Thu. Jan 27th, 2022

Fishing and Outdoors

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Fishing tip: If things look grim, change tactics

3 min read

It started blank but ended up with two nice snapper by changing to shallower water in the evening. Photo: Fred Hemi

Anglers can become pretty set in their ways. However, if you’re not catching fish, take time out for a few minutes and think of a different approach for the remainder of the day, perhaps a different fly, a different bait, or even a different location in the case of sea fishing.

It’s quite logical. Why persist in the face of failure without making an adjustment? After all, it’s an old rule of thumb in sports – if you’re not winning, change tactics.

In fishing terms, if you’re not catching fish, look to change tactics so you do catch one.

I recall days when it stuck out like a sore thumb. We fished for snapper one morning in the Kenepuru Sound, a side inlet of the Pelorus Sound in the Marlborough Sounds. We started about 9am in the morning sun – not the best choice admittedly. After four hours of ‘dead’ fishing, my buddy suggested we shift locations.

So, we shifted around to the main Pelorus Sound. It was an outgoing tide. Current flow is important with snapper. Slack tide at high or low tide is almost always unproductive. We changed locations and had a ball catching several good-sized snapper.


Read more: Fishing tip: Black trout tactic for murky water

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Read more: Tackle and technique: scoring a big snapper in Marlborough Sounds


A good angler will be searching for a changed approach if fishing is drawing a blank. If it’s dead, put the thinking cap on and explore different approaches. With sea fishing, it may be a different bait or colour soft bait or jig.

Anglers can also try employing the ‘change in tactics’ strategy with a range of baits. Recently, my friend Ben was out fishing and was scoring tarakihi on prawns bought from the supermarket. No other baits – kahawai, squid, pilchards – had anywhere near the success he had.

On another day, I found anchovies were the only bait on the snapper’s menu. Trying pilchard, squid, and yellow-eyed mullet drew blanks. Snapper can be by nature, at times, fastidious, as the preference for anchovies showed.

Change to deeper or shallower water can also help. As a rule, fish deeper water during the day, but at dusk or dawn, try shallower.

Even kahawai at times can be fussy. Some days I’ve seen big kahawai just quietly following the spinner or fly in without taking. The usual moderately fast retrieve was not appealing. I tried retrieving as fast as I could but had no luck. So, I went to the other extreme – slow. Jackpot!

The ‘change of tactics’ approach is a matter of attitude. Avoid getting into a mindset of fishing just one way. Anglers can be reluctant to change from ways that have succeeded in past days. They think it should work again and again, but it doesn’t work like that. Yesterday has gone, today’s the day. If you’re not succeeding, try again but in some different way. 

Words by Fred Hemi

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