Winter Strayline: The Key to Success

Author: Michael Walkley





So over the last few months the regular call from my fishing peers, is that winter fishing is hard. Well, I assure you it’s not, in fact winter stray lining sessions can be magical.

All you need is three main elements and a lot of patience.

The main thing you need to look out is the current. The more current  the better. Position yourself along some structure with the stern of your boat facing towards a reef or some low lying foul, be it a shallow mussel reef or a worm bed. Look for 10m or less for the best results. Pump a lot of burley, up to 10kg or more in a single session. The burly will draw fish to the boat, and hopefully a feeding frenzy will start.

Structure is important.

This fish will be localized over an area of foul and they won’t travel far in the colder winter months, die to the drop in there metabolic rate. Use this to your advantage and scout the area quietly before dropping the pin. Look for areas of dense weed banks and structure and aim the flow of burly into these likely looking areas.

You also need to look for a natural food source for the fish to be in an area. Muscles and worm beds are common in the Hauraki Gulf and further south into the Firth of Thames . Around those areas, you will find bait fish – Mackerel, Piper and the ever more present Squid. These all make up key items in a snappers diet, find the food and the snapper will be close by.

Once these three elements have aligned and the fish gods are in your favor, it’s time to get rigged and ready.


Firstly is the bait selection. Now the saying goes “match the hatch“. Personally one of my favorites is  Mackerel slabs and now also Squid as I have become somewhat of a Squid fishermen which means I have a ready supply of fresh Squid. Commercially sold Tuna and Pilchards  can also be hot baits but nothing in my opinion beats a fresh caught slab bait. If you want the bait to look natural, use the whole baits or cut them on an angle so that all blood and guts are exposed.

Winter snapper are cunning, and can be very fussy you need good bait rigged well, if it spins or looks un-natural you will greatly reduce your chances of catching a big one.

Now for your rig, which can vary between fishermen. I prefer to use braid, 20lb is  ample and I match it with a 40lb leader. As those big moochers have some serious dental work and it can snap a lighter gear in seconds. If you are using mono go 10kg and match it with a 40lb leader.


Hook size can be a big difference between hooking up and missing the bite. 6/0 seems like a good all-rounder and circle hooks can be your best friend in these scenarios. If you want the hook point is to be exposed as possible, you will increase your chances of a good hookup rate.

Weight is dependent on current. Rule of thumb is use the lightest sinker you can to ensure your bait reaches the sea floor, you want it to drift down the burly trial as naturally as possible, which means sometimes in the shallows you will not even need a weight. If you do start with a 1/4 ounce and go up until you feel comfortable that your reaching the bottom.

When it comes to Rod and Reel I prefer overhead

I use a pair of Shimano Trynos reels for my stray line sessions. Match on T-Curve rods which is just a choice I’ve made and I’m very happy with the results. But, the choice is yours and use what you feel comfortable with.


So, at the end of the day winter fishing isn’t hard. You’ve just got to be a lot more cunning on those big old moochers.

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