John Gregory is a quiet, unassuming fisherman with an intense love of the sea.
He has spent most of his working life at sea as a commercial fisherman and has
become a private charter skipper with a vessel surveyed for 200 miles offshore.
He has a will to be successful and is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to
get his clients into fish (as I soon found out).
complement John's determination is the keenness and youthful enthusiasm of
deckie, Matt Watson. The combination has been a winner; some early season marlin
captures paved the way to a particularly successful gamefish season, with the
Primetime crew catching plenty of marlin —including the biggest ever winning
marlin in the
Bay of Islands Hopin
Tournament's 12-year history. After that they went on
to make some very impressive broadbill captures.
This was enough to convince my good friend Craig Fletcher to
charter Primetime, as well as the consideration that Primetime could legally
fish areas well above the Three Kings and outside the limits of all other
charter vessels — virgin grounds. Craig had dreamed of fishing these offshore
areas for record-breaking fish but had been unable to find a vessel within the
required survey permits — until now that is!
In the absence of 'super deckie', Matt Watson, I was invited along
as substitute deckie alongside Primetime's other deckhand, Jonathan
Have you ever dreamed about catching a broadbill? You're not the
only one! Can you imagine the pain associated with watching someone else catch
three broadbill while you had to push a poxy game chair around for hours at a
time? Talk about hard on the soul!
But I wanted desperately to learn the skills of broadbill fishing
and the opportunity couldn’t be passed up. I took a week off work and headed
north with Craig.
We left Whangaroa on June 8 and attempted to
catch squid at North Cape on the way to the Kings, but to no avail.
We travelled through the night and woke up at the Middlesex Bank. The guys had
caught some big striped marlin here on the last trip so we trolled for the day
and saw two stripies in 18.3° water — but no takers unfortunately. Ultimate Lady
passed us on the Middlesex Bank and had some bad news; they had encountered lots
of mako sharks and had stopped fishing due to excessive gear
We spent that night well north of the Kings
in 'SharkCity'. Eight makos for the night, from 120 to
180kg, all tagged and released with no sleep at all. The weather was predicted
to go sour from the north-west so we tracked back down for the Kings. We had an
awesome ride over the Middlesex; the wind was against the tide and the pressure
waves where higher than the flybridge and breaking! The big Salthouse tracked
perfectly in the following sea and had more than enough boat speed to outrun the
building sea. I was pleased to reach the lee of the main island and sleep came
We encountered winds up to 50 knots for the
next three days, from both the north-west and south-east. We took watch shifts
during the night in case a wind change put us at risk. We had a dive at
WestIsland for some crays and stored our quota in the
Bottom bouncing with Flasher rigs produced 15 different fish
species for the day including king tarakihi and school snapper. We had a
wonderful tea that night — the only thing missing was the broadbill steaks, but
I was sure that wasn’t far away.
While anchored in Nor'
WestBay we attempted to catch some more squid and
had piper congregating under the lights of the cockpit. We could hear lots of
huge splashes around the perimeter of the lights and finally the culprits
appeared from under the boat: big and black and definitely seals. They played
tag with the piper; they would spy a piper coming into the lights from under the
hull and attack like an Exocet missile at full speed. The seal would charge past
the piper then suddenly turn sideways and open up his flipper in a cupping
motion and literally siphon the piper into his mouth. It was incredible to watch
and the method of the piper's demise was always the
Finally the wind moderated to a constant 20 knots and the forecast,
although marginal, was improving. We weighed the anchor and headed north with
the anticipation that exploring new grounds evoke.
Once there and fishing, we managed to stay away from the sharks so
it there was peace and quiet for a while. Finally, we hooked up on a broadbill,
but this was unfortunately bitten by a mako at the boat, removing the tail.
Everyone on board was gutted, as we were all hoping for a fish to weigh.
Instead, we slabbed it up and stored it in the huge underfloor freezer.
Broadbill steaks for tea — yum!
The decks had only just been cleaned and Craig decided to see if we
could berley up another mako. He walked to the side with a mackerel in his hand
and found himself looking down at a 120-kg mako, its nose within 150mm of the
“Give me a tag pole — quick!” yelled Craig. And a tag was
deposited, free of charge, in his dorsal, courtesy of Primetime. We put a bait
out and ten minutes later had the SAME mako at the transom, complete with its
new tag. We called this a ‘tag and catch’ — talk about the wrong way
When morning came, we tried setting two deep baits with light
sticks and hooked a mako and a tope at the same time. We gave up in
Everyone was dog-tired, so all the systems were shut down and we
went to sleep in the middle of the day for five hours, with no land in sight.
(Quite a strange feeling when you can't orientate yourself to
By now it was our last night away, so John
decided to try a different spot to beat the sharks. What a call! The first fish
was hooked at as the baits were being set. It gave us a
totally different fight to the sharks previously encountered, fighting deep and
giving big headshakes, just like a humungous snapper.
We all had our fingers crossed, and up popped a broadbill after
one-and-a-half hours — with a mako in hot pursuit. The mako appeared to swim
past the broadbill, but then we saw that the our fish's tail had disappeared.
Within a minute of the fish hitting the deck, there were three
large makos cruising the back of the boat looking for their lost tea. Sorry
The next bite was at . This fish ran about 80 metres, stopped and
was struck hard. After taking line it started sulking about 200 metres down —
definitely not a shark! At this point, Captain John's boat driving skills came
to the fore. Imagine 60-feet of boat, with a thousand horsepower, screwing from
port to starboard fiercely in the dark. At the end of every manoeuvre, the fish
would shake its head violently, the rod would buck under the 20kg of drag, 20
metres of line would be retrieved and 10 metres would be lost. This is not
fishing for the faint-hearted and definitely an adrenaline buzz. We were totally
drenched from the backing up over the following two
Finally the broadbill came up, firmly
attached to the 1500-pound leader and 16/0 hook after two hours and 20 minutes.
A large mako was shadowing the fish. As soon as the gaff went in, the big mako
made its move.
Everyone was screaming and I had severe reservations about grabbing
the bill to guide the head into the cockpit (makos and I are definitely not
compatible), but with adrenaline pumping, we managed to hump the head and bill
into the boat. John then floored the throttles and drove Primetime a couple of
kilometres away before stopping so that the big fish could be pulled right into
the boat. John slammed the transom door (as a mako had poked its head in the
boat on the previous trip and bitten the tail off a fish lying on the deck) and
there were handshakes and back slapping all round. Everyone was stoked; we'd
finally cracked the code with a great fish.
Still shaking, we set the next baits
and were bit again — but then nothing. Craig wound in the rod and the
80-pound mainline had been cleanly severed, probably by a shark, we
However, we had just started on the reset when
John saw a light-stick swimming towards the boat. On the edge of the boat
lights we could just make out the shape of a bloody great broadbill.
“That’s 400-plus kilos!” exclaimed John, accompanied by lots
of expletives from the crew. We were all absolutely
This fish was not scared of us, the boat, or the noise of the
genset, but unfortunately it spat out our skipjack tuna bait before we
could get tight to it.
Early in the morning we had a screamer of a run. The fish
fought doggedly in 270 metres of water and once we reached the edge of the
drop-off it blistered line straight down against 20-kg of
Craig's big broadie is weighed at
The angler was stiff-legged in the chair, holding onto the seat
with one hand, with the rod tip 100mm off the gunwale — and this all happened in
30 seconds flat! I have never seen line taken so fast off a reel before. This
was brutal fishing at its best, but unfortunately the fish pulled the hook —
only moments before we were going to be spooled.
We wound the line back onto the reel in utter disbelief and found
that one of the strands of the 80-pound double had also
The action had been so good we'd not had time for a decent rest or
coffee throughout the night. The total was eight broadbill takes and one from a
mako — absolutely unbelievable action.
The two fish weighed 147kg and 247.2 kg, with the first fish
estimated at 135kg. The smaller fish was disallowed due to shark damage, but
Craig was still very happy. He had targeted broadbill for the previous three
years and caught a total of three. He had spent so much time and fuel chasing
broadies that he believed he was a major shareholder in British Petroleum.
Suddenly, not only had he beaten his previous best broadbill of 186kg, but he'd
also doubled the previous years' total as well!
Thanks for the trip, John, I certainly learned a lot and it was an
experience to remember. Craig and I have booked Primetime again for a repeat
performance in 2002.
A week later Primetime weighed three more
fish of 200, 260 and 292.8kg. The largest fish was fought on 28kg of drag, and
was hooked in the mouth with two half-hitches around the pectoral fin. The fish
was hooked at and landed at the following afternoon (15 hours and 40
minutes) — not too bad for a 70-year-old man (John's
Graeme Sinclair has arranged for the video footage of this
fish to screen on a future edition of Gone Fishin'. Graeme decided he also
wanted a piece of the action and brought along a team to fish on Primetime, late
in July. They boated a 271-kg broadbill and tagged 29 sharks in just three days.
To add to this, John took them to uncharted reefs that produced dozens of 'puka
and bass up to 45kg, and everyone on board managed a 20lb-plus snapper injust one session of an hour and a half.
Primetime has now caught 13 broadbill in just six trips, with half
of them over 500-lb.
Whangaroa Game Fishing Club has caught 20 broadbill in the last 76
years. It won't be long before Primetime beats that tally by