Peter Thomas has been fishing and diving out of Opito Bay, on the Coromandel coast, for more than 30 years. He is well known for bringing home a box of big snapper just about every day, and was even labelled as the local guru by former All Black Ali Williams after one such successful outing.
But he has never caught a marlin or a bluenose while fishing out of Opito Bay - until the other day when he went out with visiting anglers Carl Muir and Ryan McCulloch. The first target was bluenose, actually called a bluenose warehou, a deep-water species found well offshore on reefs and rocks over 300m below the surface.
"We went way out ... to a spot they call The Footprint, and dropped baits for bluenose. I caught my first bluenose, and then on the way back to get some hapuka closer to the Mercs [the Mercury islands] we put out a lure and within half an hour, we had a marlin," Thomas said.
Muir said his 15kg line, trolling a lure from the rocket launcher, went off and thinking it was a skipjack tuna, he handed the rod to Thomas.
Suddenly a striped marlin was charging down on the boat. They pulled in the other lines and Thomas worked the reel, getting the marlin close to the boat after only 10 minutes. But it was too fresh and on the light line with light hooks it was too risky to try grabbing the leader, and then the marlin took off. It dived and they followed it for a few kilometres, with Thomas working hard on the reel.
"He never missed a beat," said Muir. They brought the marlin alongside where it charged the boat. Muir grabbed the bill and McCulloch sank home the gaff and the fish was boated.
The marlin was destined for the smokehouse, and the bluenose fillets supplied dinner. Similar to hapuka, their white flesh is highly regarded. In fact, some anglers rate them ahead of hapuka.
Marlin are the common catch reported around the coast at the moment. They have turned up from New Plymouth to 90-Mile Beach on the west coast and one boat caught two while fishing out of the Manukau Harbour on Tuesday. It is similar on the east coast from the Bay of Plenty to North Cape.
Snapper are harder to find consistently, and while there are some work-ups in the Firth of Thames, they are sporadic elsewhere in the Hauraki Gulf. The best results are coming from inshore in the shallows in the early morning or evening, fishing with light line from small boats.
Kingfish are common with small fish everywhere, but larger fish can be found over offshore reefs. The popular spots like The Noises, Crusoe Rock and the Pakatoa Reef are all holding good numbers. The best time is at low tide and the first of the incoming tide, with live kahawai or piper either slow trolled or set under a balloon. Some anglers also like to drop a live bait to the bottom close to the reef, with a break-off sinker secured with dental floss. This works well on the edge of the reef at Crusoe, but bronze whaler sharks are common here and they like hooked kingfish too.
With powerful fish like kingfish, a short, sharp stroke of the rod, winding quickly without pausing, can keep its head turned away from the rocks. This is more effective than long sweeps of the rod, lifting and winding down, as the slightest slack in the line will let the fish turn away and take control. Special live bait hooks are small and strong, designed for this use. Rods and reels should be of high quality, with line of at least 15kg breaking strain, but 24kg line will provide more control.
Deep jigging on Lake Rotoiti has taken off and fish are stacked up in large numbers around the thermocline level. It is a question of finding the fish sign on the sounder and dropping the flies to the right depth. This is also working well on Lake Tarawera, as well as harling at dawn, and deep trolling during the day. Fly fishing around the drop-off can produce some good fishing too as the trout chase dragonfly larvae. An olive Woolly Bugger or Hamills Killer cast out, allowed to sink, then slowly retrieved over the edge works. This works well on the Waikato hydro lakes too, and trout will be found where cold-water streams enter the lakes.
Tip of the week
Lures should be trolled for marlin at between seven and eight knots, faster when it's calm and slower in rough water. A lot of successful game fishermen will also carry live baits pre-rigged with a leader and hook set to toss out if a marlin hangs about the lures without striking. The live kahawai or skipjack tuna can be kept in a bait tank or tuna tube ready to go.
Bite times are 5am and 5.30pm today, 5.55am and 6.20pm tomorrow.
More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz.