Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

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Unplanned expeditions: reeling in surprises

4 min read
Fishing feature

A healthy kingi that was sent back home. Photo: Chris Bain

For 25 years, fishing has been a significant part of both my professional endeavours and personal life. During that time, there are so many days I can recall that I didn’t quite enjoy as much as I should have. The pressure I put on myself to get my PB (personal best) Estuary Perch, land a big snapper for the camera, or just show a friend or family member a good time was more often than not a real spoiler.

After what I think would be fair to call a turbulent start to the year, I was looking forward to the ‘old man’ Donald coming over to visit us, and my older brother Jason and I taking him out on the water to hang out.

Generally, I over-prepare (and pack) for a fishing session. I spend days studying Google Earth or charts, pay close attention to current lines and temperature breaks, and generally put myself under a heap of pressure to come up with the goods. This time, however, I consciously chose to chill out and just enjoy a day on the water. The plan was to have no plan. It was all about just showing up, enjoying each other’s company, and seeing what happens.

Leaving Sulphur Point, we pointed my 6.5-metre Trophy Walkaround in the direction of Mayor Island. The day could not have been more perfect, with a sub 5 knot wind, the sun was out, and the tide change at 11am meant that we had a relaxed start even with the 1.5-hour trip from home in Tāupo.

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Jason with a tasty kingfish for the table. Photo: Chris Bain

Sounding around with the Simrad showed good sign in 16 metres of water on the mainland side of Mayor Island. Dropping anchor, and quietly drifting back to position ourselves about 30 metres in front of a small bit of structure holding fish, the burley cage went down and within moments the glass calm water teemed with a school of koheru that extended for as far as my polaroids could see.

First things first – a couple of my favourite baits, which is a pilchard tucked inside a squid cape like a… let’s say finger in a glove, were sent back into the burley trail with the intention of converting the cocktail into a big red or two.

Then our attention turned to filling the livey tank with some kohey. There was no way a few of the local kingis hadn’t heard the ridiculous amount of commotion that all this bait was making. Thousands of fish candy fought each other on the surface for feeding rights, in the glassy slick coming from the top water burley bag. Even just watching that and wondering when something was about to come barrelling through the middle of the school was result enough.

Without too much effort, we had the livebait tank boiling over and a couple of the larger specimens were picked out and sent to their demise in the epic scene we had going on behind the boat. Sure enough, within the next hour, we got cleaned up twice by big green slabs that made it to the bush with the rods buckled over the rails. However, we did manage to land a couple of much smaller units, which put up a good account of themselves. One was returned fighting fit while the other accompanied us home to share among the families.

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Left: Donald with a nice little pannie Right: Blue maomao weren’t in short supply Photos: Chris Bain

The walk around came into its own when Jason and I found ourselves on a double hookup in this relatively shallow water, all adding good entertainment for Donald as he laughed at the absolute mess that we were creating on the deck with rods, gaffs, and nets getting hurled around the place to clear some space. The bin found itself filling up, as the old boy gave a few nice snapper their last rights and sent plenty of fish hovering around the 10lb mark back into the depths to live another day. Added to the mix, we had a handful of Blue Maomao, too. Other than their always enjoyable cool looks, I’ve always enjoyed their firm white flesh on the table.

In all, it was a great day, totally lacking in expectations so the only option was to exceed them.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day and let frustration and disappointment over well-laid plans not producing spoil a great day on the water. If that big king, fat red, or bag of tasty gurnard comes your way, then that my friend, is just a bonus. Enjoy.

Words by Chris Bain

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