Hot spots in the Manukau

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John Moran

Manukau Harbour guru John Moran shares some of his hottest spots on his favourite piece of water.

SPOT 1: Pollock Wharf Road

Some years back I wrote a story about Trish Rea, the Option4 lady. I really got on well with Trish and her partner Mark Roberts from Titirangi, as they share my passion for gurnard fishing. I took them out one mid-winter’s day when all the elements were in line for a great days fishing. One problem emerged, the fish totally refused to play ball and I felt like a proper dork after telling them of my recent highly successful fishing escapades. After a couple of hours of trial and error, I tried a possie I had never really fished before. This was straight out from the car park at the end of Pollock Wharf Road, where I crossed the channel and anchored up in six or seven metres on the side of the channel. Well people, what’s a better word than red hot to describe fishing? Incandescent springs to mind and this sums it up perfectly. That day, not only were gurnard jumping all over our Black Magic rigs to get us really excited, but the sheer size of  these big carrots simply blew us away. The smallest gurnard was 850g (still a bloody nice sized fish to fillet) right up to one horse that pulled the scales down to 1.5kg! I think it is safe to say that my guests were pretty impressed with the fishing up our end of the pond, and I was just so thankful that I found this possie. Since this day, I have refined my fishing techniques somewhat at this spot and I find that if first light coincides with low tide, or just before it, lots of gurnard congregate on the shallow bank edge. Simply anchor up quietly in two or three metres and cast your baits on top of the bank in about a half metre of water. If you do not get bites in the first five minutes or so, try twitching your rod tip to activate the baits.  Sounds silly I know but this super shallow water approach can be deadly. Black Magic Gurnard Grabber flashers are in a class of their own here, fished with either mullet or skippy baits, and with the lightest sinker you can get away with. Most of us serious fisho’s net our mullet locally when they are running. Absolute silence and stealth is a must.

Last winter, Counties Sport Fishing Club held a mid-winter comp, and I was paired up with Michael “Smudge” Parker, a local gurnard guru of some major repute. We decided on giving our individual pet spots about an hour, and I won the toss to have first choice. We anchored up at first light in the super shallows in this spot where we could actually see the bottom. I tossed out my super light 2kg rig and it landed in a half meter of water. Smudge gave me a real funny look and his body language told me that I was a total Wally, but right on cue the tip of my little light Penn rod took a serious dive and I was in business! I had a hell of a scrap on my hands with the light gear, but I was pleasantly surprised to find not one, but two big carrots on my line. The top hook yielded a whopper of 1.23kg with the second hook holding another beaut of 1.1kg. The fishing was really good here for the next hour before it simply died, so we simply shifted to the seven metre mark where we found the carrots again and it was business as usual. That day my first gurnard caught was the heaviest of the comp, and earned me a nice new Penn rod and reel. This spot is only productive in the winter, as once the warm weather arrives it reverts to a snapper nursery. Any wind quarter except a sou’easter will work here, and it is really close to Clarke’s Beach, Waiau Pa and Te Toro boat ramps.


Every part of every harbour seems to have a local fishing identity known affectionately as “The crafty old bugger”. Even I have been called this on occasions. Huia is no exception, where one crusty old fisho is a bit of a hermit and a mystery man. From what I can gather he launches his small boat from Fosters Bay close to Huia, and travels a short distance towards Kakamatua Point where he fishes in seven or eight metres of water. He takes out plenty of berley and a small home made wire cage to keep his livies in. I am guessing here, but I think he would be catching piper, sprats and yellowtail. Well this old bloke used a rod and a hand line with a small ball sinker over the hooks to fish his livies and by all accounts he catches plenty, but to his credit, he released a hell of a lot as well. My cobbers over that side of the harbour have been spying on him for some time now and have the spot well sussed. Kingfish appear in the Manukau Harbour around November/December and depending on the weather can remain in the harbour as late as May. If you intend to seriously target them I suggest you have an anchor on a shortish warp with a buoy attached (like our pet crafty old coot) to quickly jettison once you hook up. If there is a snag within coo-ee of your boat, the dirty, street fighting kingy will find it, you can bet your bottom dollar! Invest in quality live bait hooks and refer to past issues of this magazine for the best ways to present live baits.

SPOTS 3, 4 & 5: Ropers or Whitehouse Channel

I have given this long gutter three location references in an attempt to do it justice. This is one area I have fished on and off for many years with mixed results, but over the past eighteen months to two years it has improved out of sight to the stage that it has now been elevated to close to my number one choice for both summer and winter. It is a funny old place to fish, with plenty of schooling snapper in the summer and loaded with gurnard in the winter. Being such a long gutter or channel you have to hunt the fish out using your electronics wisely to accurately predict where the fish will be at any given time.

I was recently weighing in fish for a comp on the Manukau where only about a quarter of the entrants presented snapper. Fishing and been bloody hard that day as the results clearly demonstrated. My nosey questions all got the same answer. “Ropers, top end in nine metres”. When the snapper descend on this long gutter they always seem to opt for a certain depth.

Let’s start with spot number 3 at the top nearest Papakura Channel. If you are fishing on the ebb tide this is often the best place to be in around 10 metres on the last half of the ebb tide. The action can be fast and furious but if you have traveled over the top of the shallow Hangore Bank, be warned that you could well get stranded if you take the shortest route back to Hudson’s Beach. Consult your chart and find the deep water near green marker number 1.

Spot number 4 is commonly just called “centre”.

I have found in the main that it fishes best in the deep centre close to 18 metres, especially when the summer water temperatures are high. Even in the peak of winter, especially after a decent frost, the deeper water here seems to produce better carrots. Never leave this area without trying the channel edges for gurnard in winter. They often gather here in four to six metres. Some days here the fish will bite right through both tides and you will feel like you are in fishing heaven, yet on other days it can be quite average.

Spot number 5 covers the dead end of Ropers

It can be a bugger of a place to find if, like me, you don’t own a GPS. But when you do crack it on a good day this place can be nothing short of outstanding and you can experience both gurnard and snapper fishing in a feeding frenzy. There are many of these “dead end” spots on the Manukau and all seem to fish well. When the fishing really goes off, even though you will be at anchor, put on a soft plastic and I will personally guarantee that you will catch more and bigger fish than your mates on baits.

While I am personally loathe using berley on the Manukau Harbour because of the sharks and rays it attracts, I am gradually softening on this stance as I have to admit that results speak louder than words. My mates have been using Top Catch shellfish berley at Ropers in an assortments of types which without a doubt attracts baitfish, snapper, kahawai, trevally and gurnard, yet does not appear to entice the previously unwanted species. I have also tried Top Catch salmon berley bombs with some notable degree of success. I prefer to use berley in shallower water of say up to 10 metres and use enough weight to deploy it just off the bottom. Give it the odd shake to dispense the stuff and don’t just leave it sitting on the bottom as a banquet for the crabs.

As far as fishing tackle at Ropers goes, I have found in the main that you will not be far off the mark if you stick with Black Magic flasher rigs. I seem to stick to their Gurnard Grabber fished as a dropper rig for snapper and carrots as they just work so bloody effectively, yet there are occasions when even this magic rig fails to deliver. When this happens, simply convert the flasher to running rig and place a baited hook on the sinker loop and nine times out of ten you will be back in business. My number one fishing mate, my missus, and I often start out fishing using both rigs and you very soon establish the best rig. If per chance neither of these rigs work, don’t assume that fish are off the bite and concede defeat. Try a single hook with a light sinker over it and once baited, feed it down the current in the berley trail. Mobile baits act as fish magnets, and if this rig doesn’t work you’re best to bugger of home and mow the lawns. While gurnard will always be caught on mullet or skippy baits, snapper can be frustrating dudes when it comes to their choice of baits, so always have a selection on hand to cater for their whims and fancies.

SPOT 6: Kauritutahi Island

This is one of those magical spots that I again stumbled on by sheer chance after I stopped to change a fuel tank line and my mate tossed over a line. I was about 250 metres south of the island and in about six metres, two hours into the ebb tide. The current can be quite strong here so you will need to beef up your sinker weights to between four and six ounces, depending on the tidal strength. In winter, patience is needed here as the carrots will turn up at some stage of the ebb tide once the flow kicks in. The old Gurnard Grabber fished as a running rig works really well here. I have taken some quite reasonable snapper here in the summer, amongst the schools of little ones. Avoid getting too close to the island as there are several rocky outcrops close to it which could well give your hull some serious grief. Check out the area at low tide one day.

SPOT 7:  Sergeants

Mum and I were fishing in a gusty sou’wester off Matakawau point one winter’s day. It was horrible, so to keep mother bear happy, I shot into Sergeant’s Bay not all that far from Matakawau Point. The 3.6 metre tide had been ebbing for an hour and a half and the water surface was flat as. We were in around seven to eight metres when I dropped our rigs over. Mum poured the coffee but we never got to drink it. The rods simply went crazy as we both enjoyed some of the hottest gurnard fishing action I have ever experienced on the Manukau. Usual baits and rigs were used so I really have no idea at all what caused this great fishing phenomenon. We have fished this spot many times and I have found it to be pretty darned reliable but nothing to compare with that magical July day three years ago when we took our limit of 40 big gurnard in just over an hour.

SPOT 8: Mako Point deep

The credit for this hot possie lies solely with my mate “Smudge” Parker, who has taken some quite big competition-winning fish here, mainly gurnard. This is one of his pet spots that I am sure that he won’t mind sharing. Smudge and I fished it briefly on the day of the comp I mentioned in Spot 1, where I personally connected to two very heavy fish in the deep only to drop them both on the long way up. The way these fish were behaving I strongly suspected they were heavy carrots but I will never know for sure. This area is really quite deep and my mate tells me that it fishes well on both tides as long as there is a current running. But be warned! Like a lot of deep places on the Manukau, lack of current often equates to bloody big eels!                  

While there are a lot of other good fishing spots I could mention, I thought I would reinforce some Manukau Harbour “Golden Fishing Rules” with the space I have left. The first, and you regular readers know what I am going to push, is that of line weight. Lock this in your fishing brain. Light line simply slays fish on the Manukau Harbour: Of this I have no doubt whatsoever. Use a quality two to four kilo monofilament on a nice, sensitive but strong rod like a Penn Power Stick; or if you can run to it, a custom made Synit rod. Ensure your reel is small with a silky smooth drag system. For value for money you cannot go past the little Penn Affinity fixed spool reel. For overhead reels, I simply love my Penn Gold International.

If you fish light mono with an inferior reel the lumpy drag action will soon result in a busted line and a frayed temper! Let the rod do the work of tiring the fish out and don’t rush it! Light line fishing is just so exhilarating and enjoyable with the right tackle once you come to grips with it. With all light line fishing, use a spider hitch to form a double to attach your swivel, this makes rig changing is just so easy. I know I have banged on about Black Magic flashers, but they really are the goods and we should all share the good fishing oil. To care for them simply wash them out in fresh water, and hang out to dry. When dry, give then a good squirt with CRC and return then to storage. Don’t use other brands of lubricant except perhaps kerosene. Both CRC and kero have magical fish-attracting properties that the others lack. If looked after properly the flashers will last a whole season as they are so robust and well made. If you prefer to use plain hooks on your dropper rigs I love Black Magic K/L 5 or 6/0 the same recurve hooks that are used on the flashers They are strong, sharp and just so reliable.

While I use braid line a fair bit on the Manukau, in reality it can be a bugger of a product if it so much as touches another line, and creates the mother of all tangles which only a sharp knife can rectify. I love it for land-based fishing as it is just so sensitive and has amazing hook setting capabilities. If you are using braid from a boat always cast well clear of other lines to avoid line to line contact. If I am fishing on my own I use braid all the time.

You will no doubt be aware that these spots I have supplied are from the top end of the harbour mainly because this is where I do all of my fishing these days. If you have a pet fishing spot or two elsewhere on the Manukau Harbour and you are willing to share it with other readers, I would love to hear from you. I will ensure that you receive the credit for the article. I can be contacted by email:

And don’t forget that no one good fishing spot lasts forever!

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