Things have certainly changed out west in the last month.
The big hungry snapper that were schooling up in 60m off the west coast have started to move on and can now be found in shallower water and less concentrated than they were prior to Christmas. You will find them in close in areas that have some sort of low foul or features such as shell fish beds or sudden changes in depth. You will also find them in loose schools at all depths from just beyond the surf zone in some areas out to 60m or deeper. Look for fish sign hard down on the sea bed on the sounder and drop a line. It always pays to drop anchor out west but give it 30 minutes before moving on if the fish don’t show up.
While most fishermen will be hoping for snapper, gurnard are often a welcome by catch and they are in great condition with fish measuring 40cm or more featuring in many catches. Kingfish are also showing up in good numbers. You can get them on your snapper gear set up with a dropper rig baited up with whole squid. I’ve used a recurve hook with the squid hooked only once through the tail. You cover your bases for snapper and kings that way.
Marlin haven’t made much of a showing so far and tuna schools are still out wide but with blue water in at 70m I’m sure that the next spell of good conditions will change that.
The harbour has also changed significantly in the last month. We’ve been getting good catches of snapper to 50cm since Christmas and we haven’t had a disappointing day yet with gurnard to 47cm, some modest trevally and plenty of rat kingfish also turning up. If you’re using livebaits expect to get some better kings. We’ve found Jack mackerel to be the best option. We use a metre or slightly longer trace of at least 100lb with a sinker down on top of a livebait hook. Poke the hook through the livey’s nose and you’re ready to go.
We’re catching all these species in the same areas, from 3 to 11 metres deep. Typically we look for some change in the sea floor, usually a gut running from a channel up onto the banks, a bay with a rocky headland nearby or some sort of structure on the bottom in deeper water. I always try a dropper rig and a strayline rig. One will almost always out fish the other and when I figure out why that is I’ll let you know! The biggest problems you will face are the small snapper attacking your baits and if there are no bigger fish around it’s best to move. In any case we use 8/0 recurve hooks to reduce the amount of small fish we catch but you will need a lot of bait. Enjoy the water and stay safe. Counties Sport Fishing Club have some great events coming up and they are a lot of fun, check out our ad!
Take care, Smudge
Caption for the photo: Arron with a snapper from the harbour in January