Main­land ’yak fish­ing de­lights

Kayak fisher Blair Whiting vis­its the Main­land and finds plenty to en­thuse ‘yak fish­ers of all skill lev­els…

NZ Fishing News - - News -

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

Golden Bay – a very apt name – and its gleam­ing re­wards.

Kayak­ing heaven: fan­tas­tic ter­ri­tory and no wind!

A de­cent haul from Okiwi Bay.

This gurnard was the big­gest of the trip

Hook-up! Daniel F deals to an­other Coro­man­del op­po­nent as dark­ness looms.

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