Auckland isn’t called “The City of Sails” for nothing; one in three household’s owns a boat – the highest rate in the world. But for those of us who don’t have a boat, or a mate with one, the only option is to fish from the hard stuff.
While many experienced fisherman have no problem traversing around Auckland’s coastlines finding the right rocks and ledges, this is not as easy for fishing beginners and families. Don’t despair though, the ol’ kiwi classic is still going strong; wharf fishing.
A rite of passage for most kiwis, you’ll be hard pushed to find someone that hasn’t caught the odd Jack mac or kahawai off the end of their local wharf or jetty as a youngster. It’s not just small fish either, NZ fishing folklore is littered with stories of people pulling in massive snapper and giant kingies from wharfs.
To get some expert insight into fishing Auckland’s wharfs, I managed to track down NZ fishing legend Scott Tindale, on one of the rare days he wasn’t out on the water.
Wharf fishing with Scott Tindale
Professional guide and angler Scott Tindale holds over 200 IGFA world records. There isn’t any type of fishing that Scott hasn’t done; and he boasts that he manages to get out on the water 150 days a year.
Scott's favourite catch off a wharf was hooking up to a Penn game fisher rod and reel some poor soul had dropped in the water.
What to use
For beginners or children, I generally find ledger rigs are the best. You’ll always catch something, whether it’s Jack macs or trevally. A benefit of using a ledger rig is it guarantees your bait will be sitting up off the bottom, which means you are far less likely to hook onto a stingray.
Alternatively, flasher and sabiki’s work well too. However, I try and keep to a two hook maximum; this limits the chance of tangles. Remember more hooks do not equal more fish, unless you count your hand getting snagged as a fish.
Murray's Bay Wharf on Auckland's North Shore is not only a great squidding location but also a great place for some summer bombs
Wharfs are a social destination, so it’s more than likely you won’t always be attending to your line. This is why I only use recurved or circle hooks off wharfs. The fish will hook itself without the need for you to strike, allowing you to finish your sandwich before reeling it in.
One thing to remember is that fishing deeper isn’t necessarily fishing better; all too often I see people trying to power cast into the distance. Unless there is a particular bit of foul you are aiming for, this is pointless. The wharf is what attracts the fish in the first place. Small fish use the piles as hiding places and big fish use them as a hunting ground.
Another thing to consider is that wharfs are often busy places, with fellow fisherman to watch out for; as well as other hazards like boats, ferries and even swimmers. The last thing you want to do is give the person standing next to you an unwanted nose piercing.
Island Bay Wharf on the North shore is another great evening fishing spot
One of the most productive times to fish from wharfs is at night. Many a night before heading out on a big game fishing trip have I stopped off at the local wharf and filled the livie tank. Baitfish are naturally attracted to the lights of the wharf and in some more residential wharf spots, like Murrays Bay, the street lights even work as a form of attraction.
One thing you would have noticed if you’ve visited a wharf in the last couple months is black stains everywhere. These black stains are actually the left overs from the previous night’s squid fishing, as the squid leaks its ink as it is pulled in. Squidding is quickly becoming popular here in NZ and can be a heap of fun, if you’re looking for a new challenge.
The reminants of the previous night's squid action; Orakei Wharf
Bring the right gear
Fishing from a wharf rather than a boat is no excuse not to come fully prepared with the right gear. Dress accordingly, even in spring it can get quite cold if the wind is blowing the wrong way.
Don’t fail at the last hurdle. I regularly see people doing all the hard work, hooking and fighting the fish to the base of the wharf, then losing the fish because they don’t have an extended net or gaff. This is especially important if there is an out-going tide, sometimes it can be a three or four metre lift from the water to the top of the wharf.
It’s important to properly care for your fish once you’ve landed it. This means bringing a chilly bin with ice in it. The New Zealand summer sun can be pretty harsh, and can spoil fish if it’s left out for too long. The added benefit of the chilly bin is it will keep your lunch cold and also acts as a nice seat.
Cornwallis Wharf on the Manukau
Scott’s last word
Wharfs are important to everyone. From kids looking to catch their first fish, to big game fisherman looking for livies; as well as your everyday fisherman who just wants to de-stress after work.
Wharfs are a great place to cut your teeth and learn new skills. Wharfs, along with our fishery, are shared by all of us. That’s why it is so important to follow all the fishery rules and guidelines, and keep the wharfs and water around them as clean and tidy as possible.
Auckland's six best wharf fishing spots
Cornwallis Wharf, Manukau Harbour
GPS: 37°00.677’S, 174°36.336’E
This 200m long wooden wharf is situated right among the stunning Waitakere Ranges on the Manukau Harbour. There have been plenty of kingfish caught off this famous wharf, especially in the summer months. There’s generally plenty of baitfish hanging around so this is the perfect place for live baiting. Scott recalls seeing many decent John dory meeting their end at this wharf.
Cornwallis is also a popular spot for picnickers and swimmers and does get very busy in the summer, so do be wary of the times you fish. Fishing the change of light usually gets the best results.
Shelly Beach Wharf, Kaipara Harbour
GPS: 36°34.247’S, 174°22.758’E
This is Scott’s favourite wharf to fish from and where he has caught hundreds of fish, from John dory to bronze whalers. This is the perfect place to graduate from catching small fish like Jack macs to gurnard or kahawai.
This long wharf extends far into the channel and is best-fished two hours either side of the high tide. A ledger rig works best here as it will keep your bait and hook off the bottom and away from the many stingrays in the bay. There have been plenty of reports of 20lb snapper coming off this wharf too.
GPS: 36°56.070’S, 174°47.110’E
No list of Auckland fishing spots would be complete without mentioning Mangere Bridge. Go to Mangere Bridge on any day of the year there will always be people fishing it. You’ll catch kahawai here but be careful not to catch rays and sharks, which are prevalent, unless that’s what you’re targeting of course.
Aim to fish on a mid incoming tide to the first hour of outgoing, try straylining with whole pilchards.
Orakei Wharf, Auckland Harbour
GPS: 36°50.628’S, 174°48.924’E
Situated off Tamaki Drive (opposite Kelly Tarltons) with stunning views of Auckland City and the North Shore, this is a great spot to take the kids. Even if you don’t have a line this is a excellent place to watch the action happening while on your Sunday walk around the bay.
There have been plenty of stories of solid snapper and trevally taken from this wharf. Fish with a light line and sinker and let the current do the work; no need to cast too far.
Murrays Bay Wharf, Hauraki Gulf
It’s hard to find a more scenic wharf to fish from the Murrays Bay Wharf, especially at dawn. This wharf not only stands as a great fishing location but is also a top spot for practicing bombs, staples and any other types of water acrobatics you can think of.
Of all of Auckland’s wharfs, this is probably the best spot for catching snapper. This wharf is an exception to Scott’s rule of not casting far from the wharf, as similar to a lot of the North Shore rocky bays there are plenty of foul out in front.
Murrays Bay Wharf provides some beautiful views of the Hauraki Gulf
Ledger rigs with small baits are a go. There has been the odd report of kingfish being caught here so it wont hurt to put a live bait down and see what happens.
This is a very busy place in the summer months with swimmers, kayaks and boats; so it’s generally best to fish early in the day or late in the evening.
This is one of the best squid fishing spots in Auckland. The squid will come right into the bay at night.
Birkenhead Wharf, Waitamata Harbour
With spectacular views of the city, Birkenhead Wharf is a great place to take the kids after school or on the weekend to catch the little stuff.
Remember, it is the wharf that draws the fish in, so there is no need to cast far out
If you want to target something a bit bigger you can catch parore here. Plenty of berley and a ledger rig should do the trick.
There are strong currents at the end of the wharf so be sure sure to follow Scott’s advice and and fish downside of the current.
My last word
The city of sails isn’t just for boaties. Whether you’re fishing Cornwallis Wharf among the green and lucious native bush of the Waitakere Ranges, or off the grey and brown concrete of Mangere Bridge; or even the volcanic inlets of the Hauraki Gulf at Murrays Bay, you don’t need to be one households that owns a boat to enjoy Auckland's bountiful fishery.