Fishing with Smudge –  March 2017
The west coast has been fishing very well and is likely to continue to do so but be prepared for a ‘here one day and gone the next’ scenario for all species. By far the best marlin fishing has been off Port Waikato in 120m where the blue water starts. Tuna schools have been patchy in places but when you find them there are some great fish to be had with albacore up to 13kg caught recently.
You can find schools in close especially off the Port or when heading south from the harbour. While albacore are one of the tastier fish in the sea, skipjack are best relegated to the bait freezer. When you catch an albacore a deep cut behind the long pectoral fins where they attach to the fish will bleed them out quickly and they really need to go straight on ice to make the most of their great eating qualities. Be warned though, tuna fishing is messy! Tuna are very hard to hold on to but holding them suspended by the tail soon settles them down.
There are still big snapper around out west with more reliable catching coming from south of the harbour. Alternatively right up off Piha can turn up some great fish too. Of course you will catch them everywhere in between but expect to spend time looking for them. Gurnard and kahawai are also around and expect to get a few in your catch. Kingfish may also turn up if you’re lucky.
Snapper fishing in the harbour has been very reliable and some big fish are around although 'pannies' between 1 and 2kg are a typical catch.
The challenge is to avoid the vast amounts of small snapper. Try to fish areas with structure such as deep foul, converging channels or even where the channels just start to rise up onto the banks. Use big hooks and moderate sized baits such as squid. We have had great success with kahawai and Jack mackerel pieces also. Ledger rigs work best for me but a straylined bait cast out behind the boat works very well too, especially in shallow water.
We use berley when fishing and we haven’t had many sharks but berley needs to be set so it reaches the bottom where your baits are. Interestingly a couple of boats have reported great white sharks in the harbour, I’ve seen video evidence of one juvenile that would have been around 100kg.
Kingfish appear to have found greener pastures although there are still a few around. While trevally are small, they can be caught along with gurnard. Best baits for trevally are small squid pieces while skipjack tuna work well for gurnard and trevally also. My favourite gurnard baits are kahawai and skipjack that has seen plenty of freezer time. There’s a good tip for this year’s Grunter Hunter, big prizes at stake there! We also have a Family Day coming up in April and it’s always a lot of fun. Both competitions are open to everyone and there are plenty of good fish in the harbour.
Take care, Smudge

ABOVE: Arron gets ready to net another big snapper for Scott Warrender.
ABOVE: Scott Warrender knows where the big snapper are hiding. This was 3.4kg and came from the Papakura channel.
ABOVE: Rosalie caught this nice snapper in the harbour in March.
Above: Arron with a nice fish from 30m off the Manukau bar.