Bait fishing while snapper spawn

February 02, 2016 by Damian Clayton

Trip Info

The Catch
Shark (Mako)
Salmon (Australian)
Snapper (Pink)
John Dory

We have been mostly bait fishing on the anchor as of late. The reason being that the vast snapper schools that are furiously spawning at the moment seem to prefer nibbling on the baits rather than the usual aggressive jig and lure smashing we all love so much. There has been some epic snappering in these schools with plenty of big fish caught (and many released too) and limit bags are not uncommon.


Throughout this period we have been using NZ Pilchards from Fishing Direct in Silverdale. The reason…they are caught in Whangapararaoa Bay and in the Bream Bay area too. Match the hatch to better your catch.

These “pillies” far out fish all the imported pilchards and if you are keen bait fisherman you will notice this in your results. The pillies are IQF (individual quick frozen) meaning they are in a very fresh condition and come free flow in the box. When defrosted and cut they actually bleed unlike the imported rubbish that just turns to mush. Look for the Salty Dog brand.

We have also been using the Lolago squid too. This is imported (Cali and Mexico) and is also IQF and food grade. I haven’t eaten it but there is nutritional information on the box and its a great size and conditioned bait. A lot of our NZ caught squid is not that well looked after and is orange to look at. Squid in their natural environment are not orange and sure a hungry fish will eat it but when the snapper are spawning and thinking about other things you might just find that the fresh, natural option will entice a bite.


On the odd occasion (usually prospecting on the drift) that we have gone to lure fishing it has been the orange Slider from Ocean Angler that has been our go to lure. Recently we have also had great success using the pink Slider and Father Xmas Jitterbug. We have dropped down in leader weight to make these even more effective and if you are doing this it is critical you check the leader after every fish due to the abrasion.
Micro jigs too will need the connection knot and leader checked also as often due to the jigs small size a bigger fish will scoff the whole lure and this can rough up your leader pretty badly.


Unlike in previous years the snapper schools although big in size are very localised and not as wide spread throughout the Gulf. Certain areas seem to be holding fish in better numbers than others

Whangapararaoa Bay: We have been fishing this general area for a month now. Varying depths from 18-50m but recently in 32mThe

Northeast of the Noises in about 42-46m. Have a good look around with the sounder or watch the surface and sky for birds.

Noises to Durville and down towards Gannet Rock. We had a few good sessions in here but the size was not as good as the previous two locations I mentioned. Also I think quite a bit of the bait that was there may have moved in towards Rangi and into the Firth.

The Motuhie area is starting to show more promise with better reports coming from the area around the green marker. Home Bay should have fish feeding in the current too but I haven’t been down there yet and may not.

The inner harbour has had its moments of brilliance but from what I hear it is still pretty patchy. Get on the right spot and you’ll do well though.

The Firth has also dished up a few good loads of snapper and it seems the further down into the Firth you go the more fish are around. Large bait schools are also present which is encouraging.

West of Channel Island: Ahh the old stomping ground. I’ve fished out here so much I have to drive the opposite way from time to time just for a change of scenery! It can be like finding a needle in a haystack out here if you solely rely on your sounder so I prefer long drifts or anchor up on some sign or in the current and get into it from there. The long drifts have been out bread and butter out here with some great catches when the bite is on. in the spring you get the odd pup “puka and in the summer there can be skippys and we have even had albacore and seen a small marlin tailing here too.

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