I love it when a plan comes together. Yeah, you’ve heard this before from Hannibal Smith and I wish I could say the same. My plan was to catch a king fish off the rocks in Blind Bay. Believe me, the plan was sound, the tides and chosen fishing spot were quite promising as well, but the onshore westerly winds and the marine forecast upset the plan. Nonetheless, Sinclair and I were keen to fish off the rocks and obviously when it is windy on one side of the island the other side should be calm. I arrived at Sinclair’s place at about 0930, he was having yet another beer…., and we discussed our options, consulting a Great Barrier Island chart map, and decided to go to Harataonga on the East Coast. Since I’ve only fished there once, some 5-6 years ago, and am keen to get to know new fishing spots, I was excited as.
We arrived at the Harataonga campsite, one of the campsites managed by the Department of Conservation. Besides a couple of flocks of sheep and lambs there was no one else.
The sun was shining and perhaps because of this and my keenness, I decided to take my king fishing gear as well. So many times have I dragged heaps of gear with me on the rocks and ended up only using one rod and about 20% of the tackle. But I don’t learn, do I? A 20 l bucket with salted bait, rod holders, knives, rope in one hand, 4 rods in the other, a hiking back pack with around 15 kg of gear. It just adds up, you know. A gimbal, a couple of poppers, four reels, a VHF radio, first aid kit, water, tackle, camera, a blanket for the dog to sleep on, bait, berley, etc, and suddenly you’ve got a heavy-ish bag. We walked to the end of the beach and kept on walking over the boulders, the tide was going out, and it didn’t take long until my boots got wet. Here’s a tip, wear socks! Socks do have their purpose. Wet gum boots, naked feet and walking/climbing on rocks don’t go too well. My arms were heavy, my toenails were bent forward and since Rani, my dog, was whining pretty much all the way, there was certainly a bit of cursing done on my side.
But we, finally, arrived at a nice looking ledge with good current, deep water, white water and solid structures to left and right. My first thought was, f***, why did I bring my king fishing gear? There was some side-on wind and realistically you couldn’t land a king fish there, because there were too many rocks sticking out of the water right in close.
We had about 3-4 hours before having to head back. This is a low tide fishing spot and you can easily get caught out there. I heard stories from people jumping from one rock-face to another to avoid having to go for a swim, but these days I’m freaked out a bit about doing dangerous stunts. At least I have a VHF with me to call for help, but I don’t want to be that poor fellow who doesn’t make the jump and breaks his knee somewhere in the nowhere….
Anyway, we fished hard, we berleyed hard and we hoped hard, too. There was heaps of foul and current which made straylining a bit difficult. We landed a few pan-sized snapper, I noticed Sinclair losing a bit of gear to the bricks. He left his bait out much longer than me, which essentially is a good thing, but you run the chance getting snagged off. At the same time I believe that when the big one takes the bait and your bait is already in foul area, chances are very high you lose the fish to the bricks. Better enticing the fish to come up and take the bait where there is less weed and foul. Anyway, we did our best and weren’t too happy with the results. Thus the decision was made, half an hour before low tide, to get the magic, green berley out.
Believe it or not, the secret weapon of the rockfisherman did the trick, once again, and the bites were harder, the fish heavier and the action more plentiful. Then Sinclair pulled another trick out of the hat. He said:”Sorry Ben, but this is it! Gonna catch a big one on this.” Talk about self-confidence and feeling for fish. He casts his bait out, it was a poor cast too, grins like he already caught a twenty pounder and who could have known it, less than five minutes later, I had a bait out there too, you know, his bait got taken. It got taken big time. He struck, turned the drag up 2 notches, held the rod tip high and had a strong fighting position up high, the fish still took line, he turned the drag up 2-3 notches more. Still the same and after adjusting the drag even more, it was all over. The fish was gone, his rig didn’t come undone, the line didn’t break, the fish was just gone. Ooooh, I can tell you, the initial grin that he had was (suddenly) also gone. He got ‘smoked biiiiiig time’ and he knew it. And if he didn’t, he certainly did so after I reminded him about 20 times that he got smoked biiiig time.
On the positive side, and there are always positive sides, the fish got away cleanly, no trace and hooks in its mouth, Sinclair had a good, strong fight, which no matter how you look at it builds experience, and we both knew that the long walk with all the gear was worth it. There was a big fish there and both of us had a chance of catching it. Since he landed a 15 pounder two weeks ago on the same rod and reel, it’s fair to say that this was a much bigger fish.
That’s about it, I’m afraid. We had a great day, my arms had stretched by a couple of centimeters, our rock pool contained 7 snapper ranging from 35-45 cm and even the dog got a workout.
We got back to the beach, cleaned our fish and enjoyed the solitude and beauty of a winter’s day at Harataonga Beach.
Moreover, we had a chat about the two hook fishing rig for straylining. Both of us use a similar rig, in which both hooks are firmly snooded to the leader. Sinclair told me he started fishing 3 years ago, I started about 8 years ago and thus obviously neither of us have learned fishing from our grand dad and I’m not intending to be a smart arse and claim what rig is better for catching snapper off the rocks. However, I recall fishing the Kings of the Coromandel Competition once and reading the terms and conditions before entering this tournament. It turned out that I was the only one from our fishing team who had done so. A mate landed a winning kahawai. His catch was however disqualified because he used a rig with a running hook.
So for you guys out there swearing on the two hook rig, on which one of the hooks is dangling or swinging or as we say in New Zealand running, you might want to consider the IGFA (International Game Fish Association rules). I understand it is prohibited.
G. HOOKS FOR BAIT FISHING
1. For live or dead bait fishing no more than two single hooks may be used. Both must be firmly imbedded in or securely attached to the bait. The eyes of the hooks must be no less than a hook’s length (the length of the largest hook used) apart and no more than 18 inches (45.72 cm) apart. The only exception is that the point of one hook may be passed through the eye of the other hook.
A hook may not precede bait, lure or bait/lure combo by more than one hook’s length.
2. The use of a dangling or swinging hook is prohibited. Double or treble hooks are prohibited.
3. A two hook rig for bottom fishing is acceptable if it consists of two single hooks on separate leaders or drops. Both hooks must be imbedded in the respective baits and separated sufficiently so that a fish caught on one hook cannot be foul hooked by the other.
4. A photograph or sketch of the hook arrangement must accompany all record applications made for fish caught on two-hook tackle.