coromandel-kingA couple of years back I flew across to the North Island of New Zealand to catch up with good friend Milan Radonich and chase some fish.

While the weather forecast was terrible and continued to limit our options we still headed up the winding road to the Coromandel Peninsula for a few days to chase some winter kingfish and snapper.

The Coromandel Peninsula is certainly one of the most picturesque places to go for a fishing holiday. The Peninsula is located on the North Island of New Zealand only a few hours drive from the city of Auckland. The region has many attributes and the scenery is spectacular but even better the fishing it provides year round is consistent.


Milan has fished these waters for many years and has caught some monstrous kings to over 40kg through this region. The Coromandel Peninsula has a huge network of islands in dispersed within a couple of kilometres of the coastline. These provide a great deal of habitat in the form of rocky points, channels and outcrops with the territory ranging from 5-20m in depth on average over sand and reef.

Packs of large kings patrol these waters all year around, however despite the cooler water temperatures of winter (with temperatures as low as 13 degrees Celsius) the area still provides some good fishing. This was certainly an eye opener for me as back home in southwest Victoria it’s very rare to see a kingfish in the coastal waters in water temperatures below 16 degrees Celsius.

The myriad of islands provided us with an opportunity to take cover from the 25 knot westerly winds and as we headed out Milan pointed out where all the best rocky points to target big kingfish are, but unfortunately these were going to be unfishable for the duration of our short trip. It wasn’t long before we found some reasonably protected water behind a headland and set up for the day. While kings will bite in rough weather they seem to be much more receptive to livebaits in calmer cleaner water.

While artificial lures actively fished can be dynamite on kingfish at times, you are more likely to catch more big kings on livebaits at this location with a patient approach and this was the plan on this trip.

Berleying is essential in this area and has a range of benefits other than the possibility of attracting a pack of hungry kings. Our berley bag hadn’t been in the water for more than 5 minutes when a school of kawahai (Australian salmon) moved into the trail and we were able to start getting our livebait supply. There were no small baits available and all the salmon were in the 2-2.5kg range which is the preferred size for the fish in these waters. The philosophy is simple, big bait equals big fish!

With the rigs ready we hooked on the livebaits and sent them out the back on the edge of the point. The livebaits were lightly pinned through the back, just in front of the dorsal fin, rather than bridal rigged as they swam more efficiently at anchor.

With such large livebaits available it is important that they are rigged correctly, this prevents the livebaits causing tangles and ensures that the often cautious big kings can be very particular and will drop a bait quickly if the leader is visible or if the resistance of a large balloon is felt when taking the bait. You really need to give yourself every possible chance of hooking a fish. Catching big kings is about making the most of your opportunities.

The general line and leader setup is straight forward. We used 80lb braid knotted to a heavy black crane swivel then about a 2 meter length of 100lb fluorocarbon. The strength of the leader can be selected on the basis of the conditions. You will always get more strikes from big kings on the lightest leader you can use, its just selecting the right breaking strain to give you the best chance of landing a big fish in the local conditions. Fishing over reef close to a rocky headland with slightly stirred up water I went for the heavy option! Attached to the leader was a VMC 9/0 live bait hook, which is important. A quality live bait or circle hook is mandatory as you don’t want to loose the fish of a lifetime, particularly on heavy tackle.

I rarely ever use swivels on my leader when live baiting with braided lines back at home, but with such big livebaits they are important in so many ways they prevent line twists from the livebait and fish during a long fight and provide a secure point to attach the balloon.

The attachment of the balloon to the rig is important. I’ve seen plenty of ways to attach a balloon when fishing livebaits such as looping or tying on to the leader or attaching with light thread, but Milan’s preferred method was perfect for the big livebaits.

It’s a difficult scenario you really need a bigger balloon for such a large livebait than you would normally need for smaller livebaits. By using a bigger balloon you can create more resistance to keep the bait off the reef. You can’t afford to have your bait being able to swim down around the edges of the reef and snag you up in the shallow water. Alternatively you need a quick release technique that’s perfect for those cautious fish.

The technique we used was quite simple, firstly blow up your balloon and tie off as you normally would then stretch the neck of the balloon and blow a small pocket of air into it. Retie the neck of the balloon to create a small bulb in the neck. To attach to the crane swivel make sure you pull the bulb through the eye of the swivel which the braid is knotted onto as this will ensure the braid doesn’t end up with the chance of wrapping around the swivel while the bait is set. Occasionally your balloon will pop off, but that is easily rectified and replaced.

It wasn’t long before there was some commotion at the back of the boat right on the edge of the point and my livebait was flying out of the water with a series of boils and the top of a big yellow tail in hot pursuit. I love it when kings hit a big bait and because this fish wasn’t huge by any standards, it took a few turns at getting the bait in his mouth.

They never seem to give up when they’re hungry and its a site to behold knowing you’re only a few seconds away from being hooked up to a rampaging fish. With stand and deliver the preferred technique in this location I locked up the drag on the Okuma Salina 16000 and we were on. After a good struggle, and a few tense moments tangling on the anchor rope a good king rose from the depths. To have a good fish in the boat early in the day in difficult conditions was comforting.

The live baits were reset and we rigged the lighter rods with smaller hooks and weighted the baits with split shot and fished deeper for snapper at the same time in the berley trail. Before long there were snapper under the boat everywhere and while they were mostly in the 1-3kg range there were plenty of them and this kept us busy while we were waiting for another king to roll around the point.

It is not uncommon to catch much larger snapper at this location and fish up to 10kg are reasonably common, which really makes for a mixed bag when you can fish in challenging conditions and still catch a good feed of kawahai, snapper and kingfish. This is one of the many places worth a visit if you’re in NZ and I know I’m looking forward to getting back there next year.

While the location fishes well in winter, the spring and summer months provide exceptional fishing and during the holiday periods many people flock to this part of the country. While we were there we stayed at the Long Bay Motor Camp & Cabins and we nearly had the whole place to ourselves!

Situated 3kms from Coromandel Township, right on the beach front and surrounded by 57 acres of tranquil native bush, the Park provides a range of quality accommodation including cabins, bunkhouse units, on-site vans, tent & power sites and all facilities including playground, barbeque area, camp store, boat ramp, safe swimming and kayak hire and boat hire.

A boat or kayak is essential for making the most of the fishing this area and while I was lucky enough to have friends who had their own boat for our trip there is now a charter boat available (6m Extreme Aluminium plate boat) for hire from Long Bay Motor Camp and Cabins.

For more information about their fishing charters contact:
Long Bay Motor Camp & Cabins
3200 Long Bay Road
Coromandel, NZ.
Phone: (07) 866 8720
Fax: (07) 866 8728


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