2017 coming in hot. 

Finally we are starting to see regular fine spells and the fishing has lit up accordingly. The local salt fly hardcore are getting numbers of fish daily from all around the harbor. You’d be hard pressed to say one area is fishing better than another – although those in the know have a few nuggets up their sleeves. 

A group of killer whales a few months back had pushed the rays out of the channels and for about 10 days afterward we had good sightings of stingrays, often accompanied by the green backed thugs. Currently we have the same situation with all the holiday boat traffic, a blessing and a curse!​

No particular food source is being turned down currently. Big numbers of piper around the zostera, with mullet schools and mini flounder also a common sight. Don’t limit yourself to the ray rider phenomenon either. It is amazing to pin them off the back of a ray, but if that’s all you’re searching for you’ll miss out on a lot more options presented – often at close range. 

From what we’ve already experienced Tauranga is in for a big season. Most fish landed are over the legal size of 750mm with much bigger models sighted, hooked and lost! I snuck out for a look yesterday and was rewarded with a healthy fish from a huge ray, the smallest fish of the lot.  

It pays to get your casting up to scratch as the fish will be less inclined to hit a fly at close range, although they will follow a long way off the ray before smashing a fly boatside. Mix your retrieves up with different flies to get them swimming well, poppers being the prime candidate for this. 

Lastly, and I know we bang on about it. Please handle these fish carefully, don’t hang them by their tails when landing, keep them wet and return to the water ASAP. Watching a fish swim away strongly is a good as getting the eat and the grip and grin. 

Now is the time so go out and enjoy it, we have many more months ahead of us. 

Piper, Garfish, Hyporhamphus ihi, Halfbeaks or Ihe

Call it what you want it’s also known as kingfish candy to a lot of sea fisherman. At this time of year we have big numbers of piper seeking refuge around the eel grass (Zostera muelleri) in the shallow sand flats of most New Zealand harbors. 

Our cunning Yellowtail Kingfish are well aware of this and that is why my go to fly normally resembles a piper of some sort. Subtle colour variations are rarely needed but it does pay to carry a few options, not only in colour but also size. With an average size of 200mm but micro or larger sizes always present it pays to mix things up. 

1/0 Mini Pipe

4/0 Olive Piper

The infamous Rattle Pipe

Kingfish tagging program

Midway through last season a group of us joined forces with the objective of tagging kingfish caught on fly, in particular the ones found in the skinny water here in New Zealand. 

What started as a curiosity about these creatures habits and desire to protect them and their habitat has now gained the attention of Bluewater Marine Research, New Zealand Sportfishing Council and Legasea. Having the backing and support of these guys gives us a solid platform to work from and collate data as it comes to hand. 

A recapture rate of around 7% gives us insight into the Kingfish movements and growth, already we have had 2 reports back. The most recent having travelled 190km in 160 days with a growth of 4cm over this time. 

We encourage you to get out there and catch these fish but bear in mind they are a valuable resource for data collection. Please measure nose to fork of tail and release with care. Also record the tag number and send all info to the site provided on each tag – a close up pic of the tag is a good way of getting that info quickly for later transferal. And if you don’t have a tape just lay your rod beside it take a mark and measure later. 
Some points on fish handling:

Use barbless hooks – it’s far easier to release them and less harm 

Net the fish preferably or cradle in the shallows

Keep time out of water to minimum  

Lay on a wet towel on boat decks, use an edge to cover eyes if needed

Keep fight times as quick as possible 

Karma saves the day

Finally managed to spy a gap from the rain and wind we have suffered over the last 5 weeks. When these roll around you pull a half day at work and get into it. 

Working some sheltered flats with a lot of life the VHF came to life – turns out I was close to a kite surfer in trouble. It’s hard to leave these situations but you would hope someone came to your need ASAP.  

After a pick up and drop off I got back to the fishing and back to a considerably more flooded flat. The next faithful early season flat seemed void until some movement caught my eye.

After pulling the hook first cast I eventually bagged my first “ray rider” for the season. It took a little patience shadowing the fish for a while but it paid off after it settled down again. 

After a few winter months missing this action it sure was a sweet moment.