Geoff Thomas: Piri tackles tough king of the reef

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Piri Weepu adjusts the gimbal belt as Jerome Kaino leans into the kingfish.
Photo / Geoff Thomas
Piri Weepu adjusts the gimbal belt as Jerome Kaino leans into the kingfish. Photo / Geoff Thomas

Do you reckon you can make it fly?" asked Piri Weepu.

It was like asking a kid if they liked candy.

Let me explain. We were powering across a smooth sea from the Rakino Channel to Crusoe Rock, which lies in the middle of the Sargent Channel between Motuihe Island and Waiheke Island. The 6.7m Seaboss aluminium boat was humming along nicely, the wavelets just slapping the hull.

Piri and Jerome Kaino were having a day out in late summer before the rugby got serious. Having just moved from Wellington, where he grew up spending spare time in the sea, Piri was enjoying checking out the fishing and diving opportunities around his new franchise.

A large ferry was crossing our path several hundred metres away, and at 30 knots we were going to hit its wake in a few minutes.

Everything is a challenge to the rugby boys and, as my mate said a few days later, "You never ask GT something like that!"

The challenge was accepted and the throttle went right down. The boat leaped forward and, when we hit the ferry wake, we did fly - albeit for only about a metre. The sea was calm and it was quite safe. But it did generate a couple of smiles.

Like when the boys were doing bombs off the roof in a sheltered bay at Motuihe, much to the delight of the crowd of boaties.

They make quite a splash, these guys, when they hit the water.

But the main objective was to catch fish, although Piri seemed to be more interested in swimming around with a spear in his hand, something he was looking forward to when he got a chance in his new domain. And catch fish they did.

With enough snapper in the bin to feed the families, it seemed like a good idea to drop the single yellowtail swimming around in the live-bait tank close to the reef at Crusoe. If we put it back in the sea with a hook through its nose and a gift attached - a strong line which led back to a strong reel on a strong rod - it seemed a natural extension for a strong bloke to be hanging on to it. And Jerome is a strong bloke. Seriously strong.

"We might be lucky and hook a kingie, or a kahawai will grab it or maybe a snapper, or even a john dory. That is if a bronze whaler doesn't eat it," we explained.

This was a hot spot for big bronzies, and they love to suck up anything that is alive. You don't usually even think about fishing for kingies unless you have a tank-full of live baits, but this was a cruisy sort of day and we thought we would give it a crack. Well, the rod sitting quietly in the rod-holder was suddenly and violently pulled hard over, and the reel protested shrilly, for the drag was set tightly - which is what we do with a livey on the bottom in shallow water.

Piri is a natural boatie and had the anchor up in a flash, while Jerome hauled on the rod and we slowly motored away from the shallow reef. "Give it death. We have to stop it getting into the rocks," was the call. He gave it death. The 15kg kingie had no chance. It was seriously outweighed. But it did tear a lot of the 37kg braid line off the reel, against a strong drag. It gave him the runaround, for these are tough fish. Kilo for kilo, they are about as tough as anything that swims. But he soon had it wallowing by the boat and Piri did the honours with the net.

He's a useful bloke to have on the boat. And the slabs of kingfish went home to feed the families, along with a bunch of snapper fillets. We do want to make the Wellingtonian feel welcome in the land of Jaffas.

Our version of Jaffa is a bit different from the rest of the country's: "Just another friendly face from Auckland."

- Herald on Sunday

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