Pigfish Kahawai Snapper

Barry and I went fishing one more time, my top mate and avid angler Sinclair tagged along. The plan was to fish the outgoing tide in the late afternoon, have the first bait in the water 2 hours before low, live-bait with kahawai for kingfish and land a double figure snapper at the change of light with a fresh kahawai head. Textbook stuff really. The conditions were good, a five knot breeze from the side, no swell, lots of white water, the scenery was dramatically beautiful and there were three of us. We had plenty of bait, burley, the right gear, skill and motivation. Sinclair wore his new ninja-style rock-hoppers, Barry was looking to achieve his trifecta, I was hoping to take the third row only, ideally not even cast a bait, but concentrate on getting the shots and assisting, rather than actively fishing.

Before going around the beach and hopping over the rocks, we had to cross a creek, where a seasoned man noticed our intentions, hats, buckets, packs, rods, gaff and big smiles. We’re on a beach on the east coast of Great Barrier Island. “Hey guys, you’re going fishing? Excuse me?, you guys going fishing?” “Yes, mate”, I respond. “Where exactly are you heading to?” “Ah, we just go around that point there and fish off the rocks.” “I see, but where exactly are you going?”, the man asks again.

“Ah mate, it really doesn’t matter where you go, it’s all the same there, more about timing than the spot.” The gentleman is not happy with my answer though and asks again. My answer is similar. He looks at the others, but neither Barry nor Sinclair know where I’m taking them exactly to either. Hence they shrug their shoulders and I give it another attempt so he doesn’t infer we’re rude or what. His question was just not useful. I could have been rude and say, walk straight for 500 m, then keep going straight for another kilometre, then past a big boulder and continue straight for 10-30 min, depending on how fast you are, but make sure you go straight and when you see a big boulder next to a rock pool, you’re there.

As we walk on, I realise there is vital information to be shared: “Mate, once you’re on the rocks and go around the beach, you are in very dangerous grounds. A meter of swell could get you in big trouble there, you will get cut off by the tides as well.” I repeat this with more conviction, but he doesn’t seem that interested.

Sinclair’s giggling for an extended period about this brief conversation. If you’re successful in anything, it is because of a combination of things – luck is often involved – and hardly ever the result of one thing alone. There are exceptions, like young women in bikinis on Instagram. Guys and girls; ask me what hooks I use, what type of leaders, bait, when I think the fish are on the bite, how the sea conditions are going to change, what advice I can give you as local fisho, hell, even ask if you can quickly get your rod and tag along. Or read this blog, and mark my words: The best fishing spots are those you find, and you can catch massive fish anywhere here.

_1717975cWe arrive after a 30 min pleasant walk over big boulders and some flat areas. It took about 30-45 minutes after deploying the burley for the first kahawai to arrive. Today, we would have an abundance of them around, you could catch them at will. Sinclair puts a juicy one out under a balloon, Barry’s hooking into them as well. I decide not to send a live-bait out, the wind was picking up and there was lots of wash. Due to that and one already being deployed, I knew that I’d have to sit by that rod and “work” the live-bait. It is not an interesting or fascinating job, you can do that for half the day and catch nothing. It’s more fun stray-lining for snapper or taking photographs.

_1717977cI cubed pilchards and squid, chucked them into the burley trail and put a second one out. I helped Barry here and there. Sometimes I didn’t bother and he lost a kahawai, or something no one saw, but that is all part of fishing. Figuring things out, getting a feeling for it, observing how others present bait, cast, hold a rod, give the bait “action”, play and land fish. Sinclair was there, so I could explore the area a bit more, maybe there is a second fishing spot on these 5 km of coast line…

Where’s The Snapper

At low tide, there were still no snapper arrested and the live-bait was going all right, Sinclair replaced it with a fresh kahawai. Close, left, right, far out, if there was a kingi hanging around, it would have had a go. An hour before low tide, I started fishing, kahawai fillets, butterflied kahawai, kahawai head, squid, testing the waters close, far out and even going for the sure bet of leaving a fresh kahawai head out far and putting the rod into the holder. What else can I do? Still nothing though. No snapper around.

Kabooom, Barry’s Hooked On

Barry gets a hookup, he’s got something better on, line is being pulled off the reel, he manages well and gets the fish close to the rocks. The beautiful colours appear, it is of good-eating size, Barry gets a bit excited. “Guys, I need help.” None of us move an inch or help in any other form. Sinclair smiles at me. Barry’s excitement rises, “Guys…”, then he’s on the move, he gets to the water and gets his fish. With a big smile he walks back, proudly presenting his fish.

He had already caught a better-sized kahawai as well, and when I start sorting his catch out, you know, killing, scaling, gutting, tying to a rope and putting back into the sea to keep it in mint condition, it appears to me that Barry can’t know what he caught. Yet, he doesn’t ask. Barry casts another bait and mumbles: “Would be good to have a photo with it brother.” Sinclair’s fishing two rods, I’m busy scaling the catch and poke my hand with the tip of the knife. “Can’t be bothered with a photo now brother, we can do this before we leave, just catch a good fish, will ya?

“Alright then, I’ll see if I can catch a bigger snapper.” We’re good sports and reveal to him that he hadn’t landed a snapper yet. “Really?, what did I catch?, must be a red snapper then.” “Nah brother, that’s, geez, I don’t even know the name now.”, I really couldn’t remember. Had caught and eaten this fish before, white flesh and good eating, always the same size when you catch them 45 cm-ish. The fillets curl up extremely when cooked, you have to cut it in stripes, rather than frying the whole fillet.

It’s called a pigfish“, Sinclair lets us know. You just had to be there and I wish I had a photo, we all laughed, Barry was just not too sure, were we having him on?, a pigfish, can you even be proud of catching something called like that?, the connotations were just not that appealing. Barry was laughing big time, too. He would look this up in the Handbook of New Zealand Marine Fishes back at my place, he let us know.


Hooking The HiwiHiwi

Barry also managed to hook and land a hiwihiwi, if it was any smaller it would have still be eating plankton. But it was big enough to be spiky and slimy all over, and it was hooked right through the jaw bone with a circle hook. Barry would be on a plane for 24 hours net in a couple of days, he had received his fair bit of mosquito bites and little cuts bush-bashing, little did I know that “food-poisoning” would also be on the list, so I helped him release that hiwihiwi. What a good brother I am.

Well, that’s pretty much the story, a 35 cm+ snapper was also landed, and we fished into the change of light with fresh bait, but there just was no big snapper around. It was unfortunate that no kingi showed up, either.

The last days I’ve been thinking about what Sinclair mentioned recently. There is a lot to rockfishing. He went on for a 3 minute lecture on some technicalities of rockfishing, which would have been longer if his audience had been more interested in the subject of fishing. He’s right though, this type of rockfishing is rather involved. There is a lot to rockfishing, full stop. We arrived home at 2130, that’s when I filleted the catch, froze the frames and heads for later and prepared dinner. When Barry cleaned the dishes the next morning, that’s when this fishing session officially ended for me.

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