Published On: Tue, Jan 2nd, 2018

Rabbit Island, Surfcasting, Waimea Estuary, Richmond, Nelson

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Rabbit Island Surfcasting

The beach at Rabbit Island is shallow and sandy and is good for safe swimming and fishing. It is a favoured spot for surfcasting being just 15 minutes drive from Richmond. Occasionally snapper is caught from this beach. The best fishing is towards the Mapua end of the beach near the inlet to the Waimea Estuary. You are not permitted to drive all the way to the inlet of the Waimea Estuary, but you can park your vehicle and ride a mountain bike the rest of the way. There are heaps of spotties and yellow-eyed mullet in the channel for bait. Tidal influence is very strong in the channel. There are a lot of juvenile fish in the inlet, which as every angler knows, attract bigger fish!

View looking along the Front Beach towards Nelson.

View looking along the Front Beach towards Nelson.

You will have to wade out a fair distance before casting your line off the beach. Even at the maximum surfcasting distance, you are unlikely to be fishing in water over two metres in depth. Snapper is definitely caught from this beach. However, you are not going to get many bites from other fish. It is worth using quite small 1/0 hooks. Thee will take a good sized snapper but might be small enough to take other fish.

Snapper taken fishing from the wharf at Mapua.

Snapper caught fishing from the wharf at Mapua in early April, opposite side of the channel from Rabbit Island.

Surfcasting at Rabbit Island.

The author about to cast from the Front Beach at Rabbit Island. You can see Richmond, Stoke, and Nelson City in the distance. This is a shallow sloping sandy beach so it pays to wade out to just above your knees before casting.

This beach is tremendously popular for swimming over summer. Waders are unnecessary even on a cold day the water will be warmer than the air temperature. I’ve noticed that many anglers have embraced kayak fishing along this coast in order to get out to where the fish are in deeper water. Mapua Wharf.

Surfcasters fishing the Front Beach on Rabbit Island.

Surfcasters fishing the Front Beach on Rabbit Island.

Fishing from wharf at Mapua.

The wharf at Mapua is a popular place for fishing. Some good fish are caught there from time to time including snapper.

Yachts at anchor in Waimea Inlet.

Yachts at anchor in Waimea Inlet.

Entrance to Waimea Inlet. Note the channel markers.

Entrance to Waimea Inlet. Note the channel markers. November 2017.

Yachts in Waimea Inlet.

Yachts in the main channel. The yacht in the foreground is tied to the wharf at Mapua. Rabbit Island is at the top right on the far side of the inlet.

Juvenile horse mackerel.

Juvenile horse mackerel caught and released from the wharf at Mapua. A wide range of juvenile fish are found in the expansive Waimea Inlet.

The Mapua ferry runs passengers back and forth from Mapua to Rabbit Island.

The Mapua Ferry runs passengers back and forth between Mapua to Rabbit Island.

Generally, the beaches are gently sloping and quite shallow around Nelson. However, at times big schools of baitfish come right in close. These are followed by kahawai and other species. In particular yellowtail kingfish also come in close to shore after the kahawai. You will know if it is happening as sea-birds will give the show away. A kahawai fished as a live-bait under a balloon is the preferred method for catching the kings. At times kingfish are caught by this method even from the wharves in the middle of town.

Map: Rabbit Island, near Richmond, Nelson.

Rabbit Island, near Richmond, Nelson. The area marked with the red line at the northern end of Rabbit Island offers better surfcasting. There is considerable tidal flow through the channel leading into the Waimea Estuary carrying plenty of baitfish. Each blue square is one km wide. The beach on the seaward side of Rabbit Island is known as the Front Beach. Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright Reserved.

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- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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