Every once in a while a trip comes along which has all the ingredients to make it something very special. I was amped up for Mays trip to the Three Kings for a number of reasons and reflecting on why pretty much sums up what fishing is all about for me.
The first was the chance to fish with two people I grew up fishing with, my best mate Mark and father Graham. Had it not been for them I doubt I would be that mad keen on fishing as I am today. The second was the chance to fish with the legendary charter skipper Rick Pollock. I grew up reading magazines and fishing books filled with stories of various epic battles aboard his boat Pursuit. The third was the chance to get away from it all and have a fish myself, get my arms well and truly stretched on some mint fishing gear and come home with some quality fish for the table. Finally, the chance to fish a new location – one of NZ’s best, my first trip to the Three Kings, a spot I’d read about for years – crazy structure, big currents and monster bass and kingfish. To say I was amped was an understatement really.
TIME TO HIT THE THREE KINGS!
After two months of stockpiling gear for the trip it took a good week to pack everything, then repack and pack again. Finally Dad arrived and we just managed to fit everything in the wagon and we were off to the Far North! As we traversed up the coast, so did a vicious front and the abnormally humid May conditions swung round to a brisk southwester. By the time we met up with the rest of the crew (Mark Edwards, Doug Edwards, Drew Edwards and Paul Ensor) and packed everything aboard Pursuit it was time to put on the thermals. We set sail into some sloppy conditions and crossing Great Exhibition Bay with the wind against the current we were greeted with the conditions we were in store for, for the rest of the trip. Crap. Time to hold on. At North Cape it was decision time, gales sweeping across the country we weren’t promised the most comfortable trip but as Rick succinctly put it “It is what it is!” Even better “if the wind swings around tonight we’ll have the worst night at the Kings we’ve had for two years. That being the case I can promise you the night from hell.” With the scene set, Rick gave us the option of staying at North Cape or carrying on to the Kings and fishing the King Bank the next day. Our quickest decision of the whole trip, we were off to the Kings! Time to harden up!
It was pretty surreal leaving the North Island in some pretty big seas, half way across we toasted our decision with a few beers and in fact the further North we got the wind eased, the seas were still huge but the super stable Pursuit with its deep draft and huge beam just ploughed through them and Rick was expertly on and off the throttle the whole way giving us a smooth ride in the scheme of things. Zayne spent a large part of the trip across delving into tackle bags and rigging enough marlin, kingi and puka traces for everyone. We got our first view of the Three Kings at a distance as the sun set and by the time we arrived the steep cliffs were silhouetted in the moonlight making the place look absolutely mystical. We were treated to the first of many fantastic dinners aboard Pursuit and spent a pretty good night at anchor considering.
The next morning we woke to the sound of Pursuits twin Yanmars purring and Rick steamed around into North West bay to fill the livebait tank with koheru. Koheru are Rick’s bait of choice at the Kings. The kohies were caught using 10 pound fluorocarbon leader and either baited gamakatsu livebait hooks or 5-8gm Grim reaper or halco jigs. Both caught an equal amount of kohies. It was a great way to start the morning, catching koheru is a challenge in itself and we had the smell of bacon, hash browns and eggs wafting from the galley as an incentive to get our job done quickly. Kingfish often come to the party in the bay as well, Rick says sometimes the fishing has been so good in there they haven’t left the bay until 1pm. We had some follows on stickbaits and Doug managed a nice 15kg model in the shallows on a livie.
It was time to chase some marlin. We headed to the King Bank to a kink on the North East corner Rick called “The Magnet”. The temperature was a cool 15 degrees but Rick quoted Bruce Smith “at this time of year on the King Bank don’t even look at your temperature gauge.” And one boat had got a double there the day before so we knew they were there. Having all six anglers drifting koheru is Rick’s mode of operation for marlin at the Kings. One balloon is set astern, the rest of the anglers lining the rail alternating between surface straylined livebaits and a couple of baits set down 50-60m. When a marlin takes the bait anglers wait 15-20 seconds before dialing the reel to strike, taking up the slack and hitting the fish. Unlike a lot of boats who chase down fish immediately, Pursuit’s engine is left off and everyone keeps their baits in the water for as long as possible. More often than not Rick says it will end up in multiple hook ups. The most anglers he has had hooked up at one time was six, resulting in five marlin to the boat! The hard part comes when more than one fish heads in opposite directions. A few spoolings have occurred, and more than once (three times to be exact) the angler has agreed to snap swivel their game reel to another set up and let it be dragged off in the water! Two of those resulted in the reel being retrieved together with the fish. On the other, the fish was lost but the reel came back. “You want to make sure you get your reel serviced pronto after doing that” Rick laughs.
Had we waited the day out for the marlin bite I’m sure we would have ended up getting into them but after an hour most of the guys were itching to get their arms stretched on kingfish and bass further down the bank so after two drifts we changed plan and got the jigging gear out.
SCREAMING REELS AND SORE ARMS
First drift we lined the rail with a mix of arsenal. Drew “nothing escapes the wall of death” Edwards chose a Lucanus, he was dead set on catching bass all week! (Drew has spent a lot of time himself skippering at the kings and a monster bass was all he had left to tick off.) Dad, myself and Mark chose jigs for kingfish. Paul a live koheru for kingfish and Doug was fishing flasher rig for king terahki. We came back with a full house, everyone loaded up at the rail on their target species of choice! Doug’s tarakhi looked like it was on steroids, and bugger me if Drew didn’t get a stocky bass on Lucanus!
Next drift and Dad and myself were both loaded up on some freight trains! The wind had died off the afternoon sun warmed us up and it doesn’t get much better than being pulled to the rail with your old man! That afternoon will stay in the memory banks for ever I reckon.
Rick put tags in our first full sized Three Kings kingfish and we were back at the rail for the next drop! I was using my new MC Works Full Glass spin rod and Daiwa Expedition 6500. It was reassuring to know I had about as much stopping power as I can physically hold on to should I hook into the fish of a lifetime. Attached was a Shout jig hook on Shout assist cord and Jigging Master rocket rig.
The next fish had me in a whole lot of trouble! Time to lock it up and hold on! I’d packed the reel with 100lb braid for the trip and was glad I’d done so. The arms got a real work over and pretty soon we had a mid 20kg kingfish on deck.
The next drift Mark got spanked by a kingfish on his Jigstar 350 and PE5 but did well to keep it out of the reef, it looked the fish of the day so far, then the unthinkable happened the hook pulled under the boat. Bugger mate!
Next drop I went to a 500gm Broken Arrow jig and to make it easier on the arms I went to an MC Works Southern Blue 516 and Jigging Master PE8 reel. A couple of slow jigs off the bottom, then two cranks a bit faster and I was on, this time with a whole heap more weight!! Thank god for the stopping power of the PE8. I knew this was a whole heap more fish and sure enough a whole lot of colour ended up at the boat. We measured the fish at 1.38m, I got some time at the other end of the camera “can I put it down yet?” while Zayne snapped some shots off on my camera.
“You guys want to drop again?” Hell yeah! As long as we lined up on the rail Rick would keep putting you on this fish and it was a session I will remember for a long time, hooked up with the fellas!
LOADED UP ON THE BIG BOYS!
To put it bluntly, the King Bank kicked our butts the next day. The wind and seas were crazy and with a full moon the currents were insane. While we tried it was pretty much unfishable. The highlight of the day was the bass cooked to perfection by Sam, hand on my heart the nicest fish I’ve eaten. Rick is great with his communication, each day we were given the low down on the weather and what our options were for the next day, and for the following day we were given the option of fishing the King Bank again, primarily for kingfish and the odd bass, or concentrating on bass and puka two hours back towards North Cape at “The Fingers”. Rick hit the sack after a hard day at the helm and left us debating what we were going to do. After three hours and plenty of rum we had a consensus.
The next morning we bode the Kings farewell and headed for the Fingers. Rick mentioned to me “if you really want a big bass put one of those koheru on” if there is anyone who should have known better than me to do something different than what the skipper suggested it is me, but I was dead keen to get one on a jig. As we lined up at the rail Rick snuck two koheru on Drews dropper rig and it had not even hit the bottom before he was railed on a very big fish. Everyone else hooked into kingfish on jigs, and good ones at that. Drew did some hard yards and a while later a huge bass hit the surface. It was the biggest bottom fish I’ve ever seen, just a monster! “I owe you one of those from the last trip” said Rick. Drew has done a lot of time at the Kings and this was his goal, we were all stoked he had got what he came for. Rick, Zayne and Sam got the fish on the scales and the official weight went 67kg. A huge fish and Pursuit’s biggest Bass of the season!
Marko came away with a nice 20kg puka on the next drift, again on a live koheru. By this time everyone had switched to live koheru, both Dad and I were using Mustad hapuka rigs with 13/0 hooks, they are the only pre made puka rigs that Zayne and Rick like to use, and the next drift saw Dad and me both well and truly railed, again a moment which will stick in the memory for a long time. I locked the reel up and my MC Works 516 buckled over. Who says puka don’t pull hard, this one slammed me up to the rail. Line was pouring off Dad’s Accurate reel and his Accurate Slammer 250 was bent like a sprat rod! By the time I got my puka up, a new PB of 34kg, Dad was still in a whole lot of pain and Rick called it for another big bass. Sure enough a monster popped up. Holy hell! We had another 60kg monster! Dad and I lined up for a photo and he will have the bragging rights on that session for many years to come!
Next drift and I was smacked up to the rail again. By this time the arms were really hurting and I was super impressed with the MC Works fighting belt I was using, you can really put some leverage on the fish and never once did the belt try to slip around, in fact with the harness underneath it is pretty much immovable. This time an even bigger puka popped up, on the weigh scales it went a whopping 42kg, and this was Pursuit’s biggest puka of the season, and a PB puka I can’t see myself topping in the foreseeable future!
One more drift and Drew, Doug and myself all came up solid on a mix of bass and puka in the 20kg mark and in the end we made the call to drive away. We had nowhere near our limit, yet we had more than enough quality eating fish and to take any more would have been a waste. Zayne and Sam slaved away filleting the catch and packing it away, all our belly flaps were saved for smoking.
For the rest of the day Rick lined us up on one kingfish after the other, I kept on lining up at the rail, arms sore and kept jigging until thankfully just as the arms were too sore to lift it was time to head back to North Cape. As we neared the North Cape one of the game reels started to sing and Mark’s trusty Apache in angry squid came up solid on a nice albacore on 15kg, Paul doing the honours. After rolling around in our bunks for three nights at the Kings the white dunes of Parengarenga Harbour were a welcome sight and we spent a restful night catching up on sleep.
RACING THE ORCAS
The next day we chose to chase some Bluenose at the Garden Patch. A spot I’ve heard a lot about and I was pretty excited about finally getting a chance to fish it. We were fishing in 300m plus and I was glad to have borrowed an Avet T Rex and 130lb custom rod from well known fishing identity Boulder. Boulder fishes a few times a year with Rick and suggested it was one set up I should definetly take up. We downgraded to smaller hooks on our dropper rigs and Zayne rigged them up with 200lb this time. Everyone else with two rigs, in typical fashion Drew doubled his up with four! I added a 500gm Broken Arrow to my 32oz sinker to add a bit of lumo to the rig and was the first to load up, I waited about ten seconds and a second Bluenose jumped on. Drew waited until he had a few on then we both went to work until NOOO...we both came up solid on some old commercial lines that the Garden patch is renowned for being littered with. This is where the T Rex and Calstar really came into their own. Buckled up in my Black Magic harness both Drew and I went to work in tandem and eventually freed our rigs, if that wasn’t enough our next hurdle was getting the Bluenose past waiting Orca, after some desperate cranking I succeeded albeit with a few bite marks!
One more drift and this time Mark, myself and Dad were all loaded and cranking on the rail. The T Rex knocked mine over so quick and Mark managed to just escape with one bite mark. The Orca sure added some adrenaline to the Bluenose fishing.
Soon enough time came to call it quits and head for home. It was time to get back to Mangonui and get Pursuit ship shape for Rick’s next crew, a film crew from China and Singapore testing out a whole lot of jigging and stickbait gear.
The trip was all I had hoped for and more. I’d got to spend some awesome time at the rail with family and friends. The arms were sore and we’d experienced some bottom fishing which will take some beating. The trip to the Kings was an experience in itself.
Mark summed things up perfectly in a way only he can when he described the Three Kings islands on the way out to the bank one morning “The way they jut straight out of the ocean, its like they’re there to remind us we’re just visitors, that we’ve got to earn any fish we get here.” That pretty much sums up our trip I think. We worked hard in some challenging conditions but got some awesome fishing in return. A big thanks to Mark for organising the trip for us all.
As for Pursuit I can only say good things. A slick operation run by professional hard working crew. The hospitality and catering was a highlight in itself and no matter how hard you fish you’ll come away 2kg heavier! As a charter operator myself the measure of how well I’ve done is whether people rebook when they return home. I’ve already sent Rick an email about next year.
SHOPPING LIST FOR THE THREE KINGS
When you spend the money to go to the Three Kings you do not want to go undergunned. I’d recommend taking:
-Minimum 80lb rig for kingfish. I took two 100lb braid Spin rods jigging sets and a 100lb overhead plus a lighter 50lb set for when the arms got tired. Having some back up sets is a good idea, if you get busted you are back in business straight away
-Larger capacity 100lb braid rod and reel for deeper fishing for blue nose (and for bass if you want reel lugs to do battle with them!).
-37kg mono marlin rod and reel
-Black Magic harness and belt for the above two sets
-Bait rod for koheru
-Snapper rod in the event the weather keeps you at North Cape
-Stickbait rod and reel or surface action
The following list is a mixture of things Rick specifices plus a few bits and pieces of specialist jigging tackle that I thought are worth adding:
-Mixture of livebait hooks, Owner, Gamakatsu, Black Magic or similar 11/0 and 10/0 for marlin and mixture of 9/0 through to 6/0 for kingfish.
-Mixture of Mustad circle hooks, 15/0 – 13/0 for Bass/Puka and smaller 8/0 for Bluenose
-Selection of trolling lures, ensuring some are well weighted or will run in any conditions. On Pursuit these are set every time the boat moves between spots.
-300lb trace for marlin livebaiting and puka rigs
-200lb trace for bluenose rigs
-130lb trace for kingfish rigs
-Plenty of crimps and sleeve material to suit the above traces
-If jigging minimum 120lb fluorocarbon for leaders, Jigging Master figure eight rings, split rings, 300lb assist cord and 13/0 jig hooks. I crimped all my rings for this trip with tube protection.
-Assortment of jigs 400 – 500gm best. Bottom weighted jigs like the Broken Arrow and Jigging Master jigs area ideal in the strong currents and fast drifts.
-Assortment of slow rigs and Lucanus style jigs
-Assortment of sinkers from 32oz bombs to 6 and 8oz for livebait rigs
-Gamakatsu koheru hooks, Grim reaper or halco 8gm bait jigs, 10lb fluorocarbon and split shot
-Your own braid scissors and split ring/mono cutting pliers and crimping tool
-A good selection of large stickbaits and hooks/rings
-Good idea to take spare bulk spool of braid for respooling
-Pretty much anything else you can think of, if there is one place that is ideal for trying new gear or techniques, this is the fishery to do it.
-One handy tackle box with multiple plastic boxes like the Black Magic system is an ideal set up on Pursuit, plus a few tackle rolls for lures and jigs. Keep in mind the seas and you want one or two bags which won’t slide around on deck.
-A good sized chilly bin is good to leave in your car for transferring fillets into, and good sized bags good to take on board for those puka fillets.