Author: Will Hay
Spring marks the beginning of another exciting saltwater fishing season for many enthusiastic kiwi anglers. Off the back of a rather wet and miserable winter (and for most of the country we may as well include last summer into the fold), the expected warmer water temps and increased movement of school-fish should be welcomed across the coasts. Spring also marks the start of the spawning season for many of NZ’s popular eating fish, especially snapper as they seek out shelter in the shallower waters to spawn. In this piece we will cover off some special tips to get the most out of spring fishing and ensure a successful day on the water.
Spawning places an added demand on the fish’s food consumption, so schooling baitfish are a high target for predatory fish looking to stock up on their food supplies. During spring pay close attention to the bird-life on the water as they can often lead you to baitfish work-ups which can yield explosive fishing. There’s nothing quite like casting a lightly weighted jig or topwater lure and feeling that line go instantly tight as the lure gets hit forcefully!
On slower days light tackle can work well during this season especially when fishing near inlets, up estuaries or close to shore. Softbaiting can be especially popular here as spawning fish seek an easy feed which a smaller softbait can resemble. Bait selection is just as important as presentation so make sure to carry a couple different softbait options in case one isn’t working. It’s not uncommon for one bait to work magic one day then be totally quiet the next.
When fishing in deeper water or targeting bigger fish, a strayline set with a decent sized bait such as a whole squid or fillet of kahawai. Fish like snapper tend to hang on the sides of the drop offs so an adequately weighted strayline rig can allow you to present the bait most effectively no matter what depth the fish may be at so be prepared for a bite!
Watch your windows
Although spring has yielded many a trophy fish of their lifetime, the unpredictable nature of spring weather can catch you out quickly. Coastal areas may experience strong fluctuating winds during this changing season, so be sure to check your local forecasts before heading out. The easiest way to do this is on the Coastguard App, it's free to download and has a boatload of handy features. Fishing in the lee of the wind, protected by an island or headland may give a false sense of security so make sure when you’re out on the water, you still pay attention to the conditions and forecast so you don’t get caught out on the return journey. While daytime temperatures are pleasant, evenings and early mornings can still be winter chilly, so gear up accordingly, especially for those change of light sessions.
Spring fishing is often a good time to teach the kids how to fish due to the abundance of marine activity. The young’uns quickly get bored of the ‘fishing’ bit of fishing so the ‘catching’ component is vital to hook a budding angler, and fishing this season may give the best chance of a hook-up. Milder days mean less roasting under the hot sun like in summer so it’s another perk of fishing in spring, although be sure to remember the sunscreen as the risk of sunburn is just as high as the summer months.
Even if the fishing isn’t successful, spring often sees an increased chance of sighting marine life such as pods of dolphins, whales, or seals. These sightings are always a treat for the kids, just remember to keep a safe distance as per local maritime rules.
Fish for tomorrow
As always, it’s important to only take what you need, but during the spring spawning season when fish are often at their most vulnerable it’s especially important to be mindful of your catch. There’s many an argument over the take of fish during spawning seasons, however restricting the quantity of larger fish that have successfully grown and established themselves as key members of the population indicates the value of their genetic contribution. By choosing to release these fish rather than harvesting them, we can contribute positively to the preservation of valuable genetic diversity within our fishery and ensure good stocks for the future.
Spring fishing across Aotearoa can be a wonderful experience, but it comes with the challenge of ever-changing conditions to be mindful of. So, gear up accordingly, embrace the changing season, and make the most of the vibrant spring fishing that’s out there!
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