Different Spring Options

Spring in the Hauraki Gulf is now well-known for two things: (1) intense work-up action and (2) the huge number of pushy Auckland boats fighting for space around them. Charter captain Nick Jones shares a few of his favourite spring fishing opportunities that you can pursue away from the crowds.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the classic northern NZ spring fishing option of chasing workups for snapper. But sometimes, especially on weekends in areas close to Auckland, it can all get a bit too busy out there. I find fishing in a crowd somewhat ruins the serenity and experience for me – that’s when having some different options up your sleeve can make for an interesting change of scenery and often a tasty end result! 

Gurnard

Let’s start off with the humble gurnard. Not too many people specifically target these succulent morsels, but early spring is the perfect time to find them in numbers close to shore on both the east and west coasts. The areas to find a good carrot patch at this time of year are sandy and muddy bottom areas either out from beaches or in west coast harbours. In the Manukau and Kaipara harbours, the gurnard can be prolific, and most anglers fish on the channel edges during the change of tide when the current slows down. 

Old school ledger rigs adorned with small shellfish or skipjack tuna baits, in combination with some berley attached to the anchor chain, work well. Sometimes it takes a while for the gurnard to congregate so don’t give up on a spot too soon. Drifting with soft-baits or kabura-style lures can also work, particularly off the east coast beaches where water clarity is better. 

Squid

While squid are regularly caught around urban shorelines and wharves under artificial light, it can be shoulder-to-shoulder at the more popular spots. Hence why I prefer prospecting sheltered rocky and weedy shorelines with a squid jig during the day. We are blessed with miles and miles of good territory accessible either by shanks pony or boat, and these strange critters like to hang out in groups over shallow kelp beds, so cast right up into the nooks and crannies. 

Once you’ve hooked one, odds on there will be more so make sure your mate casts into the same spot or you get your own lure back out there as quickly as possible. The duller, natural-coloured jigs (brown, dark green, dark purple etc) tend to work better during the day, but experiment with different sizes. A general rule of thumb is to use larger jigs like a 3.5 as we move through spring to match the growing size of squid over the season. 

John dory

Good numbers of john dory move into inshore reefs over spring and although they can be caught with lures such as soft-baits, they are suckers for a live jack mackerel deployed close to the bottom. Drifting or anchoring up over isolated reefs or headlands with baitfish present and fishing livies on or close to the bottom can yield a bag of the best eating fish around. 

Hapuku

Provided you pick your weather, spring is a great time to head out to the deep blue and harvest a few hapuku. They generally move in shallower to reefy areas from 80-200m and are getting ready for spawning, which means they can be easier to catch. The only trick is finding spot x – they often aren’t found on a chart! 

You can either hold the boat over a spot with the engine in-and-out of reverse or drift a likely area. Drifting means you cover more ground and gives more life to dead baits – however, it can be difficult to keep your bait in the strike-zone on the bottom if there is much current or wind. 

Topwater kingfish

Late spring is a great time to get up early (and by early I mean well before sunrise) and bust out the topwater fishing kit, with kings starting to hold over the shallower reefs. Look for areas of current, terns and gannets working, or on calm mornings, fish boiling on the surface. Generally, after a few casts you’ll know whether there are kings around, and if you’re getting follows but no strikes, try changing your lure, lure colour, and/or action. If this doesn’t work, move onto the next spot!

So there are a few options to wrap your brain around – don’t be afraid to try something different out there to miss the crowds.   

Article By: Nick Jones