Wellington Rocks - The Windy City's best shore spots
20 August 2019
For a lot of fishos, land-based fishing in Wellington is thought of as being just cold weather, high winds and nothing but red cod, kahawai and sharks.
There’s some truth to the first part but what a lot of people don’t know is that the land-based fishing is far more accessible, more varied and more productive than Auckland, without having to travel miles out of the city.
And while it might be a bit colder, that’s nothing a good Swanni, a cheeky rum and maybe a campfire on the beach won’t solve!
Local land-based fishing in and around any city these days is often challenging and commonly unrewarding, but Wellington’s massive coastline, rugged access points and, let’s face it, occasionally brutal wind conditions actually preserve some sensational land based fisheries.
Figuring it out
As with anywhere, you’ve got to start off with a certain amount of figuring it out for yourself, but there’s no substitute for good local knowledge too, and I was lucky enough to get to know Pete Lamb, and through the shop, charter trips and comps, to get to meet and share info with a lot of local fishos. (Check out Pete Lamb's weekly Wellington reports)
My one abiding regret was never having become an active member of Wellington Surfcasting & Angling Club and I’d encourage anyone wanting to get to grips with surfcasting and land-based fishing in the region to look them up.
I lived almost directly opposite the beach at Island Bay, so getting an up-to-date forecast was no harder than opening the curtains each morning. It did of course mean that some days the temptation to fish was just too much, and the occasional mental health day was required from work.
But I find if you bring in a few fresh fish fillets every so often, things like this get overlooked!
Joining a club instantly opens up your world to the knowledge of others, in a manner you will never get from a book or computer, and will give you access to the nuances of technique and no doubt a few secret tricks, tips, and fishing spots. You might even make a few friends along the way.
Wellington’s south coast is as rugged a piece of coast as you’ll find, and in a decent southerly we’d just stay well away from fishing it, but as soon as the weather turned round to the common NW we’d be out there targeting a wide range of species.
Depending on where I’d fish off the shore, there could be terakihi, kahawai, red cod, gurnard, blue cod, trevally, blue moki, various species of shark as well as snapper and kingfish.
Obviously such a range of species means a range of baits, techniques and spots.
Land-based fishing in Wellington might not be the first thing you think of, but next time you get a chance to, definitely give it a go.
It’s a fantastic region with a huge range of diversity of locations and species, requiring a whole lot of different methods and approaches.
I have a fully-fledged LBG addiction which sees me travelling all over New Zealand to all the bucket-list spots, and it is land-based that started it all off.
OK, so this isn’t strictly speaking in town, but one of my best mates lived out that way and at least once a week we’d be down on the beach there catching fish, having a fire in winter, and doing what all fishos do: swapping fishing lies until the next bite hit!
Wainui is pretty much one of the best surfcasting spots you can drive your car to.
There are never any guarantees in fishing, but you can pretty much guarantee a kahawai here.
Baits would be pilchards (normally in cubes on ledger rigs), squid, salted bonito and that would do us for most species.
But then we’d get into fancier baits, particularly for the blue moki. Various shellfish were always a favourite, particularly as these fantastic sport fish come in pretty close in the dark and a long cast isn’t needed and, as I used to do so much diving, there was always a bit of cray available if required!
Then for the sharks there’d also be big crab baits. It’s a great beach for surfcasting with a river mouth at one end, some big rocks in the middle (we always did best fishing to the left of these), and then a bay further round to the left, which is a good spot to get some moki.
It’s not a place where you catch a lot of moki, but the ones you do get are generally of a good size. If the water is clear after a good spell of weather, expect to hook some nice blue cod. For some reason they don’t generally bite when it’s murky though.
A really good way to identify where to fish off the beach is to walk down casting an old sinker with nothing else on your line, and pulling it back across the bottom waiting to feel for the stones and foul breaking through the sand. This is the place to start fishing as it’s where the food source will be.
Typically, we’d catch big kahawai (try a double header of 3kg kahawai some time, it’s awesome), red and blue cod and the odd shark. I’ve also caught gurnard and moki and it’s also the spot where I hooked (and lost) my first decent kingy.
One thing I love about Wainui is that it is not really seasonal, and you can catch fish all year round.
2. Boom Rock
This spot is almost single-handedly responsible for my LBG addiction! She’s a fair old walk from Makara which is the nearest spot you can drive to; memory tells me it felt like four hours but was probably just two, and if you’re into land-based fishing at all, it’s a spot you just have to go and fish.
Access is now limited to walking all the way around as the Boom Rock Lodge has closed off ‘over the top’ entry. Be prepared to ditch the walking shoes and pants for a quick, often undies-deep stream crossing at the carpark before you hit the coastal hike.
There are a couple of bays to fish on the way around, including Smiths Bay and Boom Rock Bay itself, but it’s definitely better fishing to go all the way. Smiths is very pretty and easily reached, and provides great rock platforms but does not fish like it once did.
Boom gets its name from the noise that the swells make as they hit it and it’s a spot that you need to pick your weather for.
There has been tragic loss of life there, so please remember that there isn’t a fish in the ocean that’s worth that risk.
Having dived around it as well as fished, it’s easy to see why it provides so many options for the shore-based angler. Snapper and kingfish are a definite target along with all the other staples: cod of both kinds, kahawai, gurnard, barracouta, moki, sharks etc.
However, it has one real bonus in store: land-based terakihi are abundant and easily targeted with a decent cast out on to a sandy bottom.
I’ve overnighted there a number of times, but with the rock facing straight on to the Cook Straight I’d normally leave it in the middle of the night and get a bit of sleep by a fire where there’s a cave just on the beach behind Boom rock itself.
Any fishing method works here, with berleying off the rocks highly recommended. Recently the best way to fish is often slide baiting with livies caught using sabikis in the berley.
If I had just one spot I could fish again in the Wellington area, this would be it.
3. Pencarrow Lighthouse
Round from Pencarrow there are a lot of great surfcasting beach options: again it’s a fair walk although it’s a flat track along the coast. I always used to take the mountain bike, which made things much easier.
You can drive down the Wainui coast road and park at the Baring Head lighthouse track, then it’s only 20 minutes or so up and over the hill.
It’s another spot that would regularly produce the full range of Wellington fish and is one that has fished well for me both during the day and (particularly for moki), the evening.
The old structure around Lion Rock provides some good fishing to the right hand side particularly for blue cod.
Pencarrow and Fitzroy Bay are also great areas to get a line out.
4. Red Rocks
Here’s one of the more iconic and accessible locations to fish in Wellington facing directly south and therefore nicely sheltered in a northerly wind.
You might ask yourself ‘what’s that stink?’ as you head out to cast off the rocks. Look closer and you are likely surrounded by rock-coloured seals that can be pretty massive, and a bit angry if you get too close!
They are easily avoided though, and the fishing around this coast offers plenty of other options.
There is a marine reserve to avoid, so be aware of the signage that indicates when you are good to cast and when you’re off limits.
The beach just to the west of the marine reserve is very good to target as long as there is no swell running. As soon as there’s too much swell your gear can lose your gear before you know it.
5. The Harbour: Sunshine Bay, Greta Point, and Oriental Bay.
The hot spot in the harbour is around Eastbourne to Sunshine Bay.
Just across the road and then south of the gas station for a couple of hundred metres is the current honey hole. Long casts with a ledger rig and a 3/0 will get you anything from snapper to blue cod and everything in between on a good day.
Greta Point provides great surf casting off the Niwa building entrance, fishing straight east. There are plenty of gurnard here, but kahawai, trevally and even kingfish are not uncommon.
As a family option, or to fish right in the heart of the city and enjoy an ice cream with your squid bait fingers, Oriental Bay often produces some surprisingly good kingfish and kahawai, usually to the oo’s and ahh’s of the passing pedestrians whiling away their day around this picturesque harbour location.
‘You can’t beat Wellington on a good day’, they say, but you sure can when it turns southerly! Oriental Bay at least offers a haven from this pretty brutal wind.
There you have it. If you have not tried some of these spots give them a crack, and if you’re visiting Wellington, there’s more to do than just see the beehive.
If you want to have a chat to Pete himself, check out his store at http://www.petelambfishing.co.nz/