The Perfect Kayak Fish: Australasian Snapper E-mail
Written by J Cambria   
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 06:32

 

snapper

What exactly makes a certain species best suited for pursuit by kayak?  Well, lucky for kayak anglers all over there are plenty of good hard hitting inshore  species for us to chase, but, some fish seem to be better suited for the kayak than others.  After spending some time in New Zealand I think I have developed a new love affair with the snapper and feel it is the perfect kayak fish.  I was lucky enough to be introduced to this species by Pete PJ Jones and fish the amazing Bay of Islands in Northern New Zealand.  I have met many good fisherman in my time and most of them focused on the "how" but Pete seems to have a much more profound understanding of the "why" which really showed in our pre-fish  discussion of the snapper.  It seemed all I have read about the fish in terms of seasonality, techniques and where to find them was given a new spin according to Pete.  I am very surprised to find out that one of the most productive ways to catch snapper is with soft plastics but this tactic is relatively new, within the last 5 years or so and it appears Pete had got this technique wired pretty well.

It strikes me funny how fishermen all over seem to talk about the same basic things; location of the bait, over-fishing, state of the fishery and of course a few big fish stories thrown in for good measure.

For those not familiar with the snapper (Pagrus auratus), it is the premier inshore species of New Zealand and some parts of Australia, it can grow up to 3 feet long.  I would say it is what the striped bass and redfish combined are to us here in the U.S.  The fish is part of bream family which later I would discover is a relative to our porgy (scup) and it makes perfect sense because as a kid fishing for porgy people would always say “if only porgies grew bigger you would never get the in”, well they do, they’re just on the other side of the planet.

launch location

We set early in the morning to launch the kayaks in area I regard as too beautiful to catch fish in. amazing green mountains exploding out of the bluish - green waters edge - not a landscape I'm use to fishing but it won't be hard to get use to.  The high mountainside will lend a hand in protecting us from the  predicted 25 to 35 mph winds and I cant wait to wet a line, I tried to kayak fish in Sydney Australia, my previous stop on this trip but the weather had another plan for me.

I'm fishing out of Ocean Kayak Prowler 15, a kayak I'm very familiar with as I owed one some years back, Pete is fishing from the same. Pete has already given me instructions on where to start fishing along to coastline so when I get there I make my first cast and get hit immediately - snapper on my first cast!  Albeit small, I still break the ice but inform Pete that back home that it's bad luck to get a fish on the first cast, I am told in New Zealand that you always return your first fish to the pay respect to the sea, I like the idea and release the snapper to grow up.

I am mostly fishing a small baitcaster and using some gulp plastics, once I get use to the jig weight and start getting on the bottom I am consistently hooked up.  I a loving this, this is how I fish back home for stripers but here you have to deal with pulling the fish out of the reef and kelp which does it make considerably more challenging - not to mention the snapper is a much tougher fish pound for pound or kilo for kilo as it would be here, also the fact that they always head to structure when hooked so this makes the early part of the fight very exciting.  I did lose a few rigs in the process but I guess if you're not, then you're not fishing where you should be.  I do take notice that Pete's hooked up about twice as much me but I remind myself that it is his sandbox so no shame.

kahawai

I end the day with at least a dozen snappers, most on the small side but pretty steady action, I also did get a small yellow kingfish and a kahawai (sea trout) which Pete called a “slam” so that was cool. I did want to get one of those big snappers I have seen Pete with in pictures but not in the cards on this trip.  All in all it was an amazing day on the water and as we paddle back Pete talks about preparing the snapper for fish and chips which sounds delicious and as I would find out later, it is!

I am writing this little story on a plane back from Christmas Island where I caught 50 pound giant travally on the kayak and had an amazing time doing it, for me though, plugging for snapper would be my choice for a day of fishing on the kayak.  It is species that is made for the kayak angler, a species that can be caught in deep or shallow water with bait or artificials.  A hard fighting fish that can grow big, but also be caught in numbers and offer steady action off the kayak.  It also make great table fare that can cooked whole or filleted.

Special thanks to Pete Jones and all the guys from New Zealand Kayak Fishing Forums who offered up their kayaks, homes and knowledge to make my trip to New Zealand great.

 

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