Cap’t Swish shows you how to ex­plore all your sum­mer op­tions

New Zealand Fishing World - - Features Contents - BRUCE DUNCAN Story and pho­to­graphs by Bruce Duncan

All too of­ten we head out on the wa­ter overly fo­cussed on an in­stant out­come; time is al­ways short af­ter all. But come the hol­i­days, we can kick back and enjoy the whole day with no pres­sure to be back at any par­tic­u­lar time. It’s times like th­ese I like to try new things out, such as catching my bait, live bait­ing for king­fish or John dory, or gath­er­ing a feed of pipis.

Bet­ter bait

Hav­ing spent many Xmas hol­i­days at Whananaki on the east North­land coast, I found over the years catching your own bait is a bet­ter op­tion than us­ing frozen. ‘Fresh is al­ways best’, plus it’s a great way of keep­ing your­self and the kids en­ter­tained. Wher­ever I go for a hol­i­day I make a point to take a walk along the beach at low tide in an­kle deep wa­ter, to see if there are pipis, cock­les or even tu­at­uas be­low the sand - not only the nat­u­ral food of snap­per but also great eat­ing and the key in­gre­di­ent for my se­cret berley.

With a sup­ply of fresh sprats and piper and shell­fish, I chop up a pile of bait fish into small pieces while steaming the pipis - half to eat and half for bait. The ones I will use for

ground bait I leave in the shell putting them into the bucket with the ground bait to suck up the juices, which adds more scent when tossed in the wa­ter. I also add to the mix any old bread, fish frames [bro­ken up] along with fish oil all of which will dis­perse in dif­fer­ent ways as it sinks help­ing to give as big as cov­er­age of the tar­get area you are fish­ing as pos­si­ble.

The rea­sons for leav­ing the pipis in the shell is they sink more quickly, plus snap­per need to be more ag­gres­sive when ex­tract­ing the meat which at­tracts other snap­per close by.

Fish your feet

Fish­ing from or close to the shore is where the term ‘fish your feet’ comes from. This is where the year­long food

source is and very of­ten over the sum­mer months tar­get­ing fish where they nat­u­rally feed will be more pro­duc­tive than head­ing off over the hori­zon.

Fish­ing from a boat close in to a pop­u­lar beach in very shal­low wa­ter may seem a bit odd and most peo­ple would never think of try­ing it. But I can as­sure you, more times than not, af­ter only a few hours I have come back to the ramp with all the fish I need. You just need to ap­proach it the right way.

Walk the leg­nth of the beach at low tide, in an­kle deep wa­ter, to gather bait. As you are col­lect­ing shell fish look around in the shal­low wa­ter for signs of bait fish such as pier and sprats, as

well as for holes in the sand as th­ese will have been made by snap­per com­ing in to feed on the shell­fish. When all the signs are there you not only know where to tar­get the snap­per, you also have shell­fish for the ta­ble and berley.

The best time to tar­get ar­eas like this is on a ris­ing tide at the change of light, ei­ther early dawn or late dusk when the fish come in to feed with the tide. If you’re fish­ing on an out­go­ing tide you need to an­chor fur­ther out in slightly deeper wa­ter as the fish will move back deeper as the tide drops.

On more re­mote beaches where there might be a bit of a ground swell or surf, so long as the con­di­tions al­low you to safely an­chor and fish, I an­chor the boat in a po­si­tion which al­lows me to cast the baits so they land just where the waves start to form off the beach.

With a sup­ply of fresh sprats and piper and shell­fish, I chop up a pile of bait fish into small pieces while steaming the pipis - half to eat and half for bait

As the waves crash on a beach the sand is churned up on the bot­tom ex­pos­ing the worms and shell­fish.

Ac­tion time

Lin­ing up the land marks on the part of the beach you wish to fish, go down cur­rent a few hun­dred me­ters and start toss­ing a bit of ground bait /shell­fish berly mix­ture over the side ev­ery twenty me­tres or so. This pro­vides a wide area of pre laid berley to at­tract the fish. You still need to add to the berly trail to max­imise its ef­fect with a con­sis­tent flow as it will slowly be taken by the cur­rent to the same tar­get zone of the pre laid shell­fish berley.

When fish­ing in only a few me­ters of wa­ter there may be lit­tle cur­rent so it is im­per­a­tive you cast your baits as far back from the boat into the berley trail as pos­si­ble. Straylining is best as ledger or run­ning rigs do not work in shal­low wa­ter. Fish­ing so shal­low, of­ten only 2-3 me­ters deep, means you will not need a sinker un­less you are close to an es­tu­ary or head­land where there will be cur­rent. If needed, a ¼ oz sinker will get the bait down to the bot­tom. The more nat­u­ral look­ing a bait that slowly floats down and drift sa­long the bot­tom, the more likely it is to be eaten.

Un­til the fish really come on the bite, use smaller baits then up-size to a whole piper or but­ter­flied sprat or Jack mack­erel. Slowly the snap­per will be drawn by the berley to­wards the boat so you need to be cast­ing one of the baits di­rectly be­hind the boat and the other out at a dif­fer­ent an­gle. The rea­son for this tech­nique is to al­low for the long-shore cur­rent to drag the bait slowly par­al­lel to the beach.

Beware the big fish

By keep­ing the tips of the rods down low and point­ing them in the di­rec­tion of the mono in the wa­ter you will be able to eas­ily see any line move­ment and feel ev­ery bite. When a fish has picked up a bait and the line has come up tight on the reel, strike hard and keep the rod tip high so the fish can’t spit the hook. In very shal­low wa­ter big fish put up a hell of a fight and all the com­mo­tion will ac­tu­ally at­tract other fish close by. As they ar­rive they will find the opened pipis and ground bait, as­sume the big fish's ac­tiv­ity has caused this bounty of food and stay in the area to feed.

A berley trail will also at­tract bait fish to the boat and it’s worth catching them as even though you are in shal­low wa­ter close to a beach, preda­tors such as king­fish and John dory are likely to turn up given enough time. Most of the big (10kg plus) snap­per and king­fish I have caught in my life have come from less than three me­ters of wa­ter, just off lo­cal beaches and in places where you never think big fish would be.

Try­ing out new tac­tics in dif­fer­ent sur­round­ings will of­ten re­sult in some of the most re­ward­ing fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ences you get in life. As good as it is to head over the hori­zon out to sea, just sit­ting close to shore with fam­ily and friends, watch­ing the sun­set with a few nice snap­per in the fish bin is what life’s all about.

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