Urner Barry is a business publisher specializing in the timely, accurate and unbiased reporting of market news and quotations to clients in the poultry, egg, meat, seafood and related segments of the food industry through a variety of print and non-print media. Blue cod known to the Maoris as rawaru, are endemic to New Zealand and are one of the best fish for eating. They are exclusively found in New Zealand in shallow waters around the rocky coasts, though they are far more common south of Cook Strait but are also widely distributed from the Three Kings Islands to the north, the Chatham Islands to the east, and the Snares Islands to the south.
Blue cod can live to 17 years and reach a length of 60cm and weight up to 4kg but an average is ? to 1kg. An adult may grow to 60 cm in length and weigh from one to three kg. Aim for the heads as this will dispatch the fish quickly and will leave you with undamaged fillets. Juveniles are thought to be pelagic associating with flotsam and floating vegetation in open water, switching to demersal at about 50cm total length. When the fish are in large numbers they can be found mooching in mid water, even just below the surface.
The John Dory usually get there food by stalking it then shooting out a tube in its mouth to capture its prey. John Dory are most commonly found around the inshore coastal waters of New Zealand north of Cook Strait. Kahawai can be seen in most conditions or habitats, generally a good sign of bigger fish to come (Kingfish) regarded as a none target species they still make good eating when cooked correctly. Kingfish are a typical pelagic schooling fish however, one can encounter juvenile Kingfish hunting in the shallows. New Zealand Kingfish will hunt up and down the country chasing smaller fish species such as baitfish, piper, garfish, squid, octopus, koheru and kahawai. Often seeing these smaller fish in schools is a good sign that you may run into a Kingfish, as the Kingfish will be actively seeking them.
It usually takes a Kingfish up to 21 years to reach its full growth size of 2.5 metres or more and they can weigh up to 40-45kgs. Kingfish are excellent eating fish with thick white fillets; they have a pleasant flavour and only a few large bones.
From early October through to April, we see Kingfish populate the North Island but with current climatic changes, we are seeing them as far as the Deep South. In most situations the Kingfish will swim towards you to see what you are, usually a few smaller fish will lead the school; then within seconds you could have hundreds of fish milling around you or the rocky structure below. Careful placement of a shot will ensure your odds of landing a Kingfish; they have very soft flesh and tearing often results in lost fish. Once the fish has tired somewhat – get a mate to apply a second holding shot – this will often calm down a violent contender.
Eventually when it runs out of steam, you can secure the fish by grabbing it under the gills and wrapping your legs around it – delivering a quick “iki” to seal the deal. To work the flasher you have two options: firstly unwind the flasher to the desired depth which should be a depth to which you and your dive buddy can safely dive. The second option is to unwind the flasher to a safe diving depth and lock it off so it won’t unwind any further. A well-placed shot using a standard shaft with a flopper will hold effectively – yet a slip-tip is usually a guaranteed fish on the boat! It is very important to mention once again: treat these powerful fish with respect, dive within your limits, and if you are not comfortable with the shot don’t take it!
Snapper (Pagrusauratus) as they are referred to scientifically – are probably one of the most abundant and prized fish speared in New Zealand. As one of the more abundant species, snapper inhabit most of the coastal regions around the country.
Snapper have large and very effective teeth – with sharp canines in the front and rounded molars at the back that they use to crush a variety of small fishes, invertebrates and crustaceans.
Snapper are renowned for their brilliant eating quality and are regarded as one of the best eating fish in New Zealand. Snapper can be located in a variety of areas; from open water to all types of reef structure.
Understanding the feeding habits of your prey will also increase your chances of landing a snapper. Make sure your float doesn’t clank against any rocks or that your float line doesn’t get tangled on rocks and weed and make noise. A spearo snoops quietly in the shallows – scouting broken rocky reef with the sun on his back.
Remember the current and the sun; you need to find a very calm dive spot with little swell and good rocky structure.
One of the most popular methods is to gather up some kina (sea urchins) and break them up with a rock. Once you have set a few burley spots and made the obvious mistakes of setting them too deep, or forgetting where you set them, or approaching them incorrectly – you will eventually learn how to get all of the elements in place. This is a technique that is not experienced very often or used widely but can be effective. Auckalnd Kermadec Area, Centarl Area & Challenger Area total bag limit of 20 per person and 25cm in length.
Trevally are schooling fish, most abundant in the warmer waters off the northern North Island but summer stragglers reach to banks peninsula.
The deep body, separated dorsal fins and row of ridged plates near the tail base are distinctive features of this species, as is the greenish colouration with metallic overtones and the dark spot above the gill plate. A plankton feeder, food seems to be anything locally available, whether from a rocky shore or a muddy bottom offshore to depths around one hundred meters, small fishes predominate.
Trevally responds very well to burling and flashers, this is one of the most effective way to target this species.
In summer big bait balls of Trevally and kahawai will be seen, jumping in the middle and spearing them from the surface is quite straightforward.
Cooking Methods: Due to it’s delicate texture and fine flake it is superb baked or sauteed, but can also be applied to all other cooking methods (raw, poached, BBQ, fried, curry). John Dory inhabits NZ waters from the top of the South Island northwards, and can be very plentiful in some parts of the Bay of Plenty and Hauraki Gulf depending on the time of year.
This fish commands very high market prices and graces the menus of many white-tablecloth restaurants. While most New Zealand fisheries policies are precautionary, the status of these populations are not certain, and the research isn't forthcoming. This deep sea fish of the family lives in really deep waters off the coasts of south Australia and Tasmania. The world can always amaze us with it’s wonderful creations but some creations can only be described as bizaar, check out these 21 crazy strange fish!
Anglerfishes live in darkness in the depths of our oceans, these bony fish use a fleshy growth on the fish’s head that acts as a lure to draw in smaller fish to predate on. This is THE big game fish from Africa to go fishing for, with huge razor sharp teeth and a known man killer you need to be careful if you want to catch one of these monsters. From the river Ganges in India this oversized catfish is enormous, it is thought that recently they are growing bigger than ever as they have started to feed on human remains from burial ceremonies where remains are thrown into the river, they are another species also reputed to kill people when given the chance.
You might think the amazons most scary fish is the Piranha but with the size of these teeth you need to watch out for this beast when fishing in Brazil and Venezuela. This large elongated fish can be found in all temperate to tropical oceans but is rare to see.
These large oceanic predatory fish grow up to 2 m in length, by day they live deep in the ocean but by night they come to the surface to catch their prey.
These enormous shark live in open oceans where they hunt for plankton which they sift through their gills, they have no teeth so despite their size they are not a threat to humans.
Thought to have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years the Coelacanth dating back 400 million years has been found living in 2 places in the world but it is an endangered species so who knows how much longer they will be around. There are 38 known species of lamprey known for boring into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood. Only discovered in 1976 the Megamouth shark is an extremely rare species of deep water shark that lives on plankton. This giant catfish comes from Vietnam, unfortunately due to over fishing it is now a critically endangered species. The Opah goes by many names such as moonfish, sunfish, kingfish, redfin ocean pan, and Jerusalem haddock. Oringinally from the amazon where this fish uses it’s human like teeth to feed on fallen nuts the Pacu was taken to Borneo to be bread as a food fish but it developed a new habit there of attacking human males personal parts and ripping them of so surely this is the most frightening species listed. The ocean sunfish also known as Mola mola can weigh 1000kg or a ton which makes it the heaviest known bony fish in the world. The Atlantic wolffish is also known as the seawolf, Atlantic catfish, ocean catfish, devil fish, wolf eel. Inquisitive, they will often approach divers and nip their fingers as they are very territorial. Large examples are usually greenish blue in coloration, while smaller ones are blotched in varying shades of brown.
They live on the bottom, and adult fish eat almost any animal that comes their way. The blue cod lives down to 100m in areas of rocky bottom, with patches of sand and weed. It is a plump fish which produces good fillets of white flesh, but it has very low oil content.
The most common speargun length  is between 70cm – 90cm , or a pole spear will create more of a challenge.

But in a few places around New Zealand these magnificent fish are in residence in shallow water.
Locating them with the use of a colour sounder helps then entering the water ready for instant action.
The John Dory eats a variety of fish, especially schooling fish, such as Koharhu and babe snapper. Kingfish are easily recognizable by their distinct yellow tails and (dorsal, pectoral, caudal) fins. Their large yellow caudal fin is small in surface area, which results in little turbulence giving them excellent power and swimming ability. The depth at which Kingfish are found can vary, as they do often move into the shallows to hunt. Most divers however have to wait until the summer months when the water temperature warms up and they move further south down the coast. Shooting smaller fish such as cohere, or the use of burley, have proven effective in bringing in a Kingi. These are considered to be ‘large’ Kingfish, in reality the 15-20kg range is the most common catch. Growth parameters show that female Kingfish take longer to grow than males do, however females reach a greater overall length than the males.
Kingfish have a moderate oiliness to them and they are easily adaptable to a variety of cooking methods.
New Zealand waters are renowned for some of the biggest Kingfish in the world – international and local spearfisherman hunt these mighty fish right here on our doorstep. Kingfish love rocky structures with dominant underwater pinnacles and currents that hold baitfish. The ecstasy of fighting very powerful fish and the hunt to locate them; for some is a bigger rush than diving deep. They will most often swim in schools, hunting in packs; the fish will work a pattern of coastline, revisiting the same pinnacles every 20-40 minutes. You want to be able to reach your dive partner if he gets into any trouble – so it is paramount that you can both hit the same depth. When selecting the speargun you should consider accuracy and range as the most important factors.
Snapper are usually pinkish or reddish-brown on the top half and silvery-white on their bottom half although these colours can vary depending on the snapper’s habitat. Larger populations are concentrated around the North Island, on the east and west coast – with their major spawning grounds found in the Hauraki Gulf.
They feed on over 100 different species such as crayfish, kina (sea urchins), crabs, pilchards etc. The average schooling snapper that are encountered can be anything from 4 to 10 years old and the larger snapper around 5+kg can be anything from 20 to 60 years old. Check that the mono line or rubbers on your gun don’t vibrate – a sure way to prevent this is to hold your hand over the rubbers and mono, about mid way up your speargun.
A diver’s float line can also give him away as it offers a direct line from the surface to the diver. Concentrate on having a silent entry and exit in the water for each and every dive that you do. The spearo is blinded by the sun, so cannot see very far ahead and the snapper is long gone.
A big old moocher snapper sits beside a rock in the weed facing into the current – sunning itself, unaware of the silent spearo approaching.
Swim as close to the rocks as possible – so close that you could pull yourself along with your hands. When you have discovered an area that is very fishy, and has smaller snapper about with a good current running through it – ground baiting (burleying) is a good way to draw in the bigger snapper. You also need to be able to move backwards or away from the burley spot without being seen.
Place them at the selected spot and then retreat and allow the burley to ‘cook’ for 10-15 minutes… Then approach it quietly so you can sneak up and monitor the burley to see if any big fish have turned up.
Like anything, it takes practice but eventually all the cards will fall into place and you’ll stumble upon some real giants, which will remain etched in your memory forever! Adult schools are often seen near headlands, pinnacles and islands where currents tend to concentrate plankton. In summer trevally form close packed schools, backs humping above the water as krill and other plankton are gulped down. The head also develops a hump the Trevally are slow growing and long living, some fish may exceed 45 years. Sometimes when the Trevally don’t respond to burly diving down on a weed edge, lying still and flicking sand up can bring stragglers in off the sand. The black spot is used to flash an ‘evil eye’ (also known as ocellus) to predators in order to prevent attack.
Every other of our NZ species are line-caught but John Dory will not take an inert bait, so it is impossible to catch them on a commercial level with hook and line and hence purse seiners are needed to harvest them. The flesh is very delicate, and when cooked correctly results in a fillet that has an exquisite texture and flavor which for many is the epitome of seafood fine-dining.
This beautiful fish lives in the southern oceans and unfortunately is favored by some spear fishermen who do not respect the beauty of this magnificent creature.
Numbers of the Atlantic wolffish are diminishing rapidly thought to be due to overfishing, they live in cold waters and have a natural antifreeze in their blood. It is exclusively found in New Zealand in shallow waters around the rocky coasts of up to the depth of 150m, though they are far more common south of Cook Strait.
It is voracious carnivore and eats a wide variety of marine animals: pilchards, sprats, mullet, rock cod, and red pigfish.
Primarily a gun barrel grey colour with a silvery white underbelly ten dorsal spines running along its back, rounded anal and pectoral fins with a large square powerful tail the Hapuku is unmistakable once seen. The Hapukas curiosity will get the better of them and in these instances can be quite approachable and easily speared.
The high dorsal fin with its extended rays, and out spread tail are motionless in the water. Occasionally they eat squid They are a poor swimmer and rely on stealth and camouflage to stalk their prey of small baitfish.
They are generally dark green in colour, with a white stomach and a yellow stripe, which runs along the pectoral line to their caudal fin. The darker top half camouflages it by making the fish difficult to see from above because it closely resembles the dark colour of the water. Conscientious spearo’s should limit themselves to one fish per day if it’s at least 1m or more in length.
Divers have recorded them in depths ranging from shallower reefs and estuaries, to deep pinnacles reaching and exceeding depths of 50m. Another promising location that generally has a higher success rate would be FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) such as navigational buoys, or man-made FADs in the water.
They make excellent sashimi and to cook, are best prepared in foil on the BBQ or baked to retain flavour and to keep the fillets moist.
Inquisitive by nature the Kingfish will most often come right up to you – stealth is not an art that you have to master.
An injured Kingfish will have a violent and powerful first run; most often it will head for the rocks below trying to dislodge the spear. When diving on deeper pinnacles, both in-line and drop flashers can be used to lure Kingfish closer to the surface and within range of a shot. If the pinnacle is deeper than you can safely dive, one would use the flasher to attract the fish up from the bottom. Once at your limit, you can ‘jig’ the flasher a few times and then let it go – the float will rise to the surface along with the flasher, flashing its way to the surface; leaving you free to watch for an approaching Kingfish. The most commonly used size is a 120cm rail-gun – using a 130cm or 140cm gun however will increase your shooting range. A 7.1mm shaft with a 130cm rail-gun, is a well-balanced set up delivering a long and devastating shot.
When selecting a slip-tip you do need to ensure that it’s balanced and will not cause your shaft to drop during flight resulting in an inaccurate shot. Snapper can be encountered in a variety of grounds from scattered sandy areas near weed edges (on weed lines) to shallow inshore, rocky areas, where they like to hide amongst the kelp.
During the 4th year, about half of the snapper are believed to change sex and become males. Fillets can normally be quite chunky (if filleted correctly) and their flesh is delicate in flavour and texture.
Look for structures and rocky points with deep gutters extending from the shallows to the deeper water.
With snapper sitting headwards into the current, your best approach is from behind; this means that you should swim into the current and your approach would bring you onto the snapper from behind.
Open-muzzle guns are also great for snapper snooping, as they hold the shaft to the speargun which eliminates any side to side movement or rattle. For this reason many spearos prefer to use reel guns with a drop weight on the end of a float line. When surfacing, never blow through your snorkel to clear it – underwater this sounds like a loud foghorn to the snapper; rather tilt it backwards on the surface to empty the water out.

It’s important that the burley is set at a comfortable diving depth, so that the diver can have longer bottom times. It’s also a good idea to set 2 to 3 different burley spots and work between them – normally one of them will be more effective than the other two and so you should then concentrate on that one. When you find a good spot don’t forget it- come back to it and remember the tides and the burley that you used.
Often snapper can be found in midwater – most often sitting below other smaller species such as pink maomao or kahawai.
New Zealand’s John Dory fishery is strictly managed by the Quota Management System, with a sustainable harvest TACC (Total Allowable Commercial Catch) of 1,140 tons.
The lower jaw protrudes from the top and when a school approaches the white underside of this jaw is usually the first thing seen by the diver. Generally found in deeper waters, 50 metres plus, there are a few exceptions such as Fiordland and the Chathams where fish can be found in much shallower water.
The hapuka generally associate with some sort of structure and, if limited in number, can be cagey and not always easy to spear.
The john dory’s colouration are silver-grey or light brown with green-brown wavy stripes and a central black spot with a silver ring around it.
Schooling Kahawai can hold Trevally so it is important you watch and wait as the school passes. The lighter bottom half has the same effect when looking upward toward the light from the ocean floor.
Unwind your flasher down to the sides of the pinnacle and pull it up and down; the Kingfish, being very curious, will investigate it and swim in circles around it. The in-line flasher keeps teasing as you dive, which eliminates the need for a separate diver to jig it.
The growth rates of snapper can vary depending on food, local surrounding conditions,fish density and temperature. The fish can be adapted to a variety of recipes, but are best lightly pan-seared or smoked.
Snapper like to sit beside or under rocky structures and weed using it as cover to hide from any predators. If you swim in the opposite direction to the current, you will most likely bump into a snapper face to face. A good point to remember – if you’re diving from a boat, get your boat-man to drop you 20-30m from your snooping grounds, then swim in so that your presence is unknown. This allows you to un-clip your line and leave it behind; this is also particularly useful for marking burley spots. When descending, remove your snorkel from your mouth so that it doesn’t make any bubbles or gurgling noises while filling up with water. With the sun on your back, using the rocks and weed as cover – always try and remain in the shadows (if there are any).
Burley could consist of anything from smashed-up kina (sea urchins), to chopped-up fish, or pre-frozen burley – a combination of all three works very well. A good example would be a nice deep gutter where you could lie on the top of a rock (with the sun on your back) amongst the weed and angle your shot downwards towards the burley and the fish feeding in the gutter. You can also use the time spent waiting for the burley to ‘cook’ by collecting more kina and replenishing your burley spots. If you can float very still on the surface, the fish below you will lift up, bringing the snapper with them. If you dive on the weed line and lay flat on the sand, use your hand to flick sand up, this usually will bring the fish into range. Hapuku are veracious predators feeding on Red Cod, Blue Cod, Gurnard, Hoki , crabs and Crayfish to name a few.
Baked or fried but not generally eaten raw it is by for one of the nicest eating fish in our waters. Behaving in a similar manner to the med groupers they have a tendency to bolt and hide among the labyrinth of caves and cracks in the structure in which they are living. It doesn’t take long for these fish to become weary and loose interest bolting into the depths or to nearby structure.
The silvery-white stomach blends in with the light rays shining downwards, making it difficult to see them against the light. Using a citrus or garlic marinade prior to cooking will also aid in the retention of moisture. Due to their curious nature, keeping your body calm and motionless in mid water is enough to draw them in.
Kingfish will swim in circles so it is vital that you do the same to avoid becoming entangled. It is however, wise to have someone spot for you, while you dive to the bottom – to make sure that you surface safely. As the snapper grow, these spots begin to fade and the snapper become more solidly colored.
It’s common to find big moochers sitting in the shallows sunning themselves in the early morning – divers have actually reported them sleeping in the sun in the shallows.
Snapper prefer to spawn in warmer waters (during summer), cooler waters tend to make their spawning more erratic.
Cooking them whole is another great way to preserve the succulent flavor of the meat and enjoy this delicious fish.
There are a few main types of hunting techniques used for spearing snapper: these being snooping, midwater hunting and ground baiting. Don’t jump into the water – rather slide in slowly to ensure that you don’t make any unnecessary splashes. With no line attached to your gun it offers freedom to move and sneak up on your prey without getting tangled up on any objects. You need to hide your profile, using cover as much as possible – camouflage wetsuits help with this as they break up the diver’s shape.
Open the kina with your knife and throw them onto your existing burley spots but remember to do this from a safe distance so that you can’t be seen. Keep your eyes looking down and look out the top of your mask lens, this will hide your eyes so the fish cannot see them. John Dory is the most attractive and best eating of all the dories, and is very popular both within New Zealand and throughout Europe, Australia and the United States. Keeping your eyes slightly hidden, you should lock the fish in your peripheral vision as this allows you to approach them indirectly without scaring them.
Probably their most recognizable features would have to be their long spiny pectoral and dorsal fins, as well as their large sloping foreheads which are found particularly on adult snapper. We’ll elaborate on all of these a bit more – but first there are a few factors that one needs to take into account when hunting this species. Ensure that your fins don’t clank together or touch one another while finning and, to avoid making unnecessary noise, try to pull yourself along the bottom, where you can, using the weed. Move along quietly, scanning the weed and rocks for areas which snapper would hide in or sit beside.
You can also cover your eyes with your hands and look between your fingers to see the approaching fish.
Stealth is required along with a short reel gun and a torch to locate the fish hiding among the caves and cracks.
Plan your descent so that you intercept their swimming direction and execute your shot from there. Snapper are known to school but it’s also common to find larger adult snapper in pairs or by themselves. Ensure that you don’t bang your gun or weightbelt against rocks, or clink your gun handle against the lead on your weight belt etc. You need to treat every gut and rock structure as if there were a big moocher hiding in it or beside it. It’s best to try to dive down at a 30-45 degree angle behind them so that you approach them in their blind spots.
Snapper generally range in size from 30cm to 90cm; from 2kg to 10kg in weight – although some monster specimens have been caught and encountered close to the 20kg mark.
Stealth is paramount in this game – if you are loud, you will have compromised all the ground that you have just covered.
Mid body shots are your best bet – near the pectoral fin will ensure a good holding shot. Pull yourself along and stop for a few seconds – scan the area and then carry on doing the same. When peering over ledges or around rocks, always have your gun tucked in so that it doesn’t extend out and give you away. Be ready for a quick shot and enjoy the stalk; snapper snooping can be one of the most rewarding types of hunting!

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