Waipu: A shore thing

By Danielle Wright

During a full moon, Danielle Wright is taken kite-fishing at a Northland nudist beach

Paul Barnes with his kite-fishing line. Photo / Dani Wright
Paul Barnes with his kite-fishing line. Photo / Dani Wright

At Uretiti beach, 3km out of Waipu, I meet inventor Paul Barnes for a kite-fishing lesson. Thirty years ago, in true Kiwi ingenuity style, Paul gave up commercial fishing, made a kite rig, caught 80 fish and turned it into a business.

His company, Paul's Fishing Kites, now exports kites worldwide. They are famous for their stability and in stormy weather, cruise ships have even used them with cameras.

It doesn't take long for Paul to set the kite onto a fishing rig and then send it a kilometre offshore, in 20m-deep water.

"From the shore, kite-fishermen can find fish only people with boats could dream of. The setup is cheap, as little as $150 to convert a fishing rod into a kite-fishing rod, and the key to success is going when the conditions are right," says Paul.

"The best advice is to follow the clouds until you get to a beach," says Paul. "If wind is blowing in your face, then you're on the wrong beach and if there's no wind, find something else to do.

"It's also a good sign when gannets are working the area."

There's a flag on the rig to alert boaties and a bottle with sand, so the kite can't lift the bait out of the water. Paul has put five hooks, some with floats, out on one line and luckily the seagulls are looking the other way as he fills each hook with fish.

"We want cloudy conditions and plenty of wind, with good dark water. Fish feed when it's dark, so anything to reduce the light is better for us, not calm and sunny weather," says Paul, who recommends fishing at night on a full moon.

He says fish have feeding peaks at dawn and dusk, when they're most aggressive, but on a full moon they're not hungry in the day because they're eating all night.

Fish caught at night are also apparently bigger than those caught in the day.

As the line is heading out to sea, the waiting begins, around 40 minutes. It's a good opportunity to find out Paul's secret fish recipes and I discover he eats his chips with mayonnaise, instead of tomato sauce.

He tells me he started fishing when he was 12 and his mum paid for him to go on a fishing charter boat called The Florence Kennedy.

He was a commercial fisherman for 20 years but says, "it's hard on marriages" and admits commercial fishermen are allergic to being told what to do.

Unfortunately, while we're chatting, the kite has crashed, which Paul says hasn't happened for years. It's probably testament to my fishing curse - take me to the trout-fishing capital of the world and the fish flee, or today, out fishing on a nudist beach I see neither fish nor flesh.

A couple of Nordic walkers, fully clothed, tread carefully under the lines and some tourists come over to see if we've caught anything. A horse is rolling in the sand like a dog, as the line is pulled in.

"People pay mega-bucks to go out there and fish," says Paul. "But you could land a marlin kite-fishing. Anything you can do from a boat, you can do with a set of kites fishing from the beach."

As the line is pulled out with just a bit of seaweed on one hook, Paul says: "Well, at least no fish were harmed in the making of this story."

I feel bad for him, but at least the seagulls, now looking in the right direction, are happy, feasting on the retrieved bait.

For me, though, the "big one" must surely be getting closer with every failed fishing trip.


The one that got away

• Order a fishing kite setup through fishingkites.co.nz or organise a fishing kite day-trip - Paul can point you in the right direction. Visit Paul's shop at 39A Neilson St, Onehunga, or ph (09) 634 5005.

• If you want to stay overnight, Uretiti Beach DoC campsite has basic facilities, such as cold showers, and a "no nudity in camp" rule. doc.govt.nz

- NZ Herald

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