Fishers snapping up the bay’s bounty
It’s been a subdued start to summer fishing in Tasman Bay, but there’s no need for boaties to sling their hooks.
According to weather forecasts, the best is yet to come.
As expected, snapper has appeared to be the most common catch among those venturing beyond The Cut in recent weeks.
Nelson-based fishing guru Troy Dando said slightly colder temperatures in Tasman Bay had meant a quieter than usual start to the season, particularly around the Boulder Bank, The Glen and Pepin Island.
Fishing spots between Rabbit Island and Motueka had remained bountiful, producing bigger fish up to nine kilograms at depths of 30 to 40 metres.
However, reports of sea temperatures up to 6 degrees C warmer than usual on the West Coast and predictions of an El Nino weather pattern suggested better days ahead for those keen to drop a line, Dando said.
‘‘The reports I’m getting from down there are pretty impressive . . . even up north they’re starting to get some yellowfin [tuna] because of the warmer seas, which is unheard of for this time of year.’’
Snapper spawn from October to February, when the water temperature is right, and usually return to the same spawning grounds each year. They are most abundant at depths of 15m to 60m but are found down to about 200m.
A prized catch due to its soft white meat and few bones, snapper are known to live to about 60 years and can grow to about 17kg or just over a metre long.
In November 1992, Kiwi angler Mark Hemingway set the All-Tackle world record for snapper with a massive 17.2kg fish landed in only 10 minutes off Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty.
As well as the usual abundance of snapper, Dando said there had been an increase in another goodeating fish species.
‘‘John Dory seems to be turning up on a lot of the commercial catches, which means that the recreational fishermen are getting a bonus out there as well.
‘‘They tend to go for live bait, so anyone using a slow jig, which is almost the same thing, are picking them up mid-bay.’’
Formerly of Christchurch, Nelson fisherman Darryn Hopkins caught his first snapper off Haulashore Island as a child.
Now, using standard rods and a longline, he said he had enjoyed several good trips off the Mapua coast in recent weeks, collecting some snapper with wife Emma and friend Kris Cumpthorne before heading out a bit deeper to catch a few gurnard.
‘‘The funny thing is, about five or six years ago I bought a boat from up here to take back down to Christchurch, but the guy that I bought the boat from left all his spots on the GPS – so credit to him that we are doing good.
‘‘The last three or four years have been awesome – it’s changed heaps, and you’re getting some good-sized fish these days,’’ he said.
Snapper bag limits for the Challenger area, which includes Tasman Bay and Golden Bay, are 10 per person per day, with a minimum length of 25cm. A sub-limit of three can be taken from the Marlborough Sounds Area.
However, catching small fry does not seem to be an issue for Hopkins and his crew. ‘‘We haven’t caught a fish that we’ve had to throw back yet, and that’s with me making our boat limit 35cm – anything smaller than that, there’s no point.’’
Warmer sea temperatures could mean good snapper catches in Tasman Bay this summer.