Take 25 politicians, a big boat and four fishing rods out on Lake Taupo for two hours and what do you get? A duck and a trout.

Labour MPs risked the headlines of "Labour's Gone Fishing" and took to the water on the lake yesterday afternoon to wind down after six hours of meetings on the first day of their two-day caucus retreat in Taupo.

Many of the Maori MPs were still at Ratana and Shane Jones had cried off with a toothache. But the rest of the caucus forked out their $45 each and after a quick tour and history lesson on the lake, four rods were brought out and the MPs lined up.

On one side of the boat stood new MP David Clark and Trevor Mallard. On the other stood keen fisher David Cunliffe and Maryan Street. Mr Clark was the first to get a bite, but the fish managed to wriggle off.

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The next and only bite was on Trevor Mallard's rod. After the initial excitement as Mr Mallard began to haul in his catch, other MPs noticed there was a duck swimming and diving in the wake of the boat in suspicious harmony with his reeling. "You've caught a duck, Trevor," Rajen Prasad observed.

Leader David Shearer appeared on the deck at that very moment and took a look.

"Oh, you haven't caught a duck have you? Look - it's a mallard too."

"That's fratricide," another MP chimed in.

Mr Mallard managed to ignore them all and continue reeling until finally he got what he wanted: a 50cm trout. He held it aloft as the pair of fishers on the other side, Mr Cunliffe and Ms Street, went back to their task with renewed focus, Mr Cunliffe surreptitiously throwing in small pieces of muffin as a makeshift - and ineffective - burley. There was not a nibble between them, but, ever the politician, Mr Cunliffe had a quick excuse: "It's because they're on the left of the deck and we're on the right. Little good ever comes from being on the right."

The idea came from West Coast MP Damien O'Connor, who had wanted the caucus to spend some time together that didn't involve work as it seeks to rebuild after the election and recent leadership change.

He had also wanted MPs to be taken slightly out of their comfort zone for the experience - although there was arguably more of a risk of that from the sight of David Shearer in his purple plaid shirt than from the fishing.