REPORT: Gurnard hunting on the Manukau
Manukau/West Coast Report 09.07.2012
The west coast, off Auckland’s Manukau Harbour, can be a hostile environment that can be good for snapper fishing for those brave enough to venture across the notorious Manukau bar.
However, It certainly isn’t a good place for a novice boatie to be, nor is it a good place for the unwary surfcaster, netter or rock fisherman. Even when conditions are good you need to understand what can drive the conditions to change. Coastguard offer good bar crossing tuition days and if you are considering the fishing in that environment I suggest you contact them to see what training they have to offer and join a club and get involved in their activities. There’s nothing like knowing there are 50 other boats available to come to your aid if needed.
Snapper aren’t the only fish caught out west. In summer it holds marlin, albacore and skipjack tuna, the occassional yellowfin and big eye tuna and sometimes even mahimahi make an appearance. All year round snapper, kahawai, kingfish, gurnard, trevally and sharks can be caught. Other less commonly caught fish are john dory, blue cod and tarakihi.
What many also don’t know is that hapuku can be caught, particularly over winter. I saw a 16kg model that was caught on Saturday, from around 200m deep. They also pulled an 8.4kg snapper from 20m deep.
The boat that caught those fish was fishing in the Counties Sport Fishing Club’s Ice Breaker competition on Saturday and Sunday where you could fish anywhere in the country on those two days as long as you were back for weigh in by 4.00pm on Sunday. We chose to fish for gurnard, snapper and kahawai in the Manukau Harbour, with my crew consisting of John Moran (the original Gurnard Guru) and my son Arron (winner of the recent Grunter Hunter competition), my father-in-law Alan (pictured top) and me (pictured above - a self confessed gurnard addict). The pressure was on for us to produce the goods.
Alan won the gurnard section with a fat fish weighing 1.26kg but we found the fishing tough, only catching 11 gurnard in two full days as well as two reasonable-sized kahawai and one barely legal snapper that went back. At the ramp it was a similar story, many reporting no fish at all and I didn’t speak to anyone that did any better than us. The fish were there somewhere though because the winning fish in the Gurnard Guru comp was 1.5kg! My guess is they were caught in the bottom end of the harbour possibly around the Airport.
My advice is to target the change of tides or very early low light conditions. Try the shallow water around 1 to 2 metres right where the channels start to drop away. Small skipjack baits (sold in bait shops as bonito) fished on flasher rigs were working best for us but make sure you have pilchards and mullet in your bait bin to increase your options. Big tides are hard work on the Manukau but this week has some great weather and small tides so I expect the fishing to really turn it on. I also expected to catch lots of fish last weekend, but like I tell my kids, if fishing was always predictable and great it would get boring! The hunting instinct is what keeps me keen. Let’s hope the weather holds.