Get the dog!

Team Ampley Sufficient Competency spend the day slaying Snapper in the Firth of Thames.


Organised a fish for the Easter Weekend. It seems to be the done thing in Auckland (based on the number of boats out there) – to jump on a boat and head out to the mussel farms. The weather certainly didn’t disappoint, and it was a case of getting my sea legs back and getting some fish to feed the family.

Had a hell of a lot of fun, learnt a bit, got a sunburn, and got some fish!

Now, don’t be mistaken – I am no fishing expert. But – like anything else – I do something, I think a lot about it – here are some of my thoughts from the day!

The Plan

The plan was to head out to a spot that Paul (my bro) had been out to recently in the Firth of Thames. It had already yielded good results – so it seemed like a good, easy choice.

I am sure the spot will be well known to most Aucklanders – and for good reason. It seems a safe bet for snapper.

I have been playing with the awesome Navionics App – and it made it a breeze to research, mark, and get to the spot! What is interesting – it also seems to have any user’s spots and marks on it – not sure if this is selectable to be public or not – nor whether others realise it does this – but essentially – you can see where other users are marking their fishing spots on it!

The Boat

Meet Blockbuster. This is my brother’s, wife’s, mother’s family boat. So – my mother-in-law once removed? Regardless, its original purpose was as a water-skiing boat – and it’s the little details on it that really make it shine. 😉

It’s a great little boat. However, I do feel like any male on it needs to be wearing stubbies, a singlet and grow a handlebar moustache. Working on it!

We decided to launch at Kawakawa Bay – and – unsurprisingly, in hindsight – quickly found ourselves in a queue of cars waiting to launch the boat!

After sitting in the line for a while (remember – we are relatively new to all this) – we did notice that people were diverting off to use a small boat ramp on what seems to be the way to the main ramp. Seeing no reason why we shouldn’t just use the smaller ramp ourselves – we did!

By my understanding (now) – the ramp we ended up using was the public ramp – with the one everyone seemed to be waiting for being the fishing club ramp – that you pay for. Sure – where we went, you had to get your feet wet getting the boat in – but – ah – we are going fishing – on the sea – which is known to be wet?

It was amusing watching others, however, who did seem to have an aversion to getting (shin) deep in water while getting on a boat – and who also didn’t seem to register that there was a growing line of people waiting for them to get sorted, get on the boat and get away from the ramp so the everyone else could proceed in launching their boats. Self-awareness and situation-awareness seem to be a severely missing attribute in modern society.

The Fishing

So – onto the fishing itself.

It was a slow start – for me, at least. And it’s interesting how you start telling yourself stories depending on how the fishing is going.


To put it simply – Paul was first on the board, and second, and third, fourth – and it quickly got to the point where I had to re-assess what I was doing compared to him. The only obvious difference was the bait being used. He was on Squid, me, Mullet. It got to the point where he was offering to hand me his hooked-up rod. Smartarse.

So – of course – I figured I should at least try the squid. And caught something nearly straight away. Bias – hinted at, now confirmed. The squid was the go! Well. Not quite. After another lull in the bites – I switched back to mullet and caught the fish of the day. So. Maybe it wasn’t the bait after all! The bait was switched around for the rest of the day – in the end, we were both putting down either with decent success.

I did put down some burley – but think that was met with limited success – next time, I think I need to sink it down further – and – tie it to the front of the boat to reduce the hookups I had on it. Dropping the lines down right on top of the burley rope and bag wasn’t the best of ideas. Though – I guess it is debatable – fishing over the mussel farms – whether we needed burley at all.

The rigs.

I like shiny things. So I had a tackle box full of all kinds of rigs, jigs and the rest. By contrast, my brother was pulling up plenty of fish using an old, semi-broken rod, a rusty reel and a basic running rig – while I switched between ledger rigs, running rigs on one line, and all manner of lures and so with the other.

Part of it, to be blunt, is to keep me engaged – I am not one to drop a line and sit and wait – I am keen to be doing something – so dropping one line while faffing with the other keeps me busy. Though, ironically, simplicity shone through.

Simplicity Wins

In the end, it was a simple ledger rig on the Shimano Baitrunner that won out. It got to the point that it was hooking up quicker than I could fuss around with the other rod. I baited it up, dropped it to the bottom and waited with the secondary drag on. Once I heard it starting to click, I slowly, without rush, picked up the rod, gave it another moment, pointed the rod to the water, turned the rod handle around to disengage the secondary drag and slowly raised the rod – letting the circle hooks do the rest. Most of the time, there was now a fish on the end!

Circle Hooks

Ok. I am sold. When I started fishing, there was always the swift, angry lift of the rod to set the hook. No longer! I like the circle hooks because it’s a much gentler ‘strike’ – which is ideal for kids as well. Also, I really appreciate the ease of removing hooks and dropping back both undersized fish and fish that you are not going to keep, for whatever reason – without having to reach down into the stomach of your fish with a pair of plyers trying to retrieve a hook!

I have now switched over to circle hooks for pretty much everything and will continue to work on my new setting technique!

Light Rigs

It’s a balance between utilitarian and fun for me. I enjoy a little bit of work to get fish up, so the lightweight combination of a Shimano Corvalus 300 and Vortex Slow Jigging Rod has given me a second setup to play with while I wait for a fish to come onto the main rig. In the end, though – I skipped the jigs (the Droppers, Micro Jigs and Softbaits getting no hits) and put a running rig on it. Only for a while, though – shortly – I wasn’t able to re-bait it after the main rig started running hot.

Getting Knotty

One thing I do need some more practice on is knot tying – specifically, braid to fluro. While I was ‘brought up’ using swivels – I have started to come to the conclusion they are not needed for a lot of the fishing I do.

Tying the mainline to the leader makes for a much simpler setup – and reduces the chance of that occasional whack to the first guide on the rod with some overzealous winding in!

However, I lost one fish to the fluro coming off the braid on the jig rig. I have been starting to use the FG – need some more practice at home, I think!

I also lost a couple of rigs due to abrasion on the mainline – I think – this was due to fish pulling the line down and around the mussel farm itself – but am not sure – I checked the guides on the boat rod – and they did seem ok.

Targeting Bigger Fish

Of course, everyone wants to get bigger fish! We only landed a couple over the limit – but – when the fish do start biting, you can’t help but wonder if you could get more of the bigger fish into the boat and weed out some of the just-over-the-limit ones.

I am not worried about landing monsters, really. I do like the modern thinking of letting the big breeders back into the water anyhow. However, I think next time; I will look to use the next size up in a hook and get generous with the bait sizes. I guess I have always figured the smaller fish will nibble away at the bigger-sized bait – but I have it on good authority that it can also be the case that the bigger fish push the smaller ones out – and some of the fish we target, like to try and swallow things whole anyhow – so bigger bait and bigger hook can stop the smaller hookups. At the rate we were going, it would have been fine if the bites were a little slower but bigger. Not to say we didn’t still get our quote for the day, and good feed out of it!

Job Done. Back to clean and clean.

Just before lunch, we hit our quota – having had the ‘mis’fortune of managing to haul up extra fish (that were released back) while pulling up the lines after the last fish was landed. From a slower start, it became a very fast end!

With the fish all nicely Iki’ed and on an ice slurry, we headed back to the boat ramp.

While I don’t ever remember my father specifically teaching me how to gut and fillet a fish – it’s not something I have ever really had many concerns about. However, old dog, new tricks – I did swat up a bit before getting back into this – and learnt a new method off Matt Watson’s Ultimate Fishing show with gutless filleting. I certainly like the idea of not cutting into a gut cavity – it’s something we try to avoid while hunting as well. So I am sure with a bit more practice, it is going to become my preferred method.

Final Thoughts

Well, I still need to get my sea legs sorted. I was still rocking a bit around four hours after being back on dry land. Land Sickness. I am going to read up a bit on it and see if there is something I do to help reset things a bit quicker. I know my balance hasn’t been the best in a couple of years, and I know that I have had an issue with wax impacting the eardrums – they are likely totally unrelated – but – worth having a look into.

The Dog

One thing that did amuse me is how quickly you adapt new slang and sayings. I actually have very little idea of the actual meaning behind the ‘dog’ reference in regard to fishing. I have to assume it is simply another word for a fish. Though I don’t see why you would call a dog a fish, social groups like their own unique language to develop a sense of culture and sure it has an origin somewhere.