Great Barrier Island Kingfish – Rockfishing

My mate from Paul, from Lightwater England, arrived on Thursday. He had a rough sail over, the wind was gusting from southwest with speeds up to 40 knots and I wasn’t too sure if the ferry is going to leave Auckland at all. But it did and arrived here only a couple of hours later than usual. We drove up to BENIsLAND and unpacked, chatted, drank and made heaps of plans for fishing. Unfortunately, the forecasts were not that promising; more wind and gusts.

On Friday we went for a quick fish at the wharf in Tryphena. A nice king fish had been landed there just recently and many more had been sighted. There was a bit of commotion going on at the wharf, we weren’t the only ones fishing. The bait fish were there, but they were difficult to catch. Very difficult. Paul had briefly a live bait out, he casted poppers, but to no avail. We ended up landing a nice kahawai with big and full roes, which became our dinner. We couldn’t fish on Saturday due to bad weather.

Sunday we went to Oruawharo Bay (Medland’s Beach; see google maps at top of the post). We got up at 0530 and were fishing by 0730-ish. The berely was deployed, the usual visitors were around. Big rays, kahawai, some blue maomao and the occasional piper. We fished hard, but didn’t see a king fish at all. Conditions were good; a good number of bait fish around, kahawai feeding hard in the berley trail, the sun was out all day, there was heaps of current and white water and just an insignificant swell. But, no king fish at all. Paul couldn’t believe it. While he was focusing on them king fish I focused on dinner and after adding some kinas to the berley, I caught one snapper and we had a few kahawai to go with it.

Paul checking the ledge out.
A small kahawai to be used as live bait.
Got up way too early…
Very promising ledge with a lot of potential. Not today though…
A view from the top. The ledge is quite long. The water 10-15 m deep.
Nice views of the East Coast beaches.
Walking back to the car. Rani is so well behaved.
Oruawharo Bay on a sunny and calm day.

Monday morning, same thing. Get up at 0530 and head to Cape Barrier. We got to the end of Cape Barrier Road and saw that the wind was just too strong. It would have been quite uncomfortable standing on those rocks and trying to live bait. Thus, the plan was changed and we drove to the Tryphena Wharf and walked around to the light house. We berleyed hard, I caught a good eating size snapper and a trevally and Paul was as usual doing the best to catch a king fish. He had a live piper out, there was heaps of current but he wasn’t too sure about it: “I don’t think there are any king fish on the Barrier.” He was mumbling in disappointment. You see, land based fishing can be hard work. Carrying all the gear out onto a remote rock, standing there in the wind and sun trying to catch, deploy and manage live baits. Always looking at the water in case a school of king fish runs through. Not too long after his statement a school of king fish came up real close, suddenly there were gannets diving right in front of us and we could see the bait fish ‘flying’ out of the water. King fish are not only elusive, they are predators and won’t just take a dead bait (usually that is). That means when you sight them, a pleasant and exciting sight!, you still have to outsmart them and get them to hook up. Then you have to land them and that’s another story. Usually, you see them, they have a look at what your throwing into the water. The dead baits, the poppers and lures, the live baits, come up real close, have a look at you and the before mentioned and then cruise away. That’s kind of what happened. Paul is, however, obsessed with these fish and doesn’t give up. He tried a few tricks and finally managed to hook one up. He got a few hook ups alright! All on dead piper, skidded through the water. I think he lost the first, the hook pulled out. He landed the second, by then I was quite far away actually, and while I was running up to him with the net, gaff and the camera – it’s kind of funny, we saw schools of 10-15 kingis run through, but it all happens always in few seconds, not enough time to get the camera out and get a picture – and when I got close he already had the fish in his arms. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but I got a chance to see how the fish slapped him into the face and slipped through his arms back into the water. It was a ‘rat’ anyway, a fish less than 60 cm.

Well, the berley was doing the trick, we had heaps of birds above us, and the king fish ‘hung’ around. They hid in the deeper waters and shot close the ledge whenever a popper was casted. I had them following the popper a few times but just didn’t manage to get the hookup… Paul got another one on a dead piper which pulled strongly and immediately, and managed to get into the foul. The fish was on, the line was caught in heavy seaweed and that was the case for 30 minutes. Paul released the drag, gave the fish a bit more line, started retrieving some line again, but the fish was clearly stuck. At stages we could see the reflections of it in the water, it was about 4-6 meters deep and a just a few meters away. He wanted me to jump into the water and get the fish, but I just wasn’t too keen on the idea. No fins, no mask, I probably wouldn’t have been able to untie the line. Instead, he did the only thing that he could, he pulled hard on the line and it broke…

It was an exciting day, the kingis came and went and then came again. Finally, he landed one on a dead piper – obviously the dead piper were the right bait for them, but since they first showed there was no piper to be seen in the water and we only had around 3 of them – which was a rat too. We took a picture and released him, he was around 65 cm. 75 cm is the size limit for king fish. We packed in and on the way back to the car, I noticed how exhausted I was. Paul was contemplating if there were any big king fish in Tryphena at all:”You know Ben. This was all good, but I doubt there are any big fish on the West coast…”

Our berley trail meeting up with the current line.
Livebaiting piper.
A ray checking out the berley.
Dinner. The trevally was 30 cm.
Taking a break.


A diving bird right in front of us. The make a huge splash and heaps of noise. We had 8 diving at the same time at a stage…
Paul hooked up and snagged in the foul.
Paul on point….
A ‘rat’ Kingi; 65 cm, landed on a dead piper.
And released back into the water…

Tuesday morning, we got up a bit later, I had to insist and went to Schooner Bay. We hiked along the beach to the point (see google map). My back pack was heavier than usual, 3 rods in one hand, a bucket in the other. I had to help Rani here and there on the rocks. She looked quite exhausted too. I pulled a muscle in my neck – I can tell you it’s quite stiff at the moment – and was very relieved when we got to the point. My first cast, after sorting the berley and the gear out, then I sat down on a rock, and felt a huge take. It felt like a snapper and by the time I got up and engaged the drag, it was all over. Bugger! Quickly a few more casts, the snapper were there right in front of us in the kelp. Boom again a heavy take, it was pulling line, suddenly the neck didn’t hurt anymore, suddenly I was all awake and happy to be there. I managed to lift the nose of the fish and gained some line and just when I saw some color in the water, the hook came out. I had pressure on the fish all the time, so I don’t think he spat the hook, it must have been very loosely hooked and I put too much pressure on the fish. But such is rockfishing, you gotta keep the pressure up, otherwise they run you into the reef or foul and snag you. Even Paul was catching snapper on this day. We didn’t see a single piper or kahawai, so we had no live baits out at all. No dead pipers either… Paul sighted a few king fish that I didn’t see. Suddenly, we saw a school of piper jumping out of the water and coming around the point, followed by a school of king fish. Until we got the popper rod close by and casted a few poppers the kingis were gone again.

The ledge at the southern point in Schooner Bay.
The juicy hills of the Coromandel in the ‘wet’ background.
And again a feed on juicy snapper.

In summary, we gave it heaps and tried hard. Always caught a good feed of snapper, on two occasions saw schools of king fish, landed one and took a decent picture, saw some big rays, diving birds and both lost a few kilos of weight. It’s raining at the moment, my neck is stiff as and I’m going to take it easy today. No work, no fishing, nothing much at all. I’ll be working on Thu and Fri, the weather should come right on Saturday and hopefully we are out there somewhere on a rock, we both want to eagerly fish Cape Barrier, fishing for those kingis. I’ll be packing lightly though.

12 thoughts on “Great Barrier Island Kingfish – Rockfishing”

  1. Hey Ben is that Paul the same Paul that John use to fish with alot?

    How long is he over there for and his is heading to coro afterwards? Have a few more trips planned for up there over the next few weeks.


    1. Heya Jade, yes, same Paul. He’ll be here for another week, than heading to PJ. He’ll be there for 3-4 weeks, I think. Well worth going fishing with him.

  2. sehr schön und ich drück euch die daumen, daß ihr auch noch die mama von den ratten verhaftet!
    kannst ja mal einem meiner köder ne chance geben….die könnten ab montag auf der insel ankommen.
    viel spaß noch auf den felsen

    1. Hey Moe, leider ist das Wetter katastophal. Es regnet ununterbrochen, die Ostkueste hat 2m swell, der Wind ist stark auf der Suedkueste und andauernd regen. Wir kommen zu gar nichts… Aber hey, such is life…

    1. cheers John, I take you didn’t go to the light house yesterday. Weather is crap, really unfortunate, we were hoping to get out there and land some decent kingis but it’s just miserable out there…

  3. Great write up on our fishing for the first week Benny. The pic with the gannet diving is superb. Despite how it looks in the pictures the weather was pretty awful for the 2 weeks I was on the Barrier and it was frustrating to only fish maybe 6 sessions in 2 weeks (I will normally fish every day). I did have one entertaining afternoon at the Schooner Bay spot which yielded another 3 kingfish (albeit rats) which had me running in every direction between trying to fish live piper, live kahawai and throw a popper/dead piper. I must have seen well over 50 kingis but outside the one that I lost in Tryphena I’m not sure any of them were over 75cm. There’s definitely some great fishing to be had on Great Barrier Island and I’ll be back next year to have another go and hopefully hit some bigger fish and also have a crack at Cape Barrier.

    As an aside I spent the next 3 weeks at Port Jackson up in the Coromandel which can be seen in one of these pics. I can’t say the weather was great but I’m pretty familiar with the area and will usually get out unless it’s raining hard out. I caught 4 fish around the 35-40lb mark and a substantial number of rats but also had plenty of quiet days when we did everything right but just didn’t get the strike. Had a lot of fun putting some other people onto fish too. Didn’t get smoked by any of the big guys either which was nice, although I would have liked a shot at one!

    Thanks for looking after me over there Ben, despite some rather inclement weather I had a great time and it was good to have a look around and see how you’re getting on. It’s not easy having all that solitude and then being invaded for 2 weeks by a cantankerous English beardy fishing nut and I think you coped admirably. I’ll refrain from writing to the Barrier Times (?) to describe my time over there as undoubtedly some of my account would be unprintable and I have no wish to offend. How could I possibly convey those “Pet Cemetery” moments, or the joy of Mohammed walking on me in the night as I was being hunted by every mosquito in creation? But Benisland is most certainly worth the time, money and effort involved in visiting, and I’ll certainly be back as long as I’m welcome. Good times indeed, Paul xxxxx

    1. Turned out you had a good go at the kingis after all. Let’s hope the weather and conditions are better next year. Good having you here Paul! Good times indeed.

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