If you’re a land-based fanatic, or just want to go to an amazing spot for the first time then a number of these places will be known to you already and some will not. When you hear about the likes of Spirits Bay and Cape Maria and then finally arrive one day, you really understand why they are legendary locations to wet a line. Here are my top Godzone rock spots…as published in the Nov/Dec issue – Scott Cushman.
Rod Holders & Buck’s Ledges – Spirits Bay, Far North (hike in)
My first land-based king came from Rod Holders ledge. Access is via the camp ground, down to the beach and to the right. There is a gut you must wade across if the tide is half in. On dead low you won’t get your feet wet. Check the swell before going, as deep ocean waves can sweep you off the rocks here. Not to mention scare you half to death with the relative ease with which they can surge up over your fishing position – safety first!
The first obvious finger of rock to cast off is Rod Holders. Not a lot of resident big reds here but, they will occasionally get taken as they swim past. Live baiting for kingfish should score something worth taking home. It will take patience and perseverance.
Walking further around you come to Buck’s Ledge, an area of rock that sits above the surge zone and points out marginally further than the rest of the coastline. This is where the current gets faster and the continuous current brings kingfish past usually at some point. In summer, skipjack tuna and plenty of shark species will also frequent the area. Guys have been spooled here on TLD50’s, so you never know what beastie will grab your live bait. Tope can be a nuisance and on a good moon phase you can encounter some solid snapper and trevally, again over the best moon phases and tide time. Berley is important and kahawai usually cruise past in groups of two or more for good live baits.
Cape Maria Van Dieman, Far North (hike in)
This area has several awesome spots to fish. This is wild country and safety is paramount because help is a long way away. A PLB (personal locator beacon) is a good idea just in case and if the weather conditions are average, don’t think about it. Best access is with a low tide early in the morning and at the end of the day to get back out. Some guys will camp overnight and make the most of it.
There is a shorter access route however the scenic waling route is from Cape Reinga car park (about a 17km round trip). Take plenty of water, keep your gear light and pack maybe two outfits – one for big snapper and one for big kingfish. Walking along the beach before you get to the Cape itself is a rocky out crop about 1km from the end. The walk up is brutal in the soft sand, you can opt to fish the ledge itself. There is a gut in the end, so you can’t walk all the way around the rocks.
There is another rocky island that is cut off at high tide due west, (depending on how much sand is built up or washed away) which has some ledges right or left. You will get cut off over the high tide here last time I saw. This area hosts big models of everything; kingfish, snapper and trevally.
Alternative access is also via Parengarenga harbour by boat and best if you have an IRB boat kitted out with rubber reinforcement on the sides to stop punctures for rock landings.
Cape Brett, Northland (boat access and hike in)
Easy access by water taxi, you will have to pick the right days and do a multi-day adventure, staying in the hut on the hill. Book via DOC in advance. Quite amazing landscape and deep water nearby means you can get all kinds of species swimming past. Sharks and the occasional marlin swim past here and of course kingfish and snapper. Pete Lamb scored a yellowfin tuna here a long time ago on a lure, so you just never know what will turn up.
You can also hike in if you have legs of steel to carry all your gear and food. The main ledge below the hut is quite long and the far left-hand end drops off and seemed to be the place where the big reds were lurking, none of which we could land getting busted off!
Whilst this place has the potential to turn up a land-based marlin (they have been hooked here before) the cray pots and sheer number of pleasure craft flying past on the way to the hole in the rock would make it rather dangerous to try and play one if eventually hooked.
Long rods are an advantage here but not essential. If you get dropped off by taxi you can take a few outfits; 24kg live bait gear on a 50W, 10ft 10-15kg combo for spinning up kahawai, baiting or snapper and stick bait gear to at least draw kingfish closer to your live bait if not getting hit on the way in.
Berley is important but, will go off quickly because there’s no power at the hut. Kahawai frames will work on a rope as does salmon berley pellets mashed and fed out. A long-handled gaff is important if you want to land any decent sized fish.
Marlin Rock, Cape Karikari, Northland (boat access only)
This is legendary amongst the old school land-based gamers. Several marlin have been hooked off the rock but it is not one I have been able to tackle. I have driven around in my IRB and you can see there is an access point on the west side.
Schools of trevally and kahawai sit in front of the rock all day long, prime kingfish and marlin food. Blue maomao, blue koheru and in summer skipjack will also swim past. You will need your wits about you to clamber onto this rock, not to mention a steady head to get your gear up to safety. Access by boat only, no room for a helicopter to land.
Like a lot of places, you must have some experience to safely get on and off and pick your days carefully. The rock stack directly west is far easier to access, there is a safe and easy back side ledge to land on and you can walk up and over to the front ledge which gives similar water to fish, apart from dozens of cray pots.
Kingfish, thick schools of snapper and kahawai by the ton abound here. In recent years, yellowfin have been swimming in close to these islands and what a fish to land on spinning gear! The last fin landed in close was about 30kg hooked in only 30m of water, north east of these islands.
Bay of Islands Rock Stack – Nine Pin, Northland (boat access only)
One of my biggest kingfish hook-ups was on the island opposite the Nine Pin just off the mainland. A strong current brings fish past and I hooked a mega king here many years ago. I didn’t land it as when it finally realised it was hooked, it kicked its tail and took me through the mussel bed under my feet. The 2kg kahawai it ate was like a little chocolate fish going down it’s throat.
Plenty of school sized snapper and the usual kahawai will cruise past. A salmon berley bag swinging in the flow will help draw in the bigger fish. Sharks are in the area, we saw something dolphin sized cavorting in the water between us and the Nine Pin, we were expecting to see one of the tourists diving nearby get eaten by a Jaws sized predator but nothing eventuated.
Fairly easy to land here in the right conditions on the south side and walk around to the right to fish in the current bubbling past. Jumping off the bow of an aluminium boat works here fine. Like many places in the Bay of Islands, the swell can be safe and quite pleasant to fish when you pick the right days. Take a 10-15kg snapper outfit and 24kg kingfish set is recommended. If you want to hook sharks, a 50W sized reel would be the one to bring.
Port Jackson – Fletcher’s Bay, Coromandel (hike in)
Between Port Jackson and Fletcher’s Bay is a spot that takes careful spotting. As you drive up the hill from Port Jackson and get to the top, the road winds to the right. The next sharp right-hand bend in the road will also show a parking spot. There is a track that leads down to the rocks. This can be tricky as a rope is required to safely navigate the 150m steep descent. There was a rope that has been installed, it looks frayed and it would be wise to bring your own, the rock makes a right-hand turn halfway down. There is a bolt at that point to secure a second rope.
The ledge below faces north with views to Gt Barrier and has several spots to fish. Kingfish, snapper, trevally and kahawai all swim past. Berley is important and staying from dusk to dawn can pay off to hit the bite times.
Using 24kg or even 37kg live bait gear is appropriate because the terrain can be rough. My fastest hook-up and break off was here, a massive foot long piper was scoffed and three cranks of the handle was all I could manage before the kingie cut me off on the bottom.
Goat Bay, Coromandel (kayak access only)
As you start to drive up the hill along the coast just before Port Jackson you will see a shingle beach at Goat Bay. A good spot to launch a kayak and paddle a couple of kilometres (east) up the coast. The first point has a rock stack with a channel in between. Keep paddling until you come to the second obvious point jutting out. A short section of coast has large rocks and boulders just before the point and can be an easy place to land with a 50m walk to the point.
As the tide builds the current pushes hard up against this point. It may spill over the ledge in some conditions, but this is when the kings swim past, and sometimes in schools. Kahawai will smash stick baits two at a time and you will spot greenbone at your feet grazing on the weed. A good place for berley to draw in the demersal species, a stickbait cast and retrieved can draw kingfish into your livie.
Kemps Farm, Cape Runaway (hike in)
Way down the coast behind Cape Runaway is Kemps Farm, a place backing onto the back of Cape Runaway. There is accommodation here on the farm and a 4WD track leads over the hill to some fine-looking ledges.
It is not advisable to navigate in the wet, as the chances of slipping and a very long roll down some of Godzone’s finest and highest hill country. An easy and good-looking ledge is about 200-300m to the north. You get some different species here like red moki, porae as well as the usual target species. Kahawai can be almost impossible to catch for days on end sometimes and the rock structures at your feet can be a real pain to negotiate when hooked up to some of the big kingfish that cruise in close.
Allow 4-5 days to really make the most of the opportunities available here, Google ‘Haywards’ for accommodation details.
Those are my picks for some of the best land-based action in the country. I still have a few secret places that I haven’t divulged, maybe one day when my legs fail me, and I can’t stand on the rocky ground any more I will give them up.
Lottin Point, Hicks Bay (hike in)
Situated down the coast from Cape Runaway, Lottin Point can be reached by driving to the end of Lottin Point Rd. There is a hotel also near the end of the road which provides a great base for fishing adventures in the area.
A track winds out to the point with several fishable ledges on the way out. The walk is about 45 – 60 minutes long and not too exhausting. All the ledges face west and so westerly winds can make fishing challenging and dangerous. There is a gut near the end which can be circumnavigated by going up over the hill.
Lottin Point can turn up all kinds of species and the deep water close by makes hooking pelagics a real possibility. Take 37kg gear and heavy leaders with you because of the lottery factor here. Kahawai can be scarce, so salmon berley and spinners are important. Take stickbaiting gear for those kings that pop out of nowhere and are in the mood for some surface fare. A long-handled gaff is also a must.