For three years I have been planning to go to the far north and verify for myself some of the tall tales uttered by fellow fishermen upon their return. I nearly got there last year but events conspired to thwart me and even though I had time to go, other things soaked up my funds and I was left wondering.
This year no such bad luck came my way and with determination and a heap of money spent, I was on my way to experience the best land-based fishing NZ has to offer.
The far north is a fisherman’s paradise, there is no other description. Its a different world compared to places like Hawke’s Bay. There are so many fish available up there. There is always somewhere to fish as well, no matter what the weather is doing.
Beaches both east and west are within a short drive, you could easily fish both coasts on the same day. Harbours and estuaries are full of fish should the weather prohibit fishing any open beaches.
Its a visual feast as well, epic scenery and stunning fish life swimming by at your feet.
They have a saying in the far north, “if you’re starving in the far north, you’re lazy”
I fully believe that. The abundance of fish and other wildlife is amazing.
So check out these pictures and videos. and start planning your trip..
As usual its been a while since I’ve logged in here, and even now I don’t really have anything startling to write. Summer fishing locally around Napier has seen an improvement in catches of Snapper over previous years. There are a few theories as to why this may have happened, one being the tentative agreement between recreational and commercial fishers to ease off on the snapper trawling between December and February out at the ‘springs’ offshore from Napier.
Whatever the reason or cause of the comparative abundance, for the first time in many years the surfcasters of the area have had better odds of catching Snapper.
A good mate of mine who is by any measure a surfcasting ‘guru’ and constantly astounds the rest of us mere mortals with his catches, stated it was the first time in memory that he has been able to catch is limit of 10 in one day here in Napier. Most of the time 10 fish per season from Napier beaches would be considered an epic catch. To get the legal limit of 10 is absolutely unheard of.
I even managed to catch a couple myself which is nothing short of miraculous..
Baby Hammers are a reasonably common bycatch
I haven’t ventured away as much as I would have liked during the summer due to work commitments and budgetary constraints. I did however manage a trip to Mohaka where I bagged a couple of good Smoothhounds, one weighing in at 11kg wet and 7.5 trunked.
One of the smaller Smoothhounds
I had planned a trip to the far north, (this week actually) but things conspired against me and unforseen problems soaked up the holiday money before I could get there, so that will need to wait another year.
We had a friend visiting from USA and she wanted to do some fishing, so we drove to Whakaki to find clean water (it was muddy locally)
Whakaki is a very steep shingle beach with deep water in close. She was at he waters edge waiting to cast when a large wave came through and the back wash dragged her into the trough.
I was baiting up, looked across to see he disappearing into the waves.
I sprinted in and got hold of her but the next wave got us both and we ended up both under water. I managed to get to my feet, grab her and drag towards the beach out of big wave range both of us spitting up water and snot. The rod and reel was lost. I caught my breath finally and grabbed my nearest rod, cast in to where she had been and slowly dragged the rig ashore a few times.
Eventually the sinker wires hooked in a ring on the lost rod and I got that back.
After we had got ourselves together and resumed fishing, Tracy caught a small eagle ray, while I was trying to unhook it I got barbed in the back of my left hand.
I’ve caught and released dozens of rays, some up to 50kg so it was just sheer complacency and entirely my own fault that it managed to stick me. It was incredibly painful and bled like crazy. My hand swelled up like a blown up glove and that and the pain forced an end to our trip.
We both lost our glasses (mine were $750 prescription polarised sunglasses) she also lost her hearing aids, but in the end none of that matters, we were just happy to get home alive.
Driving north 5 or 6 hours does improve your chances of landing a feed. The first time this summer I ventured up around East Cape on September 10th I miss judged the weather badly and when I got to TeAraroa it was blowing at least 40 knots offshore and was impossible to fish in.
I eventually found a reasonably sheltered spot tucked in behind a hill and managed to soak a few baits, but caught nothing.
On the advice of txts from friends I packed up and headed around the cape towards Bay of Plenty where thankfully the wind was much less severe. I stopped at a quiet beach just before TeKaha and managed to land a small Snapper just on Dusk. Nothing else was interested in my baits there and after an hour or two I drove further up the coast road and stopped at Omaio.
Having been awake for some 14 hours by then I decided to catch a couple of hours sleep and get the lines back out around 11pm which would be two hours shy of high tide.
At 11pm I woke to see another guy fishing not far away from me. He had caught several good Gurnard and a couple of small Snapper so I wasted no time getting some lines in the water.
We fished until about 3am but only caught one more Gurnard each, seems i had slept through the action..
I came home from that weekend with one small snapper and a gurnard. Not a lot for over 1000km of travel, but that just proves you have to get everything right to land fish, even in areas where fish are supposedly abundant.
My second trip to Omaio took place on Labour weekend and instead of driving up and around the east cape I went up via Taupo and Rotorua. Its still a 5 hours+ trip but the roads are better and easier that way.
I caught up with Kane who was already at Omaio and had fished the previous evening with good success. Snapper and Gurnard were apparently plentiful during the darkness but nothing much was happening in the middle of the day.
That evening just on dusk the snapper and gurnard returned and we both caught a few.
Conditions were perfect with no wind and dead flat calm sea. I hit the car seat for a nap around midnight and got up again at 4am to try and snag a few more before sunrise. It wasn’t to be however and nothing further was added to my bin.
When Kane finally woke up around 6am he enquired whether I had caught any more fish. Being told no he decided to get his rods in anyway. The sun was coming up and chances of any more fish were fast slipping away. Just when we thought it was pretty much all over Kane’s rod went over and he landed a nice fat snapper, biggest of the trip so far. A short time later over it went again and he landed another beauty of 3.6kgs. He ended up with three good solid snapper in the bucket and this is in broad daylight at low tide in the sun! Just when you think you have this fishing knowledge nailed down something like this happens and blows you out of the water…
Anything can can happen at any time up there. 🙂
In some ways winter fishing around Napier beaches can be more productive than summer. The species caught are often thought of as less desirable by some, but getting something, anything, on the line is still better than hours and hours of soaking bait with no result.
In the hight of summer, December-January-February, there is very little in the way of fish for the surfcaster to catch around Napier. With the exception of Kingfish around the river mouths, the place is pretty dead over mid summer.
Barracouta are one of the few nuisance fish we get in Winter
In winter the main catch around here is Red Cod, along with Barracouta and if you have the right bait, Spotted Smooth Hound. Of course the good old Kahawai do make appearances during winter as well, especially around the river mouths.
Many people would consider all of the winter species mentioned above as “rubbish fish” and only fit for cat food. While I agree with that sentiment in regards to Barracouta, the others are quite edible if treated correctly when you catch them
Red Cod need to be processed immediately upon capture
Like Smooth Hounds, Red Cod need to be cleaned as soon as they are landed.
Quickly scale the fish, remove the head and guts including the black rib-cage lining. Put the body of the cleaned fish into a bucket of clean, cold, salt water and leave it there until you are ready to head home. I transfer them to the chillybin only when I’m read to head home.
Once home put the cod body in the fridge whole and leave it overnight before filleting it. This allows the flesh to ‘set’ and become firmer and easier to fillet.
Leaving the fillets in the fridge for another day, or at least a few more hours will firm them up even more, ready for batter and fry pan. Done this way I actually prefer the taste of cod to both Kahawai and Smooth Hound.
However, if you just dump your Red Cod into the fish bin when you catch it, the nasty gut contents and body slime will penetrate the taste of the fish..
This Spiney Dogfish attacked a Red Cod that had swallowed the hook. In biting out the belly of the fish it managed to hook itself on the same hook.
We had this one planned for a while. A mate has this event at Cape Runaway every June and this year things came together for us and we were able to get a break to go.
Rather than head straight to Runaway, we decided to go the scenic route up the east coast and stop in at various places to camp and fish as we travelled.
We had excellent weather and excellent company, the fishing up that way was just awesome.
We had quite a long period or calm seas and settled weather, when this happens you head to Ocean Beach and hunt for Gurnard. The first day it was sunny and flat calm but absolutely dead, I caught 3 of them the second day. This was way above expectations as Gurnard have become so rare in HB due to commercial pressure and habitat issues.