Tarakihi is a popular and tasty table species that we regularly target here in the Bay of Plenty in depths down to one hundred and fifty metres. It mainly lives on muddy bottoms, although smaller sizes enter shallow and rocky ground. Its food is mostly shrimps, small crabs, mud worms and other small animals including brittlestars. It is a silvery white fish with a prominent dark “saddle” mark behind the head. The mouth is small, somewhat turned down, and the pectoral fin has one long ray extending back beyond the vent. Tarakihi are targeted by using ledger rigs with small hooks and shellfish, squid and small cut baits.
Snapper is another popularly targeted recreational and table species, abundant in the Bay of Plenty. It frequents any kind of bottom to about two hundred metres. Its food includes a wide variety of animals, notably shellfish fastened to rocks and those living in sand and mud. Sea eggs (kina), crabs and other fishes are also taken in abundance. The steep head profile, large grasping and crushing teeth, and golden-red colour with blue green spots, easily identify this species. Snapper may be caught on bait or by jigging small lures. It is hoped that new fisheries management measures will restore stocks of this fast breeding fish.
This is a species of northern waters which prefers rocky shores about headlands and offshore islands. It is frequently observed moving about in shoals which, when near the surface, impart a bright blue coloration to the water. Most small animals including other fishes are taken as food. The blue colour, deep body, small mouth and aggressive feeding behaviour are features well known to fishermen. They are particularly attracted to berley ( chum ) trails and may be easily caught on light lines and tiny hooks. They are strong for their size and are a reasonable table fish, however they are seldom targetted by anglers who are mostly interested in larger species.
These distinctive fish are common in northern waters and may be found in estuaries and harbours, from the shoreline down to depths of about 150m. They occasionally reach sizes in excess of half a metre in length. These thin, deep-bodied predatory fish are weak swimmers, and their normal strategy is to stalk their prey head on before shooting out an incredible extending tube of a mouth to suck in an unwary victim. John dory are delicious eating, and although they fight poorly, are a welcome catch to both shore and boat fishermen. They will sometimes take small cut baits, but are most easily targeted by using any small fish as a livebait fished on the bottom. They may also be caught by jigging, with soft plastic lures particularly successful.
Normally this species moves in shoals of similar-sized individuals, harrying small fishes such as sardines and pilchards, although any small fishes, crabs, shrimps and squids are taken when available. It enters fresh water, at least briefly, and there takes bullies, eels, smelts and inangas. Although still reasonably common, commercial purse-seining has put this species under enormous pressure and they are not as common as they once were. However, they are still one of the most common recreational catches. These fine light-tackle sportfish will take a wide variety of lures and baits, and frequently jump when hooked. A strong flavoured flesh improves if the fish is bled on capture.
The deep body, separated dorsal fins and row of ridged plates near the tail base are distinctive features of this species, as is the greenish coloration with metallic overtones and the dark spot above the gill plate. It’s fins are yellowish. Food seems to be anything locally available, whether from a rocky shore or a muddy bottom offshore to depths around one hundred metres, small fishes predominate. It is often seen in our northern waters shoaling at the surface but seems equally at home on the sea floor or in intermediate depths. Trevally are strong fighters and can be taken with cut baits, on jigs or flies. They have weak mouths and this sometimes results in pulled hooks. Although strong-flavoured trevally are a good table fish however many anglers find them a little dry and prefer to use the flesh as cut baits only.
The bass is similar in appearance to its relative the hapuku, but grows larger, has a stouter body, larger eye, and shorter lower jaw. These fish grow in excess of 200kg, but an average size is more like 20-30kg. They tend to deeper (200m-800m) and more northern waters than hapuku, but their ranges and habitat overlap to a large degree. A popular table fish, bass is not commercially distinguished from hapuku, and is recreationally caught by deepwater bottom fishing with large strip baits on 24kg or 37kg tackle. While hardly classed as sportfish, these large powerful fish are hard to move off the bottom.
Hapuka is a well known food fish, this species is widely distributed about our shores in depths from a few metres down to about 240 metres on any kind of ground. It is subject to heavy fishing pressure and is now more abundant in deeper water. Its colour is variable, usually shades of grey-blue to grey- brown. The food taken is anything of suitable size, mostly other fishes, but including crabs and prawns. The more slender form, pointed head and protruding jaw distinguish this species from its deep-water relative, the bass. Mostly fished for over deepwater reefs, particularly in the winter months. Hapuku fishing is regarded as more of a food-harvesting exercise than sportfishing. However, hapuku hooked in shallow water, where they cannot be disabled by pressure changes, will give an excellent fight.
These deepwater fish are a member of the warehou family and are found over deepwater reefs and rocks all throughout the country, from depths of 200 to 500m. They move into these areas in mid summer and are available to rod and reel fishermen through the winter. They are fished for with similar tackle and rigs to those used for hapuku and bass, and are usually taken in conjunction with them. These popular table fish may top 40kg in weight, but tend to average around 10-20 kg. Most recreational captures of this species are made in the Bay of Plenty and Cook Strait.
Gemfish, a slender long lived fish, is found throughout New Zealand coastal waters but is more common at depths of 150-200m, and often caught when hapuka fishing. Looking somewhat like a barracouta, it is in fact a delicious eating fish when fresh, although its keeping/freezing abilities are poor.