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Tasman Bay top spots

December 19, 2019
Tasman Bay top spots

From Farewell Spit in the west to Stephens Island in the east, Tasman Bay at the top of the South Island of New Zealand has it all for the avid fisherman and holiday makers. This is the ultimate family holiday and fishing area in NZ. You can fish one day and if the weather is not so good the next you can go to one of a hundred of local attractions that litter the area; wine tasting, go-karting, markets and wearable arts - Nelson has it all. Let’s take a fishing holiday around the bay starting in the Northwest corner of Golden Bay.

Golden Bay

Tata Beach is a good base to stay close to the Tarakohe wharf and the launching ramp but also has its own tidal ramp. A short motor out into the bay puts you on the local scallop beds where a limit of 50 per day per person can be harvested. Fishing around the scallop beds produces nice sized snapper, kahawai and gurnard.

There are several areas in the bay that have mussel farms which I would recommend you stop off at and have a try for hungry snapper. Wainui Bay towards the east is one of those areas that not only have snapper frequently in attendance but kingfish as well.

To the east is Separation Point, the entrance point of the bay. There is an old coral reef that runs out for about a mile that produces good blue cod if you put the time in.

Albacore tuna are caught out in this area as well during the summer months, which as we all know make fantastic sashimi. Treat yourself and have a break from the bbq and bangers, pop out and grab a fresh albert, slice it up thin and dip in a mix of soy sauce, wasabi and sesame seed oil. Trust me, it’s awesome.

Closer in to Separation Point also holds kingfish in the current, that runs around the headland. Take the time to throw on the dive gear and go exploring, you might be surprised at what you find in this area.

Peter Connolly regularly fishes the Boulder Bank for nice summer kingfish. This one was taken in the evening trolling with a Rapala X-Rap30 in blue/silver.

Able Tasman National Park

The main area to avoid fishing here is the Tonga Marine Reserve which is from Bark Bay through to Awaroa Head in the north. Treat yourself and go for a dive in the reserve and see the huge crayfish and abundance of fish that have made this their home over the years. For those that don’t want to get wet, you can view the wild life from the Able Tasman Sea Shuttle’s brand new semi-submersible, something that will be on my list of things to do this summer.

Bark Bay reef is outside of the reserve and can be fished and dived with some great crayfish and snapper in the area over summer. John Dory can be taken in this area on live baits and blue cod will fill the nose bag if everything else fails. Bark Bay, although not that deep, does hold the odd scallop if you want to try and snorkel for a feed. If nothing else, it’s a great place for a swim off the sandy beaches to refresh yourself.

Adele Island / Fisherman’s Island

Kayak fishing all long this coast will produce good results with plenty of marine animals like dolphins and seals to keep you entertained while you enjoy the scenery. Hapuka Reef and Six Foot Rock on the northern end of Adele Island are good places to throw a line and also look for a crayfish. Good schools of summer kingfish, kahawai and mackerel hang around these reefs. An evening tide and live baits drifted back onto the reef should produce results. Make sure you have navigation lights on if staying out after sunset as this is a busy traffic lane but when the day traffic go the big fish come out to play.

Gavin Williams with a cracker of a Tasman Bay snapper going over 20lb. It was caught drifting on a baited blue jitter bug.

Kaiteriteri / Motueka

Kaiteriteri is probably the most well-known holiday beach area in New Zealand. With its golden sands and turquoise waters it attracts people from all over the world. There is a boat ramp on the northern end of the beach that can get tidal on the biggest of tides. Basing yourself here will give you lots of great options. With a big motor camp, chalets and tent sites there’s options for everyone but make sure you book early. If you kayak there are plenty of areas to explore and fish in the early mornings and late evenings with many bays and reefs close by.

For the land based enthusiast, try Kaka Point at the north end of the beach for a night fish or the headland between Little Kaiteri and Stephens Bay. Good snapper, rig, gurnard and in fact most species can be taken here. Getting busted off by big kingfish on those headlands is an early childhood memory that got the blood pumping.

If you are boating then the whole bay is at your fingertips but fish your feet first. To the south of Kaiteriteri in front of the Motueka River is a huge mussel and spat farm. This farm is the place to be in summer if kingfish and snapper are your thing. Massive schools of rat kings buzz the mussel lines day and night with the odd bigger model amongst them. This is the playground for the spearo who wants to pick out a nice green torpedo for the table.

Legend for Tasman Bay fishing locations
1    Tata beach
2    Scallop beds
3    Old coral reef
4    Albacore
5    Bark Bay Reef
6    Adele Island
7    Kaiteriteri
8    Mussel farms
9    Mapua Channel, Rabbit Island
10  Tahunanui Beach
11   Boulder Bank
12   Pepin Island
13   Okiwi Bay

For the topwater guys and jiggers (depth is between 17 and 25 meters) light gear is recommended to get the best hook up rate but be prepared to be taken to the cleaners in the mussel lines as these fish know where safety is.  The best method is to work the outside of the mussel rafts with a combination of techniques; a stick bait cast out to draw the kings close and a jigger dropping deep to hook them up when they turn and burn. Make sure your hook barbs are removed!

To those with kids, I highly recommend this spot to teach them how to handle hard fighting fish, as rat kings and kahawai hang here in plague proportions in the heat of the season. This almost guarantees you some fun on light gear.

Motueka / Mapua / Rabbit Island

If you are staying in Motueka, the mussel farms above are on your door step to the north as well as the most summer fished areas to the south of the bay; Mapua and in front of Rabbit Island.
If you want to get some flounder by net or spearing, then the best areas are on the mudflats to the north of the Motueka River, the estuary behind Kina Peninsula and the main state highway or behind Mapua. Be careful not to stray onto the soft mud as you can get stuck easily and most flounder prefer the sandy bottom.

Good surfcasting can be had along Kina Beach on an evening incoming tide and you can take the family down for a picnic while you fish. Go there during the day and try to locate the cockle beds as this is where you want to fish in the evening. Grab yourself a feed while you are there. High-water tides around 10pm and a tide height of 3.9 meters seem to be the ones to target in this area.

The channel into Mapua almost always provides nice pan sized snapper from December to April. Stray lining in the shallow water seems to work best but be aware of the large tidal flow and current if you are using small, dinghy type craft.

Rabbit Island is a huge playground for the family with plentiful areas for recreation and fishing. This would be the place I would recommend for those with kontikis with a nice sandy beach and several deeper channels off the main beach. Some huge snapper have been landed here over the years but because its gradient is not very steep, you need to go out a long way to get into the better areas. This makes it less attractive for surf casting. If you are boating, then anywhere along the length of the island from 6 to 10 meters in depth I have found produces good fish.

Large paddle crabs pick up your baits here. If you have a steady hand and a net handy you can bag yourself a bonus feed if you try hard enough. This is why the snapper are here.


Who hasn’t heard of Tahunanui Beach and Rocks Road, the main beach and roadway in Nelson? At the western end of Tahuna beach is the back beach and the blind channel. This channel pumps all the water that feeds into the large estuary behind Rabbit Island. The edge of this channel holds nice beds of pipis and at low tide you can harvest a feed while fishing off the beach. Huge stingrays frequent this area so make sure you don’t turn your back on your rod or it might go missing.

Further up the channel behind the golf course and airport there are deeper holes in the channel. These are the areas to sit and wait for the snapper to come along and feed. If you have a kayak or dinghy then launch in Monaco and it’s only a short distance out into the main channel.

Rocks Road is one of the only places in the world you can take a car’s windscreen out while casting your line. It’s not uncommon to have 30 anglers lined up in several different areas along rocks road all vying for a chance to land the big one. Connollys Pier opposite Fifeshire Rock is another great place for fishing and watching the sun set in the evening but you will need to be quick as it’s a very popular spot.

The 11km long Boulder Bank is the place to try trolling for kingfish. Around the radio mast there are good spots for the spearos to have a go at kings, snapper and squid at the right time of the year.
At the end of the Boulder Bank to the north is The Glen (Glenduan) and the start of the Horoirangi Marine Reserve - a no fishing area. Both ends of the reserve are very popular with spear fisherman and kayakers with snapper well over 20lb getting landed on the Cable Bay end over summer.

Delaware Bay / Okiwi Bay

Continuing North is Pepin Island, Delaware Bay and Okiwi Bay. These areas hold blue cod, gurnard, tarakihi and snapper in big numbers most of the year. The albacore tuna are almost always straight out in front of Okiwi Bay on the 40 meter contour. Okiwi Bay is the place to go for good scallops both dredging and diving. There are many rental houses and a camping ground with a small store and tidal launching ramp. A great place to stay as it’s so close to all the action and only one hour fifteen minutes away from Nelson.

From Okiwi Bay to the North is French Pass, Durville and Stephens Island, a mecca for big kingfish, blue cod and snapper and something that deserves its own article to do it justice. So if you are looking for a place to go this summer, look no further than the top of the south, there’s something for everyone.

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