Fishing: Still-warm seas serve up feast of fine game fish

By Geoff Thomas

This angler has her eye on a striped marlin off the west coast. Picture / Geoff Thomas
This angler has her eye on a striped marlin off the west coast. Picture / Geoff Thomas

Game fishing continues to hit the headlines, with a report from Raglan last week of a striped marlin caught in 30m of water.

What is so amazing is that the marlin took a bait on a flasher rig which was aimed at snapper. The billfish will often take a live bait set for kingfish, like a kahawai, and because black marlin often hang around reefs while hunting fish like kahawai and trevally it is often a large black that attacks the kingfish bait.

And a big black marlin weighing 364kg also took a live bait in only 30m of water at the Hen and Chicken Islands off Northland.

It was caught by two fishermen in a 6m tinny, and they managed to boat the giant fish after just over an hour.

The other feature of game fishing this summer is the prevalence of yellowfin tuna all around the coast, which is welcomed by anglers because the tuna have been absent for many years.

There have been some monsters, including one of 92kg caught out of Tauranga and another of 97kg, also taken in the Bay of Plenty.

This has also been a good season for the west coast in terms of weather, with easterly and northerly winds producing ideal conditions for the west coast.

When combined with marlin turning on a sideshow that has anglers drooling, it doesn't get any better. In many cases the fishermen are home by lunchtime with a marlin on the back of their trailer boat, enjoying a cold drink while spreading the word.

A week ago, packs of striped marlin were herding up schools of jack mackerel in water between 80m and 100m off Piha and Karekare, which is really quite close, and the sight of a dozen marlin shepherding the bait fish like sea wolves is rare in the world of game fishing.

But this was happening almost in sight of the city, and some anglers were catching their first billfish on their first time out fishing for them.

The marlin will take lures trolled around the action, but a live bait is hard to beat.

It is a question of jigging some live mackerel on sabiki flies, and dropping them back down with a small game hook through the nose.

It has been a stellar season all up and down the west coast, and most of the fishing is done from trailer boats launched off beaches such as Muriwai and Piha, or from harbours such as Raglan, and the Kaipara, Manukau and Hokianga harbours.

At New Plymouth, there is a strong game club and the vessels head out from the city, often finding action with the city in the background.

Fishing the west coast is all about being able to get out, and as westerlies are the prevailing winds, conditions rule out fishing most of the time.

There has also been good fishing for snapper, kahawai, kingfish and, further offshore, hapuku.

Small tuna lures can also be trolled in conjunction with marlin gear, because there are plenty of skipjack and albacore tuna off the coast and these chunk tuna make excellent baits fished whole for marlin, although they do attract sharks, and as cut bait for bottom fishing.

The small tuna also make fine eating if bled and put on ice as soon as they are boated. They can be steaked and marinated and cooked like a steak, or cut into cubes and rolled in breadcrumbs and pan fried, or converted to sashimi.

The dark red meat should be trimmed and discarded as this carries the rich blood vessels which deliver the energy for these speedsters of the ocean, and has a strong flavour.

Snapper continue to frustrate many anglers but the fishing should continue for a further six weeks because the sea water has been so hot.

In fact, with temperatures hitting the mid 20s, it has almost been too warm for snapper, according to some experienced anglers.

If this theory holds water, fishing should improve as the water cools, and that is starting to happen as the welcome cool nights make sleeping more comfortable. Mornings are certainly crisper, and in the outdoors, this triggers thoughts of stags roaring and ducks flying.

Freshwater

Fly fishing at the cold-water stream mouths on Lake Rotorua has slowed as cool nights set in, but some large trout are being taken from Lakes Rotoiti and Okataina.

Jigging at Hinehopu and fly fishing at The Pipe are producing some fish, and a booby fly fished from an anchored boat at the Dogger Bank, at the southern end of Okataina, is working well.

The usual technique is to anchor the boat at both ends to prevent it swinging in the wind, and cast out a fast sinking line over the drop-off with a short trace and a booby. It is then retrieved very slowly, in short jerks, with pauses between.

At Lake Taupo, the better fishing is found at the small stream mouths and the Waitahanui Stream rip at night, where some large brown trout can be hooked.

- NZ Herald

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