By Keith Miller
People have mixed feelings about the Manukau Harbour. It’s been the dumping ground for urban runoff and poorly treated wastewater, and the installation of a line of pylons showed no regard for the natural beauty of the harbour’s northern shores.
The interest in recreational fishing around Blockhouse Bay has also varied. There’s a 1957 aerial photograph of Blockhouse Bay that shows dozens of moored launches and dinghies. That was probably the peak period for recreational fishing, as after that overfishing and a reduction in water quality saw fish numbers plummet. However, improvements to the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant that were completed in 2005 and better management of fish stocks mean it is again well worth getting out on the water to catch dinner.
Water testing by Auckland Council has shown that quality around Blockhouse Bay is generally good, with the exception being in the 24 hours following heavy rain. The advantage the Manukau has is that it’s shallow and has a big tidal range, so twice daily there are big inflows of clean Tasman Sea water that flush out any contaminants.
An easy and relatively cheap way to get onto the water is by kayak. Kayak fishing has been a growing sport for the past two decades, and that’s reflected in the growing numbers of kayaks now seen in the Bay when wind and tide conditions are good. Kayaks are preferred here as they are easy to launch and can quietly get into position in shallow areas without scaring the fish.
Over summer and early autumn snapper dominate the harbour. Schools of them feed on the mudflats as the tide comes in and the fishing tends to be fast and furious. Many of them are undersize though, and on some days you might catch ten and put nine back. It’s a good idea to file the barbs off hooks to make it easier to release these fish. There are also large snapper around though, with a nice 57 cm fish being caught in the Bay in the past two weeks by my young neighbour, Connor McKeating.
Other fish include kahawai, trevally, and the odd kingfish. Gurnard are common further down the harbour but don’t seem to venture into the Bay. There are also some large stingrays around that are a challenge when hooked. They are not something you want on a kayak, so best practice is to reel in as much line as possible and cut them loose.
Fresh baits such as pilchards give better results than softbaits or other lures, probably because of the sediment in the water that reduces visibility. Fish can be caught in just a couple of metres of water over the mudflats or in the deeper channels. Kahawai will also take a lure trolled behind the kayak.
And even if you come back with nothing, it’s nice to just get out on the water and enjoy the coastal views and wildlife.
Connor caught his huge fish off his back yard from a long line which he kayaked out into the bay. He had lots of fun bringing it in! Later it was pan fried with flour, egg and wasabi mayo, and shared with several people. Delicious!
Connor is a pupil at Blockhouse Bay Intermediate and is passionate about fishing, the environment, and our native birds. He has been fishing and boating since he was in preschool.
He is also passionate about predator trapping and is a member of the Coastal Pirates trapping group with his dad, registered with Predator Free NZ and he is a member of Forest and Bird.