Big Snapper off the Rocks

A successful fishing mission usually starts out with a solid plan, and while I was waiting for Mateo and watching the sun rise over Medland’s Beach on a beautiful morning on Great Barrier Island I anticipated that we were in for a treat today.

Mateo had contacted me through BENIsLAND a few days earlier and since he seemed very keen (about fishing) and was heading to the Barrier, we arranged to hook up and go for a serious fish off the rocks.

Apropos plan, since I arrived a bit earlier at our meeting point, I had a few minutes on my own, watching the fog rise, and appreciated the fact that the conditions were just ideal today. The plan was to fish the last 2-3 hours of the outgoing tide, there was hardly any wind, no noticeable swell, which meant that one of my favourite spots on the east coast was accessible. We had a nice selection of frozen bait, squid, bonito, kahawai and a big berley bomb.

After a bit of a meet and greet, we had our packs shouldered and were hiking on an idyllic Great Barrier Island morning around the shore line, over some big boulders, and were on our way to a cluster of large ledges.

I was hoping to do some king fishing today and was all geared up for it. We deployed the berley and started fishing. A berley trail was dispensing very nicely but there was no sign of any bait fish. Well, sometimes you just have to wait for it…

So we waited, 30 minutes and all we had hooked up were some tiny, tiny snapper. But you have got to trust the berley, sometimes it just takes up to an hour until the kahawai show up. Well, an hour had passed and we still hadn’t seen a kahawai.

Suddenly, Mateo hooked up on something bigish. He turned the drag up a couple of notches, the rod was bent over hard and he seemed to be hooked onto something big. Unfortunately, the fish ‘spat’ the hook moments later and we will never know what took that bait.

Hmm, it was looking promising now. There were a dozen blue maomao, a couple sweep, a few leather jacket and of course the usual suspect, the bloody hiwihiwi, or ngapoipoi (the kelp fish) in the berley trail. But still no sign of kahawai though and we really were keen on sending a live bait out today.

However, we started hooking into 35+cm snapper and I knew that the fishing will only get better now. The berley was doing its magic and the tide was also on our side. Mateo hooked yet again into something decent. This time he could stay on top of the fish and reeled in a nice 4-5 pound snapper. Wooohooo, a great effort, a great fish and, yes, things were picking up clearly.

Now it was my turn, I was standing on an elevated position and fighting and playing this snapper. ‘Keep turning the head, keep that pressure on; oooh there is some nice colour, that is a nice fish, don’t lose it now, bring it in slowly, decrease the drag, get that leader around your hand’ and, Kabooom, another 5 poundish fish landed and stored in a deep rock pool.

The fishing turned simply awesome. The small snapper seemed to leave us alone, we only hooked into decent snapper. One after the other. I noticed that the bigger snapper seemed to be a bit further out and that they just went crazy for any oily bait. They loved the bonito.

I cast two slim strips of bonito far out and they got hammered near the surface. The reel screamed a few meters of line out, before I increased the drag significantly and stopped a running fish. Keeping the pressure on and turning its head are the key factors in landing big snapper off the rocks.

This one was close to 8 lbs. Our rock pool was stocked up with some decent snapper by now, yet I was still hoping that Mateo would hook into another big one, something with double digits…

Well, there was certainly no shortage of big snapper today, as we kept on getting decent takes and hookups. Mateo hooked into another big moocher and had a solid fight going on for a couple of minutes before the fish ‘spat’ the hook again. Unfortunately, he lost two big ones today, but in a good way, you know, the line didn’t break, the fish were lost ‘clean’. Losing a fish cleanly is not the nicest feeling, but it gets any angler very excited and eager to land the next one. Fish that get away are so exciting, what was it?, how big was it?, why did I lose it?, what should I have done?, what could I have done?, what did I so? and what will I do differently next time?

We never got a chance of seeing the colour of the big ones that got away today, we never saw or hooked a kahawai either, which meant that we didn’t have any go at targeting kingfish with a live bait under a balloon, but we had an awesome day. Landed heaps of decent snapper, released plenty of fish around the 40 cm mark and not doubt, Mateo is hooked on land based fishing on Great Barrier Island and will certainly dedicate another day on the rocks before he flies back to Auckland.