The Bay of Islands is world famous for fishing – since the early 1900s. If you’re heading out to drop a line, a fishing charter is your best option. Read our Guide.
Why choose a fishing charter?
Benefits of a fishing charter
The Bay of Islands has been world famous for fishing since the early 1900s. From big game adventure fishermen searching for a whopper, to enthusiasts from around New Zealand just looking to get out on the water, the Bay of Islands is a premiere fishing destination.
If you’re looking to head out to drop a line, a fishing charter is your best option.
There are bait and tackle shops around Russell and Paihia that will rent out equipment. Equally, if you have packed your own there are plenty of spots where you can cast out and see what nibbles. You might catch something standing waist deep out in the water at high tide, but everyone knows the fish worth catching are out in much deeper waters.
By the time you’ve hired tackle, bought bait, and rented a boat, you still need to figure out where to go. It won’t take you long to realise that for a more enjoyable, more successful day of fishing, you’re better off making one call and hiring a charter.
When you book a fishing charter, you’re hiring more than the boat. You’re also getting a person’s local fishing knowledge and expertise. If you’re new to fishing, your fishing guide is there to help you get the most from your trip. For experienced anglers, your guide can help take your fishing to the next level.
Private or shared fishing charters?
How serious are you about your fishing? Are you out for a fun day on the water, to try something new, or are you determined to land a fish that breaks some kind of record? When it comes to choosing a fishing charter, you have a number of options.
Shared or public fishing charters are open to anyone. These are a great option if you’re travelling by yourself or in a pair. The benefits are that you’ll enjoy a chartered fishing trip for a fraction of the cost of hiring the whole boat, and you’ll have a chance to meet new people.
Public or shared fishing charters can be a little unpredictable. Depending on the charter company, they may have a minimum number of bookings required before setting out. If you’re the only person to book, you’ll probably be asked to shift your booking to another day or time when there are more people.
On a private charter, the whole boat is yours. You’re guaranteed to leave when you want, (weather permitting of course) and your charter can tailor your fishing trip to where you want to go and what you want to catch. Perfect for a family or a small group of mates who just want to have a day for yourselves.
How much does a fishing charter cost?
Of course, all fishing charters are different, so it’s worth comparing a couple of operators to see what they offer.
You need to factor in:
- Is fishing tackle and bait included?
- How long are you heading out for?
- Are you heading out in peak season or off peak?
- What kind of fish are you looking to catch?
- Will they fillet your fish for you?
- Is your fishing charter private or public?
Taking all of these questions into account when looking at different fishing charter operators will make sure you’re comparing like with like.
As a general guide, you could expect to pay around $150 per person for a half-day, public fishing charter with light tackle for fish like snapper and bait provided. The same company could offer the same half-day snapper trip for between $900 and $1200 for a private booking.
Want to catch something a bit bigger? Fishing for big game like marlin, tuna or broadbill requires heavier duty tackle and heading out into deeper waters which means more travelling time. There’s also a bit more risk involved, which is all reflected in the cost.
A full day out on the water on a shared big game fishing charter ranges between $700 and $900 per person, or around $2500 to book the whole boat for yourself.
It’s worth bearing in mind these are general guidelines only, and specific costs you should contact a fishing charter operator directly.
What do I need to bring on a fishing charter?
Almost all fishing charters will provide everything you need to get set up and fishing.
Make sure you dress for the elements. In summer, you are going to need a sunhat – One that’s tight fitting or has a loop going under your chin so you don’t lose it overboard. You’ll also need sunblock, sunglasses, and all the usual sun protection.
In winter, a waterproof jacket to keep you warm against the elements is a must.
Most fishing charters will provide you with tea, coffee and water. It’s recommended you bring your own drink bottle. When booking, you can ask your charter operator if they have a lunch option you can order, otherwise make sure you have lunch and snacks to keep your energy up over the day.
One of the most important items you can bring will come in handy at the end of the day. Most fishing charter operators can fillet and process your catch for you, so it’s ready to cook. You’ll need to bring an air-tight container for you to take your fillets home. Something like an empty 2 litre ice cream container will usually do the trick.
If you’re not an experienced sailor or angler, you’re much better off on a fishing charter. Their teams are there to support you and to make sure you have an enjoyable day. If you are an experienced fisher and you just want to concentrate on fishing and nothing else, a charter fishing trip is still the best option.
If you want to be the master of your own destiny and make all of the calls, you can look at bareboat hire. Bareboat hire means you’re hiring the boat and nothing else. No captain and no crew.
You will have to prove that you’re an experienced sailor and comply with the company’s insurance agreement in order to charter a yacht on your own. But, if you want to do things your way and enjoy fishing in quiet solitude then this may be an option for you.
Bareboat hire options
Fairwind – Fleet of yachts for charter from 28-feet to 45-feet
Great Escape – Fleet includes Davidson 20, Noelex 25, and a Noelex 30
Bay Charters – “Sensation” is a spacious and well set up Farr 1020, 34ft yacht.
If you’re looking for something particular in a boat, or want to organise a trip that goes further than the Bay of Islands, you may want to contact an agent like First Light Travel.
When’s the best time of year for fishing?
What are you hoping to catch? Do you plan on going out by yourself, or with a group? The truth is, any time is a good time to go fishing but this can help you get the most from your fishing charter.
Big game fishing
Want to battle for a big one? Marlin are the most popular big game fish caught in the Bay of Islands. An average sized striped marlin can weigh around 100kg, while it’s cousin the blue marlin can reach 200kg and more.
If you have your heart set on fishing big game like marlin, yellowfin tuna or kingfish, aim to visit the Bay of Islands between February and the end of May. The changing seasons cause a change in the currents which attract big numbers of bait fish. Where there are large schools of bait fish, you can be sure hungry marlin are not far away.
An additional bonus to visiting the Bay of Islands between February and May is that this is the end of the peak tourist season. You’ll avoid the congestion of December and January, have a wider range of accommodation options to choose from, while still enjoying the warmer weather.
Charter fishing in winter
This is not for the faint hearted. While known as the ‘winterless North,’ the Bay of Islands is not immune to rain, wind, and colder temperatures. Not exactly ideal conditions for going out into deeper waters.
There are two advantages to a Bay of Islands chartered fishing trip in winter. Because it’s the tourist off season, you can usually get a good deal on a fishing charter. Expect to see discounts on both shared and private fishing charters.
Equally, going fishing in the off season means fewer people are out on the water. There’s less competition so you have a better chance of hooking that big fish on the end of your line.
Fishing charter operators in the Bay of Islands
Spot X Fishing
20B York St, Bay of Islands, Russell
With two boats available, you can choose to go for snapper and kingfish on board the Wairerer, or take it up a notch on the Screaming Reels as you chase marlin, kingfish and swordfish. Half day fishing trips from 4-5 hours, or full day 6-7 hour trips. With private charters or shared seating, SpotX can pick you up from Russell Wharf, Paihia Wharf or Waitangi Wharf.
All fishing tackle and bait is provided, making Spot X Fishing Charters a family friendly day out.
What to bring?
- Your own lunch, or make sure you’ve ordered food when booking
- A container to take your freshly caught fish home
69 Marsden Road, Paihia
Got a particular fish in your sights? Line them up with Target Charters. Full day or half day? Public or private? After smaller snapper, bigger kingfish, or monster marlin?
Target Charters cater for all ages and levels of experience. They have fishing trips for the family, fishing trips for the dedicated fisher, big game fish trips and group trips.
They can pick you up from Russell Wharf, Paihia Wharf or Waitangi Wharf. Make sure you also bring swimwear and towels in case you feel like a swim.
Saltshaker Charter Fishing
PO Box 498, Paihia
This newly refitted vessel has all the bells and whistles, from Wi-Fi to tuna tubes and a live bait station. You can choose to go after lighter snapper, heavier marlin or a mixture of the two.
Feel like a full seafood dinner? Just talk to Scott or Guy and they can also stop somewhere where you can dive for fresh scallops or crayfish.
Caught something you’re ready to eat? The Saltshaker team can fillet and smoke your fish so you can enjoy it as soon as you get back to your accommodation. If you’ve been on a big game adventure, they can even organise having your catch mounted so everyone can admire your record breaking catch.
Pick up Paihia, Russell, Waitangi wharfs
The name says it all. Epic Adventures caters for all ages and experience levels for an epic trip out.
Choose from a whole day or half day trip as you target Yellowtail kingfish, Snapper, Hapuka and Bass. Part of the unique Bay of Islands fishing experience, the team at Epic Adventures will also point out native wildlife like birds or dolphins on their way to the fishing grounds.
In addition to fishing trips, Epic Adventures can also sort out your local accommodation, transport, and even an inland hunting trip or mountain bike tours if you haven’t had enough adventure for one day.
Earl Grey Fishing
Pick up Paihia, Russell, Waitangi wharfs
Captain of the fishing charter vessel “Earl Grey II” Steve Butler is a member of New Zealand’s oldest game fishing club. It was this club that in the late 1920s invited world-famous American author and angler Zane Grey to the Bay of Islands.
Earl Grey Fishing Charters cater to all levels of experience, from taking you to hidden snapper spots, or helping you reel in a giant marlin or tuna.
All tackle is provided, but you are welcome to bring your own. Just let them know when booking.
Paihia Wharf, Bay of Islands
At Wildblue Charters you’re encouraged to choose your own fishing adventure.
Half day packages range up to four hours, while a full day gives you up to nine hours on the water. The Wildblue is also fully kitted out for multiple days on the water if you want to extend your fishing adventure.
Choose from big game fishing charters in the deeper parts of the Pacific Ocean, kingfish charters around drop offs and reefs, or snapper fishing charters in shallower waters around the islands and bays.
Blue Sea Charters
Wharf 101, Marsden Rd, Paihia, Bay of Islands
With two boats in their fleet, Blue Sea Charters cater for private and group fishing tours, on a range of full day or half day options.
Aboard Skipper Jim you can fish the inner reefs for snapper and kingfish, while the Splash is better suited for bigger game like marlin, hapuka or grouper.
Whether you’re a novice who wants to land your first snapper, or an experienced angler after the big game, Blue Sea Fishing Charters can cater to you.
Come fishing with us
Ever since the 1920s The Bay of Islands has called fishermen and women around the world to the “Angler’s El Dorado.”
It’s a favourite fishing spot with Kiwis from all over New Zealand.
Whether you’re after something really big that you can brag about for the rest of the year, perhaps just a couple of fillets so you can enjoy a fresh fish experience, or you want to spend time with the family and introduce the kids to their first fishing experience, there are a range of fishing charters just waiting to make it happen for you.
The Bay of Islands has everything to offer anglers of all ages and experience levels wanting to get out on the water and have a go. If you want more information about fishing, don’t hesitate to read our complete guide on fishing in the Bay Of Islands!