It’s hard to believe that Pete Lamb has already completed over 30 years of making a living from fishing, an absolute testament to the hard yards he has put into his business from day one. Not an unusual story for many people making their way in the private enterprise world, but for Pete his success came because, out of necessity, he gradually involved himself in halfa-dozen aspects of the industry. These endeavours will unfold as Pete’s story is told.
Pete’s interest in fishing began at age six with the yearly month-long holiday he spent with Mum and Dad at Hihi Beach in Doubtless Bay. The family always took a boat along, and Pete’s jump from ‘interested in fishing’ to ‘totally hooked’ began as it did for many of us, after simply catching his first kahawai.
The Far North continues to be a special place for Pete, but the progression from Far North holidays to fishing as often as he could was but a short train ride from his Tawa home to the Wellington
wharves, where huge schools of pilchards were getting smashed to pieces by kahawai and kingfish.
He landed his first kingfish (a respectable seven kilos) from amongst 50 other lines on Queens Wharf, and followed this up with a 10-kilo fish two days later. At just twelve years of age, fishing nirvana had arrived for the young Lamb.
The lure of catching bigger kingfish saw Pete, armed with surf rods and pack, tramping to out-of-the-way places like Boom, Armchair and Wairaka Rocks, some of the very few rock ledges around the Wellington coastline. Fishing from rocks and rock ledges held a special fascination for Pete, and at the age of just 16 he was joining the small number of fishers pioneering land-basedgame fishing in New Zealand.
On joining the local fishing club (Wellington Surfcasting and Angling Club – WSAC for short), Pete soon experienced other fishers taking note of his ability and particularly his staunchness,
64 illustrated by the distances he walked and his 24-hour non-stop club competition fishing. The WSAC junior fishing ranks were exceptionally strong in those days, but Pete won his first club title in his second year of fishing, before going on to secure his first senior title also in his second year of fishing that section. In fact, Pete became a bit of a club legend with his 12 competition days’ bag of 82 moki in one season, a club record that has stood for 30 years.
At a national level Pete went on to win two New Zealand Angling and Casting Association surf-casting titles, and locally served his club well on its committee, including taking on the roles of Club Captain and Newsletter Editor.
Pete’s early working life was in the then edging IT business after a lack of funds precluded university attendance and a desired career in marine biology.
But the lure of land-based fishing – arguably one of the most exciting disciplines of sport fishing – was soon to lead him down a different career path. The catalyst was probably one of his early exploratory trips to the East Coast, when he came across a WSAC clubbie up to his armpits in white water, Fighting a very angry kingfish of around 37kg, which was eventually lost. But there were heaps of kings around the 23kg mark, and just as many easily catchable big kahawai live baits. The idea of introducing paying clients to this kind of fishing took form and became a goal to work towards.
At this point in his life, Pete became absolutely engrossed with land-based fishing, and for a few years the thought of capturing a land-based marlin became an obsession. Two of Pete’s WSAC mates had hooked and lost striped and black marlin off Karikari Peninsula, and Pete did many trips to Cape Brett, the place he thought was most likely to bring success. Pete is sure he was one of the few to hook up a marlin from the shore when a very big fish took his live (then legal) kingfish bait and, in the blink of an eye, blistered 350 metres of 24-kilo line from his Tiagra 50 wide before busting off.
However, that disappointment was somewhat tempered by the landing of a better-than-line-weight 8kg yellowfin tuna on his baitcasting outfit – probably a first for this species from the rocks. Pete’s first venture into fishing employment began with landbased charters to East Cape, where many a group spent great times catching kingfish, snapper and trevally from the iconic Lottin Point and locations nearby. Local legend Jim Kemp was a great help to Pete at this time. But land-based charters alone were never going to pay the bills, so Pete began to supplement his income by distributing bait, along with the thankless tasks of breaking bait down and making and packaging berley.
Another money-making idea involved making a film about land-based fishing, so on his next trip – along with a friendly TVNZ cameraman – Pete set about making the film Big fish and Screaming Reels in one three-day filming session. (Around that time very few New Zealand fishing videos existed, with Geoff Thomas’s Snapper Secrets and Kingfish Secrets being two early and credible efforts.)
In Pete’s words: “I reckon if we’d spent more than the one night we’d allocated to editing the film, it would have been much better.”
But what better way to promote your business than hold public talks and show prospective clients the sort of homegrown fishing action that had rarely been seen in New Zealand? In this respect the video was a winner, and people’s association with the name ‘Pete Lamb’ soon became ‘Pete Lamb, fisherman’.
Another venture for Pete at this time was holding instructional fishing classes, which he has continued for 25 years. Pete has made some great friendships and introduced hundreds of people to fishing through this avenue. But Pete’s biggest venture, and the mainstay of his business for a good number of years, has been charter fishing. Pete initially enlisted the help of commercial fisherman Dave Wood, who showed him how to fish the deepwater trench on Wellington’s south coast in the boat the Sandra J. Bluenose, hapuku and bass were very plentiful in those days, which meant many happy and returning fishers.
Pete and business partner John Farger seized the opportunity to buy their first launch together, a big decked, small cockpit boat called Mellicent. Business was good, and in a short time they were doing up to 200 charters a year fishing out of Mana, but also fishing the south coast as weather allowed. In three years the capital was there for Pete to buy his present boat, Daniel, which he still operates out of its Wellington Harbour base at Seaview. (In an amicable business split, John operates Mellicent out of Mana and Pete’s charters are now mainly on the south coast and inside Wellington Harbour.)
In conjunction with his charter business, Pete has steadily built up his bait business under the brand name Southern Bait, enjoying a wide distribution base that supplies a large number of baitsupply outlets. This is supplemented by two fishing-tackle outlets based at Rongotai (now 15 years old) and one at his Seaview base, which was opened Five years ago.
While shop sales seasonally Fluctuate a good deal, when the kahawai are running it is not uncommon to sell 50 spinners a day, as well as a load of bait. Just another reason the kahawai is called the ‘people’s fish’!
Pete and I have been friends since he joined WSAC (also my fishing club) back in the mid 1980s and, as friends do, we both reminisce about days past. I asked him what the single biggest factor affecting his business was. He replied, “Undoubtedly braided line – especially when a good part of your charter business is fishing deep water.”
He also confessed he would like to back off a little from his hectic work schedule. Pete has long had an interest in jazz and blues music, and intends visiting the southern states of America, where those genres are so strong. And in one of those whimsical end-of-interview questions, I asked what gave him the most pleasurable moments in his job. No pauses here: “In a couple of days I’m taking 20 handicapped kids fishing – and you don’t get much better joy out of a job than that.”
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