Seeing Big Fish; Catching Small Fish

I went to the same spot on the northern side of Medland’s Beach as last week and was in for another exciting experience fishing off the rocks. This time I was wearing shoes instead of gum boots and realized that there is a quicker way over and around the hill. I still can’t believe it but I managed to reach the fishing spot in less than 30 minutes. Perhaps I don’t want to believe it because my lungs were bursting yet again going up hill. Now, I’ve been warned to “watch the bull” when I’m on that hill, and although I recognized cow feces and obvious tracks last time, I didn’t expect that shit being literally bull shit. Well, it was around 0630 and I was half way over the hill when I spotted a bull in the distance, I took a picture of it and zoomed in later to verify the big horns.

There is a bull that roams on the hills and I don’t really fancy meeting him one morning up close…

Conditions were a bit calmer than last week, the tide had just turned into its way out and I had a line in the water just moments after dawn.

Sunrise on the East Coast.

Unfortunately, the shop didn’t have any burley which was a big bummer as I had big plans for this fishing trip. I decided to get a bag of squid and a bag of pilchards, the latter being destined mainly for ground burleying. I don’t like admitting it, but in order to improve my skills it is necessary to acknowledge that I screwed up the best part of the early morning by fiddling with too many rods at an inappropriate time.  As an example, I had just casted a good sized bait into the water and instead of waiting five minutes with the rod in hand, I put it immediately in the rod holder and prepared the other rods. Needless to say that, I got a good take immediately but it didn’t result in a hook up, most likely because I wasn’t holding the rod in my hand. This kept going on for a couple more times until I only fished with one rod, but obviously it was too late. There was no action now. I diced some pilchards up into my burley bag and noticed shortly after some sleek, but big, silvery fish swimming fast underneath and alongside the rocks. A sure sign of trevally, albeit I told myself they were porae. Porae don’t swim fast though…. Anyway, without proper burley I wasn’t expecting to attract any kahawai for live baiting and concentrated on landing a big snapper. However, I had many, many takes, none of which resulting in a hook up. Man was I frustrated! I get up and onto the rocks early in the morning and even after an entire hour had elapsed, all I had to show for were a couple of strong takes. Not even a hook up, yet alone a landed fish. I was thinking that this day would fall into the category of bad fishing days. But then, there were these trevally and I hope you can follow me when I say that, I don’t have polarized sun glasses, the behavior of the fish clearly indicated trevally. Trevally have smaller and softer mouths than snapper and then it hit me. I’m not getting the hookups because I’m using too big hooks for the trevally to swallow. So I went down to 4/0 sized hooks but now I could see that the trevally weren’t too interested in my baited squid. So out came an obvious trick. Throw a few pieces of small-sized bait into the water, only one of them bearing a (small) hook and when the fish come up close to inspect, jerk the one with the hook in it. When the other baits seem uninteresting to the fish, the jerked one will definitely arouse some excitement. And indeed, I started hooking up on some trevally. I landed a nice pan sized one, then a couple of throw backs and a small, but legal one. I believe the legal size limit for trevally is 25 cm, mine was around 30 cm and it went out promptly as a live bait. My live bait was doing fine and I noticed some substantial trevally in the burley trail, coming out underneath the ledge momentarily and swimming close by the rocks fast to other sheltered areas. And then there it was, by now the sun was high in the sky, hardly any wind, the water clear, this huge snapper that came up close. It would have been easily 10 pound plus and was clearly more snapper than trevally-like. My bait was out in the far and by the time I brought it in and fished it close in, the majestic fish had already decided that it was in danger. Not sure what you think of it, but if I can see a fish with my naked eye on a clear day, I think it can see me too. Anyway, I screwed it up. There were some big trevally and at least one big snapper close by and I didn’t manage to hook up onto any of them.

Relaxing and waiting for something to happen.
Balloons on a mail box indicate a party and balloons in the water indicate live baiting.

I hooked up onto quite a number of undersized snapper and landed only two clearly legal ones during the day. It got really calm just around low tide, the sun was beating down by now and I started “walking” with my live bait around the rocks onto the other side of the bay.

Around the corner into the bay where Pitokuku Island is located.
Pitokuku Island.
Smashed some green lipped mussels up for burley.

Well, it was all a bit too quiet for me at low tide and I had already enough fish to take home, and if it weren’t for the king fish I spotted last week, I would have probably packed in. While contemplating my options for the day, I spotted what I initially thought to be a work up headed right to my live bait.

A school of I think big mullet approaching me.

It couldn’t have been a real work up since there were no birds involved in it, but the splashing of water was easily seen. What to do, other than holding onto my live bait rod and hoping for the best. The school of fish came almost within casting distance but then decided to head another way, and then again some five minutes later decided to come right to me. I don’t know how I screwed this one up, but there were around 200 fish, most likely big mullet (man, I need some polarized sun glasses) and for the brief moment they were in casting distance I managed to get two hook ups, but lost the fish in both cases. Well, that was my day, I fished the outgoing and an hour of the incoming tide and was ready to leave in part because a fishing boat was drifting my way and I really didn’t fancy them coming up close and asking me how the fishing was, when I had a glimpse of something big, just a tiny glimpse, not sure how I thought it was something big. Perhaps a ray or the reflection of another trevally. And then there it was, it happened so fast that I just can’t be too sure about it anymore, but a 40-50 pound fish with a distinct silver and green circled underneath the live baited trevally. This is what I call a time stopping moment, you’ve all encountered it, for instance, when you see a beautiful girl crossing a road and it seems that everything evolves much slower. Not the best example as in this case the drivers slow down to have a better look, but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m meaning. So there it was again, there was a king fish casually patrolling its territory and it turned around to check my distressed live bait out. Just for a brief moment though, then it decided that it isn’t its cup of tea and disappeared as quickly as it appeared. The people on the approaching, drifting boat must have heard me scream. I was furious. This is because half an hour ago I landed a 20 cm kahawai, I believe, kingis prefer them over trevally, but decided to chop it up for bait in the hope of catching a big snapper. Obviously, I can’t be sure that the kingi would have taken the kahawai, it might even have been that I was seeing things, but I felt like an utter fool compromising my chances of hooking into a king fish by mixing my fishing priorities.

And this is, my dear readers, what I learned today. When you are fishing, time is always short and it is paramount to have priorities. You can’t focus on doing it all on your own. King fishing, snapper fishing, stray lining, casting poppers… Prioritize and stick to your guns. Now that I’ve written the account of my fishing day, I can’t help concluding that it was a great day for it but that I utterly and completely messed it up. I should have landed a big trevally early in the morning by switching to small hooks straight away, I should have popped a few chunks of bait to the big snapper I located close in to keep it interested and I should have swapped my trevally live bait, albeit in great condition all day, with the more suited and smaller kahawai.

But such is life and I rather conclude that I re-learned that its not only about hoping that you catch something big, it is more about constantly using your brain (when you are fishing), doing the right thing at the right time.

My food for Friday and Saturday. The small trevally is just 30 cm long, but so sleek. A nice, little prey for a kingi one would think.


2 thoughts on “Seeing Big Fish; Catching Small Fish”

  1. Hey Ben. Getting out and doing a bit of fishing now! Good work. Looks like real choice weather and safe conditions.

    It’s really easy to be hard on yourself over making the wrong call or not realizing something quickly enough. The truth is that you were having a tough day (due more to the conditions than anything else) and on tough days it’s easy to get it wrong. On good days you can do it all wrong or half-arsed and still turn up the goods. But yeah I can tell you if you want to catch kingfish then fish for kingfish and don’t get distracted. And yes most definitely use kahawai, or the best of baits, piper. It won’t necessarily get eaten (since if there were schools of mullet around then that may have been favorite – jag for them with some large treble hooks fixed to the line and a sinker underneath (foulhook them basically, you cast over and wind back striking until you hit something)) but you would have felt better about it. You have to trust your instinct and not be complacent (she’ll be right!) at times. And trevally can be a very frustrating fish, especially if you cans see them. I have wasted hours feeding them and eventually getting a hook up and promtly getting smashed in the weed.

    Anyway, great write-ups, good luck, keep at it! Paul xxxxx

    1. Cheers Paul, she’s a bit windy on the east coast at the moment and didn’t get a chance to go for a fish. Let’s see, maybe on Sunday. Let’s see if I can get things right when I’m on the spot next time. Working a bit on my garden today. Oooh man, it’s all hard work and my motivation isn’t really up there. A bit of a bugger really. Keep it real, B

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