Welcome to NZ Fishing World’s EPIC How-to guide for 2016. You'll find a summary of every technique, for every fish. It’s literally everything you need to know to catch New Zealand’s favourite fish
Fishing with bait
The basic rig has a short trace with the sinker hard against the hook. It is used mainly for casting baits (sometimes with no sinker) into a berley trail on a reef. It can also be used in deeper water.
Whole pilchard – Head first
Application: Straylining with various weights, running sinker rig, bottom fishing, cast-and-retrieve situations similar to a stickbait.
- 1 x whole pilchard – recently defrosted
- 2 x hooks – sized to match the width of the pilchard (6/0 usually a good choice)
- 4 to 6 foot trace – author’s preference is 60-lb supple trace. Lighter fluorocarbon trace is an option
- Sinkers sized to match the fishing circumstances
- Scissors or clippers to trim trace
Before picking up the bait prepare a standard 2-hook trace as pictured. It is essential both hooks be fixed, as the bait cannot be correctly prepared with a swinging keeper hook. The first hook is attached with a uni-knot while the second is snelled to the trace.
Firstly place the point of the first hook on the lateral line of the pilchard, about three centimetres in front of the tail. Push the hook firmly through the spine line of the pilchard until the hook point and barb are clear on the other side. Rotate the hook to sit neatly against the bait with the eye of the hook at the head end of the bait.
The second snelled hook needs to be pushed through the bottom jaw of the pilchard vertically all the way up through the pilchard’s head. The ideal line is to have the hook pass almost touching the front of the pilchard’s eye socket, as pictured.
To finish load the trace for the appropriate sinker for the application (it may not require a sinker at all), tie to the mainline.
Note: This rig fishes well in all conventional applications and is particularly well suited as a quick and deadly cast-and-retrieve bait targeting kingfish around structures like channel markers and buoys.
These are best used for 'bottom bashing' in moderate to deep water. The advantages is that the baits are above the sinker and the bites are easily detected. Also, the sinker can be easily changed as currents and depth changes. Ideal for snapper fishing in the channels around Auckland.
Cut baits for ledger rigs
Application: Any snapper-fishing situation but particularly well suited to deeper water - 50-metres plus – and areas of high current.
- 1 x fresh or frozen skipjack tuna
- 2 x hooks – sized to match the width of the pilchard (6/0 usually a good choice)
- 6 – 8 foot trace – 60 to 80-lb stiff trace
- Sinkers sized to match the fishing circumstances
- A sharp knife
- Scissors or clippers to trim trace
Step one: Prepare a ledger rig using stiffer trace than normal. Stiff trace helps prevent the hooks from tangling around the main line.
Step two: Cut two angled wedges of skipjack tuna,
Step three: Trim any excess flesh from the pieces. The purpose is to ensure the bait size is well matched to the hook’s gape.
Step four: Pass the first hook all the way through a bait - start on the flesh side and pull the hook and its eye completely clear of bait on the skin side.
Step five: Push the point of the hook back through the bait so that the hook sits neatly against the skin side with the hook point and barb exposed on the flesh side of the bait.
Step six: Repeat the process with the second hook and the other bait. The final result should like the image hereabouts.
Step seven: Add the correct weight sinker to the bottom and of the ledger and you are ready to catch fish.
Note: The skipjack ledger rig is arguably the most versatile setup in any fisherman’s arsenal. It is easily downsized to target terakihi or upsized for hapuka and bluenose.
The use of artificial soft bait lures and modern braid line technology has certainly changed the face of New Zealand sport fishing, and with good reason
The classic target species we love to chase; snapper, kingfish, trevally and even bottom feeders such as blue cod, John dory and gurnard, are all suckers for these colourful rubbery baitfish imitations. Not only is this method of fishing extraordinarily effective, it keeps you constantly active, and can offer the saltwater angler a hint of the fly fisherman’s thrill when a fish grabs a nicely presented lure.
Typical softbiting technique
Where once comparatively heavy rods and reels were used, soft bait rigs are scaled right down to be lightweight but still incredibly powerful. The typical soft bait outfit is a spinning or ‘eggbeater’ style combo, spooled with 3 – 10kg braid line and a 2 metre fluorocarbon leader.
Attach the trace to the braid with an Albright knot (see breakout) and the end of the trace to the jig head with a loop to allow the lure free action. The Rapala loop is most common but the perfection loop will work well too.
The Jig head must be threaded onto the line and fed through the main loop when completing the knot. This allows the jig head to swing freely and perform with a natural action in the water. Jig heads will usually be 10 – 20 grams with 1/0 – 3/0 hook sizes.
NZFW sotbait expert Scott McDonnell prefers using Gulp in a 5” jerk shad. These are available in a vast array of colours, many of which defy any resemblance to a living organism, but they sure work nonetheless. Scott favours using natural colours, but great results are often self-perpetuating. Use your favourite all the time and it will naturally reap greater rewards!
With this style of softbaiting, using stealth like a ninja is your key weapon and you need to actively work the boat along the coast in close to the rocks. It is also one of the most exciting methods as often a big snapper smashes your softbait and screams off into the weed, trying to bust you off.
Hot tip: Once you cast, don’t let the softbait sink to the bottom in the shallow water. As soon as the lure hits the water, flip the bail arm and start retrieving the line at a medium pace. This will help prevent it snagging in the shallows until you get several metres out into deeper water and you can slow the retrieve, which allows the softbait to sink.
Open water method
As with all softbait fishing, your softbait needs to be on or near the bottom to consistently produce snapper. As you fish with them drifting in the boat you always need to cast ahead of the boat as it moves along. This will ensure the jighead reaches the bottom and you then work the lure along the seabed until the boat catches up and you drift over it. You can let more line out as you move past to keep in touch with the bottom but when there is too much line angle with the lure out the back you need to retrieve and cast out again.
With any kind of fishing style, time on the water simply can’t be beaten and you need to get out there to regularly fish to see what works for you. Make sure you take different sizes, colours and styles and you will build a sound knowledge on what works best.
Slow pitch jigging
Micro-jig lures are usually designed to spark a reaction from fish, (they also tend to spark reactions from fisherman in shops). However, when used properly in slow-pitch jigging, they can be one of the most productive ways to target snapper and kingfish.
The retrieve of a slow pitch is dependant on the rod spring, lifting the lure and dancing it an attractive manner.
1. The starting position is pointing down towards the water.
2. Raise the rod to approximately 45 degrees with a smooth action.
3. A final ‘flick’ at the top of the stroke helps raise the lure to give it a good distance to drop and flutter
4. Keep an eye on the line as the slack is taken up from the falling jig. The line will gradually pull tight as the lure falls, if there is any hesitation, it means a fish has struck.
The lure lift is just as important as the drop with slow pitch jigs, so it’s important to be paying attention at both times, but also concentrate on varying the retrieve rates to try and find the action that triggers a strike.
Retrieve rates can be altered with short or long pauses as well as full or half winds of the reel handle. Sometimes a careful half wind, rather than a long lift, once the lure has hit the bottom, can be a very effective technique.
Fishing with metal
The local incarnations of micro-jigs we see here in New Zealand have been adapted to fit with our unique fishing conditions. This means that while they are still called ‘micro-jigs’, they are designed to be larger than in other countries where the water is calmer and clearer.
Slow pitch jigs have two sides to them; the concave side is called the scallop, and the convex side is called the hull. These two opposites cause the jig to “flat fall” and sway from side to side when the line has no tension. This design leaves the jig in the strike zone for longer.
Mechanical jigging by comparison, is different because knife jigs are generally danced to the surface and don’t flutter as much.
Vibration is another element that can attract and draw fish to strike a lure. The lateral line of a bony fish is designed to sense electrical stimuli in the fish’s environment, either as a method of finding prey or of avoiding becoming lunch for a bigger fish.
Most micro-jigs are rigged with assist hooks at the head and are generally small when compared to other kinds of lures. The design is intended catch the fish’s lips and surrounding jaw instead of deep within the mouth. Carefully playing the fish is important to avoid the hooks being ripped out of the fish’s lips.
Lighter line can help impart better action to a lure as it offers reduced drag, allowing for a more natural presentation. It also allows deeper water to be fished, speeding up a light lures decent into the strike zone.
Jigging should come with a warning as it's both addictive and an adrenalin rush.
The ‘motion’ or ‘rhythm’ is the most important part to the formula of mechanical jigging. Many of you have probably seen this motion being completed in some way, shape or form.
A good starting point to practice this technique is sit in the lounge with a rod and reel and practice the rhythm over and over while you are watching television.
Fighting the fish
Once you feel the initial hookup, keep jigging for 3 or 4 strokes to ensure you set the hook deep. While completing the extra strokes try to emphasis the stroke each time to set the hook home.
This is where the pain starts. If it’s a solid fish you will find yourself glued to the rail not being able to do much. Try and get a bit of line back before you switch to the gimbal.
Never lift the rod past 45 degrees as this diminishes the rod’s power and you could point load and break the rod. Work out how much you need to drop the rod to make one turn on the arm. Continue for as long as your arms will hold out.
Manufacturers of rods and reels will state what the maximum drag rating or setting the gear can take so try your best to stick within these guides. The general rule of thumb is to set your reel’s drag to one third of the line’s weight.
Lines and knots
Braid When it comes to jigging, using coloured braid that changes colour every 10m is a must. The purpose for this is for you to be able to calculate the depth your jig has dropped to. Braid strength for jigging is usually 24-37kg with the leader ranging from 37-60kg.
The first important knot you will need to master is the “PR Knot”. This knot is can be quite complex, visit www.nzfishingworld.co.nz for a great how-to video.
When choosing the correct hook
size you can float between 11/0 and 13/0 sizes.
There is a lot of competition in the jigging market here in New Zealand. There is a large variety or styles and colours to choose from. The size of your set-up will determine the weight of the jig to buy. It might sound obvious but the general rule is to use a 300g jig on a 300g rated rod.
1. You will see the rod is held relatively high with the arm of the reel at 12 O'clock. As you drop the rod or start the stroke you will then start to turn the handle (this retrieves the slack line on the drop of the rod).
2. Now the rod is near horizontal and the reel arm should also match the rod being horizontal.
3. We continue to drop the rod and we are now at the bottom of the stroke and the reel arm should be at 6 O'clock. So from the top of the stroke to the bottom of stroke equates to half a revolution on the reel. Moving from the bottom of the stroke back to the top of the stroke we complete another half a revolution of the reel from the 6 O'clock to 12 O'clock position back to picture 1.
4. This is one stroke or cycle. You then repeat this action smoothly with only a quick pause at the top of each stroke.
Offering a combination of sight casting, precession casting and explosive surface bites, topwater fishing is one of the most action packed ways to fish.
Finding top water action
Your best weapon for finding topwater kingfish on top is, believe it or not, your eyes. Seeing kingfish on the surface feeding is every topwater fisherman’s dream come true.
Your next best artillery are birds; gannets and shearwaters are ideal. Once you spot birds diving, the odds will be in your favour that a kingfish or two is not too far behind.
After this you will need to look for structure and current, as these two common factors equate to bait fish and hopefully a few roaming kings.
Assess all the elements like wind, current and swell. Position your vessel up wind, this will allow you to drift downwind while still casting with the wind. This will give you the best odds of seeing just how exciting and explosive kingfish are on the surface.
Learning to work a lure is a critical element in the equation of catching a topwater kingfish. A good way to practice this is to find a quiet spot in an estuary or harbour local to you.
1. Cast at a target.
2. Wind the line up tight with your rod tip pointing at your lure.
3. With a small amount of slack line left, jerk the rod tip to have the lure dive under the surface followed with sweeping the rod back in one motion.
4. Wind up the slack line while moving the rod tip back to pointing at the lure. This will allow the lure to stop moving and sit upright on top.
5. Once you have almost wound up all the slack line repeat the sweep process. This method will mimic a wounded baitfish on the surface with an erratic “zig zag” pattern.
Aaron Levien's gear for all levels
Kick Starter Gear
- Pro Hunter Stickbait rod
- 7ft 6 15-24 kilo
- Fin Nor Troppo rod
- 8ft 15-24 kilo
- Daiwa Opus Bull reel 5500
- Penn Spinfisher SSV reel
- Pro Hunter lure
- Shimano Ocea lure
- Synit Van Demon
- Carpenter Blue Chaser
- Shimano Stella 14k
- Daiwa Saltiga 5000h
- Carpenter GT Gamma 105gram lure
- Hitter Aurora 100gram lure
A full tank of live bait and knowing what to do with them can be the difference between putting food on the table and going home empty handed
Using live bait or livies is a super effective way to lure in predator fish looking for an easy meal. Of course most famous for catching kingfish and gamefish, livies are also great for enticing XOS snapper, hapuka, bass, and John dory.
The depth to be fished and size of live bait offering will govern the size of sinker to use. Generally an 8-oz sinker does the trick. NZFW kingfish expert Aaron Levien prefers to use a sliding sinker on a leader followed by a game swivel (heavy duty), then a leader again to a large circle hook. This is usually around 1 to 1.2-meters in length. To attach the swivel he uses a four-turn uni-knot or crimp thimbles, and to attach to the hook he uses an improved clinch knot. (see image)
Hot tip If you are targeting kingfish for sport then a circle is the best and safest option as it is less likely to gut or gill the fish.
Deploying your live bait
When dropping the live-bait do not allow the bait to hit the water and start swimming off in a random direction.
Ideally a clean deployment will allow the live-bait to swim to the desired depth, tangle free. If this doesn’t happen stop dropping and repeat the process.
Once the live-bait is at the desired depth do not put the reel into gear. Simply thumb the reel to prevent an overrun. Apply just enough pressure to stop the bait swimming deeper but not so much as to risk ripping the bait off the hook on the bite.
How the live bait is hooked varies, depending on where it is being fished.
For dropping into deep water, like at the Mokohinau Islands or White Island, it is hooked through the nose so the sinker pulls the bait down head first. The last thing you want to do is hook it on the back so it sinks sideways through the water.
Docking rings with cable ties or rubber bands through the eye socket both work well. Aaron’s preferred method is to press the hook through the nostril cavity of the bait.
The balloon rig is an excellent rig for shallow water live baiting and live baiting off the rocks.
This set up isn’t much different from the nose rig except instead of a sinker we attach a large blown up balloon to the swivel eye (top eye) with dental floss. The hook is then placed through the back or top of the bait. This allows the live bait to swim directly under the balloon.
Aaron Levien’s terminal tackle & knots
- Hooks: Decoro Mutsu #25 circle hook
- Trace: 130lb supple trace
- Swivels: Pakula Stainless Steel Ball Bearing swivel
- Sinkers: 8oz
- Knots: Improved clinch knot (right) and the uni knot
Deep water fishing
Bass and hapuka are the deepwater beasts of recreational fishing in New Zealand but knowing how to correctly target them can be difficult. Get the basics right, and you may be surprised by the results
Finding deep-water targets is the first challenge but then bridging the great chasm of water between you and the bottom is the next. Jeff Strang, ex-charter fisherman tells us how.
Finding the strike zone
The important things to consider when fishing very deep water is accuracy to, and time in, the strike zone.
Three important pieces of information come into play:
1. The speed and direction of the current
2. The speed and direction of the wind relative to the current
3. The time it takes for a set to get to the bottom
Numbers one and two are important because they control the vessel’s drift. Unless profoundly confident of success I always make a preliminary drift with a single set of gear in the water before filling all my angler’s arms with lactic acid for no result.
Before even contemplating a set it is useful to spend a good deal of time mapping the fishing zone, marking the areas that look active and productive on the chart-plotter. Quality electronics are a must and a few modern tools such as scroll-back are gold .
With the chart-plotter’s track switched on, start a set, timing the descent of the gear to the bottom with a stopwatch. A good rough guide is to allow for a sink rate of 2 metres per second but timing this first shot provides better accuracy for the rest of session. As soon as the gear hits the water I also like to drop a mark on the plotter, adding another mark as soon as it hits the bottom.
A skilled boat driver can greatly increase the productive phase (time in the strike zone) of any set by manoeuvring the vessel to keep the line as vertical a possible. This is most easily achieved by reversing up the natural lay of the line, usually directly into the wind.
Now, having mapped the area and completed a set you will be armed to the teeth with the data needed to time and place all the subsequent sets and the result will be a pile of fish.
The two most popular methods for targeting bass and hapuka are dropping dead baits and, more recently, jigging.
Use a heavy trace, around 300lb is not unrealistic; with big hooks up to 14/0. Recurve or circle hooks are the preferred style.
The rig is tied the same as a conventional snapper ledger rig would be, although some fishos prefer to use three hooks. Remember that retrieving your line from 400m to re-bait it takes a lot of time. Sinkers up to a kilo are not uncommon depending on tide and depths.
The size and portability of a kayak makes it possible to launch from almost anywhere. It's not hard to see why kayak fishing is quickly becoming a kiwi favourite.
Selecting a fishing kayak
If you plan on only fishing from your kayak in the relatively calm Hauraki Gulf, you will not be looking for the same features as someone who is fishing from the surf- ridden west coast, where you will need lots of safe and secure storage for your rods and tackle and a kayak that will ride up and over the waves.
The type of fishing you intend on doing will also have some influence on your kayak selection; are you an old school bait and berley fisher or are you more into the modern artificial lures and baits?
NZ kayak legend Jason Walker’s kayak fishing necessities
Lifejacket/PFD: Being so close to the water and on a very narrow watercraft, it is very easy to find yourself in the drink so you must always wear a lifejacket or PFD (Personal Floatation Device).
Communication: Whilst a mobile phone should be the absolute minimum the far better option is a VHF radio, you can purchase yourself a handheld VHF now for under $100.
Chiller bag/box: An insulated cover, insulated catch bag or moulded chilly pod / box are must have products that will help keep your catch fresh before you return to shore.
Sea anchor: Drift fishing has become more popular since the advent of softbait fishing as it allows you to cover more ground and prospect an area looking for fish.
An ideal size drift chute or sea anchor for a kayak is 90cm (36”). Too small and it will be ineffective, too large and it will be simply cumbersome.
Knife: Something you should always be part of your standard kayak fishing gear is a knife. It will become useful in so many ways; you can use it to dispatch your catch by ikiing your fish, you can cut line if you drop your braid scissors over the side and you can use it as a safety device should you become entangled in your kayak rigging if you fall overboard.
Fishfinder: Almost any fish finder that has been designed to use on a recreational boat is suitable for use on a kayak. IS8/IPX8 should be your minimum requirement.
Hot tip: Leash it or lose it. Rods and other items can be lost over the side ten different ways if not secured correctly.
What technique: Kayak fishing is all about keeping things simple. Pick one technique that you are familiar with, preferably one that doesn’t need you to take a whole tackle shop out with you. One of the most common techniques amongst kayak anglers is softbaiting.
Here’s a quick paddling technique from Jason Walker to help you get the most out of the paddle without wearing yourself out.
Step 1: Reach forward with a straight leading arm, rotate your core in the same direction and place the paddle blade in the water by your foot.
Step 2: Keeping your arm straight, the paddle stroke is a combination of rotating your body to pull the paddle towards you whilst at the same time pushing with your opposite hand ñ you want to punch forward at eye level.
Step 3: As the paddle blade reaches you hip your arm will now naturally bend and the blade is lifted from the water as you start to line up the stroke on the opposite side.
Now it is just a matter of repeating these three steps.
Land-based fishing has become a right of passage for a lot of kiwis
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.
If the wind is howling, find somewhere in the lee or at least somewhere you can get your back to the wind.
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.
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.
Reef systems and kelp forests are at the top of the list when finding the right land-based location, however harbours with shellfish beds and crustacean habitats are important to consider as well. Google Earth will give you a wealth of info on where you will be able to fish and what you can expect below.
Rod: When shore fishing, a three-metre (10ft) rod is ideal for many places but rods as short as 2.1m (7ft) are also useful. For beach fishing, longer 3.5m-plus rods are favoured.
Reel: A spinning reel is easiest to use for casting and models that have the secondary clutch system are good for bait fishing, often referred to as baitrunners.
Line: Monofilament of 10kg is a good standard line strength but if you are fishing areas that have lots of sharp rocks and big fish, 12.5kg is probably a better choice.
Rigs: Using a weightless rig with just a leader and hook tied to the main line is a good rig for rocky and kelpy areas. However, a ledger rig is useful when you need to cast some distance to where the fish are.
Hooks: 5/0 Octopus-style hooks are a good general hook for legal edible-sized fish as smaller ones are less likely to swallow them.
Landbased fishing will challenge your abilty to solve problems; that's part of its appeal. Just remember to stay safe.
Bait: Frozen pilchards are an easy and yet relatively effective bait to use. Fresh kahawai is sometimes better when small snapper and reef fish, such as sweep, are ripping your pilchards to pieces.
Hot tip Land-based expert Scott Cushman’s favourite chum option is salmon berley, which is oily and highly visible in the water.
Safety: Fish with a friend and if you are fishing potentially dangerous areas, tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
Look at the sea conditions and think through what your game plan would be if you did fall in, could you get back out again and where would you exit?
Don’t fancy trecking around the rocks?
Wharves and beaches are also excellent land-based options. As with rock-fishing structure and current are important when finding successful locations. Areas near river and harbour mouths are typically good spots.