Taieri Mouth by Chris Dore
Taieri Mouth – quiescent fishing community south of Dunedin – has always to me been a place a relaxation. “One can disregard all vexation and sit back and luxuriate in the tranquillity.”
Anglers, on the other hand, remain active and revel in the pleasures of light-tackle ﬁshing. Having fished at Taieri Mouth since I was a toddler and could barely walk I feel I have adequate knowledge of the area. I have written this article to assist fellow anglers when they are visiting this very attractive location.
Although Taieri Mouth is renowned for its offshore fishing, this supplement is focused on the river fishery.
The first consideration of the visiting angler should be tackle. Your spinning rod should be approximately 2 metres in length and be powerful enough to subdue a vigorous sea-run trout or rampaging kahawai.
A robust drag is imperative on your spinning reel, as is ample line capacity, for kahawai, have a reputation for undertaking interminable runs at breakneck speed.
Line strength varies between anglers, but I would recommend line in the 6-10 pound class as anything heavier deprives the fish and angler of a decent battle.
Your selection of terminal tackle depends on the species you intend to capture.
Now let’s take a look at the variety of fish Taieri Mouth has to offer.
The kahawai is a popular fish to most anglers as the offer sumptuous sport on light tackle and often traverse in astounding numbers.
Kahawai begins to appear near the end of September as they chase the whitebait upstream as far as Henley. Thread-liners can allure these fish by using a small silver toby, retrieved erratically through the shallows.
When a fish pursues your spinner, you should hasten your retrieval for where peril threatens, whitebait make a precipitate departure. Decreasing your retrieve would only end in an aborted take.
Fly fishermen should use the same tactics, though with a feathered lure such as the Grey Ghost, Blondie, etc. As for location, you should look for shallow mudflats as that is where the whitebait congregate and are preyed upon by relentless kahawai.
November is the peak month of the kahawai season when they invade the river en masse. They can now be caught by a variety of methods but one excels; spinning with a black and gold toby. This method is relatively simple yet extremely efficient. You should cast into the current and retrieve with a series of “jerks,” constantly maintaining contact with your lure (via a tight line) to elicit the first sign of an interested fish. From November until the end of March, the estuary is a hot-spot for kahawai, especially on the incoming tide when they enter the river to feed.
For the land-based fisherman, long casting is required in the estuary at high tide, for the channel is quite a way out and that is where the kahawai will cruise.
Around the Christmas period, the kahawai patrol the mud-flats at night, feeding at will on helpless smelt.
Fly-fishing can be productive at this time, as the fish cruise quite close to shore and will readily take a smelt imitation erratically retrieved near the surface. Use strong tippets for this type of fishing as kahawai slash vigorously at smelt and could break a 6-pound tippet on the strike. If you own a motorboat then trolling will be the most productive method. Your tackle should be identical to that of the spin-fisherman.
Silver tobies should be used from September through to the end of November when you would then use a black and gold toby.
Trolling anglers should concentrate their efforts near the estuary, although there have been some impressive catches up the gorge in the proximity of John Bull’s Gully. When trolling, one should position the lure at least 15 metres behind the boat and alternate that distance until you have success. When this occurs you need not strike hard, for kahawai usually hook themselves as they slash at the lure. After the initial hook-up, a series of powerful runs will usually occur and the angler’s job then is to apply forcible side-strain. Keep a taut line at all costs, as a kahawai will capitalise on any oversight on the angler’s behalf, shaking the hook at the first sign of slack.
If intended for eating, the fish should be bled the instant it is landed to prevent the flesh from going off. If unwanted, it should be released, unharmed, to fight another day.
Although kahawai is the predominant species, Taieri Mouth also boasts a healthy population of ﬂounder. These fish are generally captured by way of net or spear, but will readily accept the angler’s baited hook. The trick is to ground-bait.
By periodically tossing in a handful of cooked corn or peas, one greatly increases his/her chances of success. The angler should use a diversity of bait until he discovers which one excels on that day, for flounder can be quite selective.
Your rig is simple, consisting of three long-shanked number 12 hooks, a small swivel and a running sinker. As for location, flounder venture into the shallow mud-ﬂats at night, to feed on small mud-crabs, seaworm, etc. on the high tide. At low tide it is best to familiarise oneself with the spot which you intend to fish so at high tide you will be able to locate the sandy patches amongst the weed for that is where our quarry will be. When fishing, one should regularly wind in a metre or so of line, as your sinker will disrupt the silt, thus attracting the ﬂounder to your bait.
Spearing is another remunerative, much-practised method of catching flounder, and one often observes many flash-lights monitoring silently through the mud-flats at night. This popular form of fishing only requires basic accoutrements – a spear and flash-light. The light must be powerful and waterproof, as it will occasionally take a dip in the brine. When spearing, move with stealth, as one quick movement could spook all the flounder in your immediate vicinity.
You should be observant from the instant you enter the water, for ﬂounder are often found resting extremely close to shore. You need not go deep, as most ﬂounder are found in shallow water up to about one metre in depth.
While moving, be on the lookout for any diamond-shaped mounds of sand as ﬂounder often bury themselves to aid in concealment. Once you determine the whereabouts of your prey, you should train your flash-light on it so that you know its position at all times. You should then drive your s ear forcefully into the fish so that your barb penetrates through to the other side: anything less and the flounder will escape the moment you lift your lance.
Come April and the sea-run trout begin to appear, as they begin their interminable journey upstream to spawn. These fish are often caught on “Bronze zed-spinners” and “Banana Tobies” from suitable locations. The rocks near the northern end of the bridge are often productive, as are the wharves at night.
There are two problems when fishing the former location: The rocks are only accessible at low tide. Once hooked, fish often attempt to wrap you around the bridge piles, so it is imperative to coax the fish away from the pitfall via side-strain.
After May, the activity begins to taper off but recommences in August when a fresh run enters the river in pursuit of whitebait. Now is the time when fly-fishing excels. Presentation and personal camouﬂage are factors of success. Usually one can omit camouflage when pursuing other species, but the trout remain vigilant, and it would be foolish to don anything but tones which resemble the earth.
Once again, mud-flats and inlets are where the angler must concentrate his efforts, and should use a whitebait imitation retrieved erratically towards the shore.
Threadliners are in no way disadvantaged, as they too can enjoy the fine sport. Small silver spinners are successful, although success may be increased by using a feathered lure in conjunction with a small weight. Simply tie a half-ounce weight approximately 50 centimetres above your whitebait imitation, and use tactics identical to that of the ﬂyﬁsherman.
As well as the sea-run, there is also a small population of resident fish up the gorge. It is here that the boat owner has the advantage, for he has a considerably larger amount of water accessible to him than the shore-based angler. High tide is the best time for catching these resident fish, as they will cruise the mud-flats in search of small bullies, smelt and other forms of food.
For the land-based fisherman, sole access to the gorge is by the John Bulls Gully walking track which begins at the end of Riverside Road. This track provides access to a small portion of the river and its inlets, though most of these are highly productive.
Fly anglers fishing these inlets should use a bully imitation such as Mrs Simpson. Thread-liners can either use an articulated trout or live bait. A worm below split-shot can be deadly, as can a bully, live or dead (preferably the former) underneath a plastic “bubble” float. When fishing with bait, do not strike once the trout has nibbled at our inducement. You should hesitate several seconds for the fish to swallow it, then strike.
The best time for catching resident trout is at either dawn or dusk when they feed voraciously on their prey, although I have heard of some impressive catches at night with a worm. This, however, is only hearsay, although it is highly possible. The only drawback with this is that one will occasionally hook an eel, as they too are partial to worms. Because of this, a heavier line is essential – something in the 10-15 pound class is a requisite.
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Other fish which are abundant at Taieri Mouth include mullet, spotty, eels and pigfish – all of which are not heavily sought after but regularly appear around local “hotspots.” There are, of course, some rare catches in the locality, most of which occur in the estuary.
Most of these fish stray from the sea and are usually found dying or in distress. Very occasionally they are unintentionally caught by the angler. For instance, dogfish may be caught while bait fishing for flounder. Such catches, however, are extremely rare and only occur once in a blue moon, so one does not need to ready his/ her heavier outfits.
All up, Taieri Mouth is the perfect place to partake in light-tackle fishing, with many species to offer and surrounded in exquisite scenery – all within 30km of Dunedin.
Taieri Mouth Beach Holiday Camp, 67 Moturata Road, Taieri Mouth 9091. Phone 03-481 7874
Taieri Mouth from the air. Video by Steve Fawcett. What a beautiful place.