Anchoy School Seen From Underwater


Anchovies are a prominent baitfish for many predatory species and offer some spectacular opportunities to take some elusive species. I made the trip out to the inshore gulf islands off the coast of New Zealand to cash in on their annual anchovy run.

These columns of anchovies are essentially an all-you-can-eat revolving buffet for predatory species. So, what better place to get the rod out and try your luck. Get your fishfinder onto a school of these and your whole screen runs red like something out of the Shining. These things can be hundreds of metres long and are a real frenzy with the birds, you really can’t miss them.


First, you want to establish what kind of baitfish school you have underneath your boat. The birds in attendance are usually the biggest giveaway. Terns and gulls feeding usually indicate an anchovy school, while gannets and shags might larger anchovies or pilchards. You want to choose your lure that best mirrors the baitfish you have come across. Smaller anchovies might be 20mm long, while larger anchovies and Pilchards can be much larger, around 70-75mm long. The smaller size lures are great for attracting Mackerel and Snapper. In schools of bigger baitfish, expect bigger Snapper and Kingfish to join the fun.

I had set my sights on Kingfish. I scoured the dark moving mass all around the boat to see if I could see any particularly large splashes that stood out. This is usually the best indicator that kingfish are hunting. Mackerel and Snapper don’t usually break the surface when they hunt.


I used soft plastics, stick baits and poppers. In the frenzy of an anchovy school, you want something that will have some action all the way through the water. If something is sitting still without much movement, it is going to stand out like a sore thumb. This is why you need to use a short shank. Anything longer and the hook interferes with the movement and makes it too rigid, or gives it an unnatural movement without much flow. Finding the perfect hook took me a little while and I experimented with several different styles, all around 3/0 to 4/0. Find what works for you and keep using it.

I use a light jig head because Kingfish tend to take the lures near the surface but if you are targeting snapper or Mackerel, you want it to get past the baitfish at the surface and position itself at the bottom of the school, so you need something with a bit more weight, like a 3/4 ounce.


I throw the lure or plastic into the middle of the action and let it sink for a couple of seconds, giving it a little bit of movement to spark some interest. After letting it settle, I pull it in a bit, then let it settle and twitch again, then wind it in a bit more and let it settle and twitch again. I repeat this all the way back to the boat.

Once you’ve got your technique down and are on a roll, the only thing standing in your way will be the legal limits. I found myself taking at least three Kingfish a day over the legal minimum size of 75cm but you can only keep three per person. Most had to go back.


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Jake Taylor
Jake Taylor

Jake is a global traveller who has recently called Australia his home again. If he's not travelling, he is writing about it and his experience.