While Great Barrier might be one of the ‘great’ places to fish in the Hauraki Gulf, one place that tends to be forgotten is the Barrier’s northeast coast or, as the locals call it - the wild side.
It’s a great shame, for it is a most stunningly beautiful piece of coastline, which offers outstanding fishing opportunities as well as impressive scenery.
The Needles to Harataonga Bay
But before travel here, there are two warnings. First, the weather - if the winds are in the east around to the north with any strength keep off this coast. If you’re around there already and this wind comes up, get out of there quick, for there are little or no places to hide.
Second - take heaps of fuel, food and drink because when the weather is good you may end up staying a lot longer than you first intended - the place is that good.
In medium to big tides a lot of current runs through here so it is probably best fished on smaller tides if you wish to fish in close. However, good reef country runs out to the northeast for a kilometre or so. The tide won’t be so strong out there. Snapper, kingies, hapuka and the usual reef fish are found out here and don’t be surprised if you happen to spot a black marlin over summer.
Lining the coast down from The Needles to Waikaro Point is some amazing rocky country for both straylining in close from the boat or landbased fishing. If you can’t get your boat in close, take the tender and get yourself onto the rocks, there’s some big fish through here so make the effort - it will be worth it.
Coming around Waikaro Point, the coast changes into the beautiful white expanse of Whangapoua Beach. In the corner of the bay, tucked under the point you will find many graves, all victims of the Wairarapa sinking around at Miner’s Head. If conditions are calm you can overnight in this corner but if a swell is running you could roll around a bit, making things slightly uncomfortable for the night.
Harataonga Bay to Awana Bay
A view through The Needles to Arid Island in the distance.
Harataonga Bay offers good holding in about ten meters of water, and is generally pretty sheltered from southerly quartered winds and is protected somewhat by an island from the open ocean.
A very pretty bay, it is the gateway to Arid or Rakitu Island, about two nautical miles to the north, and should be your next fishing destination – it’s an absolute must-go to fishing location.
Arid Island is a fishing magnet for all boats that venture to this coast and with good reason. It can and does fish very well.
The first place to try is Te Akau Point on the southern end of Arid. A shelf runs out quite some distance and bottom fishing or straylining can be very rewarding here.
Heading up the western side of Arid you will find a rock, which comes up to seven meters and its surrounding reef just south of Maturoa Point. Inside this point is a lovely safe little cove - it’s a great place to have a calm lunch in any thing but a nor-wester.
From here, continuing right around the island back to Te Akau Point, the fishing can be outstanding anywhere from in close, out to the fifty meter mark, and beyond. There are patches of deep reef spread throughout this entire area. You can expect big snapper, kingies, red snapper, terakihi, trevally, hapuka and the other usual reef fish.
Having spent the day at Arid Island you may well overnight at Harataonga Bay. Running east from the back of a little protecting island behind Harataonga Bay, all the way down the coast to Awana Bay is another superb section of fishing country. All types of fishing styles can be used through here - straylining or softbaiting in close with jigs, slowjigs or bottom bait fishing out wide.
Again, a beautiful picturesque piece of coast, Korotiti Bay in the centre of this area has some red hot fishing, especially in the late afternoon to evening.
The far side of the Barrier is one of the most reliable bin-filling spots on the coast.
Awana Bay to Shakespeare Point
Dividing Awana Bay from Palmers Beach is a headland, adjacent to which sits Lion Rock and its surrounding reef. I’m sure this would be a great fishing spot but unfortunately it is within a large no fishing or anchoring cable zone, so best to stay well clear (check NZ chart 522). This chart will give a good overview of the whole of Great Barrier Island.
Now three big beaches come into view; Palmers, which is pretty much out of play because of the cable, so we are left with the great sweep of Kaitoke Beach and Medland’s Bay. By staying out behind the breaker line of both these surf beaches, and working the ten to thirty meter line with softbaits or slowjigs, a bin full of snapper may follow.
Watch your sounder for schools and look for bird work-ups over this sandy bottom.
If it’s calm and the swell is down, you can overnight in Medland Bay under the Shakespeare Point cliffs.
Shakespeare Point to Cape Barrier
Now we move into the last section of our journey from just north of Shakespeare Point up as far as the cable line down.
Past Windy Hill, where the wreck of the Wiltshire lies, to Rosalie Bay - between thirty and fifty meters - is a string of deep-water pinnacles.
As you travel down this coast take a good look at some of them, as they can be very productive. Obviously, deep-water fishing tactics will apply on these reefs. Jigging or big bait dropper rigs will work well so put your sounder to work.
As for Rosalie Bay itself, fishing inside the thirty-meter mark from the very northern point down to the little island at the southern end, should produce good snapper on the right day. Whether you are using bait and berley or drifting with lures and softbaits, this is a great place to fish for snapper and a nice spot to anchor up if the wind is in the right direction.
A week on the wild side is a great way to test and re-test new techniques in a productive fishery.
Beyond Rosalie Bay we finally come to Cape Barrier.
Cape Barrier is not a good place to hang around due to the very strong currents and pressure waves from the Colville Channel. Luckily, only five miles around the coast is the calm safety of Tryphena Harbour, where you can drop the pick, crack open a beer and go over your trip down the wild side.
If you have a boat or a friend who has a boat capable of making this trip, now’s the time to get planning and get the logistics worked out. There are no supermarkets or fuel stations around there, just fishing and scenery you will never forget.
For those unable to organise a boat or if boating is not your thing - don’t despair. There are daily passenger ferries including vehicle ferries if you wish to take your car over and be more mobile plus daily plane flights from North Shore airfield.
So, for the land-based or rock fisherman you can walk on the wild side. Believe me, for you folks the possibility’s are endless. You may have to ask permission to cross private land to get to some spots but politeness usually pays off. As for accommodation it ranges from beach camping grounds to cabins and motels, up to private lodges - it’s your choice.
So there you go - nothing to do but to do it. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t enjoyed his or her time on the wild side.