Fishing from the Yacht Club Jetty at Picton – Berley brings in the fish!
Picton at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound
For an angler who grew up in Christchurch, I am always amazed at just how big the difference is between sea fishing around the country. Surfcasting around Christchurch we would catch a lot of dogfish, especially over winter. Other species typically caught are school shark, red cod, spotties, yellow-eyed mullet and kahawai. I am happy to report that the later has been more prevalent around Canterbury over the last couple of years. However, this is a story about fishing somewhere a bit different; the place being the little yacht club jetty in Picton Harbour. It was late May on a fine but overcast afternoon.
I was fishing with a mate from the jetty in Picton at the top of the South Island. We were trying out luck directly opposite the ferry terminal. The top few hours of the tide is the best time to fish what would otherwise be water only a few metres deep. Berley is a must when fishing from a jetty or wharf as it brings a constant stream of fish to your fishing position.
Another tip is to fish with quite small hooks. You can often catch a big fish on a small hook, but it is much harder to catch a small fish on a big hook. If your hooks are too big you only end up feeding the fish instead of catching them. I fish with either size 8 Black Magic fly hooks or size 1/0 chemically sharpened suicide hooks. If you don’t often fish with hooks this small you will be surprised at just how effective they can be. Small hooks will definitely catch far more fish. Keep in mind also that when fishing in the Marlborough Sounds you are only permitted to fish with a two hook rig.
Our first step when arriving at the jetty was to get a berley slick going. I do this by using two 20 litre buckets. One is used as a mixing tank. And the second bucket is used to top up the first. Tying a length of rope to the handle of the second bucket makes it easier to lower it up and down to the water for refilling.
Into the first bucket goes a big frozen lump of fish scraps from a previous fishing expedition. This might comprise the heads, frames, and guts from several kahawai, together with half a loaf of frozen stale bread, a few mussels, or whatever else fishy I can find in the freezer. After topping up the bucket with seawater I give it a stir with a stick brought along for the purpose.
This berley mixture is then tossed in cupfuls onto the surface of the water close to the jetty. The idea is to keep up a steady scattering of berley every minute or two in order to attract any fish that might be in the area. Fish your hooks close to the berley. In makes no sense to get a berley slick going and then cast out a long way from it. Later when the fishing heats up it is easy to forget all about the berley. It is best to assign someone to the job of tossing the berley across the water’s surface, topping up the bucket with more water, and giving the mixture the odd stir.
Usually, the first customers to be attracted by the berley are spotties. These pests soon started to take our baited hooks but its all part of the fun.
Next up where yellow-eyed mullet. Fresh mullet fillets make excellent bait for bigger fish. Some of the yellow-eyed mullet were big specimens. They can be filleted and make excellent eating, especially when cooked in the hot smoker.
We hadn’t been fishing long when my mate had a big barracouta swimming around on the surface in the clear water. It was taking his line up and down. However, the barracouta hadn’t taken the hook. Instead, it had a spotty in its jaws and was swimming up and down on the surface with it. After a few moments, the hook came free and the barracouta swam off with spotty still in its mouth. This happened not a meter or two from where we were standing. I didn’t think to take a picture or a video; which isn’t like me!
There were four of us fishing on the jetty altogether. Over the next couple of hours between us, we caught an amazing variety of fish species. Perhaps the best of which were pan-sized snapper. The minimum fish length for the Marlborough Sounds is 25cm with a daily limit of three fish. We also caught blue and jack mackerel. The blue mackerel – Scomber australasicus were amazingly strong fighters for their size roaring back and forth. We had to walk back along the jetty with them to run them up on the beach. We also realized that there were jack mackerel – Trachurus novaezelandiaev among them also.
We caught many other species as well most of which were photographed and released. We caught two big piper, or garfish, on small baited hooks but I didn’t take their picture in all the excitement. There were a lot of big garfish swimming through the berley but most weren’t taking the baited hooks. We also caught juvenile kahawai, trevally, a skate and a dogfish. It was quite a mixed bag for only a little effort. Without a doubt, it is the berley that makes all the difference. We had an endless stream of bites the whole time we were there!
Please note: If there is sailing going on, please be considerate, and leave the jetty to the sailors. Just move down the beach a bit further. The yacht club has no problem with anglers using their jetty for fishing, but when they are sailing the jetty is used to tie up inflatable boats. It is also dangerous casting sinkers among the yachts.
Important Note. The Yacht Club has built a new jetty and it is unclear whether fishing access will be allowed. If you walk past the Yacht Club there is easy beach fishing beyond it in the area above the point of the arrow. I am reliably informed that a very large snapper was caught from this beach recently. Also if the Yacht Club is running an event it is best to stay clear of the jetty for the sake of everyone’s safety. When you leave for the day be sure to remove every scrap of your rubbish. Don’t give anglers a bad name.