Spring - The season of paddle power
December 19, 2019
Snapper now start to move in close to feed and spawn and this can mean a bonanza for kayak fishos. Jason Walker shares his tactics to help you cash-in at this time of year but not before you get your gear in order. The change in seasons will bring a change in our fishing. Spring sees the shallower waters start to fill up with fish coming in to the shoreline to breed but before they do that they also want to feed themselves up.
It’s this feeding that we as fishermen must take advantage of. The spring influx of fish into the harbours and the inner coastal areas such as the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland gives you the ultimate opportunity to put some fresh fish on the table.
Key to catching these fish is to understand what it is they are doing. The fish are coming in from the deep with one purpose in mind. They are here to procreate but these fish have spent many months out from the shore with little food. They have expelled quite a bit of energy getting back to the shores and they need to feed.
Snapper will be hunting baitfish, shellfish, crabs and anything else they can scavenge. These are the things you need to keep in mind when you are fishing in the spring from your kayak.
It’s important to learn what snapper will be feeding on in the area you are fishing and use this to your advantage. If you are fishing in a bay, try to think where the sandbars are as these will hold shellfish. Make use of your electronics to find baitfish or watch the birds to help find the work-ups.
Spring snapper will be on the move looking for their next meal so have a look for them in the open areas. You’ll find they won’t be hanging around structure as much as they will be cruising over the sand.
Looking for these fish is where your electronics will help to pay for themselves. Always keep one eye on your fishfinder and look for fish on the bottom and balls of baitfish with fish sitting under them.
These fish will more than likely be snapper. Once you find them you now have to catch them…
Place your baits
So we’ve found the fish. Now what do you use to catch them? Fresh or frozen? Real bait or a softbait/jig/slowjig? The choice is really down to personal preference.
They will all work if presented properly at the correct times because these fish are hungry at this time of year. The key is to make it attractive to them. Like the majority of kayak anglers, I am a fan of artificial baits, in particular softbaits. Why?
You don’t need to worry about keeping them frozen, you don’t have to plan ahead and find somewhere to buy bait at 4am, your wife doesn’t have to keep them in the freezer with the ice-cream, you don’t have to use a knife to chop up small bits of fish and you don’t have to deal with the mess of bait on your kayak.
That’s not to say that bait doesn’t work on a kayak. There are many kayak anglers who use real baits and are very successful. Real bait needs more forward planning for cutting it up and storing it on your kayak.
Match the hatch
The key to whichever bait type you choose is to “match the hatch”. This means you make sure your bait or lure can match what the fish are feeding on.
Remember they are feeding on baitfish right now, so if you are softbaiting, go for the smaller baits.
Small grub shaped baits work well with their ribbon-like tails adding a huge amount of action to them as they fall through the water column.
If you are using real bait, go for small whole baits like anchovies or pilchards as both of these will be swimming around and are what snapper and other fish will be readily feeding on. These will also work well if you find a work-up as the snapper tend to sit on the bottom under them vacuuming up any fish or parts of fish that fall from the feeding frenzy.
Work-up tactics for kayakers
If you can find them, they can be an excellent source of snapper. The tell-tale sign you are looking for to find these work-ups is high above the water… you want to watch the birds. When the baitball hits the surface and the feeding begins, the birds, in particular gannets, will start to feed on the fish too.
The gannets will circle high in the sky above the baitfish then they fold their wings back and dive head first into the centre of the work-up catching a fish from under the water. It’s the circling birds you are looking for whilst paddling or fishing. Always keep an eye on the skies.
If you do find a work-up and it’s within paddling distance, go and take a look. Even if you don’t fish it, it’s a great spectacle to watch.
Don’t paddle straight through the middle of the work-up though as this may scare off the fish and break up the frenzy. You want to work out which direction the work-up is moving and stay on the fringe or head in behind it. Don’t sit directly in its path. Paddling in behind it is the best way to pick up the snapper as they will be on the bottom feeding on the scraps left behind
Extra Kayak Tips
A lot of kayak anglers continue to fish through the winter but there are some who won’t have been out for a few months and put the kayak and all the gear away as winter bit. So is your kayak and gear ready to go?
The kayak itself probably won’t need much attention. Whether you are paddling a plastic or fibreglass kayak, the checks will be the same.
You need to check your deck lines and bungies to make sure nothing has perished or is wearing thin and check that any bungs are still in place and secure. The same goes for hatches: Make sure they are still fitting well and are secure. If you have a rudder fitted to your kayak then give it a once over too.
Make sure it’s moving freely so you don’t find yourself out there on the water with a rudder that is stuck and you paddling around in circles!
You must also for any wear on your kayak. Did it get some rough treatment last season that needs to be looked at? Are there any gouges that need to be filled? Are there any leaks that need repair?
If you are lucky enough to have a kayak with a replaceable wear strip then now is a good time to check and replace it before it wears through and you do major damage to your kayak.
If you do need to get repairs done on your plastic kayak then your first port of call should be with the manufacturer as they will have the knowledge, experience and correct tools for the job.
Don’t waste hundreds of dollars later because you didn’t check and replace a $20 leash now.
Electronics must also be looked after. Check the state of your wiring. Look for corrosion around any plugs and sockets and look for missing lugs on the ends of cables where your battery connects.
Some corrosion can be cleaned off and an anti-corrosion treatment such as LanoCote from CRC or INOX can be applied but where the corrosion is extensive it’s better to replace the cabling, joints, plugs and sockets.
If it’s the plugs or sockets on your sounder then contact the local agents for the brands you have as they all offer aftersales service for locally purchased products. If it’s a wiring issue you have and it’s outside of your skillset then talk to your kayak retailer who may offer a wiring/fitting service or look for a marine electrician to help you out.
It’s also a good time to check your power source. Most kayak anglers are using SLA batteries and whilst they do put up with the testing environment of a fishing kayak they still need some love and attention.
Keep your batteries charged, the easiest way of killing an SLA battery is to let it run flat. Make sure you apply some protectant to the terminals of the battery too.