Catching snapper from shore on Softbaits.
Author: Michael Jenkins (MJ)
I’ve recently made a career change which sees me working on the Hauraki islands for up to a week at a time. Last week we were stationed on Rakino Island, and each day after the work was done me and my workmate Andrew went rock fishing with Zman soft baits. I’d never been to Rakino before so day 1 saw us scouting about for a good spot, there was a howling westerly and the 1st location saw us casting into that wind. We got a few bites when we could get beyond the discoloured water, but soon grew tired of big bellies in the line and decided to move . 2nd location looked better and put the wind at our back, my 1st retrieve resulted in a just legal pannie on a 4” padlerZ in ‘opening night’ which I released and Andrew hooked up on a 4” curly tail in electric chicken just as I landed that fish.
We thought we were in, but it was short lived and the fishing slowed, Andrew scored 2 more for the table plus a couple of throwbacks and I found things a bit tough. During work on day 2 we spotted some access down a steep face to some better looking rocks and went exploring as soon as work was done. This spot was in the lea of the wind and the water was deeper and much cleaner. After a few initial casts proved fruitless Andrew decided to check out another finger of rocks nearby. I opted to stay put as I’d mashed a couple of pilchards up for berley and had figured out the lay of the spot by dragging my softbait around with 20lb braid and 30lb leader. That made me confident enough to drop down to 6kg braid, 15lb leader, 1/4oz jighead, onto that setup I put my favourite dusk time softie the Zman curly tail in coconut ice and gave it a squirt of pilchard flavoured secret sauce, I like this softie for low light as the pink stands out and the white belly is luminescent. 1st cast hit the water, I shut the bail-arm immediately, wound in the slack and kept tension in the line to make the bait swim down, arcing on the end of the line, it would have been nearing the bottom when it got wholloped! A nervous fight on light line ensued, I didn’t gain any line for a sometime and kept expecting to feel the line hit the rocks/weeds at any moment, the fish lost its initial gusto and by applying as much pressure as I dared and keeping the rod nice and high it was kept high in the water column on the way in. Following a careful net-less solo landing, the fish was secured, a nice 54cm snapper, stoked! That’d keep the crew well fed.
Over on the other rock Andrew was getting into some fish too and even managed to watch as a nice pannie shot out from the kelp at his feet and nail the lure in full view. I scored a couple more pan-sized fish myself and that was it, done and dusted, the rest of our team very happy to see the fresh seafood supply stocked up. Day 3 we returned to the same place and without any pressure to score food for the table, we had a bit of myth busting on our minds and spread the frames and heads from the previous days catch to see how this affected things, as it’s said to put the snapper off of feeding when they smell/see their own kind dead in the water; the result was not a single bite from snapper in that area which had been productive the day before, so we went exploring and found another spot, this time with more depth and current. I could barely make out the structure with my polarized glasses but could see prominent kelp covered rock poking up into the current. I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend who spear-fishes about where snapper and fish in general tend to congregate in weed-line environments. One of his answers was in areas of current just ahead of structure where there is a bit of slack water, food gets swept along in front and there’s structure in behind for protection for predators coming in on their blindspot. So not surprisingly I got 2 fish in 3 casts by working that area without a scrap of berly to attract/excite the fish. Once again it was on the same coconut ice curly tail and 1/4oz jighead, a couple more were landed before home-time, and all of them released. 4th and final day the cold wind finally dropped away and we had the whole island to choose from, I wanted to ‘go big’ and try for a king on popper/stickbait at the same location with the good current and depth available. I spent 2.5 hours plugging away for nothing more than a couple of kahawai follows. There were patches of kahawai/anchovy/tern workups spread all around the place, getting closer and closer till eventually they were hard against the rocks. I cast a popper around the edges in case there were any kings in attendance, then got a bit of shonky footage:
After the fun and excitement of the near-shore workup I switched back to light line/trace to chase snapper but with a heavier 3/8 oz. jighead to really get down and the same faithful coconut ice curly tail bait. Scored a nice eater and a couple of throw backs, and then decided to work on a bit of sight-fishing fun. I put the rod down, cubed up the ½ a skipjack tuna we had and began tossing the cubes in one by one, soon enough the 1st snapper arrived, followed by another and another then a couple more, all were eating sized fish around the early 30’s in length. Andrew set to work tempting them, whilst I kept patiently cubing keeping them interested until a better fish that looked over 40cm arrived and I couldn’t standing watching them any longer. 1st cast I didn’t quiet hit the right spot and had to retrieve a bit fast to avoid snagging, 2nd cast was better placed and was able to swim the bait down low into the rock-gut letting it sink without winding and slowly lowering the rod tip to get it right down just beyond sight…. *tap* *tap*… wait a sec.. STRIKE! Woohoo! Into it! Was a tricky fight in confined space on light line and I was doing all I could to turn the fish and contain it’s flurried runs. The fish kept angling towards a particular 2 foot wide gap in the rocks and if had it got there I woulda been toast! Thankfully it didn’t quite make it, one of those rare times I was glad the fish wasn’t bigger haha! A great scrap from a 45cm fish. A visual fight on light line in difficult terrain can really turn an ordinary sized fish into a memorable one. A great trip and if any rock fishers out there get a chance to explore Rakino Island, take that opportunity! We were limited a bit by the wind on days 1,2 and 3 but still had plenty of options available, for those with boat/kayak access there is even more rock fishing potential with all the mini islands within 30m of the main island.
Heres a video we made last year about Soft baiting from the rocks with Paul Smith from Active Angling.
Thanks for taking a look
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