2021 trip reports

A unique fish-eye view of the Tekapo Canal

Brendan Rennie, May 2021

January = Big cod

Murray Doig

The Xmas & New Year break proved to be frustrating as far as weather went, with most days the windy blowing form one direction or the other, after days of watching and reviewing various different forecasts hoping for the best one we finally had a day worth going out wide of Akaroa.

Tight Lines with Brent Musgrave, Dan Walsh, Hugh McDonald and my self headed out with the plan to have a dive then catch a fish, the water was “dirty” in and around the coast so the decision was made to travel out to the groper spot.

After landing a few reasonable groper I hooked into what I thought was another groper, what a surprise to see a monster Bluey surface on the end of a groper hook.

After many photos the scales where located and the cod weighted in at 3.76kg.

This made up for a few frustrating days waiting to go fishing

The moral is good things come to those who wait

Tight Lines

Murray Doig

Elusive Snapper 2020

Steve Kirsopp

For the past few years I have spent a week between Christmas and New Year cruising around the outer Marlborough Sounds, sleeping on the boat and trying to catch large snapper. It is a great way to relax and wind down after a long working year. 

Previous years Derek, Dale and Lucas Rule have done the same trip with me. We tend to fish separately, with Lucas on my boat a lot of the time, but at night we raft up together and share meals and socialise for the evening. This year the Rules couldn’t make the journey over Christmas due to doing house repairs. However, Andrew and Wendy Rennie were keen on doing the same trip.

The target for the past few years has been to catch some good sized snapper in excess of 5 kgs. I have managed to catch a few good fish around Stephens Passage in winter, but have struggled to get a good snapper over the Christmas period. When there are a lot of boats round the bigger fish tend to be a bit more elusive and harder to catch. Certainly that had been the case for me over the past few Christmases. I had heard that there were good sized snapper being caught in Keneperu and Pelorus Sounds (in excess of 20 lbs) in late November, so I was hoping they may still be around. 

The Rennie’s and I organised to meet just outside Elaine Bay on the evening of December 27th 2020.  I drove to Elaine Bay with the boat and launched there, Andrew and Wendy had launched in Havelock the day prior to my arriving.  Both the Rennies and Rules are members of the Pelorus Boating Club and so have access to their safe moorings which are situated throughout the Marlborough Sounds. This gives you peace of mind when staying out over night on the boat. 

The first full day on the water we headed to Port Ligar. This is the first good sized bay where the Pelorus Sounds meets the open sea. Its is filled with mussel farms and so should be a snapper haven. We caught blue cod, gurnard, small pan sized snapper (just legal ones, so I was releasing these) and kahawai – but no big snapper.  For the next few days we fished the outer sounds around Cissy Bay, Crail Bay, Homewood Bay and Beatrix Bay and still no big snapper. We were catching some good Gurnard and Blue Cod, so we were still eating fresh fish every day.  My boat is relatively small (under 6 metres) for sleeping on and I don’t have a fridge, but by using a good chilli bin and salt ice I can keep things cold for up to 6 days. This meant this wasn’t a harvesting trip, so we only kept enough fish for the day and released the others. 

On the fifth day there was a little bit of wind around and all of the closer Boat Club mooring were full, so the Rennie’s decided to anchor up in a small safe bay below Te Rawa and I rafted onto them. One of the joys of sleeping on the boat is that you can fish till dark and start again at daylight when the fish are most active. Most of the fish we caught were during the change of light. 

We anchored up around 5 pm and Andrew and I went for a walk to a couple of bays over where we met 8 sea kayakers who were touring the Sounds like we were - only without motors. I noticed they were eating most dehydrated meals and so I asked them if they wanted any fresh fish if we catch some overnight- the answer was yes please!!  We wandered back to the boat and had tea while we got some fishing lines out to catch the elusive big snapper.  We had been catching most of our bait in the evenings with mackerel and kahawai being the preferred baits. Andrew and I had both installed blue lights on our boats and would turn these on after dark to attract bait fish. Then we either used sabiki lines, soft baits or, in Andrews case a fly rod, to catch them. It's good entertainment before bed. 

I am a light sleeper and really enjoyed getting woken up by the dawn chorus from the bell birds and tuis at 5.20 am in the morning. I generally got up, put out my snapper lines and then lay back in my sleeping bag listening to the radio.  This morning was quite again until I got a good run on one of my rods just before 7am. There had been a few sting rays around other mornings, so I wasn’t that optimistic when I picked up the rod. When it did its second run I struck and was surprised to feel the characteristic snapper nods rather than the straight pull of a sting ray trying to head off into the distance.  I actually thought this might bae the elusive snapper I had been looking for, so I took my time playing it and sure enough a good snapper got close to the boat. I had two attempts at netting it, but finally I managed to get it on the boat. My first good sized snapper caught over Christmas in three years of trying – Yahoo!!  Andrew and Wendy were still in bed, so I couldn’t do too much celebrating, but it was fair to say I was a happy chappie. When Andrew got up we did the usual photo session and then it was time for breakfast. – a good start to the day. 

I had run out of ice in my chilli bin by now, so I returned to Elaine Bay that morning and towed the boat to Portage and launched there. On the way to Elaine Bay I called into see the sea kayakers we had spoken to the previous evening and gave the fish to them. They were stoked to have a good feed for the next few days. I also had some fresh Gurnard fillets in the boat, so they had them for breakfast while they filleted the snapper. They were very happy. 

I spent the rest of the day in Havelock getting some exercise and then launched in Portage that night. I spent two days fishing Keneperu Sounds with no luck, so I boated out to meet the Rennie’s again at the same bay I caught my snapper.  There was very little wind that night, so we rafted together anchored out a little bit deeper and got all our snapper lines out. I prefer to use a running ball sinker on my mainline, followed by a swivel and then a 1 metre trace with two hooks (a main hook and a keeper hook). The main hook and trace is threaded through the fish (bait)  starting at the tail and going to the head - with the keeper hook goes through the gut cavity and out the opposite side to the main hook - then I tie a half hitch around the tail so that the bait floats naturally.  The theory is that the bait floats off the bottom, the snapper hits it head-first and once its swallowed the bait then both hooks are available to catch it.  This works really well for pilchards which are a soft bait. Once the snapper has hit the pilchard, it tends to disintegrate leaving the hooks fully exposed. We were fishing with freshly caught mackeral and kawahai and so the baits were much more firm.  Generally, I let the snapper do the first run and if its is happy they will swallow the bait and I strike on the second run. This has worked week for me other years. It’s my belief that on the first run they tend to hold the bait between their cast iron jaws, if they don’t feel too much resistance and they are happy, then they will swallow the bait and they are able to be caught. 

I set up Andrew rods and my own so we had a total of 8 rods out that night – no snapper was going to get past that wall of death – or so I thought. We got four good runs that night – there was definitely an elusive big moocher out there. The first run I struck too soon and got my bait back in one piece, the second and l struck on the second run and still got my bait back whole.  The third was similar and the fourth I passed the rod to Andrew to give him a chance to catch a snapper and still he didn’t hook up. This had me baffled, but I suspect that because we were fishing with big, very firm baits (half kahawai and mackerels) and, while the hook was exposed, the fish had swallowed it whole and so wasn’t catching the fish. Possibly we should have let the fish run for longer, we were effectively pulling the baits out of their mouth after they had swallowed them – bugger!!

I spent the rest of my time fishing with filleted fish, but alas I newer encountered any more bigger snapper. Just the one for ten days solid fishing, but still a good time was had and plenty of fresh fish made it to the tea table. Thank you to Andrew and Wendy Rennie for their company, cups of tea, meals and generally keeping an eye on me. I enjoyed the time away immensely and hope to be able to do the same trip next year. 

Steve Kirsopp
​​​​​​​Ferrymead Fishing Club