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Snapper longlines

Snapper, New Zealands top table fish, are the most sought after species around New Zealand's North Island.

Big snapper are generally shy feeders but can often be caught on longlines when other methods such as jigging or fishing with rods from a boat are unsuccessful or are only catching small fish.

Longlining from boats is often used by those who have multiple interests when at sea.

Divers and yachties for example find them a useful means of ensuring a reasonable chance of a few fish without losing too much underwater time or sitting in wildly rocking yachts while trying to fish.


Owners of large vessels also often run a short longline in the front of the Bay they anchor up in for the night in the hope of a fresh snapper or two for breakfast.

Large snapper are very line shy and can easily be scared off by noises such as anchor chains rattling, warp vibrations, boat engine noise, fishing line vibration, depth sounder pulses plus the multitude of other "normal" boat noises.

All these noises can terrify and scare off all but the smallest most brazen snapper. Water conditions and clarity can also play a large role in whether or not large snapper are feeding.

Because a boat longline is set and left alone to quietly fish for an hour or so while generating it's own burley trail even the shyest snapper will come in to investigate, and likely be caught on a longline.

Many older designs of recreational longlines use a fixed trace system and are unsafe, prone to tangling and inefficient. A fixed trace system relies on the fish to basically impale itself on the hook. The hooks used on other longline systems are also very wasteful. Many undersized snapper swallow the baited hooks and are killed.


snapper longline pic

A running trace longline system is often twice as efficient as the earlier fixed trace system.

Paul Barnes of Paul's Fishing Kites has spent over 20 years commercially longlining for snapper on New Zealands east coast and, more recently, has undertaken several fish hook efficiency research projects for the N.Z. Ministry of Fisheries.

Several years ago Paul combined his commercial fishing knowledge, with the results of the fish hook research projects, and produced the ultimate recreational longline.

Paul's Fishing Kites supplies several versions of complete ready to fish boat longlines and boat longline components which can be found at the following links.

Boat Longlines Ready To Fish

Boat Longline Components

Paul's Fishing Kites Boat Longline Components

The Running Clip System

Paul's Fishing Kites use the most effective and efficient trace system, the running clip system. With this method the mainline, or backbone, is fitted with a series of stoppers at around 2 metre intervals and the traces slide freely between the stoppers.

This system is much safer and more productive than the old fixed trace system.

Find out why this system is so productive?

Click on

the image


In order to use the running trace method the traces should be fitted with a sea harvester longline clip and a swivel.

The sea harvester clip will easily fit a variety of line weights and diameters and run freely along the mainline between the stoppers to prevent the traces from twisting up or wrapping around the mainline.

Trace Rack

Longline traces using the running clip method are stored separately on a trace board or rack in order to keep the traces under tension and prevent tangling during storage.

Paul's Fishing Kites trace rack systems allow the fisher to bait the traces in place and set the traces directly from the rack.


The Target Snapper Hooks supplied on Paul's Fishing Kites longlines are the result of extensive sea trials.

These unique hooks are fitted with a wire appendage on the eye of the hook which acts like a bone in a bait fish.

Fish always swallow other fish head first in order to have the bones laying the right way so they don't choke themselves to death. When smaller snapper try to tear the bait off the Target Hooks it doesn't matter which way they turn the bait in their mouths, they can't get a purchase on the bait and are generally repelled by the wire appendage.

Target Snapper Hooks therefore reduce the numbers of small snapper caught per set and reduce gut hooking (fish swallowing the hooks) to less than 1% of the catch.

Because you catch less smaller snapper your baits are left fishing longer and therefore your catch of larger snapper increases.

Paul chose this particular pattern of hook because it had the highest catch rate of all the hooks tested straight out of the pack. He then found, through trial and error, the best appendage length to deter small fish and prevent gut hooking of the catch.

The improvement in catch of the Target Snapper longline hooks over the traditional Tainawa (Jap) longline hooks is an increase in catch rate of around 20%.

Boat Longline Instructions

Setting the Gear

Snapper generally feed while the tide is running. When longlining from boats or kayaks, sets over clear bottom parallel to rocky outcrops or coastline can yield good fish even when the water is clear.

Normally, for small boats and kayaks, a 25 hook recreational longline requires just a 10 inch handspool which is compact and very easily handled. On larger boats a 3:1 ratio geared beach reel can be fitted with an aluminum pipe around half a metre long to fit into a rod holder.

The first clip on the reel is clipped to a marker buoy with a flag or a large brightly coloured float and dropped over the back of the boat. Motoring along at between 500 and 800 revs, or about 4 or 5 knots, the dropper line peels off the reel or handspool.

At the bottom end of the dropper line is a cord connecting the dropper line to the pre-stoppered hook section. In the centre of this cord a small loop is tied and provides for the placement of the first grapple.

As the grapple hits the water its weight and drag speeds the unwinding of the line from the reel or handspool. Our grapples are be fitted with a safety trace (around 50 kg) and a snap clip for attaching to the cord.

Nine times out of ten, if a longline gets snagged, it is the grapple of sinkers which cause the problem. The safety trace will allow the grapple to break free so you can still retrieve the longline and fish without losing too much gear.

The baited traces are removed from the rack and clipped over the mainline one at a time. Two stoppers are let to pass before the next trace is clipped on. This leaves an empty space between traces on the mainline and prevents the traces from touching each other and becoming tangled.

Note: If you have a trace rack simply lay the rack with hooks over the back of the vessel. Remove the sea harvester clip from the rack and attach the clip to the mainline. The trace will self feed from the rack.

Be careful to maintain your boat speed. Speeding up will make it difficult to ensure the traces are connected securely and at the correct spacings. When the 25 traces have been connected to the mainline another grapple is attached to the second cord and the back dropper unwinds from the reel or handspool.

At the very end of the dropper another clips secures the line top the reel. Unclip it from the spool and attach the second float and then toss it over the back of the boat and leave the line to fih for an hour or so.

Note: If you have our Deluxe Boat Longline the two 25 hook longlines are connected together by the clips on the droplines for easy storage on the reel. Be sure to unclip the back dropper from the next droppper line on the reel before setting your second 25 hook longline.

Current fishing regulations allow for two longlines per vessel with a maximum of 25 hooks per longline.

Retrieving the Longline

Motor back up to your first flag or float. When you initially pull the flag from the water make sure you check the direction of the line to prevent running the boat it. The flag is then unclipped from the dropper line and stowed back where it came from. Securely attach the clips back around the spool on reel or handspool.

If you haul in the direction of the drift he motor of the boat can be turned off during hauling and you simply drift along while bringing in the mainline and fish. As each trace is removed from the mainline they should be stored back on the trace rack ready for the next set.

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