Mark Kitteridge's Top Ten Local Species: Part 2

Mark Kitteridge continues his countdown of the New Zealand fish species he’s enjoyed chasing throughout his long fishing life.

Okay, I admit it, this species countdown has provided me with plenty of pleasurable nostalgia and the chance to look back at past glories. Let the countdown resume…

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#5 Trevally

How can this species not be in my top five, especially as the very first sea fish I landed off the wharf at age seven was a well-legal one caught on white string with bacon rind for bait?

Since then, I’ve tangled with these silver steamrollers on innumerable occasions, and the capture of a decent one still gives me a buzz.

While my biggest specimen was probably caught when fishing from a commercial crayfish boat using deep-water hermit crabs for bait, and supposedly weighed around 15-16lb, the forty-odd years that have elapsed make me wonder just how accurate that weight truly is…

However, there have been plenty of hefty specimens around the 5-6.5kg mark over the years, with my favourite memories involving those caught on salt-fly and soft-bait tackle during berleying sessions around White Island and the Princes Group at the Three Kings Islands. 

Those experiences remain vivid for me still. They were sometimes present in their hundreds, their stocky forms and yellow tails suggesting near-legal kingfish (as did the many bust-offs that occurred on the bottom after hooking up!). But there was no doubting what they were upon being landed – and some were potential world-record weight and length material!    

These days I mostly encounter them while fishing locally in Auckland with soft-baits, and the average size is much less impressive - just 1-1.5kg usually - but they still give a good account of themselves, and one-day-old, chilled trevally fillets provide fantastic sashimi!

A trevally this big is a formidable adversary, especially on softbait gear!

A trevally this big is a formidable adversary, especially on softbait gear!

#4 Broadbill swordfish

Quite a bit of debate went on in my brain that justified broadbill being given the gold medal spot. After all, they can be huge, often fight as if possessed by demons, taste delicious, and I sporadically pursued them for over thirty-odd years, spending at least 50 futile nights rolling around in the darkness and cold, hoping for a bite. And on the odd occasion that this did happen, it wasn’t my turn or something unfortunate cut the fight short. I also witnessed a couple of big, tough guys getting systematically broken down by the never-say-die attitude of these almost scary fish following hook-up.

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Then ‘daytime deep-dropping’ came along and everything changed. Not only was it much more pleasant targeting them while wide awake in the warmer daylight hours, but we also got way more bites and the swords even seemed easier to wind in! 

Interestingly, upon finally hooking and landing my first (a stonker weighing over 400lb) with Luke Davey, nearly all my enthusiasm and drive for catching more seem to have evaporated. That’s why they are Number Four instead of Number One for me.

 Broadbill occupied much of the writer’s thoughts and efforts over the years, but having caught a decent one, he’s happy to watch other anglers try instead!


Broadbill occupied much of the writer’s thoughts and efforts over the years, but having caught a decent one, he’s happy to watch other anglers try instead!

#3 Tuna

I love catching all types of tuna, especially yellowfin, although a trip down to Westport that resulted in two bluefin being landed - one big Pacific and a medium-sized northern - remains one of my top five fishing experiences. There was something magical about heading over snowy mountains with 37kg game outfits in the car, then making our way out of the Westport Bar to where the massive international trawlers were working their deep-water nets, accompanied by literally thousands of wheeling, squabbling and feeding sea birds. And huge bluefin tuna. At times they could be seen exploding around the nets being retrieved, especially near the cod-end, as well as on our lures! Yep, definitely right up there as an amazing experience.    

However, if the yellowfin tuna were still around in good numbers, as was the situation when I regularly fished for them throughout the late ‘80s and well into the ‘90s, they would be my favourite fish to catch. They can grow to an impressive size (my biggest is around 65kg, but they can weigh more than 90kg here) and fight so long, hard and stubbornly that they can become exasperating. They also provide melt-in-your-mouth fillets that suit everything from sashimi, to marinating and flash-frying, to cold smoking. Truly delicious.

Better still, it’s possible to catch yellowfin using a wide variety of methods, from the traditional trolling of skirted lures and bibbed and bibless minnows, to jigging, casting and retrieving poppers, using live baits (under sinkers, floats, or free swimming, depending on the situation), as well as by stray-lining cubes of bait or pilchards down chunk trails. I even caught a decent yellowfin using fly-fishing tackle once!

What I’d give to stumble on one more gannet ‘snowstorm’, signposting a huge pilchard or anchovy meatball, accompanied by feeding dolphins and skipjack tuna – and then everything exploding into white water as the yellowfin charge in to take advantage… 

 This Pacific bluefin weighed over 120kg and ate a trolled skirted lure.


This Pacific bluefin weighed over 120kg and ate a trolled skirted lure.

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#2 Snapper

It’s very close between my first and second places; these species are almost first equal. I love how abundant snapper are, how they can be found in so many different situations and locations, and that they can be targeted using a wide range of bait and lure techniques. The fact I can leave from a central Auckland boat ramp, fish for two or three hours, and come back with a decent feed is very attractive, too. Although I’d be disappointed if two or three hours were all I could spare!

No doubt about it: although happy simply fishing for snapper of any size, a part of me always wants a monster to hop on, especially one over 30lb!  

It’s therefore no surprise that I particularly enjoyed fishing large stray-line baits down soupy berley trails with 6-10kg freespool outfits. However, although I certainly got a buzz from wrestling with big fish on this gear, my world changed forever after committing to a day of fishing with good quality soft-bait gear. Not only did my buddy and I end up with a bunch of snapper to 7kg, along with kahawai, trevally and two huge squid, but the light gear made every fight so much more exciting and pleasurable. Bye-bye, bait… 

And this has been finetuned further in recent times: whenever the ground below is relatively clear, I like using tiny jig-heads armed with 2.5-4mm ‘baits cast out on a spindly 3-4kg soft-bait outfit. Virtually nothing refuses these small offerings, made even more attractive due to the light 10-12lb fluoro leader incorporated, and I’ve been surprised by how big some of the snapper can be, too! 

In short, more snapper per session, often including some very big ones, a higher bycatch of trevally and gurnard, and more fun fighting each fish, no matter what the size. That’s a lot of wins for micro-baiting I reckon.

 Although the writer loves snapper fishing in general, nothing beats hooking huge snapper on soft-bait tackle!

Although the writer loves snapper fishing in general, nothing beats hooking huge snapper on soft-bait tackle!

#1 Kingfish

After several years spent trying to catch a land-based kingfish in Wellington waters, I finally landed one around 30lb on my 80lb ‘tow-rope’ handline while fishing Ngauranga’s ‘gut chute’ – a rugged, rocky area with an outlet that belched a rich browny-red mixture of meat-works offal and sewage into the nearshore waters. Upon hooking up, I couldn’t believe this fish’s immense power, and when it was landed several minutes later, my head felt as if it might burst from excitement and joy. So began a lifetime ‘love affair’ with kingfish. 

This infatuation eventually drove me out of Wellington to greater success at Tauranga, then on to the even more productive wharf at Mangonui in the Far North. It could be carnage there, with multiple kingfish on at once, anglers running up and down trying to avoid cutting each other off or from being taken around the pilings, lines snapping and sometimes rods breaking and reels seizing. I was in heaven – especially when I landed a 27kg kingfish from the rocks while on ‘holiday’ further north up at Spirits Bay.

However, it wasn’t until I started going to White Island, Ranfurly Bank and the Three Kings Islands on long-range charters that some truly monumental beasts were encountered, including three successful captures around the magic 100lb (45kg) mark. For me, the main appeal was the physical wrestling involved, especially on 37kg tackle – I couldn’t believe a sea creature smaller than me could take me to the limits!

These days I’m just as happy to be hooking 6-15kg specimens on relatively light slow-jig and soft-bait gear, or targeting larger specimens with stick-baits and poppers on heavier top-water gear. That’s because no matter what the gear involved, I know this fish will give a great account of itself, running off powerfully at times, holding deep down stubbornly, and usually taking some skill to bring boatside. Then that familiar thrill of victory kicks in and I know this is still my favourite fish!

 This beast of a kingfish was caught while fishing with Carl Muir at the Mercury pins.


This beast of a kingfish was caught while fishing with Carl Muir at the Mercury pins.

December 2022 - Mark Kitteridge
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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