First Fish of the Year

I went rockfishing on the southern side of Medland’s Beach last Saturday, also known as shark alley. Almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived at the DOC camping ground where I park my car; there were people camping! I counted 6+ tents. The next surprise occurred when I walked over the bridge, there were lots of cars with trailers parked on the beach. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to see people spending time on the Barrier and enjoying the island, I was just surprised.

No queues at this ‘ramp’, but still a lot of activity for this
part of the world.

For a moment I thought there might be a few land based fishermen around the corner, too. For an even briefer moment I hoped to see the very elusive land based hotties fishing off the rocks (I’ve heard stories that land based hotties actually exist, in one particular case the hottie showed up out of no where and went for a nude swim. That counts as a LBH.)

Anyway, let me assure you that it was a great feeling walking up the hill and down on the other side, onto the rocks and walking to ‘my spot’. Rani enjoyed herself very much as well, and part of the pleasure of land based fishing is the hike/climb on the beaches and coastlines, watching, hearing the sea, feeling the breeze and taking pleasure of the solitude and the emotions of being in a relaxed state of mind. Sometimes it feels like there is no one else, nothing else and thus, thoughts become very simple and worry-free.

Rani excited and thirsty, but she didn’t want a drink at the river. She’s a good girl, but not the smartest out there; we’ve done this trip a few times…
This is with a 10-15 knot side-on wind and it felt like
it doubled by the time I was fishing.

There was, unfortunately, a strong and quite annoying north-east wind which hits the entire ledge side-on. It felt like 20 knots plus with stronger guts. The forecast was south westerlies and I checked the marine radio before I had left, but it was one of those days where the wind was just all over the place, I suppose.

The fishing was difficult and challenging from the beginning, I was fishing the outgoing tide but the wind supported the half a meter swell which kept washing onto the ledge. Not much, but enough to un-pimp my duct-taped shoes. The swell was very well behaved, quite formal but due to these circumstances I could simply not look into the water at all. In addition, casting out even 10 meters was useless, since the wind picked the slack line up thus dragging my bait on the surface. I tried a quarter ounce sinker, this allowed the bait to sink, but the slack line was still being picked up by the wind and I could not feel a thing through the line. As a result I kept snagging up on the bottom and the baits got taken off within seconds.

The wind increased more and more and I invited it to do so even more, I wasn’t going to budge, wasn’t going to go away without a feed and wasn’t going to get angry about it either.

Well, after 2 hours, my confidence wasn’t that strong any more, still nothing, but one hiwihiwi after another. I dropped the bastards all into the omnipresent rock pools. You’ve got to watch your feet here, there are many deep rock pools and some sneak up on you if you’re not careful.

Oh boy, did I catch hiwihiwis on that day. I kept telling myself to stay calm because I will eventually hook a snapper, and when the fishing is tough and things are difficult, it is even more important to concentrate on what you are doing. You might get only one chance and if you muck that up, then you will be angry.

Suddenly something took my bait and the baitfeeder was releasing line, while counting to three I put my right hand on the spool to slow it down just a little bit and managed – for the first time ever – to touch the drag knob with my thumb while the spool was turning. This action resulted in the drag becoming looser and looser, a little bit more and the spool would have come off the reel. Well, when I put the baitfeeder in strike mode, the shit had already hit the fan, the drag was just as loose as on baitfeeder mode and moments later the fish had freed itself.

Talking about concentrating on what you are doing…

Every now and then the wind stopped for a few seconds, just enough for me to perform a decent cast and allow the stray-line to sink a little. Well, I could even see into the water and there were heaps of fish swimming in front of my feet. Sweep, maomao, leather jacket, bastard hiwihiwis and there were even kahawai. I had no clue how long they had been there, also had no clue why I didn’t hook a kahawai.

What was going to happen next? Was I going to fall into the water, drop my rod? The wind picked up more and more, so much that my eyes were watering…

I fished around my feet with a stray-line and a small size 4/0 hook and finally landed a few of those small kahawai. I put one away for Rani, another was going to be used as bait. Before casting a fresh kahawai head out to land a nice snapper, I landed a decent kahawai. After that 5 or 6 snapper, all around 25cm-30cm and I just chucked them all back without
checking.

No luck on the kahawai head though and after losing it in the foul, I decided to call it a day. I kept a (forgot the name, is it a spotty?), which I mistook for a parrot fish, then thought of releasing it but also thought Rani would enjoy another fish. She loves the gills and any snapper or kahawai she happily munches on when I allow her to, but that spotty?, that just wasn’t for her. She didn’t even had a go at it when I opened it up and I wasn’t going to fillet it for her either.

I had a well deserved feed of kahawai and Rani munched on the frames, which she deserved as well. She’s been a good girl.

The bag for the day. Another kahawai was used as bait and Rani got one to eat while I was packing my gear.
Just enough time to get home, fillet the fish and have a shower before it gets dark.

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