Fishing Foveaux Strait at the Bottom of the South Island

Fishing Foveaux Strait by Bryce Stupples

The author with a brace of school groper – the largest weighing 25lb. Fishing in Foveaux Strait.

I ’m the first to admit that I’m no saltwater fishing expert. However, if it involves a line and a fish hook I’ll give it a go! For me, enjoyment and relaxation are sure to follow. Since being in Southland I have had the opportunity to go out on a number of charters and private vessels into Foveaux Strait. Having never really done much saltwater fishing from a boat, each successive trip saw me more prepared, organised and able to successfully target, and catch, an increasing variety of species!

I have come to learn that a bit of preparation before a trip goes a long way towards a more enjoyable and
successful fishing.

An assortment of “ready-made tackle” options will greatly enhance your ability to catch fish. One of the things you don’t want to be doing is wasting valuable fishing time out on the water tying up traces, or not catching fish when others are because you haven’t got the right gear options available.

Foveaux Strait sea fishing has often been stereotyped as being restricted to the one species: blue cod. Though true enough blue cod are more often targeted – and why not, as this is a delicious eating
fish – but in my personal experience, I have seen a wide variety of other good eating species caught as well. These include trumpeter, red cod, gurnard, leather jacket, mackerel, and groper.

My preparation now typically involves making up half a dozen 2 or 3 hook ledger rigs. Purchasing 2 or 3 sabiki rigs in several different hook sizes – Gamakatsu is my favourite – and a number of sinkers. For the later 8oz models are ideal in order to combat the strong currents and tides and keep you fishing at your feet. Heavier sinkers will be needed if fishing deep water for groper and other species. In such cases
sinkers weighing as much as 30 oz may be needed to get your gear down to the bottom.

A number of layers of warm clothing are essential as the weather and temperatures out on the Strait can be quite variable.

If you are inclined to need them, a packet of Sea Legs, or similar seasickness medication, should be included in your tackle box.

A stable lunch is also a good idea (no bananas!) and liquid refreshment of your choice.

My preferred fishing rig is an 8oz jig, tied at the bottom of a white and green beaded sabiki rig, with alternate hooks baited. This outfit has proven itself to be deadly on all of the above-mentioned species. Therefore every trip I know I’m in with a good chance of hooking whatever is down there!

The main problem with this rig comes with the presence of barracouta and sharks. The sharks, particularly makos, have become more abundant, and larger, since a major whale stranding on Stuart
Island last year. By all accounts the flesh of the dead whales kept the sharks going for some time!
Obviously, the various species of shark can provide great sport if you are geared up accordingly, but things can start getting expensive after losing 3 or 4 of my jig and sabiki rig setups.

Probably my most enjoyable trip out into Foveau Strait would be when the charter skipper put us over a groper hole. We left from Riverton which is roughly a 25-minute drive from Invercargill. The sea was flat calm and the sun was shining. Yes, that’s right! It doesn’t rain every day down here.

Having never caught a groper before I was amazed at the tight turn and circles the skipper was performing at the wheel in order to pinpoint the exact spot on the GPS. After reading endless stories of
groper fishing in 100 metres of water, I was also surprised to see that the bottom was just 50 metres beneath the boat. The skipper announced that because of the powerful tide we would only get one
drop before having to reposition the boat.

The first few drops quickly produced some massive blue cod but none of the targeted groper. On about the fourth drop the skipper called “lines-up”. I’d got about four winds on the reel handle before my line stopped, and my rod started to take on an alarming bend! I soon learn that this was typical of a groper hook-up.

After that first groper came up it wasn’t long before everyone on board got a chance to hook into one. Although they were school groper I was amazed at the powerful fight they put up in the shallow water with lighter gear compared with the “sack of spuds” and straight lifting exercise I had seen on
various television shows when they were caught in deep water on heavy tackle.

After we pulled the groper aboard the skipper and deckie steaked some up and cooked them on the hotplate with a bit of butter. Believe me, there are few better ways to eat fish.

Over recent years with changing ecological conditions and human intervention, the Strait has dished up a few surprises in the form of species that were not normally seen. Yellow and bluefin tuna have been reported in the Strait and although a rare catch there are a few anglers who are out targeting them.
Indeed there was a category for tuna at the last Stabi-Craft Bluff Fishing Competition.

With escapes from the salmon farms on Stuart Island, together with the release of juvenile salmon into Bluff Harbour, this species is caught when fishing closer to shore and is the focus of most angler attention on the wharves at Bluff.

There was even a rumour going around that a snapper had been caught off Stuart Island. I make no claim as to the validity of this but with the changing weather patterns, nothing surprises me.

All in all, I believe saltwater fishing in Southland can provide the variety of fish species caught in the more widely recognised sea fishing regions. An experienced skipper with local knowledge should have no problem getting a good catch for all on board without having to travel a great distance to achieve it. A good skipper can put you on to fish, but just like painting a house, the end result is often a matter of good preparation. 

If you ever get the chance to fish in Foveaux Strait, go for it. 

Dividing the catch at the end of the day’s fishing aboard the Takaroa II in Foveaux Strait.

This post was last modified on 07/06/2018 1:17 am

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