NZ Fishing World home
NZ Fishing World

How to fish the Manukau Harbour

07 May 2015
How to fish the Manukau Harbour

Ask Auckland fishermen for an opinion of the Manukau harbour and its adjacent west coast fishery and most will suggest it’s a dangerous place, full of sharks and tiny snapper.

I guess they are right, up to a point, because like all waterways it can be a dangerous place but just as certainly there are also big snapper and a wide variety of fish for those who know how and where to catch them.

The best advice I can give a newcomer to the Manukau is to go out on a very low tide and form a mental map of where the channels lie. With this you will understand much more about the harbour and how it is all put together.

As a general rule, the harbour is comfortable to fish in winds of up to 15 knots, providing you heed my advice regarding the wind-against-tide scenario. No single wind direction suits all parts of the harbour, it depends where you are fishing and what the tide is doing.

Seasonality by species


February to July is undoubtedly the best time to target snapper.

As a start, try fishing the deep water of the Papakura channel, targeting structure over the top and bottom of the tides. While the smaller tides may allow you to fish this deep water right through the peak flow, you will probably find it hard work on the bigger tidal flows.

Arron nails yet another prime pannie from the coast

Gurnard and Trevally

Gurnard are at their best from April to September but can be caught year round. While they will turn up in any depth, I generally target them in two to ten metres.

Trevally are often found over shellfish beds on the banks, where they also feed on shrimps and crabs. While they too can be caught year round, winter and spring is when we get most of ours.


Kingfish are also caught in the Huia Banks area and if you are bottom fishing use heavy tackle, as the current can be very strong. Although a typical catch on the harbour is usually a mixed bag of snapper, gurnard and kahawai, you just never know what may show up.

Bob Skienars caught this kingfish in 320m straight out from Manukau Bar.


kahawai will bite whatever is on offer and will take lures as readily as they will cut baits. When we see terns or gannets circling up high in the area around the Huia Banks I often stop and throw a jig or softbait out. These aren’t the big work-ups found in the Hauraki Gulf, usually just a few birds with little surface action visible.


For those who crave something a little different, over summer the Manukau is also home to big bronze whaler sharks and they can be caught from the shore or from a boat. They tend to patrol the edges of the deeper channels and the convergence of channels is a good starting place. You will need game fishing gear for these big drag pullers and it is a specialist activity, not something you would normally target using your snapper gear.

General areas to try:

  1. Snapper - S37⁰ 01.761’ E174⁰ 39.191’
  2. Gurnard - S37⁰ 05.366’ E174⁰ 40.109’
  3. Kahawai - S37⁰ 01.864’ E174⁰ 34.172’
  4. Trevally - S37⁰ 00.935’ E174⁰ 38.854’

Best Rigs

Over the years I have found three rigs that work particularly well, depending on the conditions and depth.

  1. As an all-rounder a simple two-hook dropper or flasher rig is very hard to beat. Make sure you have enough weight to keep it on the bottom, which could mean using 20-oz sinkers in 20-m plus depths.
  2. A running rig works well if there is a lot of current, but check that doesn’t cause your bait to spin around. We use a short length of 60-lb mono between two swivels to take the abrasion dished out by a heavy sinker, with a short section of 60-lb trace onto a free swinging 8/0 circle hook when targeting snapper.
  3. The last rig I always use in shallow water is simply a small sinker bearing directly down onto the hook. I use only enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom and this is cast out the back of the boat.

In a nutshell

While it may well be one of the more productive snapper fisheries in the country the coast can be frustrating too. Kahawai can drive you mad as they swim around hell bent on tangling your gear, while some days it seems like the only fish in the sea are sharks.

The Manukau Harbour isn’t too challenging for anyone with good seamanship and has a lot to offer with a variety of fish. It is also surrounded by our biggest city, yet does not have near the boat traffic of the Waitemata.

Related posts

Kingfish: How the experts catch them
Hints & Tips
NZ Fishing World spoke to five of the country’s most respected kingfish fishermen to find out the secrets to their success.
Rod and Reel Maintenance
Hints & Tips
Rod and reel maintenance is an activity seldom loved by fishermen however it can save you money and heart ache if something fails on a monster fish.
The Finer Points of Straylining
Hints & Tips
The less obvious but equally important principles of stray lining are often the underlying keys for success.
Rust Never Sleeps - Trailer maintenance
Hints & Tips
Many people stow away their boat over winter, however proper care and inspection is essential to ensure springtime does't become an expensive repair exercise.
Going for gurnard glory
Hints & Tips
Gurnard are a gastronomic delight and fun to catch. Michael Parker shares his gems of wisdom gathered from 25yrs of chasing this fascinating fish.
The Jack of all trades - The many uses of Jack mackerel
Hints & Tips
Jack mackerel are a tasty bait and are attractive to both fish and fishermen. Put one on your hook but keep a couple for an appetizer and you will understand why predators happily eat them.
All Related

See Also

True Kit inflatable boats
True Kit boats make very cool little fishing platforms, at much the same cost as a kayak. Check out a few features and benefits with owner of the company Rod Dawson.
Catch Waterwings - bling for your bling
Catch fishing have invented a new way to add a bit of extra vavavoom! to your lures. Check it out here...
New Catch Beady Eye Kabura Jig
There's a new weapon from Catch Fishing. Check out the latest kabura jig that will catch just about any predatory fish out there. We've had great success with this extremely effective lure and it's well worth having a few in the tackle box, especially if it's a tough day. Easy to fish, and effective all year round, the new Catch Beady Eye Kabura is a must have if you like your lures.
Fishing with Venturer Charters off Kawhia / Raglan
NZ Fishing World presents a quick look at the fishing off the west coast of NZ's North Island with Rob Fitzgerald from Venturer Fishing Charters. Heading out with Rob is a fantastic safe, and secure way of crossing the infamous Raglan Bar and getting into some awesome fishing action.
Landing a Swordfish
Big Game
Check out a little video log we made a few years ago featuring Edward Uhai Lee landing his first sword. Drop number 1 on a picture perfect day out off the mighty Manukau a few clicks. These are definitely strong beasts, and took a bit of grunting to get this one on deck.
Catch Deep V jig
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 in action. This is a great jig for just about any conditions and the special V shaped keel gives it extra hang time in the strike zone.
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.