Fishing west side

David Williams

Resident 'Bear Grylls' for Getfrank.

Whether you are casting off a swell soaked rocky outcrop between the waves' thunderous crashes and mountainous spray, or charging over the bar, wide-eyed and white knuckles bolted to the boat rail, it's abundantly clear how raw and  powerful the force of the West Coast really is. West Coast fishing is incredibly exciting and certainly rewarding in the experience and often a respectable fish bin. It has the common perception of being far less tangible for the recreational fisherman than the East Coast. This is true in parts as the West Coast definitely requires an appropriate sized and equipped boat, a favourable weather forecast, an extra healthy respect for nature, common sense, and a little local knowledge. The truth is that all of these things are quite easy to ascertain with the right motivation, resulting in an entirely new coastal playground for you to indulge in.

Before fishing on the West Coast you must check the MetService forecast and / or Channel 21 on VHF radio. It is also essential to always be wearing a life jacket as the rapidly changing conditions and ‘freak waves’ can sometimes catch you off guard if you're not careful. Having all the necessary safety equipment like flares, first aid, radio and appropriate clothing (no gumboots!) is vital, this is further explained in the Maritime New Zealand boating safety tips below.

The most commonly used type of boat for West Coast fishing is made from aluminium, is known as a 'tinny’ and is around 6m or larger in length. The light weight and durability of an aluminium boat suits the West Coast conditions. Manufacturers like White Pointer, West Coaster, and my personal favourite: Surtees, have specifically designed their boats to best suit these conditions. When crossing a bar on the West Coast you should always radio in to channel 16 or in Auckland Channel 5 and say the name of your boat, the bar you are crossing, and how many are on board. Once successfully over the bar, radio back in and express to them the crossing was successful and an approximate time you will be coming back. If you have never crossed the bar before either follow or go witsomeone who has or gain some local knowledge. Go to Maritime New Zealand for further marine radio information.

Unlike the East Coast where there are thousands of little islands, reefs, and banks, the West Coast just gradually gets deeper. Because of the massive abundance of fish on this coast you can use the depth sounder to pick your spot simply by heading out to around the 30m + mark, dropping pick with a bag of burley on it and expect a fine hall of Snapper, Carrots (Gurnard), and maybe the odd shark or two(!). During the warm water months of summer (January - March) game fish like Mako Sharks, Tuna and Marlin can be caught starting from around the 50m mark, but the 90m-110m depth generally finds the most success.

West Coast land based fishing is more easily accessible and is not a bad way to bring home a feed for the family. Surfcasting is the most common form of land based fishing on the West Coast due to its cost effectiveness and relaxing vibe. All you need to do is to call into your local fishing shop (Rebel Sport is a good option), grab a surf caster and the other required fishing paraphernalia like hooks etc, pick some bait up from a gas station or dairy, and select one of the many glorious West Coast beaches on offer. The next steps require you to…

1) Choose a spot along the beach (not where surfers or good waves are please)
2) Wade out to your knees and cast towards Australia
3) Put the rod in a rod holder
4) Grab a deck chair
5) Sit
6) Stretch
7) Scratch
8) And in between moments of action try and figure out the meaning of life.

Kite fishing is a similar principal but uses a kite to drag a long line with many hooks out to sea using an offshore wind, see for more information and great fishing tips.

The West Coast is a raw and very real display of Mother Nature’s power and beauty so should always be respected. Remember to always check the forecast, equip yourself properly, gain local knowledge, use common sense, and finally relax and enjoy the awe-inspiring gifts at our doorstep.

Our next instalment will investigate the splendours and steps involved to enjoying East Coast fishing. I also recommend seeing the movie 300! It has no ties to fishing but was absolutely incredible.

Happy West Coasting,  



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