Mainland ’yak fishing delights
Kayak fisher Blair Whiting visits the Mainland and finds plenty to enthuse ‘yak fishers of all skill levels…
With increasing numbers of people realising the relatively small outlay required to start kayak fishing and how relaxing their fishing can be without engines and such, it’s probably become the fastest-growing branch of recreational angling. I started out launching off a Napier beach, catching spotties initially, before slowly venturing further afield to target kahawai, gurnard and trevally. Recently I found myself in the Nelson area and had an opportunity to wet a line, so decided to go for a casual wander out into Okiwi Bay late afternoon for my first attempt. (The good news about a kayak is they are easily transported and can be launched from virtually anywhere – no ramp or fourwheel-drive required.)
Paddling to the middle of the bay, my first few drops immediately attracted the attention of gurnard, resulting in a nice 40cm fish before heading back for the night.
The next morning saw me back at the same spot, where I soon found the fishing to be fast and furious – better than I’ve ever had anywhere on gurnard. Over the next hour I caught fifteen gurnard from 30 to 40cm long; they loved the oily pilchard baits I’d placed on the two-hook ledger rig. As most were not needed, they went back to see another day, but the better-sized ones provided a good feed back at camp.
At that point I put my success down to simple luck, but further investigation showed me why: I’d been fishing in a small channel around seven-metres deep. The gurnard were feeding in it, and I had anchored right on top.
As the trip went on, I visited Kaiteriteri and met up with a local kayak fisherman, resulting in my first legal snapper and two more gurnard. We had a windy afternoon that turned dead flat, producing some good fishing in just a few hours.
The next port of call was to the top of the South Island, Golden Bay. Arriving to crappy wind in the evening, I wasn’t sure if going out the next morning was going to happen. But Mother Nature put on a stunner that saw me launching into a dead-calm sea at Tata Beach.
Anchoring in 10 metres, I quickly caught two large gurnard and one more later on, before packing up to look for some foul in the hope of finding what had been elusive until now: blue cod.
What a scenic place the Tata Islands are, with plenty of interesting inhabitants in the surrounding waters; while paddling around, I met fur seals, a colony of gannets and a number of blue penguins. By this time it was getting towards the afternoon so I was desperate to find a cod to take home. A drift over an outcrop produced a small cod – a good sign – so I re-set and went over the spot again… Nothing. Catching a yelloweyed mullet right up close to the rocks, I quickly cut it up for fresh bait and dropped it to the
bottom. Heavy weight came on almost straight away before bolting for the reef. However I managed to turn the strong fish with my light soft-bait setup, and after a few more powerful runs it surfaced, enabling me to net the beast.
What a monster cod – it looked more like a pup hapuku! Yee-haa!
The final stop for the trip was Cable Bay, a scenic spot northeast of Nelson. The morning I arrived, other kayakers were launching, so we had a chat and paddled out into around 20 metres of water. I had a Lucanus and pilchards down, and it wasn’t long before a nice gurnard pounced on my orange Lucanus and ended up in the bin. I then continued catching smaller gurnard throughout the morning, which all went back over the side because we didn’t need them.
It was a good morning – nothing amazing caught, but still a worthwhile day of meeting locals and being out on the water.
I owe all my success to my kayak’s equipment – I simply could not do without it. From the anchor to the rod holders, they all serve important purposes. For a start, safety is number one. Lifejackets, communication (such as radios and phones) and a high-visibility flag can save your life.
After personal safety, my next priority is rod straps/ lanyards. Fishing from a kayak can be difficult, especially when a large rampaging fish is on the end of your line. And then there are the risky moments while launching or heading back in through the lines of swells. Lanyards will save you from expensive losses.
Rod holders on my kayak serve as a storage space when dealing with landed fish and baiting hooks, because you can’t afford to have them lying on your legs with hooks waving around.
When anchoring in a kayak, having your bow into the wind is important, otherwise large swells and gusts of wind can roll you over. Clipping a buoy onto the anchor rope keeps it well in front to stop any fish going straight around it, and also plays a big part in keeping the kayak’s nose into the wind. I find clipping the rope to a pulley and sliding the rope forward keeps the kayak in the safest position.
I typically use a two-hook ledger rig with 3/0 circle hooks. These hooks are small enough for gurnard and tarakihi, yet are strong enough to deal with fish right up to bigger snapper and kingfish. Having said that, I have found targeting just one species rather than two or more can make all the difference. I also run a soft-bait rig armed with a 1/0 hook, which accounts for gurnard as well as baitfish.
So why not get out for a kayak fish – it’s a great way to get some exercise and have fun out on the water, and you might even catch a feed!
When land-based angler Daniel Fobbester won the hotly contested Century Batteries Beach and Boat fishing competition, a lot of people wondered how he did it, including my boss, Grant Dixon.
So Grant phoned ‘the champ,’ who generously suggested one of us should join him and his good fishing buddy Daniel Termaat (Daniel T) for a ‘hard-out session on the rocks’. He could even make it an overnighter! Grant was quick to take him up on the offer: “Our Deputy Editor Mark Kitteridge would LOVE to do that,” he said.
Grant was lying. While a rock-fishing expedition was indeed a welcome diversion, sleeping on jagged rocks in late autumn was far less enticing. But when I tactfully suggested to Daniel that a daylight expedition would do the job, he wasn’t having a bar of it: “Most of our big fish are caught in the dark. If we don’t stay the night you’ll miss the most productive fishing and never really understand how we fish.”
The message was clear: “Maybe you should harden up a bit, JAFA!”
So that is how I ended up meeting the two Daniels at Anglers’ Lodge on the Coromandel Peninsula at 7am. I’ve enjoyed stays at the lodge in the past, but this time we’d be taking advantage of their brilliant ‘rock-hopper water-taxi service’.
When the boys proceeded to unpack their gear, my healthy load appeared insignificant next to a growing mountain of bags,
A little later some kingfish turned up in our berley trail: not big but still worthy targets, and while the Daniels had their eyes off the ball, I kept on snapper fishing…
My persistence paid off with a couple of hard thumps transmitting up the line as something ate half a bullet tuna, followed by a steady run, and upon flicking my reel into gear the rod loaded up and line started peeling from the spool.
A surprisingly challenging fight ensued, and I had to exert more pressure than I wanted to at times because the snapper seemed determined to reach the safety of the reef, charging towards one dark, weedy patch after another. And just when I thought my fish was in the bag, it dived into a big clump of kelp and snagged me up. It was so close I could see the kelp fronds moving and a tail waving when I pulled back on the rod. And then another massive browny-coloured mass rose up alongside it. What the…? “Wow!” I exclaimed, “Big bronzie!” No wonder my snapper had fought so hard! To my horror the shark began nosing around where my line disappeared into the reef, making the snapper struggle frantically. Feeling some movement through my line, I pulled back on the rod and the snapper came free! Wasting no time while the 100kg-plus shark tried to decide just how shallow was too shallow, I winched the fish in: not as big as I’d thought, but still a pretty decent specimen at around 5.5kg.
We realised just how close the encounter had been when the snapper was held up for a photo, with several shallow lacerations around the tail area gently bleeding. The fact this fish had just faced death twice in one day made its release afterwards even sweeter.
Fortunately, further potential encounters with our toothy friend