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Rock solid advice

December 19, 2019
Rock solid advice

Land-based fishing has become a right of passage for a lot of kiwis

There is something serene about planting your feet firmly against the rocks while having a line in the water. It represents a sense of relaxation that I can’t seem to compare to much else. Half the adventure is getting up on to the rocks, while the other half is the sense of knowing that big fish reside at your feet.

I believe that fishing is a numbers game, so fishing the spots that are tricky to get to will pay off. Spend time and effort and like most things in life, you will come away with the reward.

Some of my best land-based fishing has come on days which were overcast, slightly stormy and when the water was murky. Other intangible factors also influence snapper fishing, like the light of the day.

Early morning and late in the day will produce more fish. During a full moon you may notice that all the animals seem to come alive. I have noticed a similar feeding pattern amongst snapper.

Pick your rock

Selecting the right rock to fish for the day is almost as important as bringing your rod. Low tide is the perfect time to determine the different foul elements. I like to look for rocks with deep gutters.

Working the area like a grid will help you determine where to avoid, and where to aim your cast. I might start by casting far afield, then close, and then in the middle. It’s all about finding which spot is

getting the most bites and has the least rocks. Once I know that, then I know where I want to target.

If you’re not getting any luck with the gutter or ledge you are on, try different baits and even berley. If this doesn’t work, then move to the next likely looking position.  Selecting ledges with decent rock pools can provide you with a nice natural live bait tank too.

The tides play their part in any snapper catching adventure, this is even more so when land-based fishing. A spot that looks good at low tide may not be a place that you want to be at high tide. This leads to the number one rule of rock fishing. Never turn your back on the ocean.

I alter my berley techniques depending on where I am fishing. Sometimes if I am fishing deep gutters it might not be possible to deploy a berley pot. In this case I like to pour or scoop berley out of a bucket. This provides controlled berley distribution, and can work a treat.

This 23lb snapper had Nicky dancing all over the rocks.

The rocks are such a natural habitat that if I run out of berley it’s just as easy to go on a hunt for natural resources like; kina, mussels or crabs. These can do the trick just as well, if not better than traditional berleys.

Choose your weapons

Every time I go land-based fishing I seem to take far too much gear. I always regret it when I get onto the rocks and have to lug around six rods, two bags of tackle, reels, food and everything else. Note to self: read this article before my next rock-fishing mission.

This brings us to an important topic – rods. It’s important to have a rod long enough (2 metres plus) to bring the fish up and over the rocks. This could be the difference between catching and loosing your hard fought 20lb snapper.

The extra length also helps when fighting the fish. Keep your rod tip as high as possible to keep the snappers head up. Naturally snapper want to break themselves off from what is attached to them, so they try and run down into the kelp and rocks below.

Another key element that will improve your snapper fishing is having plenty of rigs ready to go. This involves planning. I enjoy making a series of traces the night before; this saves time when the bite is fierce.  

These fish made the fatal mistake of feeding on fresh kawhai strips, which were strategically cast into a gutter using the grid method.

I tend to have two rods on the go at all times; this is to maximize my bait-in-the-water time. I’ll give my bait an absolute maximum of 15 minutes before I change tactics or try different baits. You never know what mood those snapper will be in, so it’s best to have a series of different baits in your arsenal.

I like to start the day using smaller baits. This should start to induce the bite. When I know there are big snapper present I switch to bigger baits. Another technique that works is having bigger baits out the back, and fishing with smaller baits in close to your berley trail. The big fish are smart, and hang out the back.

Like a lot of kiwis, I am a big fan of Shimano Baitrunners. The reason for this is that I can give the snapper plenty of time of eat the bait, before I lock it into gear. Snapper tend to mouth the bait for a while before they swallow it, so locking it in gear too hastily can mean you rip the bait out of its mouth.

It is only once the snapper is firmly hooked up that the real negotiation begins. I keep an eye on the waves at all times. This is for two reasons; firstly for safety, and secondly I use the waves to my advantage to help bring my fish up on to the rocks.

Be careful not to pull your fish in with your rod as it can lead to broken gear, or the hook pulling. Those with patience and skill will prevail.

Nicky's Top Rock Tips

  1. If it’s a nice hot day with water like a millpond, put the rods away. Go for a swim. Snapper are less likely to take what’s on your line when they can see it with the light penetrating through.
  2. Even though you may have a big snapper on the line, you are not invincible. Always remember you are at the mercy of the elements while rock fishing. Every year Kiwis get seriously injured or killed from rogue waves. Some safety tips are; wear a lifejacket, ensure you have shoes with excellent grip, carry a first aid kit with you and always tell someone where you are planning on going.
  3. As you become more familiar with particular spots you can push yourself by using a thinner line diameter. When new to a location I would typically use 10-15kg line for snapper, with a sturdy 80lb to 100lb trace. You be the judge on the day, making changes to your set up as required.

Related posts

The Lateral Line: Episode #11
The boys find themselves in the right place at the right time. Gannets diving have given away a pack of hunting kingfish
The Lateral Line: Episode #7
Again Milan has been scouting for land based fishing spots on google earth. With a new spot located the boys are off. After a hard day on the rocks it’s decided that going back to a spot that Milan lost 3 King Fish in one day is the best chance of success.
The Lateral Line - EP #7
Again Milan has been scouting for land based fishing spots on google earth. With a new spot located the boys are off. After a hard day on the rocks it’s decided that going back to a spot that Milan lost three kingfish in one day is the best chance of success.
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Big, fat fish that are awesome to eat! Deepwater species make up a staple target for fishermen all over New Zealand, particularly in the colder months when snapper and game fish take a winter break. The catch is often made up of fish that are large in size, where sometimes just one fish can fill the freezer and provide food for a month. It can be very rewarding, exciting, and certainly provides a solid work session if you are not using electric reels. It also means that these giants of the deep will be making a one-way trip, there is no returning fish that are pulled up from that depth, as they are ‘blown’ from the massive change in water pressure and usually float to the surface for the last 50 metres once you have them up that far. Here’s where sensible catch management is required for the respect of the fishery and the protection of your own spot X’s for next time. ‘Deep’ water, means anything over 100 metres, and commonly down to 350 metres or even more. This means specialist tackle and techniques are required. Pete Lamb operates long term Wellington store Pete Lamb Fishing, and has been operating charters that prospect the deep for many years. Here’s a really comprehensive article on deep water fishing with specific focus on some of the Wellington region areas, but all the other information is relevant to fishing these species all around the coastlines of New Zealand.
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