B.O.P WINTER REPORT – RICK POLLOCK

Posted on 21 September 2013 by Lance Manins

Bay of Plenty Winter report

Home sweet home! While the glitter of everything that represents the Far North is considerable and inviting, it’s always good to return to home waters. By all accounts the fish haven’t been waiting for us and it’s been all go around here on most fronts over the past few weeks/months we’ve been away.

Inshore

Best snapper fishing in 30 years – that’s how it’s being regaled by some veteran skippers! Regardless of what depth, terrain or area one goes to, it seems limit fishing has been common. Even two (2) nautical miles north of Kohi Point, a usual haunt of gurnard, has been the scene of some hot snapper action – doesn’t get much closer or fuel efficient! Water has remained reasonably warm, which tends to keep the snaps from their annual movement into the depths. With the current cold snap that could finally be happening as you read this now. Otherwise plenty of fat kahawai and succulent gurnard to keep the catches somewhat diversified. Expect tarakihi to soon trade places with snapper to become the target species for hungry anglers.

Offshore

Not a huge amount of pressure out here as one would expect at this time of year. Big news continues to be day dropping for broadbill swordfish with more anglers getting in on the bonanza. Amazing how successful it’s been, even for the first time participants – great to see. A 194-kilo specimen came to the Whakatane scales recently, taken in a far different area than past catches – good to see the range of these fish and anglers wiling to experiment with new techniques in new areas.

Seems like the more traditional techniques have had mixed results of late. Kingies have received very little effort but can be surprisingly good at this time of year. Mayor Island has experienced some exceptional fishing for them recently so no reason to believe to won’t be the same at White.

Small bluenose dominate the deep scene and there’s every likelihood there are some XOS albacore around for those who might care to troll. Despite cool weather it can be a very rewarding trip to the smokey isle at this time.

On the negative side it’s been very disheartening to hear of regular visits by Callum Malloy onboard his vessel Rueben Jack recently. After not having this type of gillnetting pressure exerted at White for over two decades, it’s gut wrenching to see this Whitianga-based operation end up here regularly of late. While doing nothing illegal, this type of wholesale slaughter is a very nasty technique – a little like clear-felling a forest to get one type of tree. If you see this vessel in your travels you could voice your opinions of his methods of fishing!

Ranfurly Bank

Anytime you are heading out to the Bank, it’s an exciting prospect full of anticipation. When you have steady flights of gannets passing you enroute it only ups the tempo. We see this often in spring and summer, but mid-June?!  This is exactly what we experienced last weekend with literally hundreds of gannets passing by. Another anomaly was landing copious amounts of skippies in 18-degree purple water! Eventually we had to pull the lures in, as we couldn’t move 100 metres in the end without multiple strikes!

Finally, once up on the bank, we saw where all the gannets (and numerous other seabirds) were congregated – it looked like a battlefield. Kingies, mainly smallish fish, were feeding aggressively on the surface with hapless sauries being bundled up into meatballs! It was a stick-baiter’s dream! The only downside was size, as most were from rats to the mid-teens. Rotorua angler Dave Joy managed one fish at 30 kilos but otherwise we encountered little quality.

The bottomfishing was surprisingly quiet until we figured out the fish weren’t in their normal winter haunts. After all, with such warm water they are being fooled into thinking it’s anything but winter! Once we got away from trying traditional winter spots the hapuka came onboard in pleasing quantities. While the size was not great (namely 10-15kg but a couple nudging 30kg), the numbers were, including several double-headers. Interestingly their condition wasn’t uniformly good as one would expect as they normally fatten up leading into spawning – another anomaly, but then this season is full of them!

Looking forward to getting down there again soon. Can’t imagine skippies and 18-degree water next visit!

Summary

I always feel sorry for anglers who put their gear and aspirations into storage at this time of year. Obviously there’s plenty of opportunities to aspire to – you just need to rug up and choose your days wisely. Also the annual run of southern bluefin tuna and XOS albacore (some over 40kg!) that pass north of White later this winter is something to keep a sharp eye out for. There’s plenty to look forward to beyond an open fire and hot toddy!