Massive Gurnard Caught

Hawkes Bay angler and magazine contributor Blair Whiting is a keen kayak angler, but on this day he headed out to sea on his uncle’s boat 'That’ll Do' for a planned tarakihi session that would see him return to shore having landed a personal best.

Blair describes how the day unfolded…

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“While fishing at 70 metres depth off the coast of Waimarama Beach at a small patch of rubbly bottom known locally as South Foul, I hooked up to a heavy fish that had me scratching my head as to what it could be. The unknown creature then started pulling hard, kicking away solidly on a few runs before it gradually allowed me to wind it up from the depths. A behemoth of a red gurnard eventually floated up from under the boat and the net was quickly grabbed to secure the very large specimen.

“The gurnard was caught on a 3/0 hook armed with a small triangle of artificial Fishbites bait – Orange EZ Crab to be exact, something I now swear by for gurnard fishing. I knew the fish was exceptional, calling it for 1.5kg or more immediately.

“Back on land a few hours later, the scales read 1.75kg with the gurnard measuring 52cm – it was very heavy for its length. An interesting detail when inspecting its stomach contents was the absence of paddle crabs. Instead it had opted to swap diets, feeding on flounder to fuel its large size.

“Funnily enough, my previous personal best gurnard of 1.3kg came from this exact spot two years prior during the same time of year. Perhaps there are larger ones waiting to be caught in the future?

Blair Whiting was rapt with his latest gurnard catch, a 52cm, 1.75kg specimen which he discovered had been feeding on juvenile flounder.

Special thanks to my uncle, Marty Cooke, for the trip. This fish wouldn’t have been possible without him.

While Blair’s gurnard was right up there in the species stakes, larger ones have been caught. For the record, the biggest gurnard ever landed for the Export NZ Fishing Competition, a nationwide measure-based contest, is a 55.5cm entry landed by Kevin Kemp fishing with bait from a boat off New Plymouth. The current 2023-24 gurnard section leader is Nick Richards, whose 53.0cm entry was landed surfcasting on a west coast beach.

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The NZ Angling and Casting Association are caretakers of many NZ species records. They show that the all-tackle red gurnard record was landed by T. Freeman in April, 1998, using 8kg line. It weighed 2.39kgs.

Written by – Grant Dixon

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