Chasing workups can often be an incredibly exciting and rewarding way to catch fish at this time of year. But, like many styles of fishing, it can also sometimes be an expensive and frustrating way to fish. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to maximise your precious time out there while chasing those gannets around.

Planning before your trip

To make the most of your trip, you really need to consider the factors that influence whether the fish will be on the chew or not. Dolphins, gannets, and fish tend to be more active when the tide is running, and often you’ll find the fish feeding hard in the last hour or so before the slow period of inactivity over a tide change.

There’s also a general trend for workup activity to intensify in the days leading up to both the new and the full moon. But beware, the fishing can sometimes be horrendous right on the new or full moon – a mysterious wonder of the fishing world! Many anglers swear by ‘fishing calendars’ – most of which reflect the solunar calendar, which considers the moon’s position relative to the earth. In the Hauraki Gulf, the solunar ‘bite time’ begins two hours before low tide.

But the most important thing is knowing where the action is happening. Spread out your feelers into your online, work, and personal connections, but always be wary of online reports that may be inflated or outdated!

Big snapper hunt under the workups in spring

Finding the action on the day

To find the workups you must find the gannets. Through spring they feed in workups daily because the survival of their fledglings depends on it. It can be helpful to start your day close to a gannet colony so you can see which way the birds are going. Generally, you will find most birds heading in a similar direction and they will lead you to action sooner or later. If the birds are high in the air and circling that means they’ve found some bait or dolphins, whereas if they are flying low to the water –in a straight line – they have seen action and are using their precious energy to get there as quickly as possible. If they are flying in a winding path they may just be cruising and following them can lead to an eye-watering fuel bill!

Dolphins work in tandem with gannets and are a welcome sight. Similarly, bryde’s whales, of which around 50 seasonally reside in the Hauraki Gulf, are a tell-tale sign that you’re in the right area.

Binoculars are a very useful tool for finding distant workups, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a bird radar on your vessel, well, you’re cheating! Once you’ve found some action and begun fishing, don’t ignore your surroundings as the birds can fly out of sight towards better action very quickly.

A classic spring scene – gannets working north of Waiheke Island

Fishing tactics

Generally, if you’re fishing next to diving birds it will be hard not to hook-up! If you want to avoid the sometimes pesty kahawai and target better fish, then heavier lures can help target the bigger snapper and kingfish. Having a speed-jig or livebait set ready to go can also make you the hero of the day if a school of kingfish suddenly turn up.

However, if the workups aren’t intense then you might need to try a few different lures, colours, or actions to entice the fish. Personally, I prefer to use smaller lures when the fishing is slow, such as micro-jigs, small soft-baits or slider-style lures under 100g. If you can’t find any workups at all, don’t fret. On these days doing long drifts in the general area is your best bet. The fish will be there and having your gear in the water means you have the best change of snagging them.

Looking after the resource

It’s easy to get carried away when the workup fishing is hot, but please consider that it’s not appropriate to practice catch and release for snapper from the standard workup depths of 30-50m. This is due to barotrauma, which is caused by the change in pressure expanding the swim bladder of bottom-dwelling fish to such a degree that it causes fatal damage to their internal organs. Catch the snapper that you want to take home, and then target kingfish or cruise into a bay for a couple of refreshments. Cheers to that!