Low tide was at around 6 in the morning today and I was on the rocks, with a bait in the water at about the same time. The shop was out of berley yet again and all I had to catch and attract fish was a kilo of defrosted squid. Conditions were actually great, hardly any wind, overcast and I was wearing my new polarized sunglasses. I was hoping to catch a kahawai straight away and use it as a live bait to hook a kingfish.
I was on the spot where I had previously encountered or had believed to encounter kingfish more or less regularly. Today I was wearing my new polarized shades which would enable me to identify kingis without any doubt. Well, unfortunately, there was no kahawai or any bait fish around, I was fishing with two rods. One bait further out and on the bottom on a 6/0 size circle hook and one bait floating close by the rocks on a 3/0 size. Today was the first day I fished completely without swivels, tying a blood bight knot on the main line to make a loop, to which the trace is attached without a swivel.
So yeah, I was excited, had gotten up really early, the sun started rising, but all I was catching were undersized snapper. There were plenty around and they were all hungry and very keen on the baits. At around 0630, that is after half an hour of fishing, just on the turn of the low tide, I noticed shadows following my bait from the bottom. Yupp, there were 3 kingfish, biggest around a meter I guess. One of them was very eagerly following a small snapper I had caught on the small hook, any movement by the snapper trying to free itself aroused the kingi to come closer to it and to chase it briefly. But surely, I wasn’t going to land a kingi who was having a go at a small snapper that was hooked in the mouth with a small hook.
I chucked some pieces of bait into the water and rushed to my gear, put a surface popper on the biggest rod and was feeling good. If things go well, I’d land one of them in the next 5 minutes and can start heading back home.
However, those bloody kingfish, they are a great sight, no matter if they are hunting, feeding or just swimming by, but they sure are temperamental fish. I casted and retrieved the popper about 20 times, covering different areas, but absolutely no sign. Nothing. Not the first time that it had happened to me, high hopes of playing and landing a kingi off the rocks diminishing within seconds and turning into a mixture of frustration and questioning. Are they still around? Should I keep casting the popper? How am I going to catch bait? Are they going to come back? Was that it, should I pack up?
I ended up alternating two rods, casting and retrieving the popper a few times, then casting squid on the small hook in an effort to land a kahawai. By 0900 I had enough, took the popper off and put a snapper rig on the big rod and fished both rods simultaneously. It sure didn’t look promising, one small snapper after the other, a couple of hiwihiwi and that’s about it. Meanwhile, I was crushing mussels and throwing them into the kelp, hoping to attract some bigger snapper.
Needless to say that I wasn’t feeling too confident any more, the sun was high enough to burn the clouds away, it was getting hot, the wind had completely dropped and without any berley I wasn’t attracting any fish and this particular spot has never given me many decent-sized snapper. I didn’t want to go home empty handed and all I could do now was think fish, hope fish, speak fish and see fish.
An hour later, I was still in my ‘fish-meditating-process’ when the bloody kingis reappeared. This time the whole family was there, a school of about 8 fish right in close, inspecting my bait and causing a bit of a frenzy when I chucked them pieces of squid. Chasing to the surface, splashing water, competing against each other…
I wasn’t going to go and change to a popper rig again, thought of getting my camera out of my pocket and taking some pictures, but decided to trick a kingi to taking my bait. I chucked a small piece of squid on my 6/0 circle hook and retrieved it on the surface quickly, causing splashing water and some noise. The school rushed after it, one of them almost had it in its mouth, but then turned its head. I did that again, and on the third time, this time allowing the bait to sink a bit deeper, I managed to hook one, I saw the chase, the moment where it took the bait into its mouth and the moment when it realized it was hooked.
Yeeehah, it was pulling line, every time it pulled hard, trying to go deep, I tightened the drag half a notch. There was a good balance between the drag and the pulling fish, it took 5-6 meters, I gained 5-6 meters, it never really got a chance to go deep and swim back underneath the rocks. Meanwhile a second kingi, its bigger brother was following the kingi on the end of my line. After 2-4 minutes, it was clearly tired out, it kept pulling but couldn’t even take 2 meters of line -maybe it had realized that and wasn’t tired after all, it just realized it wasn’t able to swim away – I had him swimming sideways a few times and the circle hook was in the corner of the mouth.
And then, I screwed it up. I looked back to my home-made gaff, it was with my back pack and too far away, then I looked at the fish, it was a rat, I wasn’t too sure if it was bigger than 75 cm, it certainly looked big. I decided to grab the leader and drag it out. The ledge is quite steep and if you fall, you will fall into the water, I wanted to avoid that and got as near as I could to the edge of the ledge, the fish was tired by now. For whatever reason I didn’t grab my wet towel, I usually use it to secure the leader. My leader was 60 pound, I lifted the fish, the hook was going to hold, the fish looked a bit smaller though than I first anticipated. Second mistake, I rested it on the rocks right by the water and had a better look at it. It was a close call in terms of being more than 75 cm, I grabbed the tail with my left hand, the rod in my arm pit and had the leader in the right hand.
Well, needless to say what happened next. When I lifted the fish, it shook, it’s really not easy holding a fish by it’s tail without gloves, then the leader broke and the kingi torpedo-ed itself into the water and swam away, giving me a very hostile and long look.
I wasn’t too angry about what had happened, it was my own fault, chances of securing the fish were much higher with the wet towel, which was next to me and which I should have used to grab the leader. In retrospect it was good that the gaff wasn’t close by, I would have gaffed the fish and right now, writing this, I would say that the fish border-line legal, if that. It could have been worse, I could have landed in the water…
I’m looking at this whole experience positively, now I have a plan on how to fish that spot, I know that my fully stretched left arm, from the pit to the tip of the middle finger is 76 cm, I will have my gaff ready and will put the popper on the big rod around low tide…
To my surprise, I landed not long after a decent pan-sized snapper, the only one close by today. Surely, that snapper was a consolation, at least I’ve got something fine to eat for dinner tonight and have more reasons to remain excited about this particular spot.
On the way back I noticed this nice little drop and had a closer encounter with the mighty bull. So far, so good, but the bull and its horns are massive. Good thing I’ve got Rani with me…