Yes, another charter in Whakatane. It’s inescapable, being one of the few
destinations in New Zealand that fishes well all year round.
The objective in this instance was to join Jason Calder and Kenny Oswalt on
'Cascade' and head off to the East Cape, where we hoped to fish the wonderful
Ranfurly Banks, an area well-known for its monstrous kingfish, hapuku and
trumpeter. We were joined by fellow writer Scott Hollis-Johns, wine maker Steve,
and Jamie Munn, a very keen young angler.
Meeting up at the main Whakatane Wharf, we kicked the trip off nicely by
eating at the wharf’s restaurant, aptly named the Wharf Shed. The food and
service was excellent (and no, I didn’t get a free meal to say this!).
We returned to the boat and the mooring ropes were removed, enabling Cascade
to cruise off into the blackness, the gently rippling water mirroring the
weather’s benevolent mood — at least, initially...
Despite the almost lulling slap and slop on Cascade’s bows, sleep did not
come easily, especially as the sea became increasingly rougher as we neared our
destination. The latest weather report showed that the following morning could
well be our only chance to fish the banks and I was thankful that my gear had
Sure enough, when daylight came the sky was overcast and the wind already
puffing at over 15 knots, flecking the confused, open-ocean swells with white.
Our trip out was filled with good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
Because everyone else was trying for hapuku, I decided to go for a big
kingfish. My preferred weapon of choice in such situations is a stand-up outfit
loaded with 37kg nylon as I don’t like to snap off big kingfish unnecessarily —
they’re neat fish and provide a very physical struggle. The running rig had a
big circle hook on the end and this was pierced twice through the hood of the
biggest squid I could find.
Being less streamlined than the ‘puka’ bomb rigs, I hadn’t even reached the
bottom when the others began to hook up. Just in time I looked over to see
Jamie’s rod tip jiggle up and down and then load up firmly as the fish was
hooked. Scott followed up on another shortly after.
Jamie was using superbraid and his fish fought right to the surface,
materialising as an 8 or 9kg kingfish — a size that generally doesn’t even rate
a mention at this legendary location and which was released without hesitation.
We all hoped to get plenty more, and much bigger. Unfortunately, they actually
turned out to be unusually hard to catch. Instead, small to medium hapuku (to
15kg) beat them to the baits, and on several occasions, two were brought up at a
time. We soon had plenty of these tasty fish to take home— but no thanks to me!
My monster squid proved intimidating to the inhabitants on the first three
drifts and if I hadn’t changed to my superbraid rig for the last two, I probably
wouldn’t have caught anything. As it was, the combined weight of my two hapuku
would have been no more than 5kg — and one was shortened by an aggressive little
mako (which unfortunately refused to stick around long enough to be presented
with a fly).
With the wind now gusting to 25 knots and the swells occasionally
mountainous, Jason suggested we try more sheltered waters. There was little
resistance from us so Cascade headed back towards the mainland, albacore lures
An hour and a half later we tried anchoring up over an area of good-looking
foul with swarms of fish clustered around it. Unfortunately, the wind proved
stronger than the current and swung us out and onto the sand instead. But we
caught fish, and pretty good ones, too! Most were snapper to 4.5kg, but there
were also some very solid trevally along with some big kahawai and barracouta.
After losing twenty hooks to these toothy critters, I regretfully admit that
some of the latter met with overly severe termination.
To keep things interesting, two or three of the bait eaters proved so big
that Steve (who alternated between 15 and 24kg tackle), was unable to control
In the end though, although we were enjoying ourselves and catching decent
fish, we couldn’t help wondering how much better the fishing would be over the
reef and finally got Jason to pull the pick (it took four attempts — every time
previous to that, a tentative suggestion to move prompted immediate hook-ups to
After several minutes of looking around the vicinity, we found some likely
looking territory and parked up. For a long time nothing happened, except that
our bait was lost to hordes of nibbly-type fish. Suspecting maomao or tarakihi,
some smaller hooked ledger and flasher-type rigs were baited with squid strips
and dropped down.
Success was instant (I think it was Scott first), with his light rod bucking
to the determined fight of what turned out to be a nice tarakihi. By the second
and third tarakihi hook-up, all of us had changed over and were catching our
share. After landing several each over the next half an hour, we looked at each
other and decided that we’d caught enough. It was one of those times that you
knew that you could’ve filled up the boat...
The next plan was to fish for big snapper at the change of light. With
inclement weather obviously moving in (reportedly to 65 knots in some exposed
areas), we decided to go up the coast a little for safety and comfort’s sake.
The weather just got worse. We kept going, and as we motored, successive weather
updates painted increasingly grim pictures: theoretically, the barometer was
predicted to be even lower than during the Wahine Disaster! Great. With at least
60 prime assorted food fish on the ice already, we made the decision to cut the
trip short and head for home. It had been a very full day.
(The trip story should end here, but to be fair to those that I have poked
fun at in the past, I should just mention my little effort on the way home...).
As we made our way down the coastline, Jason set to work filleting our fish —
not a small job obviously — while we deployed a variety of well-proven trolling
lures for albacore, including a CD18 Redhead Rapala which had done the damage on
the previous trip. And it was very effective this time, too, being taken on a
regular basis by some very large kahawai, despite our being well offshore. I
think it’s fair to say that despite the absence of albacore so far, the lure’s
performance still managed to impress.
So when the Shimano’s ratchet shrilled again, I was filled with a smug
satisfaction as I lifted the outfit from the holder, the line racing from the
spool steadily. After 200 metres had disappeared, it slowed and then stopped.
Despite solid resistance, I was able to pump and wind much of the line back onto
the spool over the next five minutes. Then things got a little weird. As the
line angled across the stern forty metres away, I got my first look at my
adversary. It was round, blobby, and a dull reddy-brown. A few seconds of
confusion was followed by an embarrassing realisation. 'Sh..! I think I’ve
hooked a bloody fish carcass!' And I had — a nice big snapper, freshly filleted
by Jason and hooked beautifully in the centre of its skeletal mass. It worked
just a like a giant diving and planing bib, and provided a surprisingly good
fight. Upon bringing it to the boat, I really disappointed everyone by keeping
my back to them, and their waiting cameras, as the prize was unhooked.
I put the lure back out and was pleasantly surprised when it went off only a
minute later. Something good had come of the episode after all. What a fluke. As
I leaned back on the rod and waited for the line to slow, I had a sudden,
sickening thought...AAHHHHH! NOOOO! I couldn’t believe it! The bloody carcass
had washed off the duckboard and hooked my lure again!
I’ll never get any real respect at this rate...
Jason Calder and Ken E (Kenny) Oswalt provide a great duo for owner’s Steve
and Vicki Jacks, as well as any charter on board at the time. Both these guys
are products of the very competitive Whakatane charter scene and work
particularly well together. Young Jason is already showing himself to be
committed to this job and is getting good results, helped in no small part by
the excellent and very diverse fishery found in the BOP waters. He also worked
even harder than the last time I was aboard and, as expected, is assuming an
increasingly professional mantle as his time at sea continues to accumulate.
As for Kenny, he might just be the most enthusiastic and helpful deckie I’ve
ever come across. Certainly he’s right up there — and as for the food...! I
joked that I felt like a battery hen at the end of the trip. It seemed that
every time I opened my mouth, for any reason, food was put in it. Kenny is a
huge, unstoppable force in the galley, and when the weather’s cold and rough as
it was for much of our trip, that extra ‘fuel’ is appreciated all the more by
Cascade is a very tidy-looking boat and has quickly become one of the more
successful boats on the scene: much of it due to the tireless efforts of Steve’s
partner Vicky in organising much of the day-to-day running and organising of
charters. They are really committed to providing a good service.
Cascade is enjoyable to fish aboard, having a surprisingly roomy cockpit
which allows fishers to do their thing without any problems, especially as the
walk-around deck enables anglers to follow their fish when they have to. The 34
rod holders hold an awful lot of gear...
Cascade carries her own, top quality tackle, with Penn, Daiwa and Shimano all
represented on board. For divers, there is a dive ladder, an easily accessible
duckboard and walk-through transom. There is storage room for two to three tanks
each for up to ten divers.
Internally, Cascade has a decent-sized, tidy saloon and is fitted with a CD
stereo. Below there are berths for up to six anglers and this includes a double
bed for couples. She is a comfortable and well-appointed boat to live aboard,
and catering is available on request.
For those who wish to sample the many fishing delights of the Bay of Plenty
from an ultra-modern, fast, comfortable boat with a competent and enthusiastic
crew, please phone: 025 748 700 or 0-7-308 7000.