Once we are in Covid - 19 Alert Level 3, it will be permissible to fish off beaches in your local region. If you are interested in going fishing again, even from the shore, here's a few of my top tips for getting your surf cast game on. I'm also selling a few of my GPS and spot marks if you want to take up the offer.

The following info is free, but if you want to buy some surf casting spots or maps, I’ve got a special deal on at the moment of twenty spots for $50.00

Pete's Surfcasting Hints and Tips

Let's start with the fundamental gear:


A long rod (14 to15ft) will enable you to keep the line over the waves or weed but are harder to put in maximum pressure when on a big fish. A shorter rod will enable to apply more pressure on a big fish (10 to 12ft).

A 13 to 14ft rod offers maximum cast as long as they are high content carbon fibres (graphite) but the 12ft is still a very popular rod for a mixture of rock and surfcasting.

Two or three piece are preferred for easy transportation, and modern rods barely compromise your cast or rod action compared to a one piece.

High content carbon-fibre (graphite) are the best for casting and applying pressure on the fish.

Fibreglass or e-glass rods are more robust but don’t cast as quite as far.

They are normally heavier to use depending on the blank thickness. Nano resin is the latest development for stronger bigger casting rods that retain good feel and light weight.


Be careful when transporting your rods that they don’t get knocked or damaged. This will weaken the blank and they may break at some stage when you least expect it.

A 'pvc' plumbing down pipe is good transportation tube and a material or canvas cover will protect your rods in tranzit too.


Ceramic guides need to be checked for chips and breakage. A chip in the ceramic will cut through you line when casting or striking fish. In this case, cut the binding on the guide and take it off. You can still fish without a guide but it will need to be replaced asap. Quality hard chrome guides are good for rock fishing and generally tougher.

Check them for grooves (especially if you are using braid) as this will also fray or cut the line.

For a free spool rod the guides are on the opposite side of the rod compared to a fixed spool rod (eggbeater style). You need more guides on a freespool (overhead) rod so the line never touches the blank (otherwise the line will frey when under pressure of a big fish)

Reel seat – wash this after every day's fishing so it doesn’t get jammed up with sand and grime, or collect salt and corrode.


If you are rock fishing you may like to wrap duct tape (or similar) around the base of the rod to protect the blank.

NZ made rods such as the Kilwell Powerplay series, are well known NZ made products and offer a wide range and good quality. Price range from $250 - $800.


The distance casting record in NZ is around 220 metres set using a Kilwell 222.

For the rest of us normal fishos', casting 150mtrs nowadays is pretty standard, which is amazing considering 100mtrs used to be a good cast a decade or two ago.

A good rod will make all the difference. Imported rods can be purchased cheaply, but will vary in quality and value. Trusted brand rods are generally a better option.

Prices can start at $45 and after that the sky’s the limit. If you spend $150 to $300 you can get a high content graphite rod which has the capability to cast over 150mtrs.

We do sell a lot of 12 to 13 foot fibreglass rods for $50 - $85 which are good to get you started without breaking the bank.

Most brands have good carbon fibre rods and now we are seeing nano-technology available for around $150 - $300.

Many anglers buy Kilwell blanks and make their own rod, which can be a really rewarding task.

Making your own rod

For the investment of a blank and some guides you can make up a rod and save $100 - $200 from buying made up ones. You can make the rod precisely to your own specifications, single or multi piece, your choice of action, guides, and grips.

With a bit of help from Mr Google and YouTube, you can find all sorts of good advice and processes for constructing the rod just how you want it.

There's always something rewarding about creating your own masterpiece.


There are two main kinds of reel used by NZ surfcasters.

'Eggbeater' or fixed spools as they are called, are generally best because they are simpler to use and work well for distance casting. They can suffer a little from line twist but are very good reels, preferred by the majority of the NZ surfcasting fraternity.

Free-spool, or overhead reels are preferred by some for their line capacity gears and drag systems being more capable for larger fish (kingfish, rays and sharks) and also because the line does not twist like when using the eggbeater reels. They also have a louder clicker when a fish takes off and you are not watching the rod.

These setups are often favoured when casting distance is not paramount, such as fishing live baits, or if you are using another means such as drones or kites, to deliver a bait out over the breakers.

Getting good casting distance with an overhead is possible, but takes a lot of skill and practice.

Many fixed spool reels have a XOS long-cast spool option, which can produce about 10 – 15% bigger casts.

Prices start at about $100 for XOS long-cast reels. For a standard eggbeater reel prices start at about $45.

I recommend spending at least $150 plus on a reel to get reasonable quality which will last a long time with standard maintenance.

General maintenance

After a day’s fishing wipe off the salt and sand with a damp cloth. You might need to get an old toothbrush into the hard to reach places to remove sand.

Make sure the bail arm roller is rolling. Back off the drag. Spray lightly with INOX or similar anti-salt product which won’t harm the line or drag washers etc.

The eggbeater reels should have the spool taken off and grease the rotor (the bit that goes up and down) and remove sand and salt. Also unscrew the handle and lubricate.

Setting the drag

It's personal preference to fish soft drag and tighten it up before striking a fish or to fish medium to heavy drag so you can strike the fish without altering it.

Dual clutch or bait-runner style reels are good because you can have light drag set and as soon as you turn the handle it goes into medium to heavy drag. I normally run about 3-4kgs of drag pressure (using 10kg line) and make sure my beach spikes are very solidly placed in the ground so the rod will double right over before giving line.

You can set the pressure using scales or a litre water bottle tied onto your line for each kg of drag pressure


Braided line has minimal or no stretch and enables you to feel bites that are hard to detect in nylon.

It also has a very thin diameter and you can get more line on your spool. Personally I prefer using braid for these reasons.

Being thinner you can get more capacity on your spool as well. Most anglers top shot a half spooled reel with 150 – 200mtrs of braid. 20 – 30lb braid is good for surfcasting and 50lb braid is good for rock fishing.

Nylon or monofilament is a darn site cheaper and may be a better option for the really big casts and for novice anglers until they get proficient with casting. It stretches 15 – 20% which sometimes can be an advantage if a big fish takes off. 10 – 15lb breaking strain is good for the big casts in clear ground.

Line weight 20 – 30lb is good for rough ground. 25Lb is a good starting breaking strain


It depends on how long you are fishing and the terrain you are fishing for how many sinkers and the sizes you need. For big casts the torpedo sinker is good 4 – 5oz. The upside down pyramid is invaluable with windy or big-swell conditions.

This sinker grips into the shingle and helps you keep tight line and detect bites. For extreme conditions (often in the Wairarapa), breakaway sinkers grip into the sand really well.

When you retrieve them the wires semi-detach allowing easy winding. Scud sinkers (like a spoon) do not snag up as much and are good for rocky terrain while still giving you a big cast. Berley cage sinkers are a very good way of berleying while doing big casts while surfcasting.

Connecting the sinker on with lighter line will help it snap off in a snag. Too lighter line and you will lose too many sinkers.

If you tie a figure eight loop at the bottom of your trace you can change sinkers easy without cutting the trace

Swivels and clips

You certainly need swivels to stop line twist with fixed spool (eggbeater) reels but they are not as important on freespool reels. Personally I prefer to keep the metal bits to a minimum. A clip swivel is handy to attach a trace.


Beak or octopus hooks are still a common surfcasting hook, but slowly recurves or circles are becoming more popular as they are self-setting. 1 to 3/O hooks are a common size for much fishing with 4 to 6/O better for bigger fish like large snapper and kingfish.

Small hooks between #1 and 2/O get more hookups than using larger 3/0 to 4/O hooks. You need to use strong hooks and don’t go too hard on a fish otherwise you risk pulling the hook from their mouth.


Extra gear

It pays to be prepared.

This list is a guide only Torch and spare batteries, headlamp, cotton x 2, knife (and spare), wet weather gear and spare clothing, first aid kit, water and food hooks - #10 and #6 for bait fish (4 of each), 1/o, 3/o, 5/o for standard fishing (10 of each), 10/o for kingis or sharks (x2) sinkers – 4 to 5oz. 6 x Breakaways, 6 x upside down pyramids, 6 x torpedo, 2 x scud swivels - #1 or #3, traceline (30 – 50lb) spare spool of line (in case you lose the line on your reel) Chilly bag or bin - to keep bait frozen and fillets fresh.

Spare tip and rod guide, multi-tool, insulation tape, matches beach spike (x2), deckchair, gumboots or waders Try and keep you gear to a minimum if you are carrying it in. also use waterproof containers or bags so the salt or rain water doesn’t get into everything.

A good robust pack is a great way of transporting your gear to location. The good ones are more comfortable which 'ergonomic' straps and frame. A 10 litre bucket with lids is good for gear, bait or fish storage and a good seat.

It might seem a lot but if you are hiking a long way to fish it can be a day saver.

How to read a beach (where to fish)

Some parts of the beach are better fishing than others. To find these you need to find if there are any reefs, rocks, weed, channels and gutters out there. The fish often hang out on the edge of a reef or weed bank or on the edge of a drop-off, in a deeper channel or where there is food (ie shellfish, crabs, small fish).

1) You might be able to see some darker water indicating rocks or deeper water, you might be able to see a different colour of water (fish sometimes like the cleaner bluer water, sometimes the stirred up greener or brown water might be full of food and a good place for the fish to hang out.

2) By climbing up a hill and looking down with polaroid glasses you can see the reef, weed or deeper or shallower water. A gut is a deeper hole or area where the food source can be.

3) Watch where the waves build up and disappear, this will show you the shallower or reefy areas (where the waves build up) and the deeper or non reefy area where the waves disappear or get smaller.

4) Throw a sinker out at different places along the beach and slowly wind it in. If it gets stuck or snagged this will indicate a rock or reef or weed.

How to get a bigger cast

• Use a XOS long cast reel (with longer spool).

• Spool up with 6-8 kg (quality) nylon or 8 - 10kg casting braid and a tapered casting leader.

• Use a high graphite content rod 12 – 14ft.  

• Use a 4 – 6oz sinker (aero shape).

• Use a bait clip, impact shield or imp clip to stop the bait from flying around.

• Use a more aero-dynamic or smaller shaped bait such as squid or shellfish bound on.

• Using just one bait rather than two will give a better cast.

• Practice and improve your actual casting technique.


Where the fish are found

Often fish can be out in the open or in a gutter, dropoff or edge of a bank but they can also be found on the edge of a reef. The fish can sometimes be in close to shore but generally further out especially if there is a bit of a sea running.

Don't discount a short cast especially for kahawai, trevally, moki and tarakihi.

With the rising tide the swell stirs up the decaying weed and sand hoppers anywhere on a shingle beach.

This is where fish often feed. Smaller hooks and bait can be more effective here Big resident fish are more likely to feed around a particular rock and be susceptible to bigger baits.


Crayfish, crab, paua gut, tua-tua, prawn or mussel all tied on with cotton and are good baits for fish like moki, tarakihi, snapper and trevally.

Pilchard, bonito (skipjack tuna), blue mackerel, trevally are all baits used as cubes or strip baits and are good on snapper, kingfish, kahawai, trevally, gurnard and other fish.

Key point - The fresher the better! Cover the hook with bait and leave the barb protruding. Small baits seem to work better when the fish are hard to catch. Cottoning on your baits for bottom fishing is a must.


Berlying up a spot certainly helps. You can throw it in, use berley cage sinkers or put a dispenser into the water (on outgoing tide) or into a nearby stream. I use crushed up kina and mussels or mashed up tuna and mackerel mostly. If you’re using a berley sinker make a mix of 50/50 breadcrumbs and berley mix.

This makes a dough that will not fly out of the cage in the cast.

Best times of the day

Primarily the turn of light or after dark are the best times on shallow beaches. Deeper beaches and rocks or wharfs can produce good fishing during daylight hours. A rising tide can be good and the midpoint between moonrise and set can also be good.

Sometimes the fish just feed at a random time of the day or night which can be influenced by barometric pressure, weather changes and good bait or berley.

Rigs (traces)

A one or two hook ledger rig or a pulley rig are the preferred rigs for our coastline.

Line - 40Lb trace line is a good breaking strain but some folks use lighter line for clear ground (25lb) and targeting fussy or small mouthed fish like moki and tarakihi. Heavier (60lb) line is preferred when there are barracouta, sharks or even kahawai around as they all frey the trace with their teeth.

Fluorocarbon trace line is harder for the fish to see but is more expensive than standard trace.

Suffix or Rovex brands of nylon are good middle of the road brands of line to use for mainline and trace.

The ledger rig with one or two hooks is the most common rig for most surfcasting in Wellington. 4 - 5oz sinker. A torpedo or bomb sinker for rough ground or upside down pyramid or breakaway for clean ground – they grip into the bottom enabling you to keep tight line) 1/o - 4/o hooks. And 4 – 6 inch droppers.

The pully rig – the hook clips into the bait clip (just above the sinker) prior to casting and detaches when the sinker hits the water. This is one of the best rigs for big distance. The bait clip can also be an impact shield or imp clip.

The running rig – The running rig is a straylining rig with a sinker running up and down the line. The sinker sits on top of the hook (up to 1 oz0 or on top of a swivel a meter or so up the trace (1 – 4 oz).

Lighter sinkers are ok with a rough bottom but the heavier ones get fouled up to easily. The running rig is generally a sandy bottom rig.

You can have a 2nd hook running on top the main hook or have it fixed with a snood knot a inch or 2 up from the main hook. I prefer a single hook.

Species of Fish you’ll target

Ideally you’ll score a nice snapper or trevally, maybe even a kingfish, but there are other species to consider from the shore:

Spotty sharks - Fish after dark. Crab, prawn or crayfish baits, long casts on the shingle or sand away from rock and reef.

A high or rising tide can be good. They bite during the day too on many Wairarapa beaches Gurnard - Fish the sand with 3/o hooks and fillet baits like trevally, mackerel and skipjack tuna. They are day time feeders preferring the 1st and last couple of hours before dark and after dawn. A bigger cast sometimes can be an advantage.

They sometimes prefer cleaner water and the spring and summer time rather than the winter.

Red cod - are caught mainly after dark on the sand kahawai and couta are caught anywhere, Pilly or skipjack tuna bait is the best for these fish Trevally – skipjack tuna and pilchard baits, prawn or cray. Winter can be good as well as summer

Blue moki – Wellington's premiere sport and table fish for surfcasters Moki fight incredibly hard for their size and are dirty fighters heading for the reef and weed once hooked.

They can be caught all year round but after the annual spawning run they are in good numbers and can be caught much easier. October through summer to autumn is the best time. The legal size limit for blue moki is 40cms (this is when they mature). That is about a 1kg fish.


Short casts just behind the breakers or next to a rock or reef structure.

Area they are found

Shingle beaches on the edge of a reef. Moki come in close to shore around the turn of light and feed around patches of weed. The most common thing we have found in their stomachs are small paua, limpets and brown crunched weed with a sand hopper like creature mixed into it.

They can also be found around wharf structures and rocks With the rising tide the swell stirs up the decaying weed and sandhoppers anywhere on a shingle beach.

This is where 'school' moki feed. Smaller hooks and bait can be more effective here Big resident fish are more likely to feed around a particular rock and be susceptible to bigger baits.


Cray, crab, paua gut, tua-tua, prawn or mussel all tied on with cotton. The fresher the better. Small baits seem to work better when the fish are hard to catch.


‍Berleying up a spot certainly helps.

You can throw it in, use berley cage sinkers or put a dispenser into the water (on outgoing tide) or into a nearby stream will help.

Crushed up crab, cray bodies, kina, mussel, prawn is all good product When to fish Primarily the turn of light or after dark are the best times. Sometimes you'll catch them during daylight hours. A rising tide can be good and the midpoint between moonrise and set can also be good.

The bite

Sometime moki suck the bait in and 'steam off' like a run-away freight train. Other times they pick and suck the bait.

Rigs and terminal tackle and gear

With wind or swell running an upside down pyramid sinker grips into the shingle and helps you keep tight line and detect bites.

Occasionally you may need to use breakaway sinkers if there is a swell running or its really windy. Small hooks between #1 and 2/O get more hookups than using larger 3 to 4/O hooks. You need to use strong hooks and don’t go too hard on a fish to risk pulling the hook.

A one or two hook ledger rig or a pulley rig are the preferred rigs for our coastline.

10kg line is good but you may like to fish lighter or heavier depending on conditions and your target fish.

Braid is very good for detecting bite (no stretch).

12 – 13ft surfcasters are the preferred rod but smaller rods can be used in good conditions.


Places to fish from the shore in Wellington


  • Oriental bay and Point Jenningham - kingfish, kahawai and most other species
  • Greta point (Niwa) - gurnard, kahawai, possible snaper or kingfish
  • Flat rock (evans bay) - kahawai, snapper, kingfish
  • Petone Wharf - gurnard, red cod, trevally, kahawai
  • Seatoune wharf and beach - gurnard, kahawai, kingfish
  • Point Halswell - bluecod
  • karaka bay wharf - kahawai, elepantfish
  • Queens wharf - kahawai, tarakihi, gurnard
  • carpark next to point Howard wharf - bluemoki, snapper, kahawai 
  • Sunshine bay - trevally, kahawai, snapper, kingfish 
  • Eastbourne - snapper, kahawai, 
  • mahanga bay - tarakihi


  • Breaker Bay - kahawai, bluecod
  • Wainui beach, spotty shark, blue moki, kahawai, bluecod, trevally
  • Ocean beach - spottyshark, kahwai, snapper, redcod
  • Lake Ferry - kahawai, redcod, spiney dog
  • Just past Ngawi - bluecod, blue moki, kahawai
  • beaches past Red Rocks - bluecod, kahawai, blue moki, tarakihi
  • Lyall bay - gurnard, kahawai


  • Makara beach - kahawai, tarakihi, snapper, trevally
  • Plimmerton / Paremata - snapper, gurnard, kahawai
  • Paikakariki - spotty shark, snapper, rays
  • Raumati northwards - snaper, kahawai


  • White Rock - gurnard, moki, spotty shark, kahawai, trevally 
  • Tora - spotty shark, moki, kahawai
  • Riversdale - spotty shark, gurnard, kahawai

© Copyright 2020 Pete Lamb fishing Ltd.

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Rockfishing for Kingfis, snapper and other species

Rockfishing for Kingfis, snapper and other species

Surfcasting for Blue Moki

Surfcasting for Blue Moki

how to catch kingfish

how to catch kingfish


Here’s Pete’s top tips for targeting arguably NZ’s favourite fish, the good old snapper.

Find the fish first

You can throw anything you like at the water, fishing the best moon phase with the best baits, the latest lures, on your favourite gear all means

nothing if you are not in the right place. 

The single most important factor in catching snapper is finding the right location.

The fish have got to be there for a start.

Once you nail a location, only then good quality bait, berley, lures, tackle and technique will make a difference to your success.

Where to find fish

There’s no easy answer to this one, as fish move around, have seasonal feeding patterns,

and can be there one day and gone the next in exactly the same conditions.

Most areas of the country though, will have known popular spots that make for a good place to start, usually around reef structures,

or where inshore conditions are favourable for providing a food source.

These places are often highlighted in regional fishing reports such as


It also pays to use technology such as available on the Navionics app, that not only identify likely areas of contour,

but actually have proven fishing spots marked on them as a starting point.

Eyes on the deck. No need to guess whether this is a good spot!

Electronics on board the boat are also your eyes underwater, and when fish are hard to find,

it can pay to invest a lot more time than you want to, cruising around until you finally do identify some sign.  

Land based fisho’s have little option but to commit to a spot or move up and down the area a bit.

Boaties have the ability to really cover ground in search of action moving from shallow to deep,

reef to reef or chasing birds and testing different locations.

With the pressure on fishing locations today, a good spot is often found away from civilization,

with minimal commercial and recreational impact.  It can mean a long hike or a trip in the car to get away from the crowds,

but often the reward is worth the effort.

For example, I always feel like a two-hour hike to Boom Rock, mid-week, increases the odds in my favour.  

There are occasions where a good food source can mean snapper are easily accessible in a common area for long periods of time,

such as the Hauraki Gulf spring workups where pilchards are being driven inshore and carved up by dolphins.  

Find the birds, find the fish

There are also good spots that can produce fish year-round if there is enough food and shelter.

Snapper will often patrol a sandy or shingle bed areas for shellfish, worms and crustaceans or hang out around a rocky location

feeding on anything they can including squid, crabs and small fish.

Targeting the edge of a reef can be good, especially where the foul begins to turn to sand, as snapper will pounce on anything

that has strayed from cover.  Sometimes this means fishing in closer rather than casting well out as far as you can.

Snapper will also travel well out on to the sand too, and often in schools.

 These fish cannot always be picked up on the sounder, so it is often still worth setting up a drift or anchoring and berleying

up to bring fish in or cast ahead of the drift to reach them.  

It pays to try fishing an area for thirty to forty minutes with berley, and then move if you haven't seen any action.

Once you do find the fish, it can be all on, and a good bite can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to a few hours.

Snapper will move around a bit from day to day, and week to week, driven by the search for food or pushed around by temperature changes.

  When the water goes colder they can often move into deeper water.  

Often snapper will come in shallow under cover of darkness and move out deep once the sun is up after only a couple of hours,

which is why the alarm clock is sometimes your best friend.

It’s easy to motor over good fish when you have had an early start and the sun is coming up, so try fishing shallow a few times first,

then heading out deeper where the sun has less effect during the day.

Early morning is often the best time to be on the water

The boom in kayak fishing has shown us that there is a huge ribbon of water from two to twenty metres that hold some massive fish.

The advantages these small craft have include being silent and stealthy, and not being worried about fouling props on rocks or cray pot lines.

The kayak anglers have accounted for many twenty pound plus snapper, and many keen yak fishermen happily return bigger fish

to fight another day as they are not affected by blown swim bladders.  

This also shows that smaller boats often overlook fishing in close, an option that may sometimes be better taken in rough weather

than braving the elements and being bounced around out at sea.

Kayaks and small craft are great for exploiting the shallow inshore zone

Watch the water Temperature

Generally, water temp can’t be too cold for snapper. Around fourteen degrees is normally the minimum with sixteen to eighteen degrees the best.

Sometimes you can throw the temp gauge away when the fish are really hungry, as is commonly the case during winter.

When we get a period of strong southerly winds, the snapper can go off the bite or go into deeper water where the temperature stays more constant.

With strong northerly winds, the snapper move back closer to shore and seem to be much more likely to then feed aggressively.  

During spawning time, which is normally when the water temperature reaches around eighteen degrees, the snapper move into an area

with the right ground attributes for laying their eggs.

Winter snapper can be a very good size and condition

This is normally nutrient rich areas commonly adjacent to large harbours and estuaries.

This transpires at different times of the year in different parts of the country normally from October through to March.

In Wellington it’s around February to March, whereas up north it kicks off much earlier in January to Feb where snapper can be caught

in good numbers right under the Auckland harbour bridge.  

This February to March period is normally the peak of the snapper fishery in Wellington, with the west coast firing earlier than the inner harbour,

where fish may hold well into May.

In recent years there have been some excellent winter runs of snapper in 50-70 metres off Boom Rock and Hunters Bank,

extending down towards Ohau point right in to 20-30 metres.

In winter, baits will often work better than lures, and colder temps force the snapper’s metabolism to slow down.

This means fish are on the lookout for a big easy feed, and a bigger bait such as whole pilchard or squid can present an irresistible meal.

If you are fishing lures, slow the action right down, or use kabura type jigs that slowly waft around in the current.

Whole pillies - always a top snapper bait

In the mid to upper North Island, the snapper are present all year, and can even bite better in the winter, especially the bigger moochers.

The mass of snapper population often turns fish into very picky eaters over summer spawning months as their focus changes from eating to breeding.

In the far north, I have fished deep water rock ledges like Cape Brett, Cape Kari Kari, and North Cape through the winter and it’s

incredible the amount of really big fish hanging around close to the rocks.  

For surfcasters XOS snapper move in close to beaches south of Wanganui and in Hawkes Bay in late October and early November (pre spawning time).

Mid-January to late February has seen very nice snapper caught from Paikariki through to Tehoro mainly on the turn of light and after dark.  


The lighter your line, smaller your hooks and lighter the sinker, the more fish you will hook up and hopefully land.

The problem is that you might bust off or pull the hook out of a fish using the light gear.

On the sand, shingle or mud you can use light tackle and catch some big fish. In the rough ground you will need to gear up to avoid losing too many fish.

As you gain experience you will be able to land bigger fish on lighter line.  

The advent of braid has meant much lighter gear for targeting snapper

Braid or nylon?

Braid is the new normal now, because it has little or no stretch, is half to a third of the diameter of nylon and it’s got far less drag in the current.

No stretch means you are in perfect touch with your bait or terminal tackle.  It’s the favourite choice for lure fishermen wanting to feel

every touch and far better for any real deep water fishing.  It also means downsizing reels and rods to much sportier models.  

Small but powerful reels capable of handling big fish spooled with 20lb braid

When using braid, you need a flexible rod tip to act as a shock absorber and also you may like to use a bit heavier line weight

comparable to nylon (eg: I use 50lb braid like I do 35lb nylon).

For XOS snapper in rough ground I use 50 – 80lb braid.  

Maintaining knot strength in braid can be tricky but you generally only need one knot that joins the braid to your nylon or fluorocarbon leader.

If you double up, such as using a double Albright knot rather than a single, its better, but the ideal is to learn to tie the FG knot,

then you can’t go wrong.

Braid is the single most game-changing development in fishing in recent history, and has radically influenced the way we fish,

and rod and reel design.

Why use nylon at all then?

Nylon still has its place for many applications.  Under pressure, thinner braid can snap very easily when it touches an object,

so can be problematic for land based fishing (or on crowded boats where many people are fishing and a kahawai can circle everyone’s

line and shear them all off). Where staying in touch with the fish is less important or a bit of stretch is good, such as for game fishing or

surf casting nylon still has a place.  It’s also far more easy to manage when wet or tangled.

Nylon sells in a thin or thick diameter, supple or hard, low or standard stretch, and in low or high visibility,

so it pays to spool up with the right kind for the right job.

Thin diameter is good for fishing deep water off the boat or for distance casting off the shore, hard thicker diameter (hard) is better for gnarly rock locations.

Many people start with 10-15kg line and then experiment with lighter or heavier stuff depending on conditions and the size of fish around.

Stray lining is also a good application for nylon,

where braid can sometimes sag and snag a bit in low currents, and it works nicely combined with a bait-runner style reel design.

Dual clutch or bait - runner style reels are great for stray lining allowing perfect tuning of the drag tension for running, and striking without guesswork

Light tackle is good to catch 'cagey' fish as they don't see the line and it appears more natural. Breaking strain of about 3 – 6kg

is classified as light. Medium tackle (6 – 10kg). Heavy tackle for big fishing rough ground is 10 – 15kg or even heavier.


Although there are many shapes and brands, there are two main styles of hook to choose from for modern fishing.

Circle/recurve hooks on the left vs J or beak hooks on right

The self-setting hook and the striking hook. Recurve, circle or mutsu hooks are all self-setting and typically hook the fish in the corner of the mouth.

It’s important, as the name suggests, not to strike with these hooks, but simply let the tension come on and lean into the fish as the rod loads up.

In situations where you are not manning the rod, such as surf casting or when the rod is in a holder, these are the go to.

All commercial long line hooks and the like tend to be this pattern.  

The famous Black Magic Snapper Snatcher tied on 6/0 recurve hooks

The other style of hook is the J style, beak, octopus or suicide hook. Hookup rates are good with these more traditional patterns,

but sometimes these hooks will gut or gill hook a fish, especially with a two hook rig. If you plan on releasing fish or being more selective

, use a recurve.

For smaller snapper I use a 3/0 or 4/O recurve hook and for bigger fish a 6/0 – 8/O recurve.  

Traces and Rigs

For making up traces I use good quality nylon or fluorocarbon.

For a standard rig, 40 – 60lb will handle most fish,

but I go up to 80lb when targeting really big snapper and drop down to 20 - 30lb for school (smaller) fish.

Fluorocarbon leader is claimed to be more invisible to the fish as it’s got a similar refractive index to water.

The downside is that it is expensive, and very stiff so can be quite hard to tie.

Nylon is much easier to work with, and most people that come through the shop use around 50lb trace line such as Black Magic or Sufix supple trace.

Swivels are good to stop line twist and a clip swivel is convenient for replacing traces quickly.

Size -  #3 to #5 for small to medium fish, #1 - 2/O for big fish and  #6 Ball bearing swivels for XOS snapper.

Strayline rig

This is my favourite rig if there is minimal current and/or small 'picker' fish about.

As per the photo below, I'll use a 30 - 50lb flourocarbon leader and a hook snelled onto the end.

This is simply a hook at the end of you line and presents a very natural bait.

As an option you can put a swivel to join trace to main line or just join with a uni knot, but the idea is to keep it as natural as possible.

Strayline rig - hook snelled direct to main line

Ledger (dropper) rig

My favourite rig for surfcasting (4-5oz torpedo sinker) and boat fishing (4 – 16oz sinker) in current.

This is the classic go-to rig and can either be hand tied, or you can use commercially available rigs such as the Black Magic snapper snatchers

or other such pre-fabricated options.  

These are truly versatile, and must have accounted for many thousands of recreationally caught snapper over the years, including some real whoppers.  For situations where the boat is crowded and you are fishing at anchor, you can’t beat this rig.  

It’s easy to fish, and easy to bait with a simple strip or cube of bait (hooked just once through the bait) is all that’s needed.  

Running Rig  

Also known as the ‘snapper rig’, this traditional setup is still one of the best,

as it allows the fish to grab the bait and run with it without being spooked by feeling a lead sinker on the end.

The sinker needs to be heavy enough to get the bait down to the bottom, that’s a key factor.

Running rigs can be fished from land and from a boat equally.

Running rig options

I would start with a 1/4oz for rock fishing, and work my way up to a whopping 20oz when the tide is running hard in deeper 40-60 metre zones.

The sinker runs up and down the line and can be run down right on top of the hook or on the main line running on top of the swivel.

Trace line can be anything from 20lb up to 80lb depending on how rough the ground is and how big a snapper you want to catch.

Hook size can also vary from a 3/O up to a 10/O and be either recurve or beak (octopus) style.  My go to running rig is 75cm 50lb trace

with a 5/O recurve and a 1oz ball sinker sitting on top of a #1-barrel swivel.

You can have an optional second hook running on top the main hook, or have it fixed with a snood knot an inch or two up from the main hook.

This second hook acts as a bait keeper, and an extra point to grab a fish’s mouth in case the main hooks misses the mark.

Pulley rig

This is the best ultra-distance rig for surfcasting.

It’s designed to provide aerodynamic advantage when casting, to stop the sinker and bait tumbling through the air bleeding off distance.  

Instead the pulley allows the bait and sinker to become one streamlined bullet, which releases itself to effectively

become a running rig once it hits the water.  

Very cunning and effective, this rig sometimes makes all the difference getting a bait across the breakers or into the deeper water

where it needs to be.

Attach the hook to the bait clip or impact shield (above the sinker). Impact shields are a good addition if you are using a soft bait

such as pilchards or shellfish, and even with a pulley rig it pays to bind these soft baits on with a bit of bait floss.  



The bigger snapper will often hang right back and let the smaller fish have a feed first. If you cast back a bit further down the berley trail,

away from the rocks, beach or boat, it will sometimes help you hook the big one.  

Waiting for the big one

Setting the hook

If you are fishing a recurve or circle hook just let the weight come on solid, then start winding.

The hook will set itself generally in the corner of the mouth.  

With standard beak hooks you'll need to time your strike to set the hook.  

I prefer striking pretty much straight away to 'lip hook' the fish.

If you let it run too long before striking, it may feel the hook and spit out the bait.  

If you are using a really big bait such as a butterflied mackerel

You need a bit longer for the fish to get the hook in its mouth.

Sometimes in the excitement it’s hard to judge time, so count a thousand and one, a thousand and two, a thousand and three, out loud then hit it!

Playing and fighting the fish  

Keep the weight on all through the fight (keep it tight) and have the drag set to 1⁄4 to 1/3rd of the breaking strain of the line.

If the fish takes you into the weed or rocks, and you get stuck, it’s usually best to ease up and back the pressure right off.

The fish will often think it’s free and then swim out of the foul. If you leave the pressure on with a fish in the rough too long, it will usually end up cutting the line.  

Snapper, especially big ones, can have a massive initial run, but tire after a while and then use their weight.

If you are in really rough territory sometimes you have to risk it and really lay on some extra pressure to stop that first run or they will reef you.

In shallower water from a boat, it pays to get right on top of a good fish as soon as possible.  This is where drift fishing is advantageous.  

If you can get on top of the fish, line going vertically is much less likely to snag up or be wrapped around obstacles.

 This is another reason the kayak guys do so well, their boat is immediately pulled up directly over the fish.  

Once you get the fish up off the bottom, you can ease up taking the stress off your line and any damaged trace,

and it’s a game of patience to work a fish to the surface.

Landing the fish

A large landing net for fish over 3kgs a good ideal, and snapper are easily led to the net and scooped up once at the boat.

The new style nets that are rubber mesh are way better for releasing fish, managing them in the net, and not snagging up in stuff.

Yuss! In the net with you. Rubber mesh makes the next bit easier on both fish and angler
Always iki snapper and pop them straight onto an ice slurry for best eating

If you are gaffing the fish, go for the head for a kill shot and just place it up through the lower lip for a release job.

Hold the gaff in the water and let the fish swim over it, before one swift jerk on the gaff. A sharp gaff point is imperative as they have a hard nut.  


Snapper are scavengers and opportunist feeders, and will take just about anything, but the most consistently successful

baits seem to be pilchard, skipjack tuna and squid.

Piper and mullet are good performers especially in the mid to upper North Island, while octopus, mackerel and kahawai all work well at times.

Fresh is best.  Whatever you use it must be the best quality available to increase your chances.  Many a snapper has been caught

on a bit of old manky squid, but as a general rule, nice fresh bait out performs dry or rotten stuff.

Strips and cubes of skippy. Classic snapper bait

My favourite baits for big snapper.  BIG. A whole or half skippie head or 4-5 pillies threaded on a hook.

Many of the big snapper I've seen and caught have taken pilchards, a big fillet of fresh kahawai has been good as well as mackerel,

tuna, spotty and blue cod heads (the later two particularly in the Marlborough Sounds). Big baits equal big fish, and a big mouthful

can also stop the smaller fish annoying you as much.  

However, it's nice to catch a feed as well, and smaller baits do the business here.  

Stray lining dead baits

Whole pilchards, or strips of fresh kahawai or skipjack are great for stray lining. Using the strayline, or running rigs mentioned earlier,

I hook a pilchard through the eye socket with a 5 or 6/O hook and throw it out. Sometimes on a big bait, I thread the hook back through

the pillie about half way down the body. Just make sure the hook point sits clear and is not turned back into the bait fish.

Also tying the bait on with cotton is good for extra durability in casting.

Having a small running sinker say 1/4 to 1oz is good to assist casting and to get the bait away from the seagulls or mutton birds

that often hang around. Occasionally when the fish won’t take a bait try a single cube with a smaller hook and move to a lighter trace.  

Stray lining is best done down a berley trail, where the smell of food brings fish in from far away, and the bigger fish have the opportunity

to grab a big, naturally fluttering bait and run with it.

If you are setting up for stray lining it’s important to see where the current is going, and position yourself so that your berley drifts

into the right place, preferably a gut with visible backwash.

This helps disperse the ground bait and also holds the berley, and snapper, in a more concentrated area where they naturally

expect to find food.

Using berley (ground bait)

I always use good berley when fishing at anchor.  It really brings the fish on the feed and keeps them feeding.

Minced and chunks of tuna, pilchard, flying fish, kina, crab, crayfish body and paua gut are my favourites. As long as we are using

at least one of those I am happy.  

It is one of the most important things for snapper fishing after finding where the fish are. Use good quality berley and plenty of it.

My preferred method of berleying is making up a bucket brew and ladling out small or large scoops on a regular basis into the water.

While doing this I keep a good watch on what is swimming through the trail.  

A popular plastic cage model, just pop in your frozen berley bomb for slow release

Putting berley into a tough berley bag,

tying it onto a rope and dangling it into the water is another good method for rock fishing or boat fishing in shallow water.

It is also a suitable method to use when there’s not much current and works in combination with the bucket brew very well to keep a

consistent smell running.

Although I like going heavy if possible, it is important to ration the berley for the day and have a bit spare ion case the fish suddenly turn up.

Bombs away. I love a good berley brew to really get the snapper going

Sometimes if it is just really quiet and you are out of options or patience, it can be a good tactic to BERLEY UP A STORM!  

This will sometimes make magic happen when you’ve got nothing to lose.  

If you are boat fishing and it’s a bit deep (40 plus metres) with the tide running, berley needs a hand to get down to where you need it.

I use various weighted dispensers to get the berley to the bottom and I also throw large chunks in and let it float down too.

The Nacsan Berley cage. Big, robust and heavy.

The Nacsan berley cage is my favourite berley dispenser for use in Wellington

We use one with larger holes if there are no blind eels around.

I weight the pot with a sash weight or 4 x 30oz sinkers to get the dispenser down to the bottom using 4mm cord.  

Placement of the berley pot is vital to catching fish. The tide may not always be running where you expect it too especially if the wind

is running a different direction.

I normally wait until the lines are down then check their angle, then deploy the pot from an appropriate position that sets the trail

right through the lines.  

I like to use a 4 or 10 litre frozen bomb inside an onion sack to get the fish going.

This creates a nice cloud of berley, then dispenses a bit every now and then. If the fish go off the chew, just throw some more berley in.

The chunkier, shelly bits last a bit longer and sink down to where the bigger snapper lurk.  

Fishing in Current

Current gets the fish feeding, but it can make it tricky to fish.

When we do manage to get the boat out, I like to be fishing in 30 – 60mtrs of water, with no more than about 1.5knots of tide running.  

If the tide is too strong the best option is to either fish on the drift, or move in closer to shore out of the worst of the tidal flow.

I use a dropper (ledger) rigs with 2 – 3 hooks and a 10, 16 or 20oz sinkers depending on the tide.

We normally target fish on the edge of a reef, sometimes moving just out onto the sand a bit.

I like to fish the 15 – 25mtr sandy areas by anchoring up and berleying the fish to us. It might be on the edge of a reef or sand bank or hole.

Keeping your baits in touch with the bottom is important at all times.  

Setting up to anchor

Like most of you, I have a collection of pre-marked spots on the GPS.

I steam up to the mark, stop the boat, see which way I'm drifting then move up-current or up-wind from the spot and drop the anchor.

If I don't catch fish within about 45 minutes, I will let more rope out to alter the position a bit.  If that doesn’t work, it’s time to re-anchor the boat or move on.  

The Navionics App  (AU + NZ) is certainly one of the best pieces of technology I've come across to help put more fish in the boat.

The Navionics app is the best money you can spend for finding good spots

The good spots to fish are illustrated by the contour lines when you select the ‘sonar’ button.  This will show you where there are any

features such as dips, banks and rises.  A lot of black lines or squiggles packed tightly together means steep contour and a likely place

for bait and snapper to congregate.  Once you are in position it will illustrate where you are, what way you are facing, and you can

‘see’ the terrain you are drift fishing back in to.

You can mark spots, track where you’ve been and even check other people’s top spots they have ‘gifted’ to the public.

For a $35 investment it is the best money you will spend on your fishing, and it’s a very useful tool for exploring new areas.  

Anchoring up

Anchoring can be tricky when you start your boating career, but it’s worthwhile and safe if you can learn to do it correctly.

Firstly, pick the right anchor for the job - kewene for rock/sand, danforth for sand, grapnel for reef.

You need approximately the same length of chain as your length of boat

- 4mm chain, 6mm rope, 6mm grapnel for a 2.5 to 3.5mtr boat

- 6mm chain, 8mm rope, 8mm grapnel for a 3.5 - 5mtr boat

- 8mm chain, 10mm rope, 10mm grapnel for a 5 to 7mtr boat

- 12mm to 16mm chain and rope with a big plough or kewene.

For a seven metre to fifteen metre boat, it's advisable to have twice the anchor rope than the depth you are trying to anchor up in.

Survey the area you think the fish are in (normally on the edge of a reef), go up current of the mark and deploy the anchor.  

When it holds tight, dispatch the berley bomb on a separate 4 or 6mm rope, weighted to get it to the bottom.

You can use an ‘easy lift anchor clip system’ when retrieving the anchor, that utilises a sliding buoy.

Be careful anchoring up in windy or tidal conditions.

A Grapnel is the best anchor for hooking into the reef. It bends out if it gets stuck, and the Danforth is the perfect sand anchor.

Land Based

Prospecting the rocks.

Catching snapper from the rocks is super rewarding, and a good fish off the rocks is worth twice that of one on a boat.  

From land, good fish can be found in some very unlikely spots.

Try fishing a gnarly looking location, that you wouldn't normally fish, with lots of rocks and weed.

Prime land based spots are worth the hike

Fish for about 15-20 minutes, then move 100mtrs along the coast, fish for another 15-20 min and then move along again. Using this method,

you will eventually find a 'pocket' of resident snapper in a particular area.  

If you want that trophy monster, you will have to work for it and be prepared to forego a lot of other nice eating fish.

I use heavier line in deep rocky areas, 50lb nylon or 80lb braid.  If that’s too heavy to cast I’ll spool 30-40lb mono for rough

ground when a bigger distance is needed.

Off the sand I use 15-25lb line where a bigger cast is an advantage. Tie your sinker on with lighter line so it snaps off if snagged.

The reward for using berley off the rocks

Breakaway sinkers are good for the sandy beach with pulley rigs. 4-5oz torpedo/scud or upside down pyramids are good sinkers

depending on how rough the bottom is and how much wind or swell you’ve got.  

Using a bobby float (running float) for the really snaggy areas you wouldn't normally consider fishing can help keep the hook

out of the worst of the snags.

Set a uni knot as a stopper on the leader 3 – 4 metres up from the hook so your bait is held by the float just up out of the weed.

Watch you float like a hawk and strick when it dips under.

This technique can be deadly on cagey 'rock mooching' snapper in really shallow water.

Reading the beach

This is critical for good results off the sand, and can be tough for the novice, as a lot is learned from experience.

This is where joining a surf casting club is invaluable, as you will be welcomed into an environment where knowledge, or at least some of it,

is shared and you will be around like minded fisho’s.  You’ll also find areas to fish you might not get to off your own bat.

Here’s a couple of articles to help with reading the beach:

READING THE BEACH: sandbars, troughs and cuts



I always look to see where the waves ease back a bit indicating deeper water.

You will see rips and holes off the beach where there is no wave action, and these are the prime targets to cast your bait at.

Beach fishing can be nice and relaxing

Some beaches that are not totally sandy, you can sometimes climb up a bank (or stop on the track down to the beach) and look

with your polaroid sunglasses for darker patches particularly pebble or weed patches.  Fishing the edge of a weed patch can be very productive at times.

Another good trick is to prospect for a bit by casting just a ball sinker and retrieving it across the bottom, feeling for rough ground.

If you're not catching fish, use a smaller hook and lighter line and try altering your casts with long casts, short casts and casting at different angles.

When you find fish mark your location with a cell GPS so you can find the spots next time, particularly when it is dark.

A 12-14ft surf rod is good off the beach and I shorten up to a 8-10ft stiffer action rods off the rocks.

Chasing snapper with lures  

Snapper absolutely love lures of most types.

Catching snapper on lures is a heap of fun.

It can take a bit more skill but can really produce the goods and it’s well worth leaving the bait at home occasionally and just commit to going lure fishing.

Grant 'Espresso' Bittle, one of NZ's lure masters with another nice pannie on the Boss Squid

Fishing in the northern part of the country with lures has been very popular and successful for many years now.

The snapper population there is far greater and the temps are a bit warmer, so response to lures is very good.

 Workups, and big schooling snapper pounce on all the modern lure tech, and big moochers are suckers for a well presented soft bait in the shallows.

Top Wellington fishos have been doing well on lures over the last couple of years, where it has been a little slower to catch on as a mainstream option.

The most effective lure patterns on snapper, in no particular order, are soft baits for the shallows,

and kabura/slider and Inchiku jigs for the deeper 40 metre plus areas.  Slow pitch jigs work well but are better in summer fishing months.

Here’s an article that goes into greater detail for the specific lure types:


Inshore fishing with soft baits

Snapper love soft baits all through the year, even winter if you are in the right location.

Nice snapper on the assist hook unique to Catch Stingaz soft bait heads

In shallower water (5-20mtrs) softbaits can be very effective on snapper, and they require a specific approach and the right gear and technique to work.

Here’s a video explaining a bit more in depth:

And this article might help too:

Rather than anchoring up and setting a berley trail to bring fish to you, soft baiting is a bit more hunt-and-seek.

You need to find the fish and put a softie in front of them.

Cast your softbaits into or along the rocks along the shoreline or near reefy areas meeting the sand.

Let the bait sink to the bottom and then do a slow, twitching retrieve giving the rod tip the odd flick.

Leave the bait to rest occasionally, and a snapper will often pick it up.  Work your way along the shoreline casting into guts,

white water and around any rocky headlands. Keep an eye out for submerged rocks as you don’t want to end up hitting one with the boat!

You want to select a jig head that is the lightest you can get away with, right down to even ¼ oz which allows the soft bait to waft

around in the strike zone and not jet to the bottom.  Start light and move heavier if you have to.

Nitro fine gauge hooks are great but go up to the heavy hook versions for big fish
Jiggy's jig heads work very well on snapper with a bit more 'fancy' and very strong hooks
Catch Stingaz have an extra assist hook for the pickier fish

Five inch bodies from Z man and Catch, are buoyant and sink quite slowly which is good for in close.  They are pretty light,

but you’re fishing braid on spinning gear, and casting down-wind ahead of your drift, so they often hit the water and do the job before

the fish are aware you are even there.

If you are fishing from a kayak or small boat, soft baits are a deadly weapon to master.

Deeper water soft bait fishing

Fishing softbaits in open water from 15-40 mtrs  is also a very productive method on snapper.

Look for bird workups or fish sign on your sounder such as bait schools and fish arches hard up against the bottom.

Set up a drift across good looking ground and cast ahead of your drift line.

Don’t anchor the boat when soft baiting unless your bait and berley fishing and want to try something different using softies.

To help slow the boats drift down you MUST use a sea anchor if the wind is over 7-8 knots.

If you havn’t got a sea anchor, try reversing up into the wind or the tide every so often without running over your lines.

Big boat -big anchor.  It makes all the difference

Using a bigger sea anchor than is rated for your boat is often the rule of thumb as bigger is better to slow the drift down.

Because of the greater water depths and current you will naturally often need to use heavier jig heads.

I use 1 - 3oz jig heads and make sure the lure is on the bottom in the higher currents we have in Wellington.

If the angle of the line is too great at the back of the boat, retrieve and cast out ahead of your drift again.

You are constantly working the softbait along the bottom back to you as the boat drifts towards your cast and then past it.  

The longer the softbait is worked along the floor, the more strikes you will attract.

If you catch fish or get strikes in an area, drive back up your drift to go over the same line again.

You can use your GPS and follow the boat’s snail trail to help determine the path you took.

Sometimes the fish will miss the softbait on the first strike, so drop the rod or free-spool it back quickly and they often bite again.

I like larger, bulky softbaits in deeper water such as the Gulp 6” Squid Vicious, 5-6” nuclear chicken jerk shad, or 7” Belly Strips from Gulp.

Fishing with soft baits means you always hook the fish in the mouth and have a good opportunity to release fish easily,

and they have a better chance of surviving the encounter.

I've had good success using a soft bait with a bit of pilchard or tuna bait on the same hook. It's out fished standard soft baits for me a few times.

I either run a standard dropper or running rig with the softbait and the appropriate sinker for the current running and water depth.

The GULP chartreuse 3” mullet has been my best snapper catcher although most work when the fish are biting.

The snapper come in and nail the pilchard and if you don’t hook up then they often come back a second time to nail the soft bait.

Shore fishing with soft baits

If you’re land based fishing with soft baits you can prospect various spots along the coastline looking for guts and channels

and you can also berley up and throw softies into the trail. I have had good fishing using both methods.  

One good thing about soft baits from the shore, is that the jig holds the hook positioned facing upwards, which often allows it to

bounce over weed and other obstacles without snagging.

Use a light jig head of about ½oz or under with a 3- 5” grub or jerk shad soft bait body.

I suggest using 10-15lb braid on a small but powerful 2500-3000spin reel and a 2-3mtr leader of around 20lb fluorocarbon,

with a 6-7ft 5-10kg graphite or nano spin rod.

Joel Westcot with a nice rock - caught snapper on softies

Check out Joel Westcot's article on soft plastics from the rocks.

Kabura and Inchiku jigs

Kaburas (sliders) and Inchiku jigs. Both are great on snapper.

The method is similar to softbaiting when setting up drifts but with these lures you just drop them down to the bottom and do a slow

wind up a few meters, then repeat the process a few times until you’re out of the snapper zone.

Snapper love kabura's, pretty much all year round they are a great option

As for soft baiting, you need to do drifts with a sea anchor.  

These lures sink like a stone and the 120 – 200 gram models can easily be fished in bigger current to 80 metres.

This method has proved successful just inside Hunters bank in 50-60mtrs, at the Wairaka rise in 30-50mtrs and out from Pukerua Bay in 20-40mtrs.

Out from Raumati and Waikanae in 30-50mtrs is another proven location.

I’m sure you’ll find these lures will work well up and down the coast and in the harbour in the deeper holes like Point Gordan and south of Somes Island,

so if you are new to lure fishing, these are the easiest options to try.

Slow pitch jigs

These jigs are super deadly and sport bigger, stronger hooks on stronger braid so you can afford to be a bit more aggressive on big fish.

There is a key technique change needed in workups to improve hookup rates.  

Rather than working the jig actively from the bottom and keeping it moving as you would normally with a slow pitch jig link,

the trick in a workup is to stop the lure completely.

Jeff Strang about to release a nice fish bagged on a Sea Floor Control slow jig

Literally leave it on the bottom or hanging static for several seconds and you will find snapper will just smash it.  

In the frenzy fish are often just cleaning all the big easy scraps off the bottom and don’t want or need to work too hard chasing a lure.


Light gear is the idea, the best setup being a small medium action spinning rod and small spinning reel;

around 2000 – 2500 spooled with 3 – 6 lb braid.

Fish a micro jig much like a soft bait.  You are on the drift (with a sea anchor deployed if there is any wind) and casting in the direction you are drifting.

Allow the lure to flutter to the bottom, staying in touch but without dragging on it.

 This can be done by gently controlling the line coming off the spool with your fingers before engaging the bail arm.

Leave the lure on the floor for a few seconds, this is commonly where the strike will happen.

New model tungsten microjigs can be effectively fished in 60 metres plus.

Deadly on snapper, microjigs are also big favourites of trevally, gurnard, kingfish, kahawai, even john dory, so you never quite know

what to expect when fishing these.

Micro jigs can mean maxi results

For more information on current conditions, or for helpful advice, or if you are keen to come out fishing with me, I look forward to catching up.

Pete Lamb Fishing Ltd. Charters, Bait and Tackle - 15 Kingsford Smith St Rongotai, Wellington.  

Phone: 027 443 9750

Email: [email protected]

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How to catch Tarakihi (shore and boat) - May 2020

How to catch Tarakihi (shore and boat) - May 2020
How to catch tarakihi - Pete Lamb's top tips

If your taste in fish is like mine, tarakihi are arguably the best quality eating fish you can catch in New Zealand virtually all year round,

and a crumbed fillet at the Fish’n’Chip shop is commonly made from this species.

They can be caught throughout the country but are more prevalent around the Cook Straight, east Cape and South Island,

and Bay of Plenty regions than they are further north. Not only are they great eating, they also offer a pretty good tussle on the end of the line.

You can catch them off the shore and in the boat anywhere from as shallow as five metres, right down to well over a hundred.

Without doubt they are probably my favourite eating fish, so although they only grow to a limited size, they are always more than welcome on board.

A very tasty bin of cod and teri's on one of our charter trips

Find the fish

Tarakihi seem to live and feed right on the edge of a reef system and sometimes out onto the sand a bit. After dark they come into sandy beaches

and feed close to shore, so land based anglers stand a good chance of catching them with the right gear.

Most reef structures around the Wellington coastline will hold tarakihi.

It’s just a matter of finding where exactly they are and getting your baits down into them.

They are pretty easy to see on the sounder, and generally present as lots of small chunky bits on and up off the bottom.  They are commonly seen sitting on,

or right next to, a reef structure, but do venture out onto the sand.

If you locate a rock in 50-100 metres in the Wellington region, there will more than likely be BIG terakihi holding on it at some stage of the tide,

normally an hour or two either side of the turn.  

Heading out to Mana Island. Always a good chance for a feed of tarakihi

Fishing from a boat

Although they will take lures, terakihi are more commonly caught on bait.  They have a small rubbery lipped mouth, and usually take a smaller offering.

Small strips of squid, shellfish, or salted blue mackerel or bonito are favourite baits.

If you can, use fresh bait, the fresher the better for this species. Hook the bait through once through one end and let it hang off the hook.

If your baits are bigger than a fingernail, then you’re really reducing your best chance to catch them.  

A berley dispenser right on the bottom when anchored up is very effective. Good quality minced paua gut, kina, bonito, pilchard,

cray or crab bodies make the best ground bait.

Ensure the berley pot is weighted enough to get to the bottom, the orange cray snifter pots are good with 2 – 4 big puka sinkers attached

and use a strong 4 mm retrieve cord.

Give the pot a shake every now and then to get (and keep) the fish biting.


Ledger rigs are favoured for terakihi.  A standard rig with sinker at the bottom looped on, dropper loops or longline knots for droppers,

and a loop or swivel on top are fine. You can go fairly light as terakihi have soft mouths and don’t get overly huge.

I like to use 30Lb trace for shallower non snaggy water, but will go up to fifty or even eighty for water that is around a hundred plus metres,

where there’s a good chance you may hook something bigger and don’t want it to get away.

I have found recurve hooks the best for lip hooking fish and getting a positive hookup.  

Flasher rigs such as Black Magic terakihi terrors etc, and sleeve swivel traces both work well.

Size – wise, 1/0 recurve flasher rigs have to be one of the best rigs to catch tarakihi, particularly in white or pink colours.

Black Magic Tarakihi Terrors - great flasher rigs in either standard or recurve hook patterns

My favourite charter rig is 2 x #17 or #19 mutsu recurves on 50lb trace for shallow water or in the harbour (15-25mtrs)

and 2 x #19 or #21 mutsus on 80lb trace for the 60-100mtr mark, where there’s a good chance of snagging a school puka or decent kingfish.  

Tides around Wellington

On the south coast the outgoing tide runs from the east going to the west, the incoming tide runs from west to east. Sometimes the tide doesn’t

do what it's supposed to do or turns early or late. Sometimes you get different tidal flows with particular spots.

Off Karori and island bay the tide can be 1.5 to 2.5 hours early.

On the west coast the incoming tide runs from south to north and the outgoing tide runs from the north going southward.

The Wiraka rise tide at Pukerua bay can  be an hour late, the Ohau and Makara tide can be an hour early. The bridge at Mana tide can also be an hour early.

 Remember the tide doesn’t always do what it's supposed to do.

Be careful when the tide runs against the wind as it can become twice as rough almost instantaneously.  

Just after the full and new moons the tide is extra-large, and just after the first and last quarter the tides are smaller.

This can have an effect on how much time you have around the turn of the tide to fish and how rough the water can be with wind against tide.

The Brothers - Top of the Sounds and great fishing on a good day

Where to look for tarakihi

The key factor to picking up fish, is finding the edge of a reef or foul, and from there, locating where the tarakihi are feeding or hanging out on a particular day.

You may have to move slightly a couple of times before you get onto the fish but once you do it can be amazing.

Both drifting in the deeper water or anchored up can produce the goods.

Good tarakihi ground can be found, depending where you live, with a bit of research from local fishing stores or on some of the NZ Fishing World fishing reports such as

Finding tarakihi in the Wellington Region

In Wellington, the south end of Mana Island in 30 to 50mtrs is good, but there are plenty of other spots all around the coast from

Palliser Bay right around north of Kapiti Island.

In fact, a bin of cod and teris is like bread and butter for Wellington anglers fortunately.

The best way to find spots is downloading the Navionics AU + NZ boating APP.

With the sonar feature activated these maps outline heaps of good reef area worth exploring.

I've marked a couple of good tarakihi spots with blue markers on the left hand pic. The areas where lines are packed tightly together illustrates steep drop offs and banks, and are often worth a fish.

South coast  

For good terakihi ground here, try out the back of Island Bay (40mtrs), Turakerei head (50 - 70mtrs), Airport reef and the edge of the marine reserve (40-45mtrs).

The 100mtr mark behind Five Mile reef and Homes Rock are good XOS teri spots, with puka and kingis on the cards as an added bonus sometimes.

Inner Wellington Harbour  

Falcon shoal (13mtr), east of Ward Island (18mtr), the wreck, Shelly Bay point.

West coast

Vern’s and Hunter’s (70mtrs), south end of Mana (30-50mtrs), and the Makara fence line (25mtrs) are the areas to target.


Tarakihi are a good fight, but not a big fish, so you don’t need heavy tackle.

I like to use five to seven foot rods with a medium or flexible tip. Ratings on the rod range from 6kg up to 15kg depending on what line you are using.

Match these to any reel you like as long as they balance, and it depends on personal preference.

Popular reels like the Daiwa SL30H, Shimano TLD15, Penn Fatham, Tica ST16, Catch JG2000 etc are all good options.  

Braid or nylon

These days many anglers are using braid instead of nylon because it has little or no stretch, is half to a third of the diameter of nylon

and it’s got high strength to weight qualities and little drag in deeper water.

When using braid you need a flexible rod tip to act as a shock absorber and also you may need to use a bit heavier line (I use 50lb braid like I do 35lb nylon)

than you would if you are using nylon.

Knot strength is not usually as good in braid as it is in nylon but if you double up when tying the knot it’s pretty good.

 Another good option is to tie a metre or so of 30lb mono leader to your braid with an FG knot, and then you have a good end to attach

to dropper rigs and swivels etc using normal Uni knots.  

Nylon comes in a thin or thick diameter, soft or hard, low or standard stretch, so it pays to spool up with the right kind for the right job.

Thin diameter is good for fishing deep water off the boat or for distance casting off the shore, hard thicker diameter (hard) is better for gnarly rock locations.

Many people start with 10-15kg nylon or 15-24kg braid and then experiment with lighter stuff depending on conditions and the size of fish around.

Dropping down to lighter tackle is sometimes required to catch more cagey fish, as they don't see the line and baits appear more natural.

What is ‘lighter’ tackle?  Breaking strain of about 3 – 6kg is classified as light.

Medium tackle (6 – 10kg). Heavy tackle for big fishing rough ground is 10 – 15kg or even heavier.  


There are two main styles of hook used for bagging teris.

The self-setting hook and the striking hook.

Recurve, circle or mutsu hooks are all self-setting and normally hook the fish in the corner of the mouth. The other style of hook is the beak, octopus or suicide hook.

Sometimes these hooks will gut or gill hook a fish, especially with a two hook rig.

For smaller tarakihi I use a 1/0 or 2/0 recurve hook and for bigger fish a 3 - 4/o recurve (or #17 - #19 mutsu).

Sinkers are a necessary terminal anchor that have to be as big as they need to be to beat depth and current.

They can range in size from 2oz to 20oz depending on how much tide is running, and it always pays to get away with the smallest one you can to get to, and stay on, the bottom.

An average weight for 15-30 mtrs on the coast is 10oz and in the harbour around 4oz. When the tide picks up you just change up to a heavier sinker.  

Soft baits

Contrary to some beliefs, terakihi are aggressive feeders and actually love softbaits, but only small ones!

One really effective pattern is the nice little ½ to 1 inch GULP mullet or Zman scented Streakz curly tail.

Little is the trick with soft baits

Artificial roe can be good, and sometimes bits of old GULP softbaits that have been bitten off by other fish can work a treat.

To fish these down deeper, they are often best threaded onto a ledger rig or rigged like a mini sabiki rig using a small 1/0 - ¼ or 1/8oz jighead.  


Generally, you will get better tarakihi fishing when at anchor. However, sometimes anchoring is a bit of a struggle,

particularly in the deeper water (70-100mtrs) and it may be better to drift fish.

If there is too much tide running or wind blowing, then drifting can be the way to go.  Start your drift up current or wind from the fishing spot,

drop your lines down and keep in touch with the bottom by frequently letting out line. Once you have passed the spot or stop getting bites,

wind up, reposition the boat and try again.

Sometimes running a sea anchor (parachute) or reversing into the wind will slow the drift down and help you catch more fish.


Anchoring can be tricky when you start your boating career, but it’s worthwhile and safe if you can learn to do it correctly.

Firstly, pick the right anchor for the job - kewene for rock/sand, danforth for sand, grapnel for reef.

You need approximately the same length of chain as your length of boat

- 4mm chain, 6mm rope, 6mm grapnel for a 2.5 to 3.5mtr boat

- 6mm chain, 8mm rope, 8mm grapnel for a 3.5 - 5mtr boat

- 8mm chain, 10mm rope, 10mm grapnel for a 5 to 7mtr boat

- 12mm to 16mm chain and rope with a big plough or kewene.

For a seven metre to fifteen metre boat, it's advisable to have twice the anchor rope than the depth you are trying to anchor up in.

Survey the area you think the fish are in (normally on the edge of a reef), go up current of the mark and deploy the anchor.  

When it holds tight, dispatch the berley bomb on a separate 4 or 6mm rope, weighted to get it to the bottom.

You can use an ‘easy lift anchor clip system’ when retrieving the anchor, that utilises a sliding buoy.

Be careful anchoring up in windy or tidal conditions.

A Grapnel is the best anchor for hooking into the reef. It bends out if it gets stuck, and the Danforth is the perfect sand anchor.

Boat techniques and seven top tips  

1) Keep it tight to the bottom.

Make sure you can feel your sinker bouncing. However, sometimes a couple of winds up off the bottom may be necessary to catch the fish if there are too many ‘picker’ fish hard on the deck.

2) If you are not catching fish, try a smaller hook and lighter trace.

3) Strike or wind fast to set the hook when you get a good bite, they are quick.

4) Use good berley, at turn of tide.  Nice fresh baits will also help you catch more fish.

5) Net a big fish rather than see it fall off the hook at the boat.

6) Fish somewhere comfortable where everyone on board is happy. It’s a lot easier to catch them while anchored, but you must be in the right spot.  

Even if it’s a pain, move to get it right.

7) Drifting is the best option when fishing a hundred metres plus

Land based on a lovely Wellington day. A bit of a wait for dark when the bite is usually better

Land based techniques

Most of the tarakihi get caught off the shore after dark or around the turn of light.

These fish come exploring into sandy bays, particularly if there’s a bit of reef structure or a weed bank as well.

You don’t necessarily need a super long cast depending on where the weed banks and reefs are.

The important things are terminal tackle: using small hooks, and good quality bait like mussel, prawn, squid or skipjack tuna fillet.

A ledger rig is the best option and they hit hard often hooking themselves.

Most anglers use a 12-14ft rod with 6-10kg nylon or 30lb braid to maximise casting efficiency.

Along some of the sandy bays down the south coast, the terakihi will come in really close.

Good places to fish:

Mahanga bay, Shelly Bay point, Longbeach, Karori stream beach, Karori light beach, Ohau, Opau and Makara beach, Boom and Armchair rock.

Sugarloaf Bay during high tide can often be a good time on a beach, but generally low tide is the preferred time to fish beaches such as the southern end of Makara beach

and other similar rocky outcrops.

The author trying his luck off the shore

Long beach (around from Red Rocks) is a good shore-based tarakihi spot.

Using short casts, small hooks and throwing handfuls of berley out every so often gives you the best chance of scoring.

If you use mussel or prawn tied on with cotton, you’ve got a good chance of a blue moki here as well.

Tarakihi as a sustainable species are in the high risk department as they are targeted heavily for commercial use.

We always like to take enough for a feed when we have a charter operating and people to satisfy,

but we like to limit catches where we can so that this great fish stays around in good numbers.

Good luck and get the egg and breadcrumbs ready.  

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