Hawke’s Bay Kayak Fishing Guide

Hawke’s Bay Kayak Fishing Guide2018-11-14T08:02:45+12:00

Project Description

Kayak fishing in Hawke's Bay NZ

Hawke’s Bay has a wide range of inshore fishing opportunities. Through the use of a kayak, you are able to paddle where you want, close to shore. Having the flexibility of a light fishing setup enables you to launch off of all the major beaches in Hawke’s Bay by yourself and reach a good spot within 20 minutes of paddling.

From experience in the last few seasons the writer, Blair Whiting has begun to put together some great catches and witness some truly amazing fishing moments. What he enjoy’s the most is the fact he gets to skipper his own boat fully powered by his own arms.

 These are his words…


The bay is a very mixed bag fishery, you can have a huge variety of species that pop into your berley trail throughout a session.

I have a simple way of going out and catching a feed. First, I’ll decide what the target species is, then before leaving, I prepare with the correct bait and berley. A typical day consists of setting up a good trail and fishing ledger rigs on each side of the kayak. However, I will mix this up a bit depending on what I have decided to focus on for the day.

Below is a list of the most common species I target in Hawkes’s Bay, along with a few tips and techniques that you can try to help increase your chances of a successful days fishing.


snapper fishing tips hawkes bay

Size:  25 – 85cm, 1 – 10kg
Prey:  Mussel, Paddle Crab
Habitat:  Bottom Reef, Mudflats
Best Season: Summer (Late winter for big Snapper)
Best Bait: Pilchard

When targeting snapper, a favourite location of mine is Clifton beach, over summer the area is teeming with them. These fish live in shallow mudflats bordered by the small reefs, the water depth ranges from 3 – 7m where I fish for them. The predominant food the snapper feed on is mussels. When paddling out I will check my sounder constantly for structure and fish sign, the snapper in the area stick to the bottom so I will look for a short arch just on top of the mud. A change in depth is well worth fishing so if I see one I will drop the anchor and pump some berley to find out if the area is producing fish. Within 10 minutes I have a good idea if the snapper are in the area. The scent makes snapper actively compete for baits and bites can be very aggressive. The bait usually doesn’t matter but favourites of mine are squid and pilchard. Typically, the fish range from 30 – 45cm in length, large fish from 50 – 70cm are rarer, but they do show up.


Size:  25 – 60 cm,  1 – 4kg
Prey:  Mussel, Paddle Crab, Worms, Krill
Habitat:  Bottom sand & mud, Midwater Reef, Top Water
Best Season: Spring
Best Bait: Squid

Trevally are a very welcome bycatch in many of the spots I fish. The only reason I don’t target them is they eat the same thing as most of the other species. So, fishing for snapper or gurnard, in turn, will produce the odd trevally. These fish fight very hard for their size, and when fighting them you must play them with some care since trevally have a very soft jaw and mouth, this is where a light action rod and the KL recurve hook design comes into play. Putting just the right amount of pressure on is key to not pulling the hook. When one fish shows up more often than not there will be a group. An unweighted piece of squid on a 4/0 KL circle hook is deadly, but they will happily bite a ledger too. I tend to catch most of my trevally off Te Awanga, having my best day using Skipjack, landing two fish just under 2kg.

trevally in a net caught on a kayak


Size: 25 – 55cm / 0.3kg – 1.3kg
Prey:  Paddle Crab, Small fish, Shrimp
Habitat:  Mud and sand flats
Best Season: Spring
Best Bait: Skipjack Tuna

Gurnard are my favourite species to target since they are amazing to eat and relatively straight forward to catch. Hawkes Bay’s iconic species would be the gurnard since most of our waters are sandy or a muddy bottom. This provides the perfect habitat for these grunters to hunt crabs, shrimps and small baitfish. My go-to spot for gurnard is wide of Tangoio beach. After paddling for 15 minutes to the grounds (which are from 15 – 20m deep) I will find an area of sand which has a drop-off. This is the structure that gurnard hang out with and the key to finding numbers of fish. Berley is great for attracting gurnard to the area. Tuna berley is an excellent choice with great oil content. When choosing a hook to use look for something small enough to fit into a gurnards mouth. From 2/0 to 4/0 are perfect. Placement of hooks on the rig can improve catch rates greatly, having a hook closer to the bottom will make it easier for gurnard to find the bait. Your hook sharpness will need to be like a needlepoint, as penetration through the tough bony jaw can be difficult – try the KL and KLT hooks, you cannot go past these. Gurnard in Hawke’s bay tend to congregate larger numbers in deeper water typically 35 metres to 55 metres, so catching them off the kayak can be tough, but when one pops up on your line in shallow water it is a great achievement.

Blue Cod

Size:  25 – 55cm
Prey:  Small fish, Mussel
Habitat:  Heavy reef, sand edges
Best Season:  All year
Best Bait: Squid

Blue cod are a special fish to catch. They are another one of the species that taste excellent. Hawke’s bay has good stocks if you know where to look. This can be tough from a kayak, but I have a few key points on how and where you can catch them. Every time I have caught cod it has been near structure. The smaller blue cod hang right amongst the rocks, so when trying to catch a cod over 40cm you will need to move off the rock and onto sand. Areas like channels of sand between rock or the edge of the reef over sand are the best spots, this is the best way to find the larger specimens. Blue cod respond to berley of any type and can be drawn right off the reef and onto sandy areas where you would expect to find gurnard. One session I caught one right after landing two blue cod. Bait for cod really doesn’t matter a huge amount, they are aggressive feeders and if in the mood will take anything. The best rule is to use a tougher bait, so the smaller fish can’t rip it all off. Squid or mullet has taken many fish for me. For blue cod a good hook size is from 3/0 to 5/0, I personally prefer circle hooks in order to avoid gut hooking.

blue cod caught on a kayak by Blair Whiting



Size: 25 – 65cm, 1 – 3.5kg
Prey: whitebait, mullet, mackerel, anchovies, krill
Habitat: Bottom sand, Midwater, Topwater, Estuaries
Best Season: All year
Best Bait: Pilchard / silver lures

Kahawai are the most common species you are likely to hook while fishing out from every spot in the bay. They will roll past mostly in schools, but larger solitary fish turn up at times which can weigh over 3 kilos. Kahawai hang out over reef, sand, mud and gravel. You name it they will be there. An easy way to go out and catch a feed is to put down some pilchards on a ledger rig. Quite often you will be rewarded with more than one kahawai when fishing out from the Napier port. An exciting way to fish for the species is using topwater lures to target workups. A 7g silver lure cast into the frenzy has an extremely high hit rate and you will not even need to wind sometimes before hooking up. Kahawai are the most reliable species and sometimes can become downright annoying when targeting other species like gurnard which inhabit the same areas. After inspecting gut contents quite often I’ll find that bait scraps I have thrown overboard have been eaten by the Kahawai. So, putting chunks out can attract them from all over the place.

kahawai caught on a kayak by Blair Whiting



Size: 60cm – 120cm, 5 – 25kg
Prey: Kahawai, Mackerel, Anchovies, Mullet
Habitat: Large Reefs, Midwater, Under floating structure, Estuaries
Best Season: Summer
Best Bait: Live Jack Mackerel

In December the water temperature is starting to heat up typically hitting 17 degrees by Christmas. After finding the right area to fish (off Tangoio beach). I Found baitfish on my sounder over sand, this species of fish is known as Horse Mackerel, a close relative of Jack Mackerel. These make excellent live-baits for kingfish. After bringing a bait up and hooking an 8/0 KL into the 40cm mackerel, I dropped the bait down and left it 5m off the bottom. I continued to pull more baits out of the school before my sounder lit up again with bigger marks behind the mackerel school. Sure, enough the live-bait got taken and I was put to the test on the biggest fish of my life, 35 minutes later and over a kilometer from hook up point, I brought the kingfish on board. At 15 kilos it was a really good one for my first legal kingfish caught from my kayak. Read more about this story here. Kingfish school up over structure and where the is baitfish are located. This can be over no structure like the sand I found the bait on, so keep this in mind. They follow their food and if you find the smaller fish bigger ones will be close by. Favourite spots for kingfish are; Pania reef, Cape Kidnappers, Tangoio and Clive River Mouth.

kingfish caught on kayak

Tackle Choice…

KL Circle hooks have been my main choice of hook and perform very well on all species I target here in Hawkes Bay. However, I have recently started using the new KLT hooks, which I have found to be stronger and longer lasting but with a slightly thicker wire gauge. I am now using these hooks when targeting trophy fish with bigger baits. I can also confidently recommend Black Magic’s range of Snatcher rigs and new Snapper Snacks as they match my fishing style perfectly and are extremely reliable.

The writer, Blair Whiting “Smashing PB’s in Mahia off his Kayak”.

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