There’s nothing quite like the prospect of eight days straight fishing, especially when it is gamefishing with good mates. The NZ Sportfishing Council Nationals is a week I look forward to on the calendar each year. Smack bang in the middle of game season, the world is your oyster, you can fish anywhere you like, for pretty much whatever you like, and it usually produces some pretty special fishing.
Brett Collins, Anthony Honeybone and myself first fished this week long competition in 2008, primarily targeting kingfish, and Ants and myself have fished it every year since, mainly chasing gamefish. This year the plan was to fish it on Brett’s boat Ocean Hunter under the banner of ‘Team Tairua Butchery’, and Brett was amped to have a week of fishing booked in – normally he is processing and smoking other people’s catches this time of year!
Lines in on the first morning saw us wide of the Aldies and eventually at the Aldie pins where there had been a bit of action. One run over the Par 5 and the shotgun rigger went off, the Bonze D Schackle in Karma with the new Bonze light guage hooks got scoffed and we were hooked up on 15kg line. Tthere was a little run, not a lot of weight and the line angled down deep. I was on strike so took the rod and started to wind thinking an albie or little yellowfin had nailed it and how nice a little yellowfin might be for dinner. Next thing the line angled up, thoughts started racing through my head and the inevitable happened, a stripey started doing window wipers just behind the boat – yeeeoww!!! Stripey!! We’re on!! And its on 15!
At that stage Antsgunned the boat a little forward and the hooks finally went it and this stripey decided he wasout of here!! Man did it peel some line of the Tiagra 30!! We couldn’t keep up in reverse so the boat was swung and we were after it! There was a little nervous time as we nearly ran it over when it ran under the boat but the rod got chucked in freespool, and the old thumb got burnt up and it was all good. A good old scrap later of well over 1hr and a nice sized stripey was boatside and Brett stuck the tag in. On the board!
We had the fish by the boat for a while deciding whether it would go weight, we put a measure over the side and it looked about 2.4m so would be touch and go, in the end Brett made the call, first for the boat its coming home.
In the end ended up being 92kg and a good scoring fish on 15kg line. We were pretty stoked to be on the board on the first day.
Day 2 saw us working the same grounds and we’d made the call to call it quits on the marlin by 12 and head down to Mayor to try for a broabill swordfish. We trolled down until the water got pretty green then pulled the gear in and planed down to the back of Mayor. We were fishing with Bonze strobes, a 14/0 open guage hook, deadbait and breakaway weight. We put the sword baits down and popped the lids off a few Steiny Classics and waited. First drop produced nothing, but 15 minutes into the second drop a bit of weight came on and then a wee while later the line went slack – BITE! Brett was on and started cranking, it was hard to tell whether there was anything going on but half way up the rod loaded up and we were ON! A hearty battled ensued, one of the great things about sword fishing is you never really know what you have on until you see the fish, finally it came up and started waving its weapon around – “It’s a Swooord, everyone yelled.”!!! Then the fish headed back down scrapping head down tail up, man these things just dog down and scrap hard. Pretty soon we had it boat side and the gaffs went in, it wasn’t a monster but it was the sword we were after! Another first for Ocean Hunter and Brett’s first billfish as well. Stoked!
Day 3 saw us heading up to the Hook where there was a bit of action the avo prior. We got up there to find a pretty ugly sea building but heaps of bait and birds and very nice water. Game on! Pretty soon the short rigger with the Bonze Trojan in Retro popped, Ants was on the winding and pretty soon we had a nice mahimahi in the boot for weighing and dinner!
The sea really started to get ugly so we headed on a course back towards the Aldies, angling in where we could to Tairua without a very short sea pushing skewing the stern around. As we went through the middle ground the water went insanely blue and we started seeing good bait on the Furuno sounder, and just as I was thinking how ugly it would be to fight a fish in these conditions a very nice Blue Marlin came in and smoked the long rigger and my favourite lure – the Bonze apache in Taniwha. I was on the rod, and this was the fish I was hoping to tackle this week, just not in these conditions, and not on 24kg! We ran the fish down which was going absolutely nuts and there was white water everywhere, we got a whole lot of line back, but it was pretty ugly seeing the line pinging off the steep waves as we drove towards it and picked the line up out of the water. It came back and charged us, not sure if it collected some of the line on the way, but the next time it dogged down the line gave way. Bugger! We tried working the area a bit more but it was really getting crap so we headed for home. Day 4 was a lay day due to the easterly, which gave us the chance to rest the bones after the day prior.
Day 5 saw us towing to Whitianga with a big swell on the Tairua bar making it uncroasable, we were the only trailer in the Whitianga park, the swell was all of 3 metres in the morning and it was slow work heading back for the same marks in the middle ground. However, the sea really glassed off on the trip out and apart from a big ground swell the conditions were mean, the sun came out and we popped three Steiny Classics for good luck. The day got really good from there! It wasn’tlong before the Bonze D Shackle in Karma on the shotgun on 15kg got popped again, this time Ants was on, and another stripey went mental out the back as the light guage hooks dug in. This ended up being a monumental tustle on 15kg, with the fish wrapped around its tail, and being on 15kg we could never really put enough weight on him to get his head up boatside and he just dogged down like a basta** It was all of 1 ½ hours to get this stubborn fish to the boat, but we got him. Another billfish to add to Ants list!
We fished a bit wider in the avo, found some insane bird life, had a blue up in the gear, and then as we left the Bonze D Shackle on 15kg got smoked again by another stripey, Brett was on this time, and man this was a cool fish to drive on, it just went ape in all sorts of directions as well as charging the boat from in short, we had it real short the whole time and 15 minutes later we popped the tag in. Brett’s first stripey, he was stoked as! Two for the day, but that was not to be the end of the action.
Coming back through the middle ground the big angry Bonze DS in Taniwha I’d rigged up the night before got wolfed down on the short corner by an angry stripey. Brett was on the rod again and this one was on 24kg and we knocked this over pretty quick in 10 minutes, popped a tag in, again it was a real cool fish that went mental all around the boat.
Three fish for the day! Doesn’t happen too often in our kneck of the woods, especially in shallow so we were stoked as!! We headed for home on cloud nine and fair to say a few steiny's and Appletons and Jd's were consumed in the process!
Day 6. And Tony Carpenter jumped on for the last three days, he’d just come down from Tuts after a successful interview for his new decking job on the private boat The Rustler out of Tuts. Back into the middle ground, not a whole lot going on so we headed for the bait we had found out wide the day prior and literally ran a Blue over right by the boat, he swum around into the lures had a nosey at the Bonze Rambo on the rigger and swum away. We kept our track record of a fish every day intact with a couple of Mahi to Brett on the Bonze Hercules.
Day 7. We fished the morning in the middle ground and back of the Aldies again, before another date with the swordfish. Coming out of the middle ground the shotgun and D Schackle Bonze on 15kg went off again. Boys had the gear cleared pronto I was on the winding and Ants had the boat pretty close to the fish real quick, a stripey was waving its bill around on the surface and this time managed to shake the lure. Bugger. We worked it for a bit longer but the plan was to fish the mean water behind the Aldies wide on the way down to Mayor for another sword drop . I set a course, jumped off the wheel and went and took a little kip on the way down only to wake up and find the boys pulling the gear while we were still north of the Aldies in mean water! After little dummy spit about sticking to the plan and the gear got put back in and I went back to sleep until the ratchet went off 5 minutes later and another first for the boat, and for myself, my first ever Shortbill spearfish A solid one which went 25kg..
There was a bit of ribbing and and a little “I f**** told you so” hahaha Time was getting on so we gapped it to the Mayor, had one sword bite which didn’t stick and another by catch when Ants wound a big ling from the depths. After a bit of research Brett worked out it was actually real good eating and ended up being not to dissimilar texture to a small bass. Yum!
Day 8. Our last day, and after fishing dawn to dusk every day, the bones were getting a bit weary by now. The dilemma heading over the bar was Cuvier (where there had been some hot stripey action all week) or south to Mayor. The lure of another sword was too much and I swung the boat south, lets go smash one boys! We caught a couple of fresh skippies for fresh baits and had the lures out part of the way down but the water was pretty avg so we pulled them in and gapped it down the the Mayor. I’d said we wanted bait in around 11am, and the first bait hit the bottom bang on 11am. 2 minutes later the rod loaded up and Ants pushed the lever up with a whole lot of weight coming on. We didn’t know what to make of it, perhaps another ugly ling? Anyway, the conditions were glass calm, sun was pouring down and Ants went to work on what ever it was. Halfway up there was even more weight and the odd run, Ants was starting to hurt, it was a solid fish. Pretty soon we started to notice an ever so slight circle pattern to the line in the water, pretty good indication it was a sword dogging down. About 50 minutes in we got colour and it looked like a good sized sword! Mean!
Man these things just plug away under the boat, Tony got the leader a few times but it would motor off out of sight again. 1.20 in and this time the fish came boat side and two gaffs went into a solid sword – yeeeew!!!!
Ants was over the moon. He has knocked off a lot of mean fish in his time but a sword his something he had still to tick off the list. A dream come true.
We popped a few Steiny’s and toasted an absolutely choice week on the water. No point putting any more gear in the water, it was the perfect way to end it, we headed for home, got a weigh (94kg), and enjoyed a nice early finish to the last day. Done and dusted by 3, we went and dealt to a mountain of fish which needed vac packing.
-Top Team for Tairua
-2nd Broadbill Overall and 37kg Line Weight
-2nd Shortbill Overall and 24kg Line Weight
-3rd Broadbill Team Overall
But most importantly a bloody good week with bloody good mates! Thats a wrap - chur