Bay Of Islands

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Fishing in Bay Of Islands

Bay of Islands fishing charters are the perfect gateway to break a record in New Zealand. These fisheries are all about big game, drag-screaming-induced goosebumps, unspoilt nature, and big boats to withstand the action. Zane Grey, prolific American author and an avid fly fisherman, once described the Bay of Islands as the Angler’s ‘El Dorado.’ Almost 100 years and dozens of IGFA records later, little has changed in terms of the fishing potential of New Zealand’s north.

The area still holds most of the world’s biggest Swordfish and Yellowtail Kingfish catches in virtually all line classes. But unlike many other famous fisheries, the Bay of Island’s marine habitat is still supple and strong, despite remaining one of the nation’s most popular fishing grounds.

Known For

Fishing Bay of Islands is not a typical experience. The mild climate during winter time, the year round action, and the untamed schools of fish, both large and tasty, are just the tip of the iceberg. The deeper you go, the more Snapper you’ll find, the further you head out — and this is by no means long distance — the bigger the Marlin and Swordfish you’ll get. This is the place where even a half day trip can get you a trophy catch. Bay of Islands fishing is addictive, and we’re yet to find a hardcore angler who’ll stop after a half day. Most local charters know and live by the fishing rules and seasons, so you’ll be in good hands to get big game in little time.

When to go fishing Bay of Islands?

Bay of Islands fishing never ceases, but there are two periods to look out for. From late in the year, in December, until the first signs of spring in April, fishing is all about game fish here. This means  that if you want to catch some enormous fish you should get on a plane and come here then. The action heats up at the turn of the year, when you can get average number of Striped, Blue, and Black Marlin, and gets scorching hot from February and March when in addition to Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna and Swordfish are a common catch.

As for the light tackle species, here you will find droves of Yellowtail Kingfish, Snapper, Grouper, Kahawai, and Trevally. Now, not all of these species are strictly speaking ‘light tackle’, but compared to the giants of the seas, they are. Or at least that’s how local fishermen will often call them. A caveat here — many game fish aficionados go light tackle fishing for Marlin in this part of the world as well, and it can be super exciting, especially for more experienced anglers.

Where to go when you hire a charter?

Bay of Islands fishing charters have the luxury of filthy rich fisheries both closer to the shore and further out. Inshore fisheries are exciting, especially for families with kids or novice fishermen. More experienced anglers will find plenty of game fish further out, throughout the year.


The promise of an exciting day inshore doesn’t do the trick for some anglers, but Bay of Islands might make them change their minds. Why? It’s simple: really strong species in high numbers, not far from the coast. This means that even a half day trip can be super rewarding, and might be the perfect starting point for the less experienced anglers among anglers.

What can I do on an inshore trip?

A typical inshore trip will see you fishing around rocky bottoms and reefs for Snapper. As they feed over shellfish beds on sandy areas you can try some fly fishing moves.

The local beauty, Kahawai, can be find nearly anywhere inshore. They are fun to catch and often put up a fantastic aerial show while pulling the line.

Finally, Yellowtail Kingfish. These brutes will be around reefs and will hang around deep pinnacles, rocky areas or near other species such as Kahawai. Sometimes the only way you know it’s not a Marlin is the proximity to the shore; otherwise, the bite can easily be just as forceful.

How much does it cost?

As a rule, inshore trips are cheaper than game fishing outings. A half day inshore trip around the reefs might start somewhere around 600 / 700 NZD for a group of up to four anglers, whereas bigger groups might need to add some more for additional people. Half day shared trips are a common option here, and in that case your afternoon or morning trip can cost you around 120 NZD dollars. Full day trips are around 1200 NZD or more for private trips.


We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — New Zealand game fishing is an unforgettable experience. From Marlin to Tuna, Bay of Islands fishing charters know how to land these sea hot shots. To get the most out of it, book a full day trip, or if the budget allows you, consider multiday trips. These voyages can take you as far as you want, exploring the landmark islands such as the Three Kings while waking up near big game hot spots with plenty of time to engage in fishing.

What to expect from an offshore trip?

Expect strong fish that can look intimidating. Striped Marlin arrive here in late December or early January, and can grow over four meters in size and weigh over 200 kilos. Blue Marlin are in high number from February until July and they will work on luring anglers further offshore. As for expectation, the record is over 400 kilos. Let’s leave it at that. Black Marlin are more rare and so instill more awe when you get them to bite. They can be caught between March and July.

Swordfish are prime target from March till July. Expect a real battle as these whoppers won’t be subdued too easily. Tuna... well, we know how aggressive they can get. This glamorous species is super tasty and feisty, so hardcore anglers will enjoy it.

On an average day, you will head out around 20 miles or a bit more to get to the hot spots. Some charters do provide live bait beforehand, on others you will first have some warm up sessions to get your baitfish.

How much does an offshore trip cost?

Offshore trips are mostly for private groups and last anywhere between ten hours and a couple of days (if you want some hardore angling). One day trips start around 2500 NZD per group, and most of the time we’re talking about groups of up to six people. These trips usually cover all the fishing gear, tackle, and bait, and come with coffee, tea, and food.

Is a multiday trip for me?

There are a few pointers to consider here. First, obviously, your budget. If you’re a novice angler, sure you can hone your skills and stamina. Just beware that these trips can take you far offshore, and if you haven’t been on a long trip before, go with a full day. As for more experienced anglers, a mutliday trip is a thrill. You’re really focused on fishing, and luckily, Bay of Islands has countless nooks and crannies with big fish. The area here is beautiful and so are the fish.

Types of Fishing

To combat all the fish that swim in the Bay of Islands, you will need to get the right technique. A great thing about the local charters is that they will allow you to combine a variety of approaches and tricks.

How to fish Bay of Islands inshore?

So, the three main fish here are Yellowtail Kingfish, Snapper, and Kahawai. You will mostly find Yellowtail around Cape Brett, Hanson’s Reef, Kingfish Reef (talk about what’s in the name), and some around Onslow Rocks. Live bait is the most successful, using Kahawai or Jack Mackerel. Jigging is a popular methods, and more and more innovations have introduced to it, such as long jigs.

Snapper you can find around Ninepin and Capstan Rock. However, they bit well at al distances and at all times. Brampton Reef is another place of interest. The local experience suggests using mackerel or pilchard squid baits or plastics. You will want the fish bait to be alive but bleeding.

Most inshore spots will yield a Kahawaii. They are mostly caught on jig and softbait, though fly, trolling lures, or a spinner can do the trick as well.

What techniques to use around Bay of Islands offshore spots?

Trolling with live bait is a safe option that can get you any of the Marlin family. Blue Marlins feed extensively on striped Bonito. Striped Marlin can be caught when utilizing switch baiting, using skirted lures on your outriggers to tease the fish. With some skill, you could be in for a display of impressive fighting skills. Black Marlin usually take the battleground down, so you won’t be seeing many splashes. Live bait is still popular, and they eat most of the fish, with squid and big tuna.

As for the Broadbill Swordfish, you can get this gladiator using night-time drifting with light sticks. Of course, downrigger will oft do the trick, and you can use them to slow troll the bait. You need to work deep water structures precisely.

Tuna will also fall for trolling, especially if live bait is involved, but won’t be put of by artificial lures either. Their strike is strong and sudden, so be ready for biceps-ripping action.

Rules & Regulations

You don’t need a fishing license if you’re a recreational angler. Do remember that selling the fish you catch is not allowed.

New Zealand strongly supports tag and release not only on Billfish, but also on Tuna and Yellowtail kingfish, and Bay of Islands fishing charters are no exception. Don’t destroy the fisheries, and be a good sport.

Everything else you can mostly learn from the crew that you book a trip with. When you’re packing for the trip, you will want to bring sun protection, a cap, and light, flexible clothes. Sea sickness medication might be a good idea, especially on long trips. Some captains do supply food and drinks, but it’s best you check that with them before the trip.

Bay Of Islands
Based on 19183 reviews by FishingBooker anglers

Bay Of Islands Fishing Seasons


Marlin are in solid numbers, so you should head out. You might even get some Yellowfin Tuna. Closer to the inshore waters, it’s prime time for Snapper, Trevally, Kahawai, and Yellowtail Kingfish.


The offshore action is wildfire. Striped, Black, and Blue Marlin are a common catch, followed by Broadbill Swordfish, and some Tuna. Inshore, you can get Snapper, Kahawai, Yellowtail Kingfish, and Trevally.


Game fishing is still on fire. Marlin are a common catch, and now Yellowfin Tuna are more prominent. You can get Snapper, Kahawai, as well as Grouper (Hapuka) that are now higher in numbers.


This is a transitory month, but the offer is still good. Yellowfin Tuna are the most numerous, though Marlin number are still high. Snapper, Grouper, and Kahawai are biting well.


The offshore offer slightly subdues, but some nice fishing is still available as Marlin, Swordfish, and Tuna feed offshore. Hapuka are getting more and more numerous.


Offshore waters are less spectacular, but still solid. An occasional Tuna, Swordfish, and some Marlin are there to fish for. Inshore, the number of Snapper dwindles, as Hapuka are pure gold.


To make up for the dry season offshore, inshore waters are bountiful with fish. Hapuka are the main catch, but an average inshore trip should yield Snapper, Kahawai and Trevally.


Hapuka are still awesome and on the chew. The action takes place inshore and that’s where you should be. Snapper and Kahawai still move around.


It’s still Grouper time. Anglers can also fish for the tasty table fare of inshore Bay of Islands, Snapper being the most prominent.


Yellowtail Kingfish gradually rebound, as Hapuka numbers go down. Snapper are still a catch to count on, with Trevally and Kahawai still around.


Game fish is not quite there, but we all know they’re coming. Some sightings of early Marlin may occur, but it can be a hit and miss. Inshore, it’s solid fishing around the rocky bottoms.


The game fishing season is upon us. The numbers aren’t as high, but fishing charters readily head out to test the grounds and see where Marlin are. You can stay inshore and get Yellowtail Kingfish and Snapper.

Bay Of Islands Fishing Calendar

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Reviews of Fishing in Bay Of Islands

My Birthday Fish Wish was "KING FISH" So I went fishing with Wild Blue Charters
Mike C. fished with Wildblue Charters on February 29, 2020
Keep your lines tight, have heart to fight game fish
The Perfect Morning with Captain Geoff and Paul
Richard M. fished with Major Tom Adventures on January 23, 2019
Find a local charter, and get out there and catch fish!
Half day trip
Jeffrey S. fished with Wildblue Charters on February 20, 2018
Sadly we were fishing post cyclone rains, winds and low pressure systems The experience was great, the weather and conditions were not on our side on the day
Half Day Dawn KingFish Trip
Courtney D. fished with Wildblue Charters on February 17, 2018
take travel calm is you get motion sickness and sunscreen the sun was a killer
Snapper Half Day with Captain Geoff
Ryan H. fished with Major Tom Adventures on December 26, 2017
Absolutely! 4 out of 5 of us have never been out fishing in the ocean.
Best charter trip!!!
Michelle P. fished with Major Tom Adventures on March 17, 2017
Book with Major Tom ll! Geoff knows his stuff!

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