Category Archives: Common Species

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.

First fish of the year

Realistically what are the odds of you catching anything other than a Kahawai at this time of year? Probably an 80% chance of Kahawai over any other species.
December through to early February are usually pretty lean times for surfcasters around Napier. The seas are usually flat calm, days are hot, and the fish (gurnard and Snapper) are out in deeper water. Exceptions to this would be Kahawai and Kingfish.
River mouths are well populated with fishermen at this time of year. Spinning for Kahawai, or live-baiting for Kingfish.
As I don’t like fishing shoulder to shoulder with others, I tend to try and find my own space even if its away from the so called ‘productive areas’. Ocean beach can also be busy at this time of year, but if you have a quad or a 4wd vehicle there are many kilometres of beach to explore.
I hadn’t been out there for quite a while so I drove the entire beach to have a look and see how it’s changed. And change is does. After every period of bad weather the channels and holes move or fill up and relocate somewhere else.
Yesterday I discovered the usual Ocean Beach sandbar was fencing off most of the beach in a continuous channel with very few holes or ‘gates’ to the open sea.
I drove along looking for a break in the channel where all that trapped current would exit to the ocean again. A decent rip gouged out by all that exiting water usually makes for better fishing.

A rip where trapped water from the inner channel  exits to the main ocean.

A rip where trapped water from the inner channel exits to the main ocean.

A solid Kahawai caught in the rip above

A solid Kahawai caught in the rip above

The Flying Rat!

The New Zealand Flying Rat

You might also know them by their other name, the common gull. While there may be many things in the water that annoy a surfcaster such as crabs stealing your bait, or snags that catch your line and cause you to bust off, there is also the ever present attack from above to ruin your day.

When surfcasting in NZ one of the first things you learn is to never leave your bait uncovered and unattended when you walk over to your rods. The opportunistic flying rats will make off with your bait, or your freshly baited traces as soon as you walk a few meters away from your gear. If there are a bunch of them circling above then the competition gets even more intense. They get braver and will dive into your chilly bin to pinch your last pilchard.

I used to leave a pre-baited trace clipped on to each rod stand so that I could quickly rebait and get the line back in the water. But after having expensive gear fly away stuck in the throat of a gull, I’ve given up on that idea.

Every year these damn things seem to get more and more aggressive. I firmly believe we ( the human race) are to blame. The gulls are about in such huge numbers simply because they can live off our rubbish. The smartest most aggressive ones survive and breed more and more cheeky aggressive gulls. Its a bit like an accelerated form of Darwinism or at least a learned behaviour.

Rats are a human problem too. We create a constant stream of rubbish for them to eat, they live on it quite happily. They breed more rats.. Although you don’t see people sitting at picnic tables feeding rats.

The common NZ Gull should therefore be renamed as the New Zealand Flying Rat.


The cost of fishing (part 2)

A while back we had a discussion relating to money, or the lack of, and whether or not having more of it makes you a better fisherman.  The consensus was no, it doesn’t.
Sure having a plentiful supply of cash can get you into good quality equipment, or the latest gear. It can even buy second hand knowledge in the form of books and guided trips.

Money won’t make you a better fisherman.
What is can do though, is allow you to catch more fish.

No that’s not a contradiction.
In the context of surfcasting, having plenty of expendable income allows you to travel to better spots. It allows you to travel more often. (That’s assuming you don’t already live in one of the areas that has and abundance of fish.)

I was once chatting to a local surfcasting guru lamenting my lack of catch from beaches around Napier. His reply was “you need to go where the fish are”.
Expanding on that, he said that any fisherman who can catch a fish around here, will catch huge amounts of fish in the better area’s up north.
Those who live in fish-rich areas don’t have to try very hard to catch a fish. Those who live in less favourable areas have to learn all the tips and tricks they can in order to catch something.

Lemonshark or Rig caught on crab bait

Its interesting chatting with fishermen who have access to wonderful coastline and plentiful fish. They have little concept of catching nothing at all on a fishing trip. They find it hard to believe that would occur. Whereas people from the other end of the spectrum find it difficult to comprehend catching your limit number of fish. One snapper to a Napier surfcaster is a great catch. One snapper to a Northlander would be considered a very poor days fishing.
Different areas, different expectations.

You could be the best fishing guru around, but if you were limited to fishing a largely barren or over-fished area because you couldn’t afford the travel or the time off work, you are probably going to be out fished by Joe average who can afford the money and time off work to drive up to the far north where there are dense populations of fish and less people chasing them.

Another example is those who use the services of charter boats. I’ve been on charter boats myself. People who hardly know which end of a fishing rod to hold, are able to catch all sorts of fish within the allotted one or two day trip.
How?, because of the skill and knowledge of the staff on the boat.
They take you to where the fish are.
They rig your gear and baits for you.
They tell you when and how to use it.
You, end up catching lots of fish.
That’s how it works, and that’s how having money can help you catch fish.


Michelle with a nice (nearly winter) Kahawai

Well I guess that’s it. Summer, such as it was, is over.
I’m actually quite pleased really. For me the summer has been a non-event fishing wise. When I look back through my catch records, I realise I actually caught more fish last winter than I did through this last summer.
I didn’t manage to catch any Snapper or Moki, but did catch a couple of gurnard and a few Kahawai. Both of which I’ve caught in winter before anyway so I’m looking forward to more of that.

Kahawai especially seem to be (to me at least) caught more frequently during the colder months than in the summer. Or at least the size is better. Lots of small baitfish size Kahawai are around in the summer but more of the adult size fish seem to be available during winter.

They don’t mind dirty water either. Yesterday’s fishing expedition went from the clean water at Whirinaki, where we got no bites at all, to the dirty water at Awatoto, where we caught two good Kahawai for dinner 🙂

The ‘People’s Fish’ saves the day.

A nice Kahawai from TeAwanga beach

The humble Kahawai is often overlooked as a ‘real fish’ in this country. Comments like “just a scummy kahawai” and  “cat food” are to my mind elitist and just plain wrong these days.  A shame really, as there are many times when catching a Kahawai is the only difference between counting a fishing trip as a success or a failure. It’s often referred to as “the people’s fish”  for several reasons. Kahawai are present most of the time along most of the coastline of NZ. When they are around they are usually voracious feeders and hooking one is relatively easy. They’ll eat almost anything, and put up a decent fight on light gear.

I’ve met people who refuse to eat Kahawai, they seem to think its a rubbish fish, bait or cat food etc. They are usually boaties who can venture far offshore to catch other species. To the surfcaster, the Kahawai is an important fish. Ok its not in the league of Snapper or Gurnard taste wise, but if you relied on catching those two species for a feed you would starve. I have no problem cooking and eating Kahawai. Kill and bleed the fish as soon as you land it. If time permits, head and gut it as well. Cook it the same day, it doesn’t freeze well, so fresh is the key. There are numerous fancy Kahawai recipes around but even treated basically, crumbed and fried its very tasty. Smoked Kahawai is very nice too.

Worm ridden Barracouta

Since June I have caught nothing but Kahawai in HB waters, (discounting other rubbish like spiny dogs and our worm filled barracouta) so I’m very happy to be able to take home a kahawai and have fresh fish for dinner. Believe me, after 7 or 8 fishless outings in a row, catching a humble Kahawai feels great 🙂

With the steady decline of our commercially hammered species like Snapper and Gurnard, the surfcaster will need to lower his or her sights a little, and accept the fact that if you are going to eat fish, it will most likely be Kahawai, or some other species you used to feed to the cat.


Small 'shoalie' Snapper

February has been a shocker weather wise. Wind and big seas have turned our local water brown which has pretty much killed off the chance of catching any good fish from the beach. Small Tope sharks are about in big numbers at the moment but at least the paddle crabs are taking a break.
Surfcasters further up the coast have been doing a bit  better with some good catches of small pan-sized snapper  and monster kingfish being reported. I managed two small snapper this month, my first for this season. No gurnard as yet but then conditions have been very anti-gurnard so that’s no surprise. Hopefully March will produce some settled weather and better fishing.


This large Kahawai ate a livebait intended for Kingfish. It couldn't swallow the whole bait.

Summer is here finally! After a stuttering start we now have (mostly) clean calm seas and a few fish about as a bonus. No snapper of any consequence yet, but lots of Kahawai and the occasional gurnard are showing up. Further north things are even better, in fact 20kg Kingfish can be caught from the beach if you know what you’re doing. Live baiting, or slide-baiting is what I’m trying now. The procedure is relatively simple. Cast out a sinker only, as far as you can. Catch your live bait (  a string of sabikis produce nice size liveys from the surf easily) Use about a 2 meter trace with a snap-lock style swivel and clip it over your mainline. let the live-bait slide down the mainline into the surf. With a bit of luck it will swim out towards your sinker.


[singlepic id=77 w=320 h=240 float=left]Fishing is supposed to be a relaxing pass time, and most of the time it is. But very occasionally it just goes crazy and you find yourself running up and down the beach re-baiting, casting, fighting fish without pause. A recent late afternoon visit to Whirinaki was exactly that. Big Kahawai and Trevally had us running around unable to keep a bait in the water. When the fish are feeding like this you sometimes dont even get rod back in the stand before something grabs the bait. 🙂

August in Hawke’s Bay

Baracuda on light gear can be fun. But they will wreck your traces.

The sea is getting cleaner, the redcod are less frequent. My last few outings have produced an odd mixture of Conger eels, Kahawai, Redcod, Paddle crabs and Baracuda. The one nice exception being a good sized Gurnard.
But the weather is better, which makes catching this mixture of rubbish bearable. Catching up with a few mates on the beach is the highlight of the outing when the fishing is slow. Hey its better than sitting on the couch. 🙂

Looking forward to September and the chance of a Snapper.