and there are spots along the northern side of the peninsula from Coal Mine Bay right along to the Tiri Channel but you will have to stay in tight to this coastline.
Heading north from Hatfields Beach passing Waiwera, Wenderholm, Brazier rock and on up to Cudlip Point holds some beautiful weedy reef country. Big cliffs give good shelter and from Cudlip Point, turning into the Mahurangi Harbour through to Jamieson’s Bay there is good fishing at the three points along this coast.
Waiwera and north
Tiri channel tucked under Whangaparaoa head can fish very well on all tides in the spring.
Finally, the third section - the northern part of the gulf and here we move to Marine Chart nz5227 (Goat Is to Waiwera). At the mouth of the Mahurangi is Saddle Island, it won’t give much cover but it is a great place for kingfish and a few good snapper as well. From the point at Big Bay all the way up to Mullet Point can be great for pannie size snapper once you get past the 15m mark.
Now we move out to the seaward side of Kawau Is, between Burgess Bay in the South, to Fairchild Reef in the North. This area has some fantastic rugged big fish country, which includes Nelson Rock. There is always a chance of a big snapper or big kingfish along here. Crossing the North Channel, Takatu Point like Saddle Island won’t give much protection but it may give you a chance at a really big kingie.
If you launched at Sand Spit ramp just remember coming back from these two locations will mean coming back through the North Channel, which can be as bad as the Motuhie Channel when the wind is against tide.
This snapper fell to a softbait cast close into the rocks on a north eastern coastline.
Our last piece of protected coast runs from Ti Point to Cape Rodney, there is good safe launching in Omaha Cove commonly known as Leigh harbour. There’s not much parking down by the ramp but further up the hill there is. Once again, this is a rocky, reefy piece of coast with plenty of variety. Depending on the conditions you may even get out to Leigh Reef if the wind is not too strong.
In all these spots, you will need to adopt typical winter fishing tactics: straylining on light gear with heaps of burley pumping out. Just like winter, you may not get a boat load of fish but you should get enough for a feed and at least you’re out of the house having some fun.
Hooked up while straylining the northern shore of Rangitoto.
Another way to attack these spots is close in softbaiting. This technique was described in last month’s issue of NZ Fishing World where Matt Hewetson discusses sniping snapper in the shallows.
The very last group of hideaways are Auckland’s many backwater estuary’s and mangrove creeks. These areas offer good seclusion from the wind and by heading up the waterways at high tide and then drifting down with the out going you may be quite surprised what you pick up. There are a lot of different species that travel these creeks on the incoming tide to feed amongst the mangroves. Try softbaiting in this situation, it’s good fun and can be quite rewarding.
So - when the sou’wester is howling and you’re sick of being at home, there are still places you can fish. Just remember at some stage you have to get back to the ramp, so plan your trip wisely and hopefully it will be fresh fish for dinner.