Third times a charm, that’s what they say and that’s how it shall be done. While I was at work, Paul and Connor went rockfishing for kingfish at a rather easy spot. The conditions were such that the East Coast spots were not safe to fish and since we had a couple of long hikes under our belt, Dad and Son thought it would be best to have a good, but easier go at catching kingfish off the rocks. He was right.
I had just arrived home after a rather frustrating day of helping youth with formal education. My plan was to open a beer and go for a walk with Rani in the bush. It was about half an hour after low tide when I received this text: “Ben, got you a kingfish. Would you like to come and pick it up?”
Righto, I got into my car and drove to Tryphena Wharf and went for an easy 15 minute walk to meet up with Paul and Connor. Big smiles on their faces, they had experienced productive and impressive fishing.
Conditions & Spot
15 knot NE winds, no swell on this side of the Island, clear sky and very hot. The target fish was kingfish, piper were being used under a cork as live-bait and the kingis showed up around the low tide mark. A couple sharks had a go at Connor’s live baits.
Paul had landed and released one under-sized kingfish, and when I arrived he wasn’t even fishing. He was on a walk-about, looking for paua and kina. Their catch consisted of a 20 lbs+ kingfish and a squid. The kingi was gutted and being cooled in the ocean attached to a rope. They experienced great fishing action today in calm and easy conditions. Just to prove that sometimes you catch the better fish if you fish an easy and frequented spot. Connor was live-baiting and I was lucky to get a shot of the bronzewhaler who came in to have a good and long look at what we were doing.
Today would have been the day to hit the East Coast. The forecast was not good, but it just didn’t feel as bad. However, we had decided to trust the forecast and got up really early to hit a spot that is certainly not easy to get to. We left at 0545, low tide was at 1600, and we were fishing from 0800 onwards.
Early Morning Fishing
I particularly like the low tide early in the morning for all my rockfishing. When you’re targeting kingfish and the low is in the afternoon, it is difficult to decide what to do. You could go for an early morning fish or you could hit the low (doing both is also a possibility, but at this time of the year, it is just too hot to stand on the rocks for so many hours). We had chosen “Time Before Tide” for this session and, boy were we wrong. In spite of heavy burlying, only a couple kahawai and piper showed up. Nothing else in the burley trail. There was a live-bait in the water for pretty much all of the time we were fishing, but not kingfish was hooked.
The fishing was just rubbish. After releasing about 50 under-sized snapper, I had used frozen squid, pilchard, fresh kahawai, fresh piper, plenty of burley and groud baiting, but just nothing else than very small or barely legal snapper. Very boring and disappointing. I gave up and this was the moment it hit me that Size-Limitations are counter-productive to healthy and plentiful fish stocks, they also promote animal torture.
I was sitting high in the hills, relaxing and looking out for game-fish. Paul and Connor had both live piper in the water, wearing their gimbals and just fishing hard for kingfish. I was able to see how a bait got taken by a big fish before the anglers could. The fish had come hard from the left, taken the piper and kept swimming in that direction but also toward the ledge. Even when you see the balloon go under water, or in this case the cork keeping the piper from diving into the weeds, you cannot strike until there is pressure on the line.
This happened two more times, each time the piper was gone or dead, but there was no successful hookup. The following sketch will hopefully depict that it is advantageous to keep your live-bait straight ahead when it is swimming not close to the rocks.
The thing is that you cannot strike when a kingfish has a go at your live-bait but swims toward you or when, for other reasons, there is slack line. When you’re using heavy gear, you can’t quickly reel line in to get pressure on it.
We spent a long day on the rocks, waited for the low tide, but didn’t hook a kingfish. They were there, just not early in the morning when we arrived, and the fishing was disappointing. We got home with a small feed but were knackered from the long hike out.
The conditions on the East Coast got worse, we were not able to fish it once. We were keen on getting out there one more time early in the morning, low tide was now about 0700. The first morning we got up at 0530, we went straight back as it started pouring heavily with rain. It only lasted for 30 minutes though. The second morning, the same happened. That early morning rain, while it’s still dark, put us off. The conditions improved though during the day, and Father and Son decided to head to the light house again to have a final fish before leaving the Barrier.
They got back in the early evening and left me in the dark about their fishing for as long as they could. “Oh yeah, it wasn’t bad. You know the Barrier, there is no fish here. Saw a couple of kahawai…” I had to keep asking and asking for a full report, until I saw a bit of a smile on Connor’s face. Yes, they had arrested his majesty.
Congrats Connor on landing your first legal kingfish. Well done mate! It seems your dad needs a lesson or two on how to gaff a fish.
Too short a visit this year Paul. Great to have Connor here (you’re always welcome). Went out for kingfish only 5 times, could not fish the East Coast at all. We saw a few bigger school of kingis, a few caught fish had to go back and both of you landed a rat. I was very disappointed that no decent snapper was caught and hope that we can get into kingis that can pull line next year.
- Live-Bait Setup – 37 kg stand up gear, 120 lbs leader, 2m long. Balloon for kahawai and cork for piper
- Stick-Bait Setup – 20 kg line on 6500 Shimano Baitrunner
- Piper-Bait Setup – 2 kg line, very small hook, split shot, pencil float