Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: Plumbing Niue's depths

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Some of the 24 contestants who weighed barracuda, mahimahi, wahoo and tuna. Photo / Geoff Thomas
Some of the 24 contestants who weighed barracuda, mahimahi, wahoo and tuna. Photo / Geoff Thomas

When Invercargill plumber Ray Galt tied a Rapala lure on to his line and tossed it into the sparkling blue water off Niue Island, he thought it might bring him luck. He always uses a smaller version when trout fishing on Lake Te Anau. The trout adventures involve a certain amount of hydrology study, as he likes to call it.

His full description of his annual hydrology exercise is: "To further studies in the effects of stratification of different water temperatures, the turbulence and opaqueness effects of water at altitude, and their resulting effect on the durability of various types of plastics, alloys, manmade and natural fibres.

"Past studies have shown various inconclusive results using coloured and shaped objects being dragged at various depths by a portable mobile laboratory platform. Further research is justified as these objects have been known to snag on various types of water life."

Sounds like a lot of words to describe fishing, and the fishing at Niue takes the study of hydrology to a whole new level.

You start by stepping off the wharf in the main town of Alofi on to a small tinnie. A giant crane lowers the boat, and you, into the water and off you go.

There is no protective reef surrounding The Rock, as the lovely island is called, so you bounce around a bit then you start fishing straight away because the seabed drops into a sheer abyss where toothy critters that include sharks, wahoo, tuna, barracuda and billfish roam.

Colourful mahimahi smash the lures, leaping all over the sea, just to remind you that you are in the tropics.

When Ray's rod took off he struggled with a huge wahoo, which was the target species in the Plumbing World-Rheem Niue International Wahoo Tournament, and when he boated the blue and silver torpedo the Rapala was just about destroyed. The razor teeth had ripped the lures to pieces and all the hooks were bent open. Ray looked pensively at the ruined lure and said: "I borrowed it off my brother-in-law. In fact I grabbed his rod and reel as well and he doesn't even know. So I guess I'll have to buy him a new one." His fish pulled the scales down to 36.8kg and was the heaviest for the second day of fishing. With 12 plumbers and industry competitors and another dozen entrants, the competition was fierce, with as many as 20 fish weighed each day. The anglers brought in huge barracuda, tuna, mahimahi, giant trevally and wahoo, heaps of wahoo.

When a wahoo hits, the rod folds over and the reel screeches, for they hit the lure at 100km/h - the fastest fish in the ocean. The angler hooks up the rod to his harness, and the grunting begins.

This is wahoo heaven, and that is what people travel to Niue for. It's a 3 hour flight from Auckland, and flights are only on Saturdays so you have to stay for a week. What a shame.

There were three wahoo over 30kg one day, and by the fourth day Ray was sweating. One fish was less than 2kg away from his, but he held on, and when the bell rang to stop fishing on the fourth and last day he broke into a big smile.

"What a place, what fantastic people, and what a great event. I'll be back." Of course he will be back, for he won a return ticket and entry into the tournament next year. But meanwhile he has fallen in love with the friendly island and is taking the family in June for a holiday.

New Plymouth's Mark Fraser won overall total weight of fish caught, with 83.7kg and also earned a return trip next year, and Ray came second in that category with 79.2kg. Other winners were: Rod Eden (Pukekohe) second-heaviest wahoo 34.6kg and third total weight with 73.5kg; and Graham Kinder (Rotorua) third heaviest wahoo 33.1kg.

- Herald on Sunday

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