As skipper Aaron Covavich guided his vessel Thor out through the entrance of Whangateau Harbour, between Omaha and Ti Point, he promised: "We'll catch a kingfish using each different method - and we'll get Jerome his first kingie."

That is confidence, but he also said: "I have never seen so many kingies over the reefs at the Mokes."

The Moko Hinau group of small islands in the outer Hauraki Gulf, affectionately referred to as "the Mokes", is a favourite destination for fishers targeting snapper and kingfish and for the "spearos" - the free-divers who use a speargun. It was later reported a "spearo" had nailed a 14kg snapper when we were there. It was just the fifth snapper over 13.6kg a spear-fishermen had recorded in this country.

Like other All Blacks, Jerome Kaino has had time off in January, returning to his rugby job at the end of the month, and was keen to tangle with a kingfish. "The last time I went fishing was in 2004 when we went out with the Blues that day," he said. "And Sammy ate that raw snapper."

We had taken the squad out on a large launch and Sam Tuitupou wanted to eat a fresh-caught snapper. He picked it up and ate it like a corn cob, spitting out scales as he went.

The first stop on this trip was on a reef off Leigh to get live bait and, apart from the occasional rat kingfish grabbing the sabiki jig flies and causing serious mayhem, filling the live-bait tank with yellowtails was not a problem. The common yellowtail is technically a jack mackerel and like piper, sprats, kahawai and slimy mackerel, high on the menu for predators such as kings and snapper.

Kingfish are schooling fish and like to hang around sunken pinnacles and reef structures. They show up as a dense red mass on the fish finder and Aaron has a dummy drift over the reef to see how the boat behaves in the breeze and currents. Then the livies are hooked through the nose with small but powerful live-bait hooks attached to 45kg trace, a six-ounce sinker and 24kg tackle, then dropped to a pre-determined depth.

"Count to 40," says Aaron, as he marks the depth where the quarry are circling. That will put the baits at about 25m, although the seabed is 40m down. The first rod bends, then another, then Jerome hooks up. The strength that has made him one of rugby's most feared players makes short work of a kingfish that barely reaches the 75cm minimum length. But his next fish is well over and goes on to ice to go back to his family.

Steve Devine drops a jig and his rod bends almost instantly. Small kings climb all over the metal jig and are gently released, but he soon has a respectable fish on ice. The plan is for the anglers to take one kingfish home, with the rest released.

With the live-bait and jig boxes ticked off, catching a king on a lure would complete the mission. You have options when using lures. You can troll a bibbed lure such as a Rapala, or cast a popper and retrieve it fast across the surface. While the kings are well down in the water column, when a fish is hooked others will follow it to the surface.

Steve rigged up a stick bait and cast it out. This is a new type of lure which is fished in a similar fashion to a popper, but it swims just under the surface with an erratic action. The rod is swept sideways, then the line wound in to take up the slack and the sweeping rod movement repeated.

"I've got a follow," shouted Steve after half a dozen casts. Sure enough, the green and yellow shapes were charging after his lure and, on the next cast, came an explosion of white water as a king grabbed the stick bait. The heavy-duty spin reel screamed as the 37kg braid line peeled off. When hooking kingfish over a deep reef, the hardest part is stopping them before they dive among the rocks and break the line. Here on the surface there is no such danger and the fish can be played out before bringing it to the boat.

The skipper slipped the treble hook out and dropped the king back into the sea. "Got the trifecta," he said. It is a good idea to crimp the barbs down with pliers on the treble hooks on lures like the stick baits, so they can be easily removed. This also reduces the danger from hooks flailing around when handling a hooked fish.

The other footy boys call Jerome "Lomey", and Steve said it was two years before he realised his name was Jerome. "And he's too big to argue with," said Steve.

But Lomey doesn't plan on waiting another seven years before heading out fishing.