PRIMAL INSTINCT by PAUL SENIOR
When the winds are calm, the sun is shining and its good conditions for gathering food a powerful extinct comes over me and my fishing peers to get out on the water and fish. We find ourselves doing things we would not normally do, asking favors of people we would not normally ask and putting the task of gathering food for our families at the top of a list, that may include very important tasks that get brushed aside. Whasts going on here I often wonder what is this urge I feel . I must go fishing, sometimes at large costs, it must be done. I do not feel this strong urge any other times, only when the conditions are right for gathering food. Maybe it’s a primal instinct that has remained with us throughout history and runs deep in our sub conscious mind.
I found myself in this situation recently. I had just come back from an overseas holiday and I was well rested and ready for work and looking forward to it. Then I started hearing rumors around town, the fishing is hot, the big spring males are here, there’s decent work ups all over the show. Then I spoke to Nick Dobbyn from Sand spit charters who told me he knew where there were schools of snapper up to 20 lbs and they were on the chew. That is when I started to feel it, a deep sense of needing to go fishing, it was happening again. My mind started playing tricks on me, a little voice inside my head starts saying, you must take these opportunities, life is to short enjoy yourself, and the weather is perfect it might be the only chance you get for the next few weeks, work can wait. I became intoxicated by my thoughts and all the responsibilities I had for the next few days seem to be washed away and forgotten.
After a restless night of lying awake, planning and arranging tasks and times in my head morning finally arrived and I could start to put the well thought out plans in to action. I had a plan for most scenarios including back up plans and more back up plans. The first text to a fishing mate came back as a negative reply, so it was on to plan b, which was a call to a good mate with a boat to advise him of the window of opportunity that lay ahead for the day. His reply was I will call you back. That was not a good enough plan I needed to know now as I did not want to waste time on the next plan, which was a call to Nick at Sand spit fishing charters which went something like, hey mate you keen, yep was his answer, awesome was my reply. A plan was hatched we were to meet at sandpit wharf to go and chase down some big snapper. I quick call back to my mate from plan B and he decided on the spot that he did not want to miss out on our window of opportunity either.
We were off, three of us to sandspit wharf with our normally arsenal of lures and tackle for catching snapper on artificial lures. When we were just about there I had a moment of being back in the real world and realized and was supposed to be going for an early dinner at my parents house, oh no I had totally forgotten, I blamed my ancestors primal past for this and a quick phone call had it all sorted out.
We arrived at Sandspit wharf to be greeted by Nick who was ready for a speedy departure and we were soon off to the recent killing fields
We did not have to go far and soon enough the first sign of action were the tell tale signs of baitfish hanging out in the bottom third of the water column. I often notice that around the edges of an action area there a splattering of baitfish showing on the sounder. WE kept going and soon found a few gannets circling and more baitfish sign of the sounder including the wavy up and down bunches of sign we sometimes see and I reckon these are pilchard’s schools cruising around. The marks are not dense but it’s good to know they are there. Three of us had rigged up with my current go to lure which is Ocean Anglers Jitterbug lure. One angler rigged a Zman electric chicken jerk shad on a jig head. We started to fish. Jitterbug technique for me is now a drop to the bottom and a very slow wind up then drop down. We were getting a few pannies size snapper, interesting the best technique was to leave the lure still on the bottom after the initial drop it was working the best. Nick pointed this out and I could tell he was a keen preacher of the super slow technique for fishing jitterbugs. I have said it before Believe the best way to fish these lures is slow. If you’re not catching slow down your technique and realize most fish come from the first initial drop, there should be plenty of winding all the way to the top to repeat the fall all the way through the water column. Mike was fishing a jig head/ jerk shad combo and seemed to be getting slightly larger fish than we were. He was using the drop and drag technique. It was slack tide and we all sensed that when the tide started to run this place had enough bait and snapper sign that it should go off. The tide started and the whole area started to come to life. The gannets started to show up and the pilchard sign was coming up off the bottom and started showing up us large dense masses near the surface, when you notice this happening on your sounder take note that something has disturbed the bait schools and is driving them up to the surface, much like being backed up against a brick wall as to make the baitfish easy to catch. I also start to adapt my technique and visualize snapper coming up off the bottom chasing down baitfish, and I believe on this day the snapper were rounding up the schools of pilchards as there were no dolphins or whales in the area, although there were a few Kahawai around I don’t reckon there were enough to round up the pilchards, I have seen it before snapper rounding up enough pilchards to get the gannets going.
Now the tide was starting to kick in well. I noticed Nick changed to a rig that used to be our go to work up style lure, which is a 4oz Cyclops with a 6” Zman PaddlerZ, and yes it still works very well and will often sucker the larger fish out of the school and today was no different, the change to a bigger baitfish style rig started to produce better snapper. Then Geoff was in to a good fish, Geoff background is fly fishing and he is one of those guys who loves to fish super light gear, he hollered out to us hope my 10lb fluorocarbon holds out, we all cracked up as he was getting smokes on his light gear with super light drag setting. Geoff played the fish with a look of this may end in disaster written all over his face for 15 minutes or so. Then up pops a nice 7 kilo snapper, nice one Geoff the first thing I noticed is he had swapped over to a Cyclops/Swimmers combo as well. Just for the record we were out with Nick from Sanspit charters on his day off so he was fishing with us, whom he does not normally, do with clients onboard. Anyway if you do happen to fish next to a Charter Captain I highly recommend you use what he is using. Charter Captains know what lures work and what don’t and they will usually have on a very good lure for the situation you are fishing in.
Next we drifted down a contour line stacked with bait and gannets diving all over. This drift was to be different, we had struck gold, first I hooked up on a blue 80g Jitterbug and it was one of those fish that just felt like a big dead weight, they then come alive and you can fell their tails beating, when the tail starts to beat you can sometimes tell how big the fish is by how long it takes to bet its tail from side to side or the length in time between the tell tale nod nods on your fishing rod when fighting a good snapper. This beat was heavy and slow I knew it was a beauty snapper. Which I fought for a good 10 minutes before it popped the hooks, a gut wrenching moment. Now the Jitterbugs were flavor of the day and in particular the blue/silver color, it was catching much more than the other colors and the size was much bigger. It was all go triple and quadruple hook ups on big spring snapper up to 8KG. Laughter, hollers hoots and yee haas has filled the air we all knew this was a special 30 minutes of snapper fishing. It usually happens early spring for a couple of weeks, and we were lucky enough to be present. Our families were going to be well feed tonight and I knew a good night’s sleep was in store for me. That sense of arriving home with food for the whanu is a good one. My plan had come together, was it worth all the effort to get there, I don’t need to answer that one.