Getting up close and personal with marine life at Gulf Harbour

MATTHEW CATTIN
Last updated 15:28 02/03/2017
Matthew Cattin/Stuff.co.nz

Dozens of fish - and a few friendly stingrays - visit Gulf Harbour's Pier Z every day for feeding.

MATTHEW CATTIN/FAIRFAX NZ Zoom
Brutus emerges from the depths for a feed with Lynette Smith.
MATTHEW CATTIN/FAIRFAX NZ
Lynette Smith says hello to her mate Brutus who has popped up for a feed.

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There's something fishy going on at Pier Z...

The popular fish feeding spot at Gulf Harbour Marina has not disappointed this season, with hundreds of visitors flocking to hand feed snapper, kingfish, and of course, the famous resident rays, Brutus and Stumpy.

Lynette Smith, who owns charter boat Kiwi Angler with her husband Rex, has been feeding fish at Pier Z for 21 years.

It all started with sprats and kahawai, but as the years went by, the number - and size - of fish increased dramatically.

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Now, on any given day during summer, visitors can enjoy the unique experience of hand feeding wild fish.

With hundreds of eager snapper and at times dozens of kingfish all competing for a feed, it's a thrilling spot to visit, but the highlight for most is the giant stingrays.

Brutus, named for his huge size, has been well known in Gulf Harbour for years.

Around 1.5 metres from wingtip to wingtip, the ray has become famous for his feeding habits, which started around three years ago.

Lynette was on the pier feeding fish, when to her surprise, Brutus rose out of the water vertically, hungry for a pilchard.

It has since become his signature move, and incredibly, he has shown the tailless stingray Stumpy how to do it too.

"About two years ago, the oldest stingray we call Stumpy came around Brutus, and Brutus got under Stumpy and pushed him up where we do the hand feeding so I could hand feed him vertically as well," Lynette says.

Both rays now delight crowds with their feeding antics, and give many tourists and visitors a once in a lifetime experience.

The best time to see fish and stingrays is between 3pm and 4pm, when Kiwi Angler returns to the dock.

If the pier receives too many visitors throughout the day, they can lose their appetite and be less abundant.

Be wary of fingers, as snapper and kingfish can draw blood if they bite, and don't feed any of the fish bread. 

Pilchard and squid are the best bait, and can be picked up locally in Gulf Harbour.

There is strictly no fishing allowed in the marina, and a full list of regulations can be found at the entrances to the pier. 

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- Rodney Times

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