Pelorus Sound Snapper Fishing – Targeting shallow water snapper

Brett Le Bhertz with a 13.5lb Pelorus Sound snapper. Photograph, Darryl French. Featured image.

Pelorus Sound Snapper Fishing – Boat Fishing in the Marlborough Sounds with Darryl French

Brett Le Bhertz with a 13.5lb Pelorus Sound snapper. Photograph, Darryl French.
Brett Le Bhertz with a 13.5lb Pelorus Sound snapper. Photograph, Darryl French.

We motored out of the harbour and were greeted with almost zero visibility as the fog had really set in and the sun was not up enough to burn it off. After crawling along at about 5 knots for three-quarters of an hour we finally arrived at our destination. We dropped the pick and soon had our baits in the water. The tides for that morning were perfect. We had about three hours left of the incoming tide. We were targeting Pelorus Sound snapper in clean but quite shallow water.

Brett mentioned it was about time for our first coffee break so I did the honours and poured the first brew. Sitting back and enjoying my cuppa I thought how great it was to be the first two people out on the water that morning in such a majestic place. The scenery around us looked like it was straight from a postcard.

I do not know about anybody else but it seems every time Brett and I have a coffee the fish come on the bite – that morning was no exception. I barely had two slurps of my brew when the tip of my Penn Senator nodded a couple of times.

“Here we go,” I said to Brett as the spool on my 320 GTI slowly started to revolve. I sat there anchored to the spot staring at my reel as the spool stopped. A few more nods on the rod tip and it was off again and a lot faster this time. I pointed the tip of the rod at the fish, flicked the reel into gear and struck hard.
A good bend developed in the rod as I leant back and took up the strain. This felt like a good fish as it was thumping hard and making strong runs. We were fishing in relatively shallow water (10-12 feet) so the fish could not go deep, instead, it made long desperate runs just under the surface and at times had the reel fair humming.

I worked it towards the side of the boat and as I brought it to the surface the sun reflected off of its bronze flanks. Brett wasted no time in gaffing it and it was soon dispatched to the fish bin. It was a good fish of around 12.5 pounds and I was rapt. Not bad going for 15 minutes work.

Brett sat back down and watched the gear while I threaded on another whole yelloweye-mullet that we had caught the previous night. When going for the big fish a whole mullet really well but you must make sure you “let the fish run with the bait, stop, let it swallow it and then when it runs again strike! If you strike too early all you will do is pull the bait straight out of the fish’s mouth.

As sound travels a long way in the water I made sure I cast my bait as far away from the boat as I could. Snapper spook very easily (more so in shallow water) so it is imperative your baits are a long way from the boat and that you are very quiet. You are wasting your time sitting in a boat with the ghetto laster blaring and banging tackle boxes and gear around in your boat.

My sinker had just settled on the bottom when all of a sudden Brett’s rachet howled. The fish just seemed to keep going and going. After about 20 seconds of this running, Brett and I started to get a little worried as the level of line on his reel indicated that he did not have much line to play with. We agreed that Brett should just strike it anyway and hopefully hook it.

Brett struck it that hard that I was sure all he would wind back in would be a pair of snapper lips. However, it seemed to do the trick and Brett was hooked into his first big snapper.

His fish was a long way out – probably 125 to 150 metres – so he had a long battle ahead of him. After ten to fifteen minutes his fish was quite tired and was soon lying on its side next to the boat. A quick gaff shot saw it on the deck.

The fish was hooked quite deeply and Brett wanted his hook back so he did the unthinkable and put his hand in the snapper’s mouth only to have his thumb crunched by a pair of shell-crushing jaws. He bellowed a number of four lettered words as we pried the fish’s mouth apart and released his now bruised and bleeding thumb. Now that’s what I call learning the hard way!

I passed Brett a can of beer (to act as a temporary painkiller) and bandaged up his thumb. It seemed to work and we were back to business. Marlborough Sounds Cruises – Charter Boats – Fishing Trips – Eco Tours

About an hour before high tide the action really started to heat up. We were getting double, and at one stage triple strikes. A lot of the time we would lose the fish halfway through the fight. The fish obviously had not swallowed the bait and were just holding it in their mouths.

Right on high tide, I had a real screamer take my bait and I burnt my thumb as I tried to keep it on the spool to stop it from overrunning. I did not bother to wait for this fish to stop and swallow the bait as I figured it had already swallowed it because it was running so hard. I struck it and was surprised to see it taking the line off the reel in gear as though it were in free-spool.

The old knees turned to jelly as I thought this could be one of the big magical twenty-pound Pelorus Sound snapper.

I played this fish very coolly by allowing it to run when it wanted to and by not applying too much pressure on it. Its head shaking and thumping was that of a really big snapper.

It had one big last-ditch run and arched out wide of the boat and just kept on going. I decided to tweak the drag up a bit and it slowed down against the pressure. It soon proved to be too much for it and it began to come to the boat without much resistance. Through the murk of the Pelorus Sound came a large glint of red. As the snapper splashed on the surface we could see that it was not the twenty pounder we thought it was but a fish of about fifteen pounds that had fought like a demon for its freedom.

It was brought on board and killed quickly with a Phillips screwdriver down through the head. We have found killing them this way markedly improves the eating quality of the fish.

The bite went off after that fish and after losing one more we decided to call it a day and turn to the women and proudly show off what they had missed out on.

We are already looking forward to next summer to get back up to the Sounds and fish for Pelorus Sound snapper and kingfish that inhabit the area.

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