MANUKAU REPORT: Hunting gurnard and kahawai
There was a brief respite in the weather late last week with perfect conditions on Saturday. By Sunday the weather had changed and a brisk easterly put paid to most fishing adventures.
The cliffs from the Waikato River to the South Manukau Head provided some shelter for long line fishermen and surfcasters. There were snapper to 40cm, some good gurnard and even the occasional trevally around Hamilton’s Gap. The ever-present winter sharks also featured.
The harbour is still providing good-sized gurnard for those lucky enough to find them but even then the fishing can be hard. Each day brings its own surprises though and the fishing can be good at times.
Barracouta are in the harbour too which comes as a surprise to many Manukau anglers but they are regular visitors, usually only turning up in winter. They can get to a respectable size but their flesh often has parasitic worms. If you do catch one there are often others around and they can easily snip through your trace before you get a chance to see what it is that has zoomed off with your bait. Usually the poor old sharks get the blame for that.
At this time of the year there are other options in the harbour other than snapper or gurnard. The Huia Banks can provide some big kahawai. If I am targeting them I head right to the nor’ western end of the banks in around seven metres of water using a running rig with a two-metre trace and two 6/0 suicide-type hooks snelled on. Pilchards or piper are the perfect bait as are anchovies which are a natural bait in the harbour. With anchovies you will only need one hook as they are not a big fish.
It is very common to see terns working the area around Orua Bay to Puponga Pt. The birds are usually feeding on anchovies forced to the surface by loose schools of kahawai.
Trevally can also make an appearance from now until summer over the shellfish beds, both in the harbour and over the coast. Pilchard cubes or shellfish are ideal baits to use. A soft rod is perfect for trevally as their mouths are mostly a thin membrane, lifting one out of the water without netting it often results in an unwanted release.
Cooked fresh, they are very tasty and you won’t find a better fish for smoking. They are also great marinated in raw fish dishes. Many anglers regard them as fit for bait only, They don’t know what they’re missing.
Spotted dogfish, seven-gill sharks and tope can all be found too and can be entertaining to surfcasters on an otherwise dull day. Despite sharks being plentiful over the west coast it does take some skill to target a particular type of shark and spotted dogfish are one that can be targeted if you know how. Small squid or crab baits seem most successful and targeting these ‘doggies’ is probably best done in close in areas where paddle crabs are likely to be. Generally you need flat conditions to surfcast successfully on the coastal beaches, and low light is often the best time to fish the shallows. I do very little surfcasting but I’m sure if you put the time in the results will come. Great tides this weekend so if the swells are down the coast could be an option for boaties and the harbour certainly worth a shot.