Three fishermen who went out from Raglan for a day of game fishing finished up in the battle of their lives.
Gordon Jowsey has been fishing out of Raglan all his life and was involved in the development of game fishing out of the west coast Waikato town, catching his first marlin 46 years ago. But he has never seen anything like the giant blue marlin which struck a lure after only three hours of fishing. His neighbour, Paul Vander Drift, was on the rod and it was his first time out game fishing.
"Isn't that always the way," quipped Jowsey. "It was on my gear, too."
But Vander Drift did well, bringing the the marlin to the boat in under an hour, but then the fun started.
"The trace was wrapped around the bill of the marlin and was badly damaged, and when the gaff went in the trace broke. That was lucky. But three of us on the boat [a 7.5-metre tinny] couldn't get it on board," said Jowsey. "Another boat came alongside and two big blokes jumped on, but even five of us couldn't get it on to the boat. It took another bloke from another boat to come and help before we finally got it in," he said.
The blue marlin weighed 348kg, more than 100kg heavier than the heaviest marlin weighed at the Raglan Sport Fishing Club, which has a proud history of game fishing.
The giant marlin's bill and tail will be mounted, while the rest of the fish was smoked and distributed to the local community.
Vander Drift realised how lucky he was to catch such a monster on his first outing. "Everybody's been telling me to quit while I'm ahead," he said.
As well as marlin, a lot of tuna are being caught off the west coast and the east coast, and anglers welcome the tuna which have been scarce in recent years; for commercial fishing sucks up most of the tuna.
Nearly 70 per cent of the world's harvest of tuna comes from the Pacific Ocean and skipjack tuna constitute the majority of the catch. Typically, skipjack catches are higher in the warm waters of the western Pacific, but the advection of warm water to the east during an El Nino Southern Oscillation cycle, such as is occurring this summer, substantially redistributes the stock.
Basically, this means we can expect to see more skippies, as the small, feisty tuna are called locally, in our waters. And the skippies attract marlin and big sharks, as they are a top food source.
Already reports indicate large numbers of skippies showing up all along the coasts.
While they are good sport on light tackle, most skippies are caught on heavy gear for use as bait — either as a bridle-rigged live bait slow trolled for game fish, or in a deep dead drift for broadbill swordfish. They are also popular as cut bait for snapper, the rich blood and oil in the flesh driving snapper into a feeding frenzy.
But skippies also make fine eating, and the bulk of the canned tuna in supermarkets comes from skipjack tuna. If being kept for the table, they should be put straight on to a slurry of seawater and and salt ice to lower the body temperature, for tuna are the only fish which actually heats up when hooked on a line. For eating, they should be headed and gutted before going on ice, and the discarded parts make fine berley.
Like all tuna, skippies grow very quickly, and the small size of their gut is a measure of their fast metabolism. They are super-fast, sleek machines designed for eating continuously, converting food to energy. Conversely, slow-swimming fish such as hapuka have a large gut for their size.
Skippies live for eight to 12 years, and they roam the Pacific which makes them vulnerable to large-scale commercial fishing, usually with purse seine nets, in international waters where there are no controls over fishing.
The firm round trunk of a skippie which has been correctly prepared for the table can be filleted, or cut into round steaks. When eating the dark meat is discarded, as this is the fat which has a strong flavour. Fillets can be skinned and after removing the dark centre line there are two long tubes which can be cut into chunks. These are fine lightly pan fried in crumbs so they remain rare in the centre, or thinly sliced for sashimi.
Steaks are good when marinated in a Hawaiian recipe which is a simple mixture of oil, grated ginger and soy sauce, then pan fried or barbecued; again like a rare steak. Like any fish, tuna which is cooked right through can dry out and turn tough.
Cicadas are hatching and their strident song can be heard throughout the bush; the sound actually created by males scraping their back legs against their sides which is aimed at attracting a female.
But their erratic flight, particularly in strong winds, causes many to fall into lakes and rivers and trout, being opportunists, will eagerly smash them in spectacular rises. Fly fishermen can simulate a cicada. A twitch of the line in still water helps attract a roving trout.
Tip of the week
Freshly caught skippies can be banged on the head to stun them, or iki them by inserting a spike between the eyes angled back at 45 degrees. A Philips screwdriver with the end ground to a point makes a good iki spike for large fish. They should always be bled by inserting a knife point three fingers' width behind the pectoral fin on the lateral line in as far as the backbone. This severs a major artery, on both sides.
Bite times are 3.30am and 3.05pm tomorrow and 4.30am and 4.50pm on Sunday.
More information GTTackle.co.nz