NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group
Any expedition to the north comes with high hopes of throwing a line into the sea and angling a big fat snapper or kingfish — the area's most common species. This wild west coast is not for fishers faint of heart despite it being home to some of the most productive fishing in the country. The Kaipara Harbour entrance is heavily guarded by that overly zealous sandbar always eager to punish complacent boaties. If heading out through the entrance is a must, talk to the locals first and watch how they do it. Ideally, follow an experienced local boatie out and back. Don't forget to let the coastguard know before tackling such a beast. The coastguard provides courses on how to cross bars safely (boatingeducation.org.nz/courses) but, as in life, nothing beats experience. The local mantra is, "when in doubt stay out" as far as bar crossing goes. Safer boating is to be had inside the harbour, however. There is a boat ramp at Dargaville, but it is a bit of a run down the Wairoa River before reaching the Kaipara. Launch at Rūāwai or Kelly's Bay instead. The tides can be fierce so use a heavy sinker at the end of a ledger rig to stay on the bottom. A tough bit of squid will do the trick for bait. Even though the Graveyard, at the harbour entrance, is a wellknown fishing spot, there are many others with less tide that are just as rewarding. Snapper, kahawai and gurnard will be there waiting. Shore-based harvesting such as surfcasting, kontiki/kite fishing or drone fishing keeps the feet planted firmly on terra firma. Ripirō Beach has approximately 100km of the most productive surfcasting in the country. As a bonus, utes can be driven on the sand so no need to lug gear around. There is space to spread out, looking for the changes in water which indicate reefs, guts and holes that may hold fish. Use a reasonably long surfcaster (12 to 14ft is ideal) and try to cast baits to the back of the waves. Any wind with a bit of easterly in it should be good. Target species are snapper, trevally, kahawai, gurnard and rig. There has even been a striped marlin caught off a fishing kite at Ripirō Beach. The Kauri Coast Surfcasting Competition is a fantastic event organized by local teachers and parents to fundraise for schools and emergency services. It is generally held at the end of March or beginning of April each year on Ōmāmari Beach. The target species — kahawai — is easily caught and prizes go to first-, second- and third-heaviest fish. Bragging rights are hotly contested. If freshwater fishing is appealing, head to Kai Iwi Lakes, which are stocked with good-sized brown and rainbow trout and cater for all genres of freshwater fishing. Another great little adventure is to pack up the family and head to Tinopai Wharf, about an hour's drive south of Dargaville. Snapper, mullet, mackerel and kahawai are all in residence and will provide plenty of bites to keep kids entertained.