You’ve produced the Maori Fishing Calendar for many years. How do you predict the conditions?
The moon’s position in the sky determines whether you’ll have success on the water. The best time to go fishing is on the full moon, and the worst is either side of full or new moons. It’s all to do with the current. The stronger the current, the less likely you’ll hook a fish, as they’re hiding. You’ll have more chance catching something when you’re fishing at what I call ‘bite time’: when the moon is at a 2 o'clock position in the sky.
What environmental factors indicate good fishing?
Fish can sense a storm rolling in. They come out in large numbers to feed beforehand, so if you go out on the water about six hours before it hits, you’re likely to fill your boat. Look at what sea birds are doing. Gannets can see 20m below the surface. If they’re circling and diving, it means they’re feeding. Sooty shearwaters pick up on vibrations and will head to a work up. If you see a flock heading west, make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel and follow them. White-fronted terns eat small bait fish. If you see them bouncing on the water’s surface, it often means kahawai are around. Look for shags if you like to fish from the shore. If there are a dozen on the rocks, that’s the spot to be. Shags eat sprats and piper, and there will likely be bigger fish also feeding on them. Another tip is to look for feathers on the water; that indicates a work up and fish are likely to be there.
Where does your knowledge come from?
From more than 50 years of fishing. Nobody’s ever taught me. I read Elsdon Best’s book, Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori and kept a diary, recording and establishing patterns. One of my earliest memories is buying a piper net at 12 years old, carrying the bait fish in a sugar sack and biking to Auckland Zoo where I’d sell it as animal food. In 1968 a friend suggested I write a fishing column for Auckland’s 8 O’Clock newspaper. I’ve since written eight books, made 20 videos and DVDs, and established Camp Hohepa, teaching children the art of fishing.
What are your tips for landing a catch this summer?
I’d tell the children at Camp Hohepa that fish are put off by a bad attitude. The first camp rule was “eyebrows up.” Fish pick up on anger and grumpiness and they’ll stay away from you. The perfect example of this is when you’ve had a rubbish day on the water, having not caught a single fish, and then you’ll pop your rod in the holder, grab the thermos for a cuppa, and breathe a sigh of relaxation. Suddenly, you’ll get bites.
How do you predict this summer’s fishing to be?
Christmas Day will likely be the best day to go fishing; not many others will be on the water. Come Boxing Day, every man and his dog will probably be out, right up until mid-January. With jet skis and water skiers, it’s going to be noisy on the water and fish will be spooked. The answer
to this: go night fishing, or head to quieter places. You may have better luck fishing off the rocks
than by boat.
The theme for this issue is enjoying summer at ease. What’s your advice for easy fishing?
Fish off a wharf, rocks or beach near the bach or camping ground where you’re staying. Buy a small bait catcher or net, and use fresh fish as bait. If you’re buying it, I’d suggest piper or yellowtail.
Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue