Fishing from a jet-ski is not something I’d ever considered.
To be honest, I’ve never found jet-skis (or PWCs – Personal Water Craft) and their high-speed antics to be anything other than a nuisance, especially since many riders seem totally oblivious to other water users.
So I was rather ambivalent about accepting an invitation to join Andrew Hill for a day’s jet-ski fishing. His company, Gadget Innovations Limited, specialises in kitting out PWCs with custom fishing accessories. (The Ultimate Rod Holder kits are available from selected PWC retailers around the country to suit a range of PWC models from different manufacturers, including Yamaha, Sea-Doo and Kawasaki.)
Andrew is a keen ski-fisher, often running trips out into the Hauraki Gulf for the benefit of novices and customers. He was proposing a similar trip for a cold winter’s day at the end of May. I needed to find a wetsuit!
The ski I would be riding was a range-topping Yamaha Waverunner FX SHO, a 1.8-litre, supercharged four-stroke model with cruise control, nozzle tilt, adjustable handlebars and a range of sophisticated electronic aids.
Andrew’s personal Waverunner is a conventionally aspirated FX HO model, which gives a little away in ultimate performance, but is otherwise identical.
Both skis were fitted with Hill’s fishing accessories: a custom stainless steel rod-holder kit supporting a 38-litre chilly bin and three angled rod holders with stainless lanyards and clips to keep the rods in place, no matter how rough the water becomes.
Hill’s vessel also featured a Raymarine electronics package, which he normally fits along with the 54-litre rod holder kit. Transducers can be transom mounted or through-hull, depending on the owner’s preference.
Like many ski-fishers, Andrew soon became bored with the usual range of jet-ski activities. Then he discovered fishing and hasn’t looked back – and he’s not alone; increasing numbers of jet-skis are being used for fishing, in the sea, on lakes and even on rivers, where they’re used for access.
Andrew’s company has undertaken 150 jet-ski fishing conversions in the last year and contributed to more than 250. Demand is growing.
“It’s really taken off,” he told me, spurred on no doubt by the trips Hill organises for his customers and jet-ski fishing novices, as well as YouTube videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6itaRe9E1g8), his own website and forum (www.jetskifishing.co.nz), and his presence on various other fishing websites.
My introduction to jet-ski fishing was a solo run from Westhaven to the Noisies, where I rendezvoused with Andrew. The run down the harbour and through the Motuihe Channel was an opportunity to familiarise myself with the machine’s controls and handling. It was blisteringly fast and incredibly responsive; as someone with very limited PWC experience, I took things pretty easy at first, settling on a cruise speed of around 80kph and making use of the excellent cruise-control function.
In other respects, though, it was very easy. The seat was comfortable, the handlebars adjusted up and down to suit the length of the rider’s arms, and the big machine was stable, but very responsive to steering inputs. Boat wakes became a temptation rather than a threat and (oh, oh!) I was soon seeking them out and launching the Waverunner off the crests. All in all it was a lot of fun.
While we waited for the photo boat to arrive, I talked Andrew into making a few casts in around the rocks, hooking up with a soft-bait almost immediately. I dropped the first fish, but the second, a snapper of around 3kg, stayed connected and found its way into the chilly bin behind me. It was a good start.
Our plan, however, was to chase the work-ups out wide in the middle gulf, where Andrew often catches good-sized snapper, kahawai and kingfish from under diving birds.
So off we went, trailed by Greg Fenwick’s (Yamaha New Zealand) big Protector, out into the open waters of the gulf. Sea conditions were generally good, although passing rain squalls brought a bit of wind with them, along with a metre or so of chop.
What amazed me was how quickly we could cover the ground. In no time at all we’d left the islands of the inner gulf far behind. For comfort, it was better to stand and drive, rather than sit, especially when the waves built up a bit out in the middle. The Waverunner’s ride, however, was very good, though spray is a fact of life; I was glad to be wearing wetsuit bottoms and several layers of polar fleece on my torso. Wrap-around glasses or ski-goggles are a good idea, too, especially in the rain.
We travelled a long way, but look as we might, we could find no work-ups, which goes to show just how quickly things can change – Andrew had experienced two consecutive days of good fishing in the area earlier in the week.
By the end of the day we had travelled more than 70 nautical miles, mostly in open water, which demonstrates how capable these big watercraft really are. At the end of a five-hour day in the saddle, this novice jet-ski fisher felt remarkably fresh, though I’ll admit to being a bit stiff and sore the next day.
We still had a problem in terms of the story and pictures: no fish. So we headed back inshore to Whangaparaoa Peninsula, where we managed to winkle out a few winter snapper from the shallows on soft-baits. We could have saved ourselves a long run!
Such shallow water fishing demands slightly different soft-plastic skills, lighter jig heads and a stealthy approach. I could tell this was an unfamiliar style of fishing for Andrew, although he tells me he often fishes the channel edges and inner gulf when fish are present in good numbers during summer.
Fortunately, a few fish ate my lightly weighted soft-baits, and to my surprise the big Waverunner proved a useful mount for this style of fishing. Its jet propulsion meant I could pick my way into shallow water without fear of dinging a prop, and it was quieter than the average outboard-powered craft, too. By switching off the engine and gliding silently inshore, I was able to connect with a number of wary snapper.
At one stage I manoeuvred the ski right over a snagged fish to free it from the weed – something that would have been more difficult in a boat. I also used the engine to move the ski out of the danger zone once I hooked a fish, engaging reverse and idling slowly backwards, towing it into deeper water.
My initial fears about instability proved unfounded. The Waverunner is very stable, and it was possible to fish standing up in the calm conditions we enjoyed. There’s also plenty of inbuilt stowage in watertight compartments and lockers, so no problems keeping the gear dry.
Andrew’s fishing modifications worked well. The chilly bin will hold plenty of ice and bait, or a good number of average-sized fish, and the stainless steel rod holders accommodate up to four outfits. Reaching around to access the gear and the bin was a bit of a stretch, but got easier as I became more confident in the craft’s stability. Rods stayed put in the holders, which was a relief, though they were subject to a fair amount of salt spray – if you’re a regular jet-ski fisher, you’d better be fanatical about maintaining your gear.
With the photos done, we parted ways and headed back to Westhaven, once again engaging cruise control. The Yamaha’s fuel gauge was reading half-full back at the ramp, so its 70-litre tank offers plenty of range.
My day illustrated just how versatile such a machine can be. Fast and capable, it allows you to explore large areas in a short time, as we did, or race out for an hour or two’s fishing when time’s short – PWCs are easy to tow, launch and retrieve, and require just a hose down at the end of the day. You could happily go soft-bait fishing two-up as well, with a friend or one of your children riding pillion.
And while a jet-ski still wouldn’t be my first choice as a fishing machine, if you’ve got one, why not use it for something worthwhile? Take it fishing – I was pleasantly surprised by just how good a fishing platform the Yamaha Waverunner turned out to be.
And if you get serious about it, give Andrew Hill a call – phone 021 864 560; email email@example.com; or www.jetskifishing.co.nz) – he can kit you out with the gear you need to convert your PWC into a real fishing machine.
This article is reproduced with permission of
New Zealand Fishing News
2009 - by John Eichelsheim
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited