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Anchoring - when "close enough" isn't.

Anchoring your boat in the right position is critical to placing your bait or lure near fish

Maybe there are times when blowing your own trumpet may prove a point. Hopefully this is one of those occasions.

While on holiday up at the Bay of Islands, NZ, a friend confided that he was having all sorts of trouble catching a feed of snapper. I greeted this confession with some derision. Plenty of snapper were being taken, some of them by me.

I was promptly challenged to put some fish where my mouth was, and bright and early, about 10am the next day, off we motored to one of my 'fail-safe' spots.

Positioning on this spot is critical. The trick is to position the boat so the baits drift back on the current down on either side of a ridge. The current flows down each side, on the in-coming tide. Trouble is at this spot, the ridge, and the current flows, do not line up with the predominating wind directions.

Judging the spot to drop the anchor so the boat drifts back into the correct position, can be a hit and miss affair. I have found in the past that if the boat is not positioned almost to the metre, you can kiss your chances of taking fish good-bye.

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By the time we had tried twice, without success, to get the 38 foot boat to hang properly in the 15 knot winds, my friend was getting somewhat annoyed. Mind you he was on the anchor, and the winch was not working.

"C'mon, Bish, surely it can't be that critical, " was his angry, arm sore, lament. Fortunately for my friend's arms, we cracked it on the third attempt.

My friend immediately fired out his 15kg rig with its 100gm sinker and settled back to restore some life to his nearly dead arms. I set about setting up the berley trail, and dropping down the Berley-Mate ground bait dispenser.

This chore completed, I rigged up a whole pilchard, with a 5gm ball sinker running down onto the hook. I was using 8kg line. The bait was fired out, well behind the boat, to commence its drift to the bottom.

It never made it.

Around a minute into it's downward drift to the bottom, the bait was picked up and away it raced. My friend called it for a kingfish and I was not going to argue.

However I knew that at this spot the snapper hung right up the sides of the ridge picking off the bait fish as they came past. All conjecture ceased when a good 8kg (17lb.) snapper finally showed under the boat, and was soon gaffed.

At this spot the fishing could not be described as fast and furious. It holds good numbers of bigger fish, however they are fish that got big by being hook shy.

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Over the next hour I had caught another three fish, all bigger than the previous one. My friend had yet to break his duck. It was finally broken by putting my light gear, lightly weighted, in his hands. His fish was probably the biggest for the day. I have taken quite a few people to this spot, and each time it has yielded some good fish.

On the occasions it has not, one factor has always been true - we were not anchored on the right spot. It is hard to insist on moving the boat when the boat is not yours.

Most times I guard my spot 'Xs' with more diligence than most, but I am less concerned about revealing the location of this spot than some others. The reason is very simple, most fishermen will not spend the time and trouble anchoring in just the right spot.

Anchoring in this context is a two part activity. Anchoring the boat is the first and critical part, and "anchoring" the bait is the second, and just as critical part. But the second part is entirely dependent on the first.

It is also a fact that achieving this type of anchoring accuracy is virtually impossible without a sounder. But even a sounder can be useless in deciding where to anchor if you gather incomplete information.

Merely finding some territory that may hold fish will not necessarily maximize your chances of taking fish from that territory. Once you have found some promising territory it is well worth the time to crisscross the area in an orderly fashion to get some idea of the bottom contours. (See this) This bottom shape, combined with observation of the current flows gives you the best information to position the boat correctly.

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One of the hardest parts to placing the anchor in the right position is that it is very hard to tell just where you want to end up.

There are very few markers on the water, usually even less on spot 'x' but there is a good marker buoy for this and other purposes now available. As you pass over the spot just drop the buoy over the side and the weight drops to the bottom. (This type of marker-buoy is easy to make).

It is a good and precise system. Less precise, but pretty effective, is to drop a sheet of newspaper over the side. It does not move in the wind and is easy to spot. A few drops of Glow-bait in a squeeze container filled with cooking oil makes an effective and visible marker.

Anchoring right

Persistence is a key to anchoring in the right place. If it not right first time, try again, and again, if necessary.

Once the boat is anchored, the next problem is to place your bait in the right place.

It is just about useless to anchor the boat in a position where the current will push your berley trail back towards where the fish are holding, and then to drop your bait under the boat, under the berley trail and away from the fish.

The old advice of using the least amount of weight to drift your bait down to the fish as naturally as possible, is still good advice. Trouble is that 'least amount' varies from none to a tonne.

There are spots I know where just enough is 2.5gms and less. There are other spots where a kilo or more is light tackle.

The key to getting it right is good judgment and observation. Having a good idea how far back behind the boat the fish are is the start point. Pull off the line in arm lengths, around about a metre each pull, allow about another third to cover the angle, and you can get fairly close. A thin small rubber band looped around the line at this point gives you a good guide for how much line to let out, next drop of the bait.

Anchoring to catch more fish - Part 2


fish illustration by Bish


Article written by Tony Bishop


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