The fish are still biting!

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Photo credit: Cam Feast, Adventure Films

The Bookabach team caught up with legendary Captain Bucko from the BOI and asked him about the best fish to catch around NZ in the colder months:

We heard you are passionate about fishing for your dinner all year round in NZ?

Captain Bucko:
Often throughout winter we tend to hibernate, spending our fishing time in front of the TV, and reminiscing of summer days spent hauling in snapper with the family.

New Zealand has so many places available to the average family, and we are lucky it’s so easy for us to get out and enjoy Godzone – and all those amazing fish. From Stewart Island cod to Cape Brett kingfish we are truly blessed.

As the days shorten and the temperatures drop we forget that some of the best fishing to be done is right now, in the winter months. If you get a good day, just rug up and get out there!

Okay – I’ve arrived at the bach and I want to get out there for a fish or two. What do you recommend?

Captain Bucko:
Our favourite fish, the trusty snapper, tends to move right up into the shallow waters in order to keep warm in amongst the kelp so it’s much easier to catch in winter without necessarily having to get out on a boat.

• First up is to catch some fresh live bait, you want to try and get koheru or slimy mackerel (aka blue mackeral) and ideally use a set of sabiki rigs (available at the $2 shop).

• Wharves are perfect late at night under a light for catching bait – a great adventure with the kids after dinner. I like an incoming tide that peaks and then starts to run out, this will give the best chance of a good bite.

• Once you have your live bait then it’s time to tackle the big one. Head to the rocks (or out on the boat if you have one) when the tide is right and the weather is safe. Taking my freshly caught live bait I gang hook him, cut the tail off and cast him back into the area that I know the big ones are. While my fresh bait is at work I will be chopping up old bait to add to the mix as berley. 

• You will find that it takes time for our friends to arrive but as I always say – “don’t leave the party till the girls arrive!” That first hit will come, sometimes it’s the big one, but mostly it will be a pannie snapper or two (that’s one that’ll fit in a frypan –Ed.). Just make sure you stay there and keep going - then you will get that bad boy you’ve been waiting for.

• Remember that unless you’re feeding a big family it is best to hook and release. You should always only take what you need to feed the table that evening from the sea.

So where else are the fish biting?

Captain Bucko:
Off the coast of Tauranga and up to the Three Kings, yellow-tailed kingfish are great fishing now right up to spring.

In the south you have the ever-plentiful blue cod and tarakihi – not quite as challenging a fight but damn good eating. Also down south, trumpeter are an ideal catch in the winter months.

What’s great about fishing in winter?

Captain Bucko:
The main reason is that the fish are bigger! This is the time to book a bach by the coast and either tow a small boat /rock hop /or utilise the expertise of a local charter skipper.

Why book a fishing charter?

Captain Bucko:
Fishing charters are great for the family or group of mates that want to experience NZ’s favourite pastime but don’t have access to a boat. Or for the Kiwis who are new to an area – or even experienced fishermen who want more of a challenge.

There is nothing better than getting on board with a guy who knows where the fish are straight away and how to handle them. The larger fish in winter tend to school up and are hard fighters – you need the right equipment and experience. But when you do it right, it makes an awesome day’s fishing. Also, you get to walk away from the mess with a bag full of fillets to go straight in the pan.

Some final words to our members who are wondering about winter fishing?

Captain Bucko:
As you sit reading this think to yourself, the chores can wait. I need to have some quality time with my family or maybe a day out with my mates, holding a rod with a reel screaming off line and thinking, can I stop this fish or will it be another fishing story about the one that got away. Don’t hesitate to take the bull by the horns, brave the cooler days and get fishing.

And, for a great fishing charter, get online as we are only as far away as your fingertips.

- Captain Bucko Charters Bay of Islands

More info on fishing charters

North Island:

Captain Bucko, Skipper: Captain Bucko, Paihia, Bay of Islands - 027 273 0767 -
Wildcat Charters, Skipper: Andrew Morrogh, Ahipara, West Coast Far North - 09 409 4623
Wave Dancer Charters, Skipper: Paul Senior, Hauraki Gulf – 021 880 464 -
FQ Charters, Skipper: Nigel Boland. Hauraki Gulf – Waiheke Is/Great Barrier/Little Barrier/Mokohinau Islands/Cuvier Island – 027 818 8999 -
Waka2 Charters, Whangamata, Book through: Bubba’s Fishing and Outdoors 07 865 7464 -
Extreme Sportsfishing Adventures, Skipper: Mark Armistead, Tauranga, 07 542 0163 -

South Island:

Sirocco Fishing Charters, Skipper: Martin Finnie, Moeraki, Otago, 03 4394 818 -
Kaikoura Fishing Tours 027 524 5687
Seamist Fishing Charters, Skipper: Peter Cleall, Kaikoura, 0800 732 647 -

Where to stay

Bay of Islands

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Captain Bucko charters - father and son Kingfish catch of the day
Captain Bucko charters - little boy fishing Happy first fish!
Piwa perched