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General Fishing Tips

Steve's best fishing spots

Wellington Harbour Often overlooked by Wellington’s boaties is Wellington’s harbour. It can produce as good a days fishing as anywhere else around Wellington's varied coastlines. Kingfish, Snapper, Terakihi and Gurnard, plus all sorts of the more unusual fish species.

Fortunately the harbour is fishable in almost any wind direction up to fifteen - twenty knots. Whichever way the wind is blowing there are many sheltered bays or either Ward or Soames Island to anchor around, and smaller boats and Kayaks make full use of the many sheltered bays. Rods with very soft tips and reels with 6 - 10 kg line is all that’s needed.

Berley is a must, as there are no real reefs to anchor on, you have to bring the fish to you using berley. Look for ledges and channels to fish and always be aware that the harbor is a commercial waterway, keep your eye out for the Picton Ferries. Anchoring your boat where there is current movement is very important as you need your berley to drift to draw the fish to your baits. Don’t be too quick to change locations as it can take a while to set up a good berley trail.

The saying ‘you can catch a big fish on a small hook but its very hard to catch a small fish on a big hook’ certainly applies here. 1/0, 2/0 hooks and trace line should be no more than 15 to 20 kg of a nice clear nylon as the water is shallow and thick trace line is far too visible to the fish. Ledger rigs and running rigs work well with only small sinkers of one to three ounce required due to the shallow water.

It doesn’t take too much to spook a school of fish away from you boat, so try and keep noise down ie the banging of sinkers against the hull etc. Recommended baits would be fillets of oily fish like Tuna and Pilchards which work well along with fresh Squid. Try and not over bait your hooks when fishing the harbour as many of the harbour fish species have smaller mouths.

Fitzroy Bay

Fitzroy BayFitzroy Bay on Wellington’s South Coast is located just a little way out side Wellington Harbour on the eastern side. It is an ideal place for travel to for an easy fish, both from the shore and the boat. You can catch a wide variety of fish here, from Tarakihi, Blue Cod, Elephant Fish, Gurnard etc, with Gurnard being your main target species.

Unlike most places when boat fishing, when the tide is running and conditions make it hard to fish the off shore reefs, Fitzroy Bay can provide an easy and enjoyable location to fish when difficult fishing conditions rule out other locations.

Anchoring in 25 to 30 metres while strong tides are running can be hard at the best of times and add to that Fitzroy Bays soft sand and shingle bottom, it can make it hard to fish, so you may need to add extra chain to your existing anchor or even use a larger anchor to ensure you can stop drifting in more difficult conditions.

When fishing Fitzroy Bay try and get wind and tide going in the same direction so on an outgoing tide you want a northerly wind and on an incoming tide you want a southerly wind.

Boat rods and reels should be 6 to 10 kg with either braid or nylon. Ledger rigs or flasher rigs with hook size 2/0 to 4/0 with pink flasher rigs being my favorite. Cut strip baits of Squid, Trevally and Tuna remembering to only punch bait though the hook once so strip baits look like little fish. You don’t have to use berley here for Gurnard but to catch other fish like Trevally, Tarakihi etc, though it sure helps.

To get to Fitzroy Bay from the shore, you need to either walk or cycle round from either Pencarrow, or Wainuiomata Beach. It is a long walk, but can be very productive for the keen shore angler willing to put in the effort to get there.

Top Tip From The Boat

Try jigging with 80 to 100 gram jigs when tides running hard, Gurnard and some Trevally go nuts over a pink jig.

Top Tip From The Shore

Take a variety of baits, while there is good Gurnard fishing from the shore at Fitzroy, there can also be good Moki fishing. Moki like a well presented Mussel bait as opposed to firm fillet bait such as Kahawai or Trevally bait typically used for Gurnard.

Wainuiomata Beach On The South Coast

Wainuiomata BeachWainuiomata Beach is a forty to fifty minute drive from central Wellington, driving over the Wainuiomata Hill and then down the Coast Road. It is a very large open beach that offers some good Moki and Spotty Shark fishing plus Trevally and Gurnard for good measure.

Northerly winds of up to twenty knots still allows the beach to be fishable, but southerly winds can be a disaster. Check the size of the swell before you drive over as anything over one and a half metres makes it very hard to fish. When you get to the beach you will notice the rocky shore line on your left has some good clear patches to cast into for Moki. Only a short cast here of twenty metres is all that is required. With two hook ledger rigs and size 3 to 4/0 hooks, and using sand grip sinkers are to your advantage as they will help hold your line tight in either the swell or a cross wind

Bait should be either raw Mussel, Paddle Crabs or Crayfish. Like most surf casting, early morning or late afternoon is the best time to go, while fishing on a rising tide. I prefer late evening and fishing well into the night as the Moki will come inshore and feed most of the night in close.

At the other end of the beach looking back toward Wellington is a long open beach with the odd rock showing off shore, well out of casting distance. While you don’t catch many Moki here, you do get some very good Spotty Shark fishing. Like the Moki, two hook ledger rigs are used with 3 - 4/0 and sand grip sinkers. However our bait changes from Mussel to predominantly Crab and Cray and using cotton to hold the baits together. When using a firm drag setting on your reel, ensure your rod is well secured as some of the Spotty Sharks are well over ten kilos and are fully capable of dragging your rod and reel out to sea! Unlike Moki you can catch Spotty Sharks through out the day, and on most tides.

Surfcasting Makara Beach

Makara BeachSurfcasting at Makara Beach is an easily accessible location for the surfcaster. Drive through Karori then over the Makara Hill and follow the road to the sea, and you will arrive at a steep shingle beach. Southerly winds are preferred here as the wind is at your back, or light northerly winds are fishable too, up to ten knots.

Depending on the time of year your catch will vary a lot from Terakihi, Snapper, Trevally, Red Cod etc. The preferred time is from February to June with Trevally and Snapper having been caught over these months. Early morning or late evening are the best times, with a rising tide preferred.

Tackle should be surf rods, ten to twelve foot with long cast reel. The further you cast here the better the fishing. Often I use only one hook around the 4/0 - 5/0 size because with one hook you can cast further, two hooks cause more resistance when casting and decrease your casting distance.

Bait should be firm fillets or shell fish well cottoned on to handle the long casting. While many anglers fish a running drag, a firm set drag in a well secured beach spike is the answer at this location.

5 Mile Reef

One of the largest reefs on Wellington’s South Coast, and the most under fished reef on this coast. Conditions are very tidal in Cook Strait with a strong current running most of the time, this can make for hard fishing if you don’t get your timing right. One to two hours before the tide turns at high water or low water is best, while at anchor, with your anchor tripped so it will break out of the rocks more easily. As the tide slows the fishing just gets better. There are not many fish I haven’t seen caught here from 50 lb Kingfish, 70 lb Groper, 20 lb Trumpeter and much more.

Tackle. Rods and reels should have super braid on them due to the strong tides with 30 lb minimum and 50 lb the most commonly used. Super braid has no stretch so you can feel the bites in very deep water and the thin diameter line cuts down drag from strong water currents. Ledger rigs tied on 80 to 100 lb trace for durability and strength due to the size of the fish caught at times at this location. Strong hooks 5/0 to 8/0 will do the job and sinkers 10 to 20 oz. As the tide slows down drop your sinker size down to make retrieving your line easier.

There are a lot of Perch here so we often fish with two rods at once. The first rod is set up with a large hook groper rig 8 to 12/0 hooks and a heavy sinker i.e. 20 oz and placed in a rod holder. Whole fish are used for bait i.e. Tarakihi, Mackerel etc, as the Perch don’t appear to have any interest in this kind of bait, but the Groper are attracted to these whole baits. The large sinker is to drag the big baits down and also to keep the line fairly straight. The other rod is fished hand held for Cod and Tarakihi etc, with strip baits and a lighter sinker to help keep the two lines apart.

One of the main reasons 5 Mile can fish so well, is the tide can make it very difficult to fish, so you only get a small window of opportunity to fish this area comfortably. So make sure you have several traces pre made and plenty of bait cut up and should a fish swallow your hook just replace the trace. Don’t waste ten minutes trying to get your hook out while the tide is fishable!

Top Tips For Five Mile Reef.

Fish your line 10 foot off the bottom for big Tarakihi, and this will also help slow the Perch by catch down.

To trip your anchor lay the anchor flat and lay the anchor chain back down the length of the anchor and secure with a cable tie. Should the anchor become caught in rocks you can gently reverse your boat backwards the cable tie will break and your anchor should pull free by coming out backwards.

Always keep a watchful eye on the weather as conditions can change very fast out at 5 Mile.

Wishing you big bites, and lots of hook ups!

Surf Casting Wellington Harbour

Wellington HarbourWellington Harbour offers all year round surf casting, with as large a variety of fish to be caught, as there are many and varied places to fish. Kahawai, Snapper, Terakihi, Cod and Gurnard are the most commonly caught fish, though there is also a wide variety of the more unusual species such as elephant fish, skate, leather jackets and kingfish.

Like all fishing spots, wind plays a large part in your decision of where and how to fish. If conditions are windy try and find a sheltered spot so that your rod doesn’t shake all over the place as this makes it hard to detect the bites.

During daylight hours baits need to be very tough as the small ‘pick it’ fish will strip your bait in seconds. Use quite a large hook such as a 4/0 or 5/0 with big firm baits like Squid, Trevally or Mackerel, the idea here is that all the small fish have a go at the bait and advertise the bait to attract the attention of the larger fish. With larger baits you only have to check baits about every ten to fifteen minutes compared to every three or four minutes with smaller baits. After night falls, hooks can be changed down to 2/0 or 3/0, and change to the softer oily baits like Tuna or Pilchards as the ‘pick it’ fish don’t usually feed after dark.

Most local anglers have heard the stories about the big/ huge fish being caught at the likes of Miramar wharf, the Overseas Passenger Terminal or Petone wharf etc, only because these places are fished twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. There is no spot in the Harbour that is the best spot, such is the diverse and successful nature of fishing in Wellington Harbour. Every little bay, jetty, beach or wharf offers potentially great fishing.

Pukerua Bay & Plimmerton Coast Line

Pukerua BayBoat fishing for Snapper, Trevally, Tarakihi etc, with Snapper being our targeted fish. Waiting for a windless day in Wellington can be a long wait, so to ensure as much time on the water as possible on those less than perfect days, your timing of wind and tide in the same direction is a must. A simple guideline here is, when the wind is from the north you want an outgoing tide, and from the south, an incoming tide is the rule of thumb. The outgoing tide is preferred as the water is warmer from the north; if you get your timing right you can fish in winds of up to 15 knots quite easily.

There are not many things more important than berley when it comes to Snapper fishing. Berley is a fish attractant; it scents the water and lays a food-like trail for fish to follow leading to your baited hook. Any type of food that fish might like can be made into berley. Chicken mash, pig pellets or cooked rice makes a good base, and add to that old bait, fish frames, fish oil and mush altogether. Freeze into buckets or empty milk cartons and when needed the frozen berley will slowly disperse in Wellington’s cold coastal waters

A lot of anglers find berley too messy to use and don’t use it. However berley makes all the difference between being able to consistently catch Snapper or not. Berley need not be messy or hard to use if you make it simple. I use an electric fence tape holder, and have had it mounted on a pole with a gimble butt on the end so it fits into a rod holder for ease of use. I have wound on 200 yards of 300 lb nylon with a clip crimped on to the end, so the berley pots clip on and off.

Berley pots can be made from plastic mesh with cable ties used to hold the mesh together. I use plastic mesh for two main reasons. I can make the mesh into whatever size berley cage I require and the cost is minimal, but more importantly, when the tide is running hard the mesh berley pots don’t drag like the heavy plastic tube pots do, so we don’t have to use too much weight to get the berley down.

When fishing for snapper I anchor out from the reefs, on the sand, positioned so that the berley drifts back onto the reefs to drag the Snapper out. If the tide is running very strongly I would fish the inshore reefs, in some cases the depth of water may only be ten metres or less and only two hundred metres off shore.

In most locations we would allow about an hour for Snapper to show up, if nothing was happening after this space of time I would shift to another reef and try again. You don’t have to travel miles in this area as there are plenty of rocky reefs to berley amongst.

Ideal tackle would be 10 to 15 kg rod and reel sets with nylon the preferred type of line. While flasher rigs do work at times, don’t be caught in the mind set of only using flasher rigs, as basic nylon tied running or ledger rigs can work very well. Baits are; firm fish fillets i.e. Tuna, Trevally or fresh Squid and my personal favourite is fresh Kahawai with the skin removed.

Now is the time to be making the most of this great fishing coastline as the Snapper are around in great numbers this time of year.

Lake Ferry, South Wairarapa

Wellington HarbourLake Ferry has been making a name for itself over recent years with some top quality fish having been caught. Approximately an hour and half’s drive from central Wellington it offers a great weekends fishing for the family, or for the serious angler.

Winds should be from the north, and with the swell under one metre. Surf casting rods of twelve to fourteen foot in height, and reels spooled with twenty to twenty five pound nylon, are best suited to this location as it is open beach fishing where the swell often rolls up the beach. Rod holders are a must. This area is well known for its Kahawai and Red Cod fishing all year round, but over recent times anglers are changing their tactics by using lighter lines around three to six kg on their reels, and using thirty or forty pound leaders so they can cast greater distances.

Baits have changed as well. Rather that using the Pilchard and fillet baits of the past, anglers have found success using Crabs whole or cut in half, and Mussel and Cray bait have started to show what the Wairarapa can produce with many a good Snapper, Moki and some big Spotty Sharks having been caught. Using Flasher Rigs in conjunction with traditional fillet baits is another successful way to enhance your bait and improve your catch rate.

Hooks should be between 4/0 and 6/0 tied on forty to sixty pound trace line. Use distance casting sinkers if there is no swell, should the swell be up, use sand grip sinkers with the wires that fold back when you want to retrieve your line. This style sinker is invaluable for holding your baits in position and prevents baits rolling around in the swell and greatly improves the chance of fish finding your baits.

When you fish in the Wairarapa you often see anglers catch Paddle Crabs and throw them back, get them to throw these crabs your way and put the halved crabs out on a 4/0 to a 6/0 hook and hang on!

When To Go Fishing
There is no such thing as a bad time to go fishing! We have all heard the slogan ‘the worst days fishing is better than the best days working’. One thing is for sure, if you haven’t got a line in the water you won’t catch anything at all. Certainly some factors will increase your chances and optimizes your opportunities, but none more so than having a line in the water.

Time and Tide
Many fishermen prefer to fish what is known as the change of light. This means either fishing from night through to the dawn hours, or from daylight through dusk to dark. Fish often come onto the bite during these times as they are less vulnerable to predators than during the bright daylight hours which drive them to the cover of deeper water..

Fish Your Feet First
Many anglers overlook one of the simple tips that can enhance your chances of catching fish. Focusing on casting the greatest distance to get your line out as far as possible is one way of increasing your catch rates as fish are often in deeper water. However by fishing your feet first you give yourself the opportunity of catching those random foraging fish who come in close to feed on weed beds, shell fish covered rocks and food sources disturbed by the action of the waves on the shore line, snapper being a prime example. So when you are out fishing, vary the distance you cast to include close in to the shore, the middle distance and fully as far as you can cast.

Fresh is always best. Always tailor the size of the bait to the size of the hook you are using. Remember to always leave the barb of the hook exposed as this is what actually catches the fish. Many anglers make the mistake of covering the entire hook with bait on the assumption they will catch more fish if the fish can’t see the hook. What actually happens is that the fish can pull the bait off with little risk of getting hooked as there is nothing sharp exposed to actually hook the fish.

Popular baits are pilchards, bonito squid and trevelly. The fresher the better! Other types of baits include salted mackerel, crabs, mussels, crayfish, prawns, and there is a huge range of artificial soft baits on the market now as well.

Squid Bait
Squid bait is one of the most popular and easily obtainable baits. A top tip for squid bait is rather than buy packeted bait squid which is often squid that is too old or damaged for human consumption, buy fresh squid from your local seafood supplier and freeze it into fishing trip size packets. The more purple / gray in colour, and more strongly smelling the squid is, generally speaking the older it is. Fish are like most living creatures, the more appetizing the food, the more likely they are to find and eat it. The advantage of squid is that it is a really universal bait. You can use it whole, or in strips, and it is ideal to use from both the shore and the boat. It is a strong sturdy bait that is hard for small ‘pick at It fish to steal from the hook and while those little fish are picking away at it, their presence attracts larger fish to your line. .

There are many different types of sinkers with many different applications. From tiny ball sinkers used in bait fishing to the massive sinkers used to hold lines steady in two or three hundred metres of water with strong currents running.
Most sinkers used in New Zealand are made of lead and are readily obtainable from sports stores, or anglers can make them using discarded lead sheeting, sash weights etc, melting the lead and pouring their own sinkers using home made or commercially manufactured sinker molds of which there are a large variety on the market.
By using the appropriate sized sinkers you can increase your casting distance, and by choosing the correct style for the type of fishing and the fishing conditions you can really improve your chances of catching fish. If you are using a sinker too heavy for the line weight you are using, you increase the likely hood of snapping off your sinker during the cast, and by using a sinker that is too light you can seriously reduce your casting distance. A flat sided sinker will hold the sea bed well and help hold your line in position, where as a torpedo sinker will help reach greater distances due to its aerodynamic shape. So the choice of style and weight of your sinker is very important.

Types Of Sinkers
Bank Sinkers
More commonly used for stray line fishing or the classic running rig for snapper, and small ball sinkers are often used for kids fishing lines as well. These are also a popular sinker for live baiting for Kingfish. This ever popular sinker has been used by generations of fishermen.

Pyramid Sinkers
Popular surfcasting sinker for helping to retain the sea floor and gives you the ability to strike and set the hook in the fish where as a wired breakaway sinker which grabs the bottom.

Breakaway Sinkers
These sinkers are an excellent sinker for surfcasting and are designed for fishing rough conditions or beaches with big swells, will help keep your line tight and help you detect bites.

Kaumoana Super Sinkers
These are heavy duty sinkers with copper eyes designed for quick clip on / clip off ease of use. These sinkers are styled to torpedo quickly down into the really deep waters in Cook Straight and are at the extreme end of the heavy weight scale, 30 to 40 oz.

There are a wide variety of styles and sizes; there is a hook design for every type of fish and every type of fishing occasions

The two most important things about hooks are choosing the right hook for your target species and secondly, bait presentation on the hook. Do not hide the barbed end beneath a big bait; always leave the tip of the hook exposed. This does not deter the fish from taking the bait and greatly increases your hook up rate.

One of the most common mistakes that anglers make is putting too big a piece of bait onto the hook, and using too big a hook for the target species. You can always catch a big fish on a small hook; however it is really hard to catch a small fish on a big hook.

The three most popular styles of hooks on the market are Suicide, Recurve and Circle.

Suicide Hooks are an excellent hook for straylining and are popular with anglers who like to drive the hook home. Suicide hooks are the preferred hook for anglers who like to live bait.

Recurve Hooks are hooks designed to self set in the corner of the fish’s mouth and is hugely popular with Tarakihi fisherman, and anglers who like to release their fish unharmed.

Circle Hooks are more rounded than recurve hooks and are another type of self setting hooks, circle hooks can be used for all types of fishing however are very popular with shore fishermen.

We hope this information is helpful and wish all you keen anglers out there………
Tight Lines and Hot Side Plates!