Banks Peninsula – Northern Bays – Port Levy to Long Lookout Point

Banks Peninsula – Northern Bays – Port Levy to Long Lookout Point

By Peter Langlands

The northern bays region of Banks Peninsula includes the area from Port Levy to Pigeon and Okains Bay. The coastline is characterised by three large bays, namely Port Levy, Pigeon Bay and Little Akaloa. The coast is dominated by numerous cliffs and rocky headlands. Port Levy photograph link.

The coastline is also extremely rugged, especially between Pigeon Bay and Little Akaloa.

The seafloor is generally sandy and relatively shallow compared to the bays further out on the eastern side of Banks Peninsula.

The reefs are connected to headlands and provide another habitat for fish, in addition to the open sandy bottom.

In this article, I will discuss the area between Port Levy and Long Lookout Point. The northern bays adjoin Pegasus Bay and are characterised by a shallow sandy bottom going down to a depth of around l8 metres (at the heads of the bays). Murky sea conditions are typical for this section of the coastline, as the Waimakariri River empties vast amounts of sediment into Pegasus Bay. The lack of forest cover on many of the hillsides along the coastline may also be contributing to large amounts of sediment being washed into the sea.

Leather Jackets are prolific along barnacle-covered rock ledges.

The bays around Banks Peninsula are surrounded by steep hillsides. Numerous cliffs on the outer coast drop into a sandy seafloor. The headlands have reefs running out from them which are the best sites for fishing, such as Long Lookout Point.

The main fish species found in this area are those normally associated with sandy seafloor. A fun post about kayak fishing at Port Levy on the website.

The bread and butter fish of the Canterbury region, the red cod, forms large schools in the bays. The red cod are attracted by the prolific sand crabs, paddle crabs and mantis shrimps found in the bays.

Bait fish such as sprats also abound in the productive waters and provide food for the predatory cod. During the winter months large schools of red cod form around the headlands of the larger bays (Port Levy, Pigeon Bay and Little Akaloa). Little Akaloa Reserve is off-limits to campers.

In addition, these larger bays also have wharves available to fish off and in the evening red cod will move up into the sandy bays to feed. Any fresh fish bait will catch red cod, but fresh mussels are a top bait.

Occasionally paddle crabs are present in these bays in plague proportions and can make fishing difficult. Other fish swim into the shallows and can be targeted from the wharves.

Skates move inshore during the winter. A running rig on the bottom with fresh fish bait or paddle crab bait can be used to entice skates. Skates will fight hard when in shallow water, especially when caught on light tackle. The rough skate averages around 5 kilograms in weight and is good eating.

During the summer, the skates move into deeper water and are replaced by the much larger rays. The short-tailed stingray can be captured by stray-lining a whole small red cod or herring from the wharf.

Once the ray picks up the bait it should be able to run with the bait before striking. Rays provide exciting sport as you try to keep them away from the numerous underwater obstacles!

Kahawai are common in the shallow bays throughout the year. During winter individual fish will roam over the shallows in pursuit of numerous bait fish such as whitebait and sprats. Kahawai can also be captured off the wharves.

Yellow-eyed mullet makes the best bait. In deeper water in the bays trolling is an effective way to catch kahawai. Further out in the bays much of the coastline is inaccessible from the shore.

There are a few accessible sites. The western headland at Pigeon Bay offers exciting rock fishing for red cod, kahawai and skates. If shellfish bait is used occasional blue moki or rig shark can also be taken during the summer.

Closer to the rocks numerous reef fish patrol along the kelp, such as banded wrasse and leatherjackets.

Over recent years a few trumpeter have been caught in the bays, although these fish are of a small size. Trumpeter can only be considered occasional visitors. Small hooks baited with mussels can be used to catch banded wrasse and leatherjackets and they are good fun to catch on light tackle.

Conger eels are present around any structure in the water such as wharves, cray pots and reefs.

Set netting was popular along this section of the coastline. Flounders were targeted using nets over the mudflats during summer in Pigeon Bay and Port Levy.

Everyone wanting to use a setnet for flounder fishing must know the Recreational Fishing Rules. Here are the MPI Fishing Rules for the South-East Region. “Set Net Restricted Areas Map 5: Set netting is prohibited along the East Coast of the South Island out to a distance of four nautical miles. There are several local exemptions from this prohibition:
> Set netting for flounder* is permitted between 1 April and 30 September in designated flounder areas around Banks Peninsula. Including the upper reaches of Akaroa Harbour, Port Levy, Pigeon Bay, and Lyttelton Harbour.”

Set netting for blue moki and butterfish also has a strong tradition in the bays.

Little Akaloa. An ideal location for small-boat fishing.

Some of the larger catches of blue moki are made from the coastline around Little Akaloa. Blue moki appear on occasions to be numerous where kelp beds drop away into open sand.

Probably the most attractive feature of these bays for fishermen is the shelter they offer to small-boat anglers. Dinghies can be easily launched in all three bays (Port Levy, Pigeon Bay and Little Akaloa).

The headlands provide the best fishing with red cod over the sand. School sharks, kahawai and rig are also captured over open seafloor.

Nearer the reefs, the occasional blue cod and sea perch are captured, especially between Little Akaloa and around Long Lookout Point, where the water is slightly deeper than Pigeon Bay and Port Levy.

Numerous headlands dominate the northern coast of Banks Peninsula.

During the summer yellowtail kingfish are also occasional visitors to Pigeon Bay and Port Levy. Many of the kingfish sighted are smaller fish between 2 and 10 kilograms.

Sea perch are caught from reefs and below cliffs along the northern Bays.

Further offshore schools of barracouta and kahawai move along the coast during the summer. I have also heard unconfirmed reports of tuna schools 2-3 miles off Long Lookout Point when clearer ocean blue water is washed into Pegasus Bay.

Sea-run brown trout and juvenile salmon also undoubtedly enter the bays, although they can only be considered occasional visitors.

The types of fish caught along the northern bays are fairly predictable, mainly red cod, nonetheless now and then something different is captured.

The northern bays are also easily accessible from Christchurch, being only an hour’s drive away from the city.

Lyttelton Harbour provides a launching site, from which the bays can be accessed by larger boats. The sheltered waters of the bays form an ideal retreat for people from Christchurch with batches and holiday homes clustered in the bays.

This post was last modified on 13/03/2024 3:26 pm

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