NZ Fishing World home
NZ Fishing World

Great Barrier bound

18 August 2015
Great Barrier bound

This huge island is aptly named the Great Barrier, for it stands the sentinel and guardian of the Hauraki Gulf.

Its north-eastern coast absorbs all that the Pacific can throw at it and leaves the Gulf sheltered from the continuous oceanic swells.

Without this barrier, the Hauraki Gulf would be a very different boating prospect and not the small boat playground it is today. We have a lot to thank this island for and if you haven’t been there, I hope this piece gets you thinking.

Situated about one hundred kilometres from Auckland harbour, it seems just a bit too far and remote for most people to contemplate making the journey. But there are regular ferries from Auckland (including a car ferry) and a daily plane service from Dairy Flat airfield. There is also good accommodation scattered throughout the island.

It is slowly getting more popular with tourists and adventure seekers, and so it should, for it is a most beautiful and diverse island. But for my money, the best way to see and explore this island is by boat, and for us fishing people the massive coastline that the Barrier provides is an endless fishing utopia.

Taking a boat allows you to not only fish but explore all the harbours and bays, beaches, small groups of rocks and islands, plus all the nooks and crannies this island has to offer.

As far as boats go, go with a mid-sized trailer boat, but I wouldn’t be undertaking this journey in anything less than a six-meter cabin boat if launching from the Omaha ramp in good weather. With an early start you could go over and back in a day, as a straight run to Fitzroy harbour is about 50 kilometres, but a rushed trip over there seems to me to be a waste of gas.

Far better I believe to spend two, three, or even more days over there if you can after making the trip over. as there is so much to see and explore. Even several days won’t be enough time to cover it all – the place is huge.

I have been lucky enough to have gone to the barrier several times in both big trailer boats and in launches, and if you can organise it a launch is by far the best as you are fully self-contained, with galley, bathroom, freezers – all the comforts of home.

For three or four people out for a few days, it’s just a nicer way to do it. Also if the weather does turn to custard out there, you always feel safer in a bigger boat.

Clearly not all of us own launches, but if you put your thinking cap on you may know someone who knows someone, and by making the right approach with a good group of guys to make up a crew, the launch owner may jump at the chance of fishing the barrier for a few days. Or, possibly look at a bareboat charter or full charter – the cost in autumn may not be as bad as you figured for a trip you will never forget.

There is always plenty of fishing options on both sides of the island.

Whatever craft you end up going in, autumn is a perfect time to go. The weather is generally more settled, it’s not as hot or crowded as summertime and the fishing has come back on. Although, this summer the fishing was pretty good out there anyway, but autumn is even better if you have taken a full charter.

In that case obviously the skipper will have the fishing sussed, but if you’re doing it yourself, get hold of marine charts 522 and 5225. These will give you an idea of the endless scope in front of you.

There are four main safe anchorages up the length of the south western side: Tryphena, Whangapapara, Fitzroy and Port Abercrombie (namely
Nagle Cove), giving access to different areas of very fishable coast in extended calm weather.

There are also anchorages like Blind Bay, Bowling Alley Bay, and many of the coves around Katherine Bay. And one of my favourite places to lock in for the night is Oneura Bay, opposite Man of War Passage leading into port Fitzroy.

These safe havens will give you a huge amount of coast to work on, and that’s just on this side – there is another whole coast on the north eastern side, but out on that exposed open ocean coast it’s a whole different ball game.

There are outstanding beaches and miles of superb rocky fishing coast, but virtually nowhere to hide if it comes up rough. Your weather needs to be calm and stable before you venture around the corner to the eastern side.

Liz-Marie Keyser caught this 16.5lb snapper at Great Barrier.

It’s certainly beautiful around there and Rakitu island draws you like a magnet – just be careful of the weather and take plenty of fuel. Speaking of fuel and food and supplies, all of these are available on the island but it has to be freighted in, and the freight costs lots so therefore so does the fuel and goods. It’s not the store owner’s fault, it’s just the way it is, so pack your boat full of what you will need to help keep the costs down a bit and it may give you an extra day out there.

OK so lets talk about the main reason we’re out there – the fishing. In the many times we fished there I’m sure we only scratched the surface, but I can give you a few spots and tell a few stories.

Starting from Tryphena, just east of the harbour entrance and shown as two bricks on the chart, anchor up-current of this reef and cast back into it with plenty of berley. You’ll get a feed and maybe a couple of good ones. East of this spot is a small island with a drop off on the south eastern corner.Fish with the incoming tide for kingies and good snapper.

From here right around to the far end of Rosalie bay is good strayline country in close. Just watch the current here – on big tides it may get too strong to fish out wide, as it can stand up in this area with wind against tide. Good fishing, but be careful in here.

Retracing our steps and heading back up the south-west coast past Whangaparapara Harbour, you will come to two groups of islands, the Junction Islands and the Broken Islands. Between Tryphena and these islands there are any number of possibilities in close – basically just pick a likely spot and fish it.

But it is the Junction Islands that hold special meaning for me, as it was here I caught my biggest snapper: 22 pounds. That was over twenty years ago but that memory is as fresh as yesterday. If the wind allows you to overnight in Bowling Alley Bay, you’ll be sleeping in amongst some awesome fishing grounds around the outside of these islands – great for an early morning start.

A typical good catch when fishing the barrier.

Continuing on through the inner passage, there are plenty of scattered rocks and small islands. We liked to drift through here in 35 to 40 metres right up to Nelson Island, but all these rocks offer big snapper opportunities – as does the reef country of Motuhaku Island around from Wellington Head.

Heading north now to Katherine Bay, both the points on either side of this big bay are good for kingfish on an incoming tide, and the drop off just out from Moturoa Point is a good place for an evening snapper fish with the Bird Rocks outside you.

Or on the other side of the bay you have Kirikiriroa Point and its reef, or just drift the middle. Fishing is usually pretty good in here, it’s a beautiful bay but watch out for any winds from a westerly quarter – this place is wide open to that wind.

Moving on north, we come to the fabled Miners Head and reef, a place where you’re likely to catch just about anything. It’s also the resting place of the steamer Wairarapa after she smashed into the cliffs in 1894 with the loss of 135 lives.

The reef itself is a good place to jig, either for kingies or using smaller jigs you could catch snapper, trevally, John Dory or any number of reef fish. Always give this area a good work out, it’s a very fishy place.

At last we reach the other end of the island, and our final fishing spot for this side of the island is the Needles. This group of pinnacles rising sheer out of the water is a legendary place for kingfish and has also produced some great snapper over the years.

Around the corner from the Needles is a whole new coast, the north east, but I think we will leave that one for another time, as I’m sure the south-west coast will give you enough to play with to start with. And by studying the charts I suggested, you will see what I mean.

So do some planning, get a crew together, and this autumn I hope you are.

Related posts

Northland Hot Spots
Forsyth Thompson has fished the length and breadth of New Zealand. Part two of this series covers some of his best spots in the Far North and Bay of Islands
Auckland Hot Spots
NZ Fishing World’s Forsyth Thompson has fished the length and breadth of New Zealand. Part three of this series covers some of his best spots in and around Auckland.
Destination Waiheke
Waiheke Island could never be described as an ‘average’ destination, the stand out region for me has always been what is commonly known as the ‘bottom end.’
Destination Mokohinau Islands + black marlin at Mokes vid
The Mokohinau Islands would have to be the most talked about destination in the Hauraki Gulf. Unfortunately, its remote location and the lack of accurate information on how to get the most from a trip out there means many never actually give the Mokes a crack.
Destination Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier island, the jewel in the Hauraki Gulf’s crown. It always seems so close yet so far away. Is the fishing really as good as they say it is? In a word – yes.
Destination Little Barrier and outer Hauraki Gulf
Little Barrier Island often beckons in the distance for those fishing Kawau. On a scenic basis alone it is worth the journey. Get there on the right day the fishing can be as good as it gets.
All Related

See Also

Slide Baiting
Slide baiting is an awesome way to target big predatory species such as kingfish and snapper from shore. Beach, rocks or even from the wharf, this is a very effective and clever way to get you live bait out way further than you could normally cast. Check out our Aussie mates for a few pointers.
How to troll live baits: Yamaha School of Fish Hauraki Gulf
Trolling live baits is a great way to target kingfish. The same techniques applied here can be used anywhere, so check out Yamaha School of Fish with our mates at Family Boats and Yamaha Marine NZ.
Yellowfin Tuna Top Tips
Big Game
Check out some gold tips from the experts at catching yellowfin tuna. Luke from Yeehaa Fishing Tackle takes us through top lures, how to run them, and has some great advice if you want to target these fantastic fish.
Horizontal Jigging
If you're familiar with vertical, or 'mechanical' jigging for kingfish, did you know that the same technique can be applied to working mechanical jigs both from a boat or from shore? Here's a quick breakdown on how it works from the Aussie boys at AdriftByNature...
Catch Deep-V Slow-Pitch Jig
The Deep V is a versatile lure for catching kingfish, XXL snapper and many other species. It combines several design features to present a lure that is irresistible.Here's a slow pitch jig that can either be mechanically jigged or slow pitch fished to save your energy. Check out the new Catch Deep V
Fogdog Beer Batter
To hell with the diet, there are times when fresh fish just screams for a light, crunchy beer batter. If you are looking for a fool-proof, instant, mouth-watering golden batter that cracks like a potato chip, makes you look like a master chef and pleases any crowd, then get yourself down to your nearest supermarket and pick up a packet of Fogdog.
All Posts

Drop NZ Fishing World a line!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.