For the last three years, buddies John Gilford (skipper), Jeremy Rewi and angler Wade Wilson have fished the Nationals without any success on the billfish front.
This year’s Nationals saw them on the water for their tenth consecutive day, and although they’d had seven strikes, none had stuck – until the big blue hoovered up the Red Gill RGII Kohi lure run on the shotgun position.
“On the Friday evening, over a few beers, we’d discussed the possibility of not targeting a marlin in favour of some bottom fish, but decided to give it one last shot,” John says.
This decision was to see them richly rewarded by the smiling fishing gods. After launching off the Shipwreck Bay beach at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach, they trolled their lures in near-glassy conditions. The crew were fishing with four 24kg outfits and just one 37kg set, attached to a lure in the shotgun position.
Fortunately it was this outfit that went off around 1.30pm.
“We looked around on hearing the ratchet screaming, but couldn’t work out immediately where it was coming from, forgetting about the Shimano Tiagra 80W set up in the rocket launcher. I looked up to see the spool emptying out very fast, and knew we had to start chasing the fish or we would be spooled,” Jeremy says.
“We hadn’t seen the bite and the fish didn’t surface once in the two hours we were playing it. The only reason I called it for a blue marlin was the speed of the initial run, which had the arbour in view before we could turn and chase it,” Jeremy says.
Despite the dire line level however, the drag still had to be backed off to reduce the pressure while getting the outfit down.
“Whilst hard to do, backing the drag off also reduced the water pressure being placed on the line by the hard-running fish. It [the pressure] could have quite easily popped the line.”
Wade was on the rod, and he wasted no time getting the Black Magic Equaliser gimbal harness on. Some of the gear was cleared before they began chasing the fish hard to regain some of the precious line.
Once the remainder of the gear was finally sorted, the battle began in earnest, with the unsighted fish subsequently making One hell of a fish! Skipper John Gilford and the big blue in the cockpit of his 5.8m McLay. three massive runs – although each was shorter than the last.
Using the swell to his advantage, Wade was soon making good line, and after two hours the big fish popped up boat-side, before turning on its back, completely spent.
It was only once it had been secured alongside that the crew finally realised its true bulk and the enormity of what they had just achieved. Previous to this, Wade’s biggest catch had been a fourkilo snapper!
Jeremy admitted to some anxious moments upon seeing the spool drained of line earlier.
“I should really have re-spooled the reel for the Nationals, but because the rules were going to change regarding braid backing later in the season [April 1], I took the easy way out by chopping off the top 100 metres and binning it.”
The crew’s next challenge was getting the fish back to the Ahipara Sport Fishing Club’s weigh-station. It was obvious they could not get the big fish on board John’s 5.8m McLay alone, so the call was made for assistance. Experienced anglers Jed Radaly and Josh Holmes were swordfishing in the area, so cut their lines and raced to Hot Lips’ assistance.
Jed’s boat was initially used as a ‘tug’ to get the fish part-way across Hot Lips’ transom and then as a platform to lift the head up so the body could be pulled aboard. Then, with the marlin secured, the next challenge was to head back the 25 nautical miles or so to the weigh-station in an effort to beat the 6.00pm Nationals’ deadline.
However, John needed every bit of the Mercury 115 Four Stroke’s horsepower and some assistance from the swells just to get up on the plane, resulting in them missing the Nationals’ cut-off time by some 20 minutes.
While disappointed with that outcome, there can be no denying this great angling achievement.
Muriwai Club President Stan Phillips says the crew’s tenacity finally paid off.
“To hook a fish of this size, especially for a first-time angler, was a great feat – made even more meritorious given the size of the boat,” Stan says.
The fish is now in the hands of noted big-fish taxidermist Kevin Flutey, and will eventually take pride-of-place in the clubrooms at Muriwai Beach. This will cost around $8000, so a Give A Little page has been set up to help cover it.
Skipper John Gilford says they appreciated the assistance received from numerous people in dealing with the fish.
“Jed and Josh’s help was invaluable; Keiron Olson at Reel Rods went out of his way to supply the large amount of ice needed to keep the fish in good shape while being transported to the taxidermist; and the reception and hospitality we enjoyed during our stay up north from the Ahipara community was exceptional.”
“There was always plenty of friendly rivalry between us all – we couldn’t have hoped to have weighed it at a better club.”
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