Category Archives: Lemonfish

So that was summer…….

As usual its been a while since I’ve logged in here, and even now I don’t really have anything startling to write. Summer fishing locally around Napier has seen an improvement in catches of Snapper over previous years. There are a few theories as to why this may have happened, one being the tentative agreement between recreational and commercial fishers to ease off on the snapper trawling between December and February out at the ‘springs’ offshore from Napier.
Whatever the reason or cause of the comparative abundance, for the first time in many years the surfcasters of the area have had better odds of catching Snapper.

A good mate of mine who is by any measure a surfcasting ‘guru’ and constantly astounds the rest of us mere mortals with his catches, stated it was the first time in memory that he has been able to catch is limit of 10 in one day here in Napier.  Most of the time 10 fish per season from Napier beaches would be considered an epic catch. To get the legal limit of 10 is absolutely unheard of.
I even managed to catch a couple myself which is nothing short of miraculous..

Baby Hammers are a reasonably common bycatch

I haven’t ventured away as much as I would have liked during the summer due to work commitments and budgetary constraints. I did however manage a trip to Mohaka where I bagged a couple of good Smoothhounds, one weighing in at 11kg wet and 7.5 trunked.

One of the smaller Smoothhounds

I had planned a trip to the far north, (this week actually) but things conspired against me and unforseen problems soaked up the holiday money before I could get there, so that will need to wait another year.

We had a friend visiting from USA and she wanted to do some fishing, so we drove to Whakaki to find clean water (it was muddy locally)
Whakaki is a very steep shingle beach with deep water in close. She was at he waters edge waiting to cast when a large wave came through and the back wash dragged her into the trough.
I was baiting up, looked across to see he disappearing into the waves.
I sprinted in and got hold of her but the next wave got us both and we ended up both under water.  I managed to get to my feet, grab her and drag towards the beach out of big wave range both of us spitting up water and snot. The rod and reel was lost. I caught my breath finally and grabbed my nearest rod, cast in to where she had been and slowly dragged the rig ashore a few times.
Eventually the sinker wires hooked in a ring on the lost rod and I got that back.
After we had got ourselves together and resumed fishing, Tracy caught a small eagle ray, while I was trying to unhook it I got barbed in the back of my left hand.
I’ve caught and released dozens of rays, some up to 50kg so it was just sheer complacency and entirely my own fault that it managed to stick me. It was incredibly painful and bled like crazy. My hand swelled up like a blown up glove and that and the pain forced an end to our trip.
We both lost our glasses (mine were $750 prescription polarised sunglasses) she also lost her hearing aids, but in the end none of that matters, we were just happy to get home alive.

Mohaka Sunset



Winter fare is not all bad.

In some ways winter fishing around Napier beaches can be more productive than summer. The species caught are often thought of as less desirable by some, but getting something, anything, on the line is still better than hours and hours of soaking bait with no result.
In the hight of summer, December-January-February, there is very little in the way of fish for the surfcaster to catch around Napier. With the exception of Kingfish around the river mouths, the place is pretty dead over mid summer.

Barracouta are one of the few nuisance fish we get in Winter

Barracouta are one of the few nuisance fish we get in Winter

In winter the main catch around here is Red Cod, along with Barracouta and if you have the right bait, Spotted Smooth Hound. Of course the good old Kahawai do make appearances during winter as well, especially around the river mouths.

Many people would consider all of the winter species mentioned above as “rubbish fish” and only fit for cat food. While I agree with that sentiment in regards to Barracouta, the others are quite edible if treated correctly when you catch them

Red Cod need to be processed immediately upon capture

Red Cod need to be processed immediately upon capture

Like Smooth Hounds, Red Cod need to be cleaned as soon as they are landed.
Quickly scale the fish, remove the head and guts including the black rib-cage lining. Put the body of the cleaned fish into a bucket of clean, cold, salt water and leave it there until you are ready to head home. I transfer them to the chillybin only when I’m read to head home.
Once home put the cod body in the fridge whole and leave it overnight before filleting it. This allows the flesh to ‘set’ and become firmer and easier to fillet.
Leaving the fillets in the fridge for another day, or at least a few more hours will firm them up  even more, ready for batter and fry pan. Done this way I actually prefer the taste of cod to both Kahawai and Smooth Hound.
However, if you just dump your Red Cod into the fish bin when you catch it, the nasty gut contents and body slime will penetrate the taste of the fish..

This Spiney Dogfish attacked a Red Cod that had swallowed the hook. In biting out the belly of the fish it managed to hook itself on the same hook.

This Spiney Dogfish attacked a Red Cod that had swallowed the hook. In biting out the belly of the fish it managed to hook itself on the same hook.

Winter fishing

Ocean Beach HB is a stunning place to fish, even if you don’t catch anything just spending the day there is a nice break from the shingle beaches north of the cape.
A week of fine calm weather prior to heading out to Ocean is required if you want to chase Gurnard, even so they can still be very hard to come by.
We didn’t find any Gurnard, but did manage a couple of Kahawai and a nice Lemon.
A fishing trip to that place with any sort of fish in the bin is a great day in my book 🙂

Michelle with her first Lemon

Michelle with her first Lemon

Classic NZ beach fishing

Classic NZ beach fishing

Thanks for the Lemons.

When life gives you Lemons, be thankful 🙂
For months I never had any luck using prawns for bait to target Lemonfish. People told me they love them, the next best thing to crayfish or crab. Yet I could never get anything to eat a prawn bait.
lemonsNow all of a sudden they’ve started working. I’ve no idea why, but I’m happy anyway 🙂

If it wasn’t for the Lemons I’d be posting yet another update bemoaning my lack of fish.
Since I last wrote on here I’ve managed to catch a couple of Kahawai and some nice Lemons. No Snapper or Gurnard yet, but Lemons are fine by me.

I seriously doubt there are any Snapper or Gurnard to be caught around Napier, at least very few of legal size anyway.
Kahawai are also very scarce at the moment.
In the last 8 Pania Surfcasting Club twilight fish competitions only 5 Kahawai have been landed total. This from 15 to 20 rods at each outing.

So its thumbs up to the Lemonfish, you have saved the day..


Last weekend the Pania Surfcasting Club had a two day fish at Mohaka. I’d never fished Mohaka before so after work on Saturday morning I loaded up the van and headed up there not sure what to expect.

Blistering summer heat and clear skies are not ideal fishing conditions.

Blistering summer heat and clear skies are not ideal fishing conditions.

It was blistering hot (the weather not the fishing) so its no surprise bugger all was caught during the day. However the dusk and incoming tide combination produced an hour or so of ‘bite time’ on the Saturday evening, and a similar flurry at dawn on Sunday.

By 8pm Saturday evening I was still looking at an empty fish bin, and wondering if this trip would be yet another waste of gas. Then as the sun faded away the sharks came out. I landed a couple of small Tope and replaced the shredded traces. Then I caught a large paddle crab. Having not had any luck getting a Lemonfish to take my Prawn-Tails bait, I chopped the crab up and used that.

Fresh crab did the trick and I soon had a small lemonfish in the bin.
That was pretty much it for the evening. I fished until midnight and crawled into the van for a snooze.

Worth getting up early even just for the view...

Worth getting up early even just for the view…

Up again just before dawn and the sea was dead flat. At about 5am the gurnard came on the bite and I managed to catch two of them before the sun came up turned the fish off.
I fished until about 9am but the heat and lack of any more action persuaded me to call it a day.

The lemonfish was the first fish to go in my new smoker, it tasted great and smoking is now my preferred method of preparing those.  So although fishing was reasonably hard, the trip was still worthwhile and a feed of fish afterwards is all we can really ask for 🙂

November starts well.

I’ve been pretty busy with work over the last few weeks so fishing has taken a back seat. However, the craving won out out on Friday night and we headed out for a quick dusk-evening fish at Aropaoanui.
We had intentions of fishing the river mouth but on arriving we found it already occupied with a few rods. So we waded through the knee-deep steam and headed for the southern end of the beach.

I think this was an unintentional good move, as the guy we spoke to at the mouth was being plagued with Kahawai. We setup about 50m from the reef at the Napier end of the beach in gusty Nor-Westerly conditions. No sooner had I cast my baits and one road started jiggling.

First fish of the evening, a nice pannie sized Snapper. (My first legal sized snapper since 2010)  This was followed about 10 minutes later by a solid Kahawai.  This trip was already a success!
Next fish for me was a nice fat gurnard just on dusk, The Skipjack bait was working well.
As the evening came on I had another solid hookup which turned out to be a small lemonshark. Its not very often you catch Lemons on Skipjack bait, so this one was obviously very hungry.

Once it got properly dark the fish went off the bite for me. Andy my fishing partner had caught a Kahawai and released a small Lemon as well. He finally got a good hookup and we were looking forward to seeing a nice Snapper or something. It turned out to be a Barracuda. Oh well thats fishing.

I’m looking forward to better fishing this month.

Spring success

Perfect conditions at Ocean Beach

After a week or so of westerly winds the surf at one of my favourite places, Ocean Beach HB, has finally settled down and that means Gurnard fishing time!
Its common knowledge among the locals that you need a week or so of flat calm conditions before the Gurnard will venture inshore far enough to be a viable surfcasting target.
So on Friday afternoon Mark Roberts and I headed out there loaded up with suitable baits (cray and skipjack) but I also packed the crab pot to nab some fresh crabs for targeting Lemons.

Conditions were perfect, flat calm, clean, low tide around 4.30pm so just heading into dusk.
A healthy Kahawai was the first fish to hit the beach, then a Gurnard, then another Kahawai and a second Gurnard. I was a happy man 🙂
Things went a bit dead around slack water which is not unusual, but Mark picked up a fat Lemon shark just on dark.

Releasing Lemonshark pups

At this time of year female Lemons are usually full of pups, and this one was no exception. A quick caesarean section and the eight fully formed pups swam off on their own, hopefully to become surfcasting targets themselves in a year or two.

We headed back up the beach once it got dark as we had noticed a couple of areas coming in, where the tide would cut us off and trap us there. Plus I wanted to get home and cook my Gurnard..

I ventured out again on the Saturday afternoon but the northerly wind was pushing 20knots and making fishing difficult. I had decided that morning to try a different rig when targeting the gurnard, so instead of my usual pully-rig I made up some simple double ledger rigs with smallish hooks. Two baits must be better than one right?

Well they worked a treat, but instead of bringing in more Gurnard, I was catching Kahawai two at a time!
I think the northerly wind and slightly rougher sea had pushed the Gurnard back out to deeper water.

Carpet Sharks are in plentiful supply at the moment.

Also succumbing to the ledger rig was my first ever Carpet Shark. It wasn’t my first for very long though. Another two Carpet Sharks were caught and released by the time I’d decided to head home.
So I finished the Saturday with five Kahawai (released two) and three Carpet Sharks (all released)
An excellent weekend’s fishing 🙂

Targeting Lemons

Low tide and flat calm conditions.

I went out to Ocean Beach (HB) on Saturday afternoon. The sea was perfectly flat and clean, ideal time to have a shot at catching a lemon (Rig, Spotted Smooth Hound). I had a selection of suitable baits, small paddle crabs that we had caught on the previous trip, a bag of raw prawns from the supermarket and some squid. I also took good old pilchards as well.

Didn’t catch any Lemons, in fact didn’t catch anything at all, but it was a pleasant winter afternoon at the beach.

Dusk is a fine time for fishing photos.

The cost of fishing

Lemonfish and bags of gear

It would be interesting to know what the recreational fishing hobby, or sport if you want to call it that, generates in dollar terms for New Zealand economy every year.
At a time when most of our commercial catch seems to be harvested by non-kiwis in foreign ships and exported to foreign nations. How much, if any, of that money actually ends up in the pockets of the everyday Kiwi to be recirculated into our economy?

I can’t speak for recreational boaties who fish, but I can for surfcasting, at least for my own experiences in surfcasting.

What do I spend on fishing, per kilogram of fish that ends up on my table?

Like boat fishing, surfcasting has a few large one-time fixed expenses which should be considered capital costs.
These are costs incurred before you can even wet a line, and not re-incurred until the equipment is replaced due to wear and tear, or upgrades etc.

The ‘running costs’ of the fishing hobby are things like terminal tackle, hooks, line, lures, sinkers, bait, petrol, etc.
So sticking with what I know, surfasting, I’ll run though some basics.

Fixed costs – capital items:
2 rods.
2 reels.
2 rod stands,
1 tackle box,
1 knife,
I chillybin
( I won’t include my 4wd vehicle because that gets used for other things as well as fishing)
Total replacement cost for those items? Lets say approx $2000.00

Running costs – expendable items
Petrol (to get to and from the location)
Bait (usually a bag of pilchards and a skipjack, but may include mussels, prawns etc)
Terminal tackle (hooks, traces, sinkers, floats, lost or damaged during fishing etc)
Approximate outlay for my average fishing trip within 100km of home?  Lets say about $100.00 on average.

Note: (this cost can vary considerably with variables such as distance travelled, types and quantities of bait purchased, and gear lost/or not,)

Now we must tally the amount of fish we catch against the cost of catching it. This is where things become very sobering.  There are of course outings when you do not catch any fish at all. This means  those costs ‘jackpot’ onto the costs for the next outing and so on until some fish are caught.
On average I would say optimistically, 50% of my fishing outings are productive. That is to say I have at least one fish to bring home for a feed from every two trips.
It may be a Kahawai, or if I’ve been exceptionally lucky a Gurnard or a Lemonfish. Sometimes I might have an excellent day and bring home two or three fish. Sometimes I may go many trips without a catch.
So working on the assumption that I ‘should’ catch at least one Kahawai every two trips (it often doesn’t work that well though) and that the average adult Kahawai weighs about 2kg,  I am spending at least $200 per 2kg of fish landed.  Or about $100 per fillet of fish.
This is not including the capital investment costs mentioned earlier.

Now I know there are some fishing guns out there who’s catch rate is a lot better than mine. I also know there are many who hardly ever catch anything. So I’ll consider myself in the middle  ‘Joe Average” for the purposes of this calculation.
So the average surfcaster is putting $100+ into the economy for every 1kg of fish he/she catches.
This of course doesn’t take into account those who practice ‘catch and release’ and treat fishing purely as a sport. They don’t take home any fish, so the economy gains 100% of their expenditure.

I’d be interested in comparing that with the commercial sector’s input to the economy for every kilogram of their fish that ends up on a New Zealand table…


Its been quiet, very quiet. Masses of rain and bitterly cold conditions don’t make for fun surfcasting.
For those brave souls who did venture out locally in the weather, the catches were predictably Kahawai, Baracouta, Spiney Dogs, and red cod.
Gurnard are still being caught further north on the other side of Mahia, but generally only after a few days of settled seas.

Cape Runaway Snapper - Photo: Mark Roberts

Further north at East Cape, Snapper are still available from the rocks.

Locally here in Napier the Kahawai are reasonably abundant, if not a little undernourished, it is after all the middle of winter and food might be scarce for them I guess.

Further South in Westport catches of Kahawai and Lemonsharks are keeping winter surfcasters happy.