Live baiting for big fish (+ video)

NZ Fisher Magazine livebaiting

It’s not the only way to go, but it’s pretty damn effective!

I must admit that the idea of live baiting in the shallows for both kingfish and snapper is not new, but it seems to have been a bit forgotten with all this stick-baiting, jigging and soft baiting we’ve been focusing on. So here we are to re-invigorate this tried, true and bloody effective method of landing the big ones.

I fished a spot in the 90’s with a couple of other guys. To be honest, it was their spot, and techniques. And I’ll get skinned alive for this article, but the story needs to be told! We found a likely piece of Northland coast with a bit of current, heaps of kelp and a bit of a rise for the current to flow over from the sandy bottom to the reef. Burley was dispatched and we waited, no lines in the water yet, until the koheru (which are pretty rare these days) began to show. We spent what felt like a lifetime catching a few dozen, then as the current began to really flow, they were dispatched, endowed with hook-like jewellery and a headache to die for. Much like the technique shown in this video, actually.

This year we also had a new tool in the arsenal, the FisherKing Balloon clip, which simplified things even further. Check the 2014 video here.

Live-baiting is actually pretty easy and there’s options beyond kingfish and snapper too; trevally get caught on livies sometimes, Kahawai too (often when you’re chasing kings), but some of the wilder targets are tuna, marlin (which are boring to wait for and mind blowing when hooked up!), sharks of course and even some tasty bottom dwellers like granddaddy hapuka and the ubiquitous john dory.

There’s little difference in tackle between 1990 and today. I’m still using a baitrunner, a Kilwell Jellytip and 15kg mono, but nowadays I prefer a single recurve hook to the double Gamakatsu 8/0’s of the ‘old days’.

Live baits are more of a big-fish bait than cut baits or soft baits and we generally only go to the effort when there’s prizes or pride on the line. What is almost essential when live baiting for big fish is current, and some burley to float down that current. The way we live bait is either on the surface (using a balloon rig) or near the bottom, with a 1/4oz sinker for snapper or a 4oz when it’s kings or john dory we’re chasing. This means we place the burley accordingly; on the surface or on the anchor chain – you want the tasty oils to be attracting fish to the right level. That’s not to say we haven’t landed snapper on surface livies or vice versa with kings.

Whatever your quarry, we strongly recommend a dose of live baiting if you’re ready to up the ante and get into the big league!

Derrick Paull is the Editor of NZ Fisher magazine. Darren Parsons is the resident NZ Fisher team scientist. (Yes, really!)

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