I received a query from Jason about two weeks ago via this website. He asked whether I could take him and three other family members on a land based fishing trip over Easter. His email ended with: “We are all fairly inexperienced fishermen but all fit and ok to hike in anywhere. We have transport.” I replied yes. We stayed in email contact and Jason confirmed that Saturday would be the day, and that one of the fishermen will be 10 years old.
Conditions & Tide
The forecast was variable 10 knots, fine spells with a retreating 2 m swell on the east coast. The tide was also not in our favour, with high at about 1030. I saw two options, meeting in the morning and going to a spot that involves a 2 hour return hike – I mentioned it is a bit of a mission – or meeting in the early afternoon and going to a spot that is not accessible until half tide, but involves a shorter walk on a rocky beach. Jason chose the morning option (I wonder if he mentioned the other option to John, Rick and Taylor) and it turned out to be a good decision.
After a 50 minute walk through the bush and a few minutes of “rock hopping” we arrived at our fishing spot right on the high tide mark. The team looked very keen. Big smiles, lots of energy. Young Taylor wanted to catch a marlin…
It took about 10 minutes to set five rods and reels up, and to demonstrate how to use the gear, how to cast and how to land fish. Other things I always point out is that you should never rush, be aware of surroundings and when you see big fish point them out. Everybody was nodding and ready to go.
I was in good hopes, we had plenty bait and burley. There was a bit of wash, the wind was not uncomfortable, the tide had just turned, visibility into the water was very bad, and the team was a fun and motivated. We were at a great spot, I was in good hopes.
Rigs, Hooks & The Golden Reel
I put the burley in and since no one had grabbed a rod, I picked one up and asked: “Who wants the golden reel?” There was a bit of laughter but to my surprise, no one rushed to grab it (one of my reels has a golden colour). There were three spinning rold/reel combos, each with 30 lbs line and a suitable rod. I rigged them with a 6/0 circle hook on about 80 cm of 50 lbs leader. One rig had a quarter ounce sinker, the rest were without weight. Taylor was using a trout rod I used over 20 years ago in Wyoming (he didn’t know that though) with a small reel. His setup was about 4-5 lbs line with a not-so-smooth-drag.
The Hook Ups
I think the action started with the second bait. Jason mentioned bites on his first cast, there were many friendly jokes shared amongst the brothers. I sensed a bit of a competition amongst them and also noticed that Jason was fishing with the golden reel. Fish were immediately caught. A few small snapper, Taylor landed a hiwihiwi, then we saw a couple kahawai. I think it was rick who landed the first keeper. A kahawai perfectly sized for live-baiting.
I put it into a bucket with fresh water but decided that today would not be a day to put a livey out. Soon after young Taylor landed the first snapper over 30 cm. A great effort on light gear, standing very high on the rocks. He developed a nice cast, and I observed how everyone found a spot to cast and fish in. They were in the zone… I assisted here and there with baiting and releasing fish, and things were going very smoothly.
I think it was within an hour of fishing when Jason hooked into a bigger fish. He kept very quiet about it though, I only realised it was a decent snapper when he had already won the fight and we could see the vivid colours of a prime snapper. It was well hooked in the mouth and I estimate it at 6+ pound.
Soon after this beauty was landed, big kahawai showed up. As their names suggest, they are strong in the water, swimming deep, pulling to the sides, coming toward you and finally jumping out of the water and shaking frantically. Sometimes the hook pulls out, but less when using a circle hook. Everyone was hooking into kahawai and enjoying it.
The (Other) Fish Of The Day
Taylor lost a big kahawai, some of the fish he hooked were just as heavy as the breaking strength of his line. I explained this to him and mentioned that he needs to play the fish, tire it out and avoid sudden movements with the rod. He did well in hooking and landing one of the big kahawai on the following photos. It took him a while, he had to move around, follow the fish and stay on top of it. They were around 5+ pound.
The One That Got Away
Not long after Jason landed that decent snapper, he hooked into something bigger. Well, I think it was bigger, I only noticed that his rod was bent over with line running off the spool. I assume the fish had already run him into the weeds at that stage. Jason tried to get line back but there was just too much resistance. He was snagged. There was clearly a fish on, the rod vibrating. I suggested releasing the drag and waiting. Nothing, fish still on, but stuck. Well, let’s wait some more. Still nothing. Jason then walked across to get a different angle. Unfortunately, it was all in vain. I had a go as well, I could feel the fish but the line was stuck. When we pulled hard, the line broke and that was the end of it.
We packed in after 3.5 hours of solid fishing and prepared for the mission that was the hike uphill back to the car park. We hiked out a few minutes quicker than it took us to get into the spot. The smiles were still big, the packs full with kahawai and snapper, the boys got to experience a rather remote area of the Barrier, got a bit of a workout and that’s what you call a rockfishing adventure.
Hope to see you again, you should come back for the annual Wharf to Wharf Marathon.