Location: Great Barrier Island
Technique: Bait, Soft Bait, Top Water
Words By: Nick Jones
Photos By: Ben Starns
They say an early riser wakes up his own luck, and as the lads assembled at Westhaven Marina in Auckland at 3.30 am we were all hoping this proverb would ring true. A plan had been hatched by a bunch of very salty chaps to do a spot of landbased fishing on a remote piece of coast bordering Great Barrier Island in the outer Hauraki Gulf. After a small detour to pick up the ‘Waihetian’ Tony from Matiatia, we were underway – George guiding us northwards through the darkness.
We arrived at our chosen destination with just enough light to scope out a safe landing spot on the rocks. The dinghy was hoisted over the side and the loading operation began – only to be interrupted with a singing reel. Ben had cast out a softbait, selfishly, and snagged a nice snapper! With the first fish under our belt, we got back to the plan of landing ourselves and our bristling packs on the bricks. About 20kg of burley was lugged ashore too, and it wasn’t long before an oily slick was trailing out in the current towards the rising sun.
Lures being the primary weapons of choice, we rigged up our topwater and softbait sets with great anticipation. Stickbaits were deployed, Mike obviously using his own fine creations, but to no avail. However, the lack of kingfish was barely a concern as Tony was already hooked up to a fat snapper that had engulfed his softbait.
What ensued was an amazing session catching innumerable 5 – 12-pound snapper on softies thrown in all directions. At times, the burley trail resembled an aquarium – packs of hungry snapper mooching around below iridescent blue maomao, and the occasional marauding kahawai and rat kingfish. Sight-fishing for snapper is an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often, and we made the most of it.
As good as the fishing was, I’d brought along my freediving gear so suited up and jumped into the crystal-clear water. There were a few small crayfish about, but my attention was drawn to the ‘black gold’ hiding under the cracks and boulders. A bag of fat paua for the crew was well worth the effort!
On my return, the bite had slowed considerably, and the chaps were trying out a few different snapper techniques. Tony and Aaron were hoisting out some fresh maomao and kahawai baits, and Mike a sinking stick bait. Both methods drew success before we decided to conduct a last hurrah with our remaining burley supply. Again, we drew in big snapper right to our feet and the Daiwa reels were screaming once more.
Alas, our time on the rocks quickly came to an end and we all enjoyed a well-deserved Moa beer upon our return to the boat. The icing on the cake was bumping into a pod of orca whales hunting the shore for stingray on the trip home – a majestic sight as we all reflected on our epic day.