Aussie Hooks a Big One (1997)

With only the inky outline of the land against the early morning sky to confirm our heading we blasted up the Sound. Half an hour later we rounded a jumble of rocks that jutted out into the bay guarding a small cove I call ''The Nook". It was getting lighter, and as I gently eased the anchor over the side, the last of our wake slapped against the shore.

I fastened another rope to a beech tree root just above the high water mark, and pulled the boat out on the anchor line until the shore rope drew up tight. The boat fixed firmly between the anchor and shore, I lowered the ground bait container over on its ropes, and secured it to a cleat. It was quiet now as we set up our gear - a mixture of light and medium tackle. 

Glancing over the side I noted the arrival of the first bait in the berley trail - a six-inch yellow-eyed mullet greedily inhaling small pieces of berley. Before long others joined in - mackerel, garfish, and small kahawai. Lobbing tiny baited hook into the frenzy I immediately plucked out a fat little mullet. Threaded whole on to my strayline outfit, flicked out into the berley trail. My rod firmly in its holder.

Various species were swung aboard and dispatched into the bait bucket - except the small kahawai, which were gently plopped back in a forlorn attempt to boost the depleted stocks. The remaining outfits were baited up and cast in the direction of the berley trail. Rods in the rod holders, we settled back in our seats. It was cool and calm as I looked out across the water, the slick surface disturbed only by the tiny swirls and splashes as baitfish competed for a piece of ber??ey. Time for a coffee I thought, reaching for thermos, l didn't get the chance The strayline bait furthermost from the boat had been intercepted and was moving in a sweeping arc in the bay.

Mike grabbed the rod, struck firmly and was rewarded with a solid hook-up. After five minutes of familiar bumping and knock and one last run as the fish was spotted the boat, the net slipped under the 5kg snapper which was duly spiked and put on ice.

The rod rebated, cast and set, we settled down for a cup of coffee. The first sip was interrupted by another strike on the same rod. The line cut through the water in a vertical direction. Kahawai I thought before it broke the surface,shaking it's head aggressively and careering off sideways. After a typically spirited fight a 2kg kahawai was netted and released. A pleasant hour slipped by, the only action being a few garfish on the bait rods rewarding in itself - and fooling the 'mini marlin' with subtle movements of the tiny bait. Rebaiting with fresh garfish, I decided to give it half an hour more before trying another piece of water. Daydreaming, I was brought back to reality by a gentle movement on Mike's light rod, loaded with 2kg line. He quietly took the rod out of its holder, lowered the tip and waited. We watched as the slack line on the surface tension of the water began to move then suddenly straighten. Mike struck and held the rod high in an incredible arc as the little Shimano reel squealed. We waited for more than thirty seconds before the first run stopped. I cleared the other rods with the fish hooked on two kilo gear, we needed all the space we could get. Mike began gingerly retrieving line and for ten minutes he made steady progress. "Maybe it isn't that big after all," I said, but the fish powered away as if in reply.

Again Mike cautiously began to put line back on the reel. The fish surged away, the rod bucking as it shook its head in protest. Another ten minutes slipped by - things looked more in control now. Mike slowly drew the fish nearer, both of us straining to spot some colour, then there was a huge swirl in the water as it broke the surface 20 metres out. Tired, the fish was coming more easily now. "There it is!" Mike yelled, as it veered off away from the boat towards the shore, close to foul ground. Applying side strain, Mike expertly turned the fish one last time and after a brief final flurry the spent snapper was guided into the net. Quickly weighed, it lay motionless on the deck with its big, worried eye and iridescent blue spots. The small hook was removed from its jaw and the 8.5kg snapper was lowered quietly back into the clear water, gills heaving as it paused. Then, with a flick of its massive tail, it glided off strongly. "Lets go chase some kingfish" Mike said grinning.  


June 1997 - Scott Anderson
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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