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February 2014 Issue
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Catch of the day

Tim caught this 17.6lb snapper out from Houhora using a basic rod and a packet of softbaits

Tim Taylor’s five top kayak fishing tips

Kayak fishing is a perfect combination of a great upper body workout, low costs and a high probability of fresh fish – if you know what you’re doing.

Location When it comes to choosing a good fishing spot, there’s one hard and fast rule to follow: go where the food goes. Around New Zealand there are a variety of fish species, from the snapper in the north to the blue cod in the south, and the one thing they all have in common is the need for food. The easiest place to start is around rocks, which create natural hiding places for shellfish, crabs and smaller fish. These tasty treats attract the bigger fish, so before you head towards the horizon, try throwing a bait or lure right into the whitewash of the rocks…I’ve caught some of my biggest snapper this way. If you live in an area that is dominated by long stretches of sand, the fish will be eating things that live in the sand such as shellfish and worms. Spend some time searching for these creatures at low tide and fish them when the tide is in.

Baits There are a number of old clichés that fishermen use when it comes to bait selection and while they are a bit corny, most of them work. My favourite two are ‘big baits catch big fish’ and ‘fresh is best’. Combine these two for an indication of which baits I prefer to use; big and fresh. Things like whole squid, whole fillets of fresh kahawai, or long strips of skipjack tuna.

Birds Birds are your eyes both in the sky and under water. Gannets, terns, shearwaters, penguins and shags are your best friends when fishing. Why? These birds like to eat fish just as much as you and I, but because they have to do it to survive, they are a lot better at finding them. Watch out for dive bombing or circling gannets, groups of shearwaters moving along the surface and shags and penguins sitting on the surface or periodically diving.

Equipment Kayak fishing is a sport that’s great for all budgets – it can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Rods, net, tackle, clothing, paddles…the list of desirable items is huge but in all honesty, you can get by without most of it. My message to newbies is to keep it simple. Most people already own a fishing rod or two and probably have some old tramping thermals that are suitable to wear. Experimenting with what you’ve got until you can figure out what you really need. When I first began, I used a simple hand line and caught many fish. Never leave home without your personal floatation device.

Weather Kayaks are small and exposed to the elements. Always play it safe and live to fish another day. If you’re just getting started, don’t go out if marine forecasts advise wind rising above 10-knots, swell is above one-metre and heavy rain or fog is due.

– Tim Taylor paddled 5537km around New Zealand’s coastline and is the author of A Complete Guide to New Zealand Kayak Fishing