A Night on the Rocks…

The Black Jug Fishing Haggle – Competition was on last weekend. Around 120 anglers both local and quite a few from town spent the weekend fishing around Great Barrier Island trying to land that big snapper. This event is held twice annually on the Barrier and the main prize is for the heaviest Snapper. Winner takes it all. The Jackpot was around 6500 NZD this time and an angler from town won it with an 11-ish kg snapper.

The competition started at ‘high-noon’ on Friday and the last weigh-in was at 1700 on Saturday. The weather and conditions in general were quite bad. We had strong south-westerlies and an odd meter nor’-east swell. Meaning that both coasts (east and west) were quite hard to fish. You don’t want to cast into the wind when you are fishing off the rocks, you don’t want to expose yourself to a swell either. As it turned out, two friends and myself decided to do the rock fishing. Have a look at the Google-map at the bottom of the post to see where we were fishing.

We went to Johnson’s Bay in the Cape Barrier area, on the side that was most sheltered. Getting there was quite easy and we were standing on a ledge with deep water and heaps of kelp right in front of us. We got all our gear sorted and started berlying, and did our first casts at high-noon. There was a lot of commotion in the water, snapper biting, small kahawai turning up, many rays, a couple of nasty shags and a couple of squid. Really, we had perfect, fresh bait. I used fillets of fresh kahawai, fresh squid, kahawai heads and so on as big baits. At around 1800 we still hadn’t landed the big one, not even a decent one. The decision was made that our best chance would be to stay overnight on the rocks, keep berlying and fish the change of lights.

It’s been a long while, since I slept on the rocks… We fished until late in the night, by then my mate had landed a 2.5 kg snapper, which turned out to be the best of the trip, unfortunately… Our little fire kept us warm almost all night, but we ran out of wood early in the morning. So yeah, it was a bit uncomfortable on the rocks, a bit cold and although we hadn’t planned to stay overnight we had heaps to eat. I cooked a couple of snapper and my mate’s partner brought us some warm clothes and food. We fished from dawn until 1500 o’clock the next day and by then we were all exhausted and had enough of it. The wind, the occasional showers, the bad fishing, the cold and uncomfortable night had got to us. Personally, I was disappointed since all my live-baits were hassled by diving shags. Every time I put one out, some shag came along and did it’s nasty business to my bait. And if it wasn’t a shag, it was a ray. So yeah, all my big baits were eventually taken by rays of 10-30 kg.

There was a prize for a kingfish, but no one landed any. There were only a few fish caught. Almost 50% of the anglers – like myself – didn’t weigh in a fish at all, my biggest wasn’t even 2 kgs. But some did manage to catch the 20 pounders. I didn’t hear of any rock fisher to catch a big snapper. Second biggest snapper was 10.06 kgs.

The tournament organizers put up a feed and some entertainment on Saturday. Although being quite over it, I enjoyed a nice hangi dinner and a couple of beers before I got home and hit the sack.

We pretty much fished all the time and all of us were very optimistic, so it was full on and I didn’t take much time off to take pictures etc. Here are the few that I made….

J1 hooknig up to a ray. Well, he hoped it was a snapper. That is Rabbit Island in the background and the Coromandel Peninsular in the back-background.

We saw a seal right up close, he gave us a wink before cruising off. He was a good bugger, didn’t even tamper with our (live)-baits. There were some whales jumping in the background.

You can see the tail. I hear that when whales are showing off their tales and jumping around, they do so to mate.

Yeah, so far the fishing has been quite hard work for me, literally. This fishing session was physically more demanding than the Wharf to Wharf Marathon I did on the bike a couple weeks ago. What else remains than to stay optimistic about it and keep doing it? This appears to be the way I have to go forward anyway, as almost everything here is a challenge and you gotta stay positive. I kind of knew what I was getting into when I started the entire Great Barrier Island Project, but you hardly every REALLY know what you’re up against unless you have done it before. And I can understand that many think I live – as they say it – the dream and that – as some say – life couldn’t get any better. Well, let me remind you that you are right and wrong. Yes, it is a marvelous feeling to enjoying the rugged, beautiful nature of Great Barrier Island and living amongst it. But believe me, unless you’ve got a nice house and all the amenities, it is challenging, both physically and mentally. I’m staying strong and keep hoping that I have the right stuff to make it work here.

I hope all is good for you and that you’ve got it easier than me. My mom used to tell me to be happy with what I’ve got. I say used to, since that tone has changed over the years. Anyway, I’m learning about patience, about my own limits and about the fact that life is meant to be easy. Most of us are lucky enough to have a loving family, to be healthy and living in areas of this planet that are so civilized that we all have a certain high standard of living. However, as is human nature, we forget about what we have, we forget about how difficult others have it and consume more and more. I sincerely hope that all of YOU will have some time in your life-span where you appreciate the little things in life that are for free, the little things in life that almost all of us can achieve without having much money or influential associates.

I wonder – like so many before me – what happens to us when we die. Do we get a chance to look back at our whole life in an objective manner? Raising this questions I would assume that most of us don’t want to look at our life-achievements objectively. Clearly, it is so easy to believe what one wants to believe and the term success has unfortunately been raped so much that kids are brought up believing that material things are a measure of success.

Time to cook a feed and read the paper; a good night to all of you.

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