‘Mighty Kaipara’

Learn­ing the se­crets of the Ja­son Neute ex­plores the joy of learn­ing a new fish­ery.

NZ Fishing News - - News -

As a kid I loved fish­ing on the west coast with my old man. Some of our favourite spots were Flat Rock (Muri­wai), Whatipu, Whites Beach/anawhata and Daw­son’s Ledge (Piha). We would set the kon­tiki off Flat Rock or fur­ther up the beach and surf-cast from the rocks at Daw­sons Ledge, Whatipu or Anawhata.

Fish­ing the west coast never dis­ap­pointed: it was very pro­duc­tive and ruggedly spec­tac­u­lar. It re­mains so to­day, and 35 years on I am still fish­ing it, though re­cently I started ven­tur­ing onto the Kaipara Har­bour.

So when large surf at Muri­wai pre­vented my mate Pea and me from launch­ing our 12-foot (3.4m) tinny, we drove out to the Kaipara and launched from Shelly Beach in­stead. Not know­ing the area, we fished blind and chose ran­dom spots to try.

Our first few trips were largely un­pro­duc­tive, ex­cept for the odd big gurnard, a cou­ple of ka­hawai and a snap­per or two. We only fished the har­bour a hand­ful of times when we couldn’t launch from the beach.

Ap­prox­i­mately three years ago I met Dar­ren Faber through an­other fish­ing buddy. Dar­ren is an ex­pe­ri­enced Kaipara fish­er­man who lives at Shelly Beach. He be­came my Kaipara men­tor, and was will­ing to share his ex­pert knowl­edge of the area. Over the past cou­ple of sea­sons I have fished with him sev­eral times and my knowl­edge has in­creased so much I now some­times ven­ture onto the Kaipara with­out him. In fact, it has now be­come my favourite place to fish; I learn more about it each time I go there.

In the early days we didn’t ex­pect much due to our lack of lo­cal knowl­edge, but Pea and I still caught plenty of 40cm snap­per and the oc­ca­sional 60cm spec­i­men, thanks to the har­bour’s abun­dance. See­ing other fish­er­men and char­ter boats fish­ing the Grave­yard, I’d ask Dar­ren why we weren’t do­ing the same, and he would ex­plain you don’t need to fish the Grave­yard with the crowds to en­joy great fish­ing.

I won­der, with­out the ben­e­fit of Dar­ren’s knowl­edge, if we would still be catch­ing only the odd gurnard and ka­hawai or maybe fish­ing the main chan­nels or the Grave­yard like ev­ery­body

else? Most days I don’t have to go too far to pro­duce top-qual­ity ta­ble fish – just a cou­ple of min­utes or less from the boat ramp some­times.

To fish the Kaipara I’d al­ways thought heavy sinkers on heavy­duty gear was re­quired to keep your bait on the bot­tom. But Dar­ren taught us to fish on the banks and in the smaller feeder chan­nels away from the main chan­nels. There we were able to stray-line or use soft-baits with ¼-1oz jig heads/sinkers at­tached to 2500-4000 size spin­ning reels matched to 4-8 kilo rods. This light, sport­ing gear is fun to use and al­ways pro­vides an ex­cit­ing day’s fish­ing.

Most days we take time to ex­plore a va­ri­ety of spots at dif­fer­ent states of the tide. Our lit­tle tinny doesn’t have a fish-finder, so we have to rely on the knowl­edge we’ve gained over time.

The im­por­tance of hav­ing lo­cal knowl­edge can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated, pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion such as: the right times to fish; the best tides; and where the sand­bars and cur­rents are lo­cated. With­out a sounder it’s dif­fi­cult to judge where the sand banks are in re­la­tion to the chan­nels, and some­times we end

up fish­ing in only a cou­ple of me­tres of wa­ter – but still find good fish.

Dar­ren loves his soft-bait­ing and does very well in the Kaipara. He knows all the spots and the best times of year to get re­sults. I’ve caught a cou­ple of nice fish to 60cm on soft-baits, too, but usu­ally we stray-line.

A small boat is a great way to fish the Kaipara: it’s easy to tow, easy to launch, pro­vides a cheap day out on the wa­ter, and usu­ally ends up with fish in the bin.

I plan to be­come very fa­mil­iar with the har­bour be­fore ven­tur­ing out in my own 5.8m boat. Some banks are dry at low tide and you have to know how to nav­i­gate them safely. Dar­ren has told me plenty of sto­ries of boats abruptly com­ing to a halt as they run up onto a bank, and guys in an­kle-deep wa­ter try­ing to pull their boats off again.

Re­cently we have en­joyed great suc­cess with king­fish. Oc­ca­sion­ally we see big bust-ups as large king­fish round up mul­let against the banks; there’s white wa­ter ev­ery­where, with mul­let leap­ing right out to es­cape these preda­tors. On calm, still days you can some­times see the wakes made by packs of kings as they prowl up on the sur­face in search of food.

The Kaipara is a sea­sonal fish­ery: as one fish species thins out it’s re­placed by an­other. The gurnard come on when most of the snap­per leave, sup­ple­mented by trevally, ka­hawai, floun­der and kings. And al­though the fish­ing slows down as the weather gets colder, with the smaller fish dis­pers­ing, the few snap­per re­main­ing are big­ger and fight­ing fit. Dar­ren catches fish all year round.

While fish­ing the Kaipara does in­volve a few lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems, the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits far out­weigh them, and it has be­come one of my favourite places to fish. While al­ways worth the ef­fort of the drive, it’s even bet­ter when I’m able to tee a trip up with Dar­ren so I don’t have to tow the boat. We can be on the wa­ter in less than an hour af­ter I leave home.

Sit­ting on the bank watch­ing the sun go down at Shelly Beach, with oys­ter catch­ers and terns squalling by the the mighty Kaipara edge, I think Dar­ren is liv­ing in par­adise. This tran­quil and peace­ful lit­tle set­tle­ment is home to a hand­ful of com­mer­cial-fish­ing boats chas­ing their small quo­tas of mul­let and floun­der. I hope this jewel of a place is trea­sured for many more gen­er­a­tions to come.

Cap­tur­ing the his­tory from the 1960s through to to­day in­volved a huge amount of work, but it was worth­while, as this story is about vol­un­teers who shared a vi­sion for good ca­ma­raderie and fish­ing.

The story be­gins at Tat­apouri, some 12 kilo­me­tres north of Gis­borne town, where a nat­u­ral chan­nel led out to the best fish­ing grounds the Gis­borne peo­ple could ac­cess. Here peo­ple camped in the pad­docks and en­joyed the real family thing, where the catch of the day was cooked for all to en­joy, with singing, mu­sic and en­joy­ing an ale a way of life over the sum­mer.

The idea of a club was started by a few keen peo­ple who be­lieved that Gis­borne fish­ers should have a ramp and club rooms near where they fished. Soon af­ter, thanks to the many do­na­tions pro­vided by Gis­borne busi­nesses – in­clud­ing con­crete and steel, as well as the trac­tors and bull­doz­ers used – a ramp was built in the early six­ties.

The com­pleted ramp saw pad­dock life in­crease in pop­u­lar­ity, with cars tow­ing boats queued in their hun­dreds for about half a mile on fish­ing-com­pe­ti­tion days.

In 1973 a club house was built over­look­ing the ramp – a view worth mil­lions to­day. The club grew.

How­ever, Tat­apouri was chang­ing, with the prop­erty be­ing eroded by land sales and com­pli­ca­tions, and liquor laws af­fect­ing driv­ing back to town. So in the 1990s it was mooted that a larger club room could be se­cured and re­built in town; the No.2 wharf shed would mean a fan­tas­tic view of the ma­rina, as well as ac­co­mo­date the mem­ber­ship in­creases. Un­for­tu­nately, this caused a split in the club, but most be­lieve it was the right move in the long run.

Again vol­un­teers gave their time and ef­fort to se­cure the strongly-built shed, which has been en­hanced with many do­na­tions of mounted fish, some of which are world and na­tional records. Moana Pa­cific do­nated a sea wa­ter aquar­ium with cray­fish, tarak­ihi, blue cod, snap­per, trevally and ka­hawai swim­ming in it – a great at­trac­tion. To­day the clu­b­rooms cater for 4,200 mem­bers (for a town like Gis­borne, that’s a lot of peo­ple!).

The book takes read­ers through the club’s his­tory a decade at a time, de­scrib­ing the prob­lems and suc­cesses, as well as the anec­dotes and cap­tures. In the process it’s ap­par­ent how peo­ple can do so much – of­ten not recog­nised – for a good cause, and no doubt in­di­cates why the club keeps grow­ing.

The book also lists the pres­i­dents and life mem­bers (present and past), those who gave do­na­tions, fish­ing catch records and much more.

The end re­sult is a great story and an ex­am­ple of what can be achieved with a ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ at­ti­tude.

Michelle and Mur­ray Fer­ris have been the pro­ject man­agers of this book and we thank them for it. If you would like a copy of this spe­cial pub­li­ca­tion, con­tact Michelle Ny­holt, Gis­borne Tat­apouri Sports Fish­ing Club Man­ager (06) 8684756. The book sells for $20 or $25 with postage. - Alain Jo­rion

Ja­son Neute with a nice Kaipara red.

In win­ter, gurnard re­place the snap­per.

Dar­ren with a solid Kaipara king caught on a lit­tle Berkley Blade.

Epic fish­ing un­der the full moon.

A few Kaipara Trevs for the day.

Club trac­tors with ex­tended for­ward draw­bars made launch­ing and re­triev­ing much eas­ier, es­pe­cially when there was a swell run­ning.

The club’s Tat­apouri ramp gave fish­ers great ac­cess to some of the best fish­ing in the re­gion.

The first of the earth­works be­ing un­der­taken on the Tat­apouri ramp.

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