In my youth, I aspired to be great at table tennis, arguably the sport they play in heaven, but ultimately, I spent heaps of time in gymnasiums and only thought about my choice of sport more consciously, years after playing actively, when a flatmate asked why anyone would want to spend a lot of time in a closed, unnatural environment and chase a ball with a racket. Duuh, it’s the sport they play in heaven, do I need say anything more?
Imagine, however, mixing some of the things you enjoy most (nature, fresh air, the sea, walking, fresh food), spicing them up with adventure, excitement, and if you like, danger, the unknown factor, physical activity and, wait for it, yes, to make it a sport, discipline.
One of the most sustainable forms of fishing is of course land-based and fortunately, we are still able in New Zealand to catch a feed from the rocks. However, this article is not about just catching a feed, it is about walking the extra mile so to say, to target not only big, high quality, hard-fighting fish, but his majesty himself, the, at times, elusive yellowtail Kingfish (Haku).
And, I ask you, is there a more adventurous way to target kingfish? There is a sense of feeling mesmerized when hiking down toward a suitable ledge on a good day, the combination of vast and beautiful coastlines, the uninterrupted views, the warmth of the sun, the salty sea breeze, they all lead to a pleasant anticipation.
My friend Paul might have a different take on this though – he is old and not that fit any more – but the important thing is that he is a dedicated land based game-fisherman. Here are some links on his achievements on Great Barrier Island (Great Barrier Island Kingfish – Rockfishing, Kingfish Off The Rocks Part II, Part III).
Finding new fishing spots should be an integral part of landbased fishing. After all, once you get serious about your fishing, you can never have too many accessible spots. However, finding new spots can be difficult sometimes.
Unless you are introduced to a spot in some way or another by another fisho, the only option you have is to hike into the area you want to fish and give it a go. However, there is the obvious question, do you walk in with or without your fishing gear? The next question is: How many rods should you take?
I remember looking for a new spot last year with my mate Paul. He chose to take no gear at all, I had a small pack with frozen pilchards, 3-4 pre-tied rigs, a rod and small reel. We found an accessible spot and I landed a five pound snapper that day.
A couple of weeks ago, we drove to Harataonga and went for a coastal hike carrying heaps of gear, including kingi gear, in search for a new land based fishing spot. New to me that is. On top of the first hill, I walked to the end of the peninsular to take pictures. It seemed to me from there that we won’t be able to access the ledges on the southern side of the peninsular ahead.
We walked to the next peninsular, enjoying the views thoroughly, and et voilà, there was a paper track which seemed to lead to the end of it. The confidence I was feeling gave me a burst. After about half an hour of battling the bush in a fruitless effort to find a route or for that matter any way to reach the end of the peninsular and then to figure out how to get down, the aforementioned confidence transformed into disbelief. There must be a way down though.
The bush was so dense that you just could not look ahead, yet alone battle your way through it with a big pack. We decided to head back, perhaps we missed another path that forked off this one. Another disappointment, we hadn’t missed anything. I took some more pictures…
There was no evident track on the ridge at all, very dense bush again, but we managed through the less dense tea tree forest. Well, up to a point that is. The ridge became very narrow, no more walking along-side it, and neither of us enjoyed scraping our way through the bush. We arrived at an opening on the ridge and what I saw ahead was not assuring. More dense bush combined with loose, small rocks and a large decline. Paul decided to go a bit further and have a look, I stayed back, being pissed off with the day so far.
I could have packed heavy and walked up the hills on BENIsLAND at home with my fishing rods. So I decided to enjoy the rest of the day, especially the fact that not many people have been lately sitting here enjoying these views.
I was also exhausted and didn’t feel comfortable going further. I mean this is not a frequented area, certainly, no one can hear you if you yell out, there is no cell phone coverage, even a sprained ankle could lead to drastic consequences.
A land based fisho knows or will learn to know that conditions change, the question is as always, how well are you prepared for challenging circumstances?
Anyway, Paul was somewhat adamant that we could have climbed down to the ledges on the other side of the peninsular, then again it wasn’t that trivial, otherwise he would have persuaded me to follow.
We headed back carrying our bags, defeat and disappointment, but of course, we still had bait and berley and we certainly wouldn”t go back home without at least having a go at catching a feed. Two thirds back on the coastal track we headed to a bay that seemed accessible; this was, too, hard going and the closer we got the beach the more it daunted on us, it will just be freaking vertical at the end.
Long story short, we found a way down and after a few more compromises based on the terrain, we fished probably the least productive area of that bay, but managed to land a feed.
The day after, we went to an easily accessible spot on the East Coast. A very dangerous spot in any swell though. It was early in the morning, there was half a meter of swell out there, too much wind, it wasn’t comfortable at all. Then it began to rain, Paul was not in a good mood. We fished a ledge, where it was virtually impossible to land a kingi and had to relocate.
However, my mate’s mood changed dramatically after being presented with a very lively kahawai, which went out under a balloon as a live bait. Less than an hour later, we watched a kingi trying for a long time (about 5 minutes) to eat the kahawai. The live bait jumped out of the water, pretending to being a flying fish. Paul remained very calm though: “Aah, let’s just wait, it’ll find a way to swallow that fish.”
Boooooom, moments later, and he was on. I thought about getting the camera, but watched Paul instead. The kingi wasn’t getting much line out, so I decided to grab the gaff and be ready. It didn’t even take 5 minutes and a very green fish was in gaffable reach, so I went for it and secured the fish further up on the rocks.
Yeeeehah! It was about 1000 in the morning, just after low tide and I was preparing to go back home, but Paul had another idea: “Hey, we’ve got those other kahawai in the rock pool, I’ll send another one out.” Hmmm, okay, why not?
Another 10 minutes, and yet another strike. This kingi fought a bit harder, but was unfortunately gut-hooked and so we took it as well.
Two kingis in one morning. Paul was pleased and after taking a shot of him holding both fish, he was extremely pleased. Now, he had a picture of himself with two nice Great Barrier Island kingfish, just like a famous picture of John Lennan with his two fish.
P.S. I advise anyone to trust their gut-feeling when it comes to new fishing spots. Your buddy might say that it is really easy to get down there, but same buddy might opt out in a different spot that you find very easy to climb. Don’t get yourself into a situation where you can’t climb up nor down…