Spring has sprung and as the days lengthen, the weather improves and the soil dries, tradies around NZ become busier. Unfortunately, this spike in construction activity coincides with spring workup fever off the Northern coast, especially in the Hauraki Gulf.

But don’t fret if you don’t have the ‘5-knot clause’ in your contract, because if you can maximise your time out on the briny you can probably both get the jobs done on dry land and experience the reward of spring workup action.

Bite times

If you’ve only got a few hours to spare for your fishing trip, you really need to consider the factors influencing whether the fish will be on the chew or not. Dolphins, gannets and fish tend to be more active when the current is flowing, 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. It’s a widely held belief amongst seasoned workup anglers, no doubt based on years of experience, that workup activity intensifies 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 especially the full moon – a phenomenon experienced by many fishers and one of life’s biggest mysteries!
Numerous anglers also swear by ‘fishing calendars’ – most of which reflect the solunar calendar which considers the moon’s position relative to the earth.
Nevertheless, the very best way to predict the bite is knowing when the fish were on the bite in days prior to heading out – then adding on an hour for the progression of the daily tide cycle. Quite regularly the bite time can be painfully short and timing your fishing accordingly can make or break a trip.

Gannets feeding off Kawau Island last spring

Finding the action

In the current on-line climate, it’s certainly not hard to find out roughly where the workups have been happening. In saying that, fisherfolk tend to ‘inflate’ their trip reports and most are coy about exactly where and when the action was best, so take on-line information with a large grain of salt. If you’re limited in time or ability to cover miles, then you can’t afford to chase gannets this way and that when the workups are scattered and short-lived. 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. Although drifting too quickly is certainly a hindrance when you’re out there fishing the workups, on a calm day I recommend ditching the drogue – you’ll generally pass over more fish and your lures will be more appealing.

Brooke Hannah caught this modest kingfish speed-jigging around the workups

Other Tactics

• Pre-rig your gear at home, thinking about what depths and conditions you’ll be fishing in.
• Be greedy – drag a bait or lure such as a heavily-weighted softbait or kabura in the rod holder while you actively fish another rod
• Choose soft-baits with the most action on the drop, such as the Gulp! Crazy Legs, or split the tail in standard models to enhance movement
• Once you’ve had a couple of drops back down, wind the lure quickly right up to the top for another full deployment – the very best time to get a fish is just after the lure has hit the bottom on that first drop
• If the fishing isn’t hot, err on the side of smaller lures
• If it isn’t working then mix it up – try different lures, actions and speeds to try find what’s working on the day
• Find the ‘colour of the day’ – often the fish will prefer a certain paint job and this can change day-to-day
• If the fishing is cranking, target big fish with big lures
• Once the fish are on the bite, lures retrieved faster and brought higher up the water column can yield bigger specimens
• Slow-jig hooks are very small and easily pulled out of fish – reduce the pressure on them with a reasonably light drag setting and smooth action
• Have a stickbait set and a speedjig set ready to rumble as packs of kingfish are never far away from a good workup
• If you’re having trouble with kahawai, tie on heavier lures without fluttering actions to get down past the midwater kahawai schools
• Take the boat to your work site to enable a quick escape!

Article by: Nick Jones