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April 15

Softbaiting from Land Part Two

Three evenings fishing on Waiheke Island and a surprise visit in the morning…

Author: Michael Jenkins

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I worked from Monday to Friday on Waiheke Island last week. On day one I fished solo on a ledge, already known to me as a kingfish haunt. Because they frequently cruise along this particular point, I was confident, I wouldn’t need any berley to get things happening, it’s a great spot for throwing lures. What I didn’t factor in, was the effects of Cyclone Luci on water clarity, it was as murky as a very murky thing and along with a fair bit of chop on the water casting top water lures was a waste of time and I knew it before I started. I threw a few stickbaits around in the difficult choppy/swelly conditions to get some practice in these conditions. Other than a few small bites on our softbaits there was nothing happening. It still was great, being there, relaxing after work as the sun went, down and the moon started to rise.

Meanwhile the kingfish found gutter full of piper and started to become excited

My workmate Andrew joined me this time and we tried a new spot and brought a bit of the stinky stuff with us. After a scramble up and over some steep territory we were overlooking a beautiful looking ledge, deep water, some good swell/wash and a gutter full of baitfish already, perfect! We were on top of the hill taking a look around deciding where we’d like to fish when I spied a lone kingfish on the surface, looked to be around the 1.1-1.2m in length and hunting for food. As quick as we could, we went down the hill, meanwhile the kingfish found gutter full of piper and started to become excited, the little piper scattered and the kingfish cleared the water in pursuit, an awesome sight! My adrenaline was pumping as I tried to get the reels on the rods ASAP… Andrew was soon on the rock and started casting, and landed a 5” Paddle tail in front of his nose, which it snapped at, but missed, then cruised off again.

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Finally I was on the rock with a 24kg popper set blasting away at the horizon when it showed up again at our feet, I wound in quick as I could and made a short cast to intercept it, but before my lure got there it honed in on a baitfish and chased it down deep and was never seen again. This is how it often goes fishing for kingfish off the rocks, they’ll make brief appearances and you only have a small window of opportunity to present a bait or lure, making the most of these short opportunities comes down to doing the exact right thing at the right time. Later with the help of a bit of berley to encourage the bite we had a feed of snapper caught on curly tail softbaits with ¼ and 3/8oz jigheads. I managed to score a sizable kahawai, 58cm which was surprisingly underpowered, it looked to be in good condition, so I scaled, gilled and gutted it right away to see if it had any parasites or infections and what it had been eating. The answer was no obvious health issues and nothing in its belly. I biffed the offal into the water for the snapper to enjoy and carried on. Later on as the light was fading and the burly had run out a school of jack-mackerel showed up in a nearby gutter, Andrew began retrieving his lure through the area and w soon hooked up big time, line spewed off of the reel and the drag clicker sang as the unseen fish covered a lot of ground FAST! Always a tense situation when fishing off the rocks, especially with 20lb leader, bust offs can come at any moment, we chose to fish from an elevated spot to help keep the fish higher in the water column, we also hold our rods up high in this situation to maximise our chances, keeping the fish away from snags. The fish tired, and came into view, a definite PB (personal best) snapper for Andrew, and it had a surprise guest with it.

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There was a kingfish around 80cm snapping at the snapper’s fins, it didn’t have the slightest chance of being able to eat it, but seemed determined to try anyway and followed the snapper all the way into a narrow gutter. I lobed a popper that was already rigged from earlier next to it and it had a bite at that, but didn’t get hooked and left. Kingfish can be weird at times; it was a distraction to the main action which was Andrew’s snapper, 63.5cm and 9lb 4oz (or 4.3kg) it took a new penny curly tail rigged on a 3/8oz head. With the light fading, we packed up and left soon after that, upon cleaning the snapper we found the guts and gills of my kahawai from earlier, it had potentially been hanging around for up to a 90 minutes but didn’t bite until after the berley trail ran dry??

Day 3
Next evening we picked up some salmon berley and headed back to the same spot, the water much clearer and calmer this time, so I set about casting a stick bait around for a while, but no kingfish were seen. On softbaits we had a few eating sized snapper which were returned, food was well and truly sorted. Andrew picked up another solid kahawai, nice to see them about.

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We were visited several times by a massive stingray which we decided to call ‘granddad’, its wingspan looked to be around the 2m mark, a seriously big animal! Cool to have such a massive creature casually nosing up against the rocks like that. The piper schools were large and thick and it seemed inevitable that a kingfish would show up sooner or later. Sure enough one turned up around sunset, it looked 80-90cm, and we kept it entertained with the berley while we attempted to catch it. It followed then refused a few different kingfish lures on the heavy gear including a popper, stick bait, a bibbed rapala, and a giant sluggo softbait. Because it wasn’t too big we decided to have a crack on the softbait gear, to see if lighter leader would do the trick, we tried a range of different softies, stray lined bait and even a peach coloured fly which imitates salmon berley. Every offering was inspected and snubbed! We obviously spoiled it with too much berley. I then remembered a trick that Milan and Nathan from the TV show ‘Big Angry Fish’ had shared at the boat show, which was to tie some very light trace off of the bend of your main hook and attach a bait to the light line, the idea being that the fish will wind up with the bigger hook in its mouth after swallowing the bait. I rigged up with a length of 4.5lb fluro attached to the bend of my main hook and put a tiny hook on there to catch a piper with, the piper was soon caught and once the kingfish recognised the struggling piper it did not hesitate to eat it. I waited and waited and waited with braid flowing out from the spool threw my fingers, shut the bail, wind, lift the rod! Dam! nobody home  guess I didn’t wait long enough or made the length of light line too long, great to know that it works, and a good trick to have up your sleeve for sure..

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The final day of work on the island and we were to catch the 1:30pm car ferry back to Auckland. We were working on a hillside that overlooked a shallow mudflat and as the tide came close to high in the morning I spotted a few grey mullet in the shallows using the polarized sunglasses I was wearing… later I heard a loud crash of water further back than I could see, I watched for a while and soon spotted a trio of kings around 12-15kg moving at speed. Awesome to see them in water less than waist deep, they looked like 3 chuckling school bullies who’d just given someone wedgies and were running away. About 10 minutes later they made another raid only just out of sight and my, we all got a good look at them before they sped away. One of those memorable sights that keep me fishing from the shoreline. Oh, how I wish I had a rod in my hand at that moment.

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