Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: Skipper toes line

Jenny Thomas and Mihkel Zilmer boated doubles, including a blue mackerel which was turned into bait. Photo / Geoff Thomas
Jenny Thomas and Mihkel Zilmer boated doubles, including a blue mackerel which was turned into bait. Photo / Geoff Thomas

When your daughter who has been living in Europe for two years says to you "I really want to go out and catch some snapper", you choose the first good day when the wind isn't blowing and put the boat in the water.

The first problem arises when you park outside the bait shop and the Dockline tram comes along on a Tuesday morning, with not a soul in it.

"Better move your car and boat or it's a $200 fine," says the bloke in the bait shop. So you run out and move it down the road so the tram can get past. The second problem comes when you try to use a credit card to pay for the parking at Westhaven. Why is it that the parking meters at boat trailer parks never work properly?

"Credit cards not operational. Use coins only," it says. But you don't carry $12 in coins, so you have to drive back to the bait shop and change a note for coins. If you don't have a sticker your vehicle and trailer will be towed within an hour and it costs $250 to get it back. Your mood improves as you head out of the marina and slide past the super yachts lined up, huge gleaming machines that cost more than all the houses in your street.

But they reflect the serious earning power of our marine construction industry and bring many millions of dollars into the country. Nothing wrong with that.

They also represent success. Nothing wrong with that either, although the tall-poppy-slicers who thrive on the politics of envy would no doubt have a different view.

"Can we go faster?" asks daughter Jenny as we push the throttle down after rounding North head and point north. The grin widens as she takes the wheel and the boat leaps out of the water.

Her partner Mihkel Zilmer is wondering what is going on. He grew up in Estonia, a world away on the edge of Russia, across the water from Scandinavia.

His fishing involved catching bass and pike on small lakes which dot a landscape which couldn't be more different, where winter plummets to -40C and summer bakes in 35C. But it was one of the first states to shake off the Soviet mantle and boasts the oldest university in Europe and the highest per capita use of computer technology. It is where Skype was invented. But you probably don't visit for the fishing. Not if you can skim over the wavelets at 35mph until, north of the Tiri Channel, you see the first gannets dive-bombing the sea. Splashes mark where dolphins are crashing into their dinner and, a few hundred metres away on the starboard side, another boil-up is going on.

The anchor goes down and we demonstrate how to insert the curved hook into a pilchard chunk. A square of squid goes on the other hook and the rig slides quickly out of sight.

The thumb must stay on the spinning spool and, if you point the rod at the water so there is no angle, the line it will run out smoothly. Put it in gear and wait. The rod tip jiggles almost instantly. Wait, don't pull the bait away from the fish. You want to make it easy for them to eat it. Okay, start winding. The line goes tight, the rod is pulled down and the game is on. As simple as that.

The birds and the dolphins move away, but there are fish all through the area and the second rod goes off just as quickly. It is nice working with people who don't think they know it all and will do as you suggest.

And so it goes. The rods bend as soon as the baits hit the bottom. Sometimes, the baits are stripped but most drops result in a bending rod and there are squeals of delight.

"This is unbelievable," says the happy visitor. The sun blushes white skin which has seen only winter snow, and daughter struggles with a serious snapper.

"We'll keep this one," is the verdict as a 4kg snapper comes over the side. Fish of 30cm go back, because there is no demand for an excess - although the neighbours will not be complaining when fish come their way. At about $40 for fillets downtown, it is nice to spread some around and they are always gratefully received.

After 90 minutes, there are plenty of fish on ice and a stop in a sheltered bay at Tiritiri Matangi Island completes the day with sandwiches and a cold drink.

It is easy to forget how blessed we are when we can put the boat in the water at any of many launching places around the city and head out and catch a bin of good-sized snapper, while dolphins come leaping past the boat.

Back in Amsterdam, if you fall into the canals that lace the city you have to go to hospital and have your stomach pumped, such is the level of pollution in the filthy brown water. And our biggest problem is getting the parking ticket.

- Herald on Sunday

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