Snapper and kingfish have traditionally been the focus of Jason Neute’s annual Far North trips. But you never quite know what is going to turn up in the berley trail or pick up your bait off the beach…
The spots we fish from boat and shore are well-known places often patrolled by big trevally. We have occasionally encountered them in the past, but never specifically targeted them.
In my experience, trevally are a transient species – they roam searching for areas that provide the resources they are attracted to. The best chances of targeting trevally are either by sight fishing when they surface to feed on krill, or by finding areas beneath the surface where they are mooching around.
The crystal-clear waters of both the east and west coast beaches of the Far North seem to attract this species in good numbers. Trevally are great fun on light tackle as they hold a heap of power in their tails and well-defined bodies. Once hooked, you know there is one on the line in seconds. They are distinctly stubborn, lie flat on their sides, pump their tails and swim in circles. Their presence is given away by the rapid tail beat transmitted up the line and through the rod. Having a long, flat, paddle-like body is advantageous as it allows them to really get some grunt behind their runs. I always hoped to hook one of the Far North giants I had heard so much about. There are stories that these giants can be found at a few beaches not far from the usual base camp of our Far North trips. During this year’s mid-March Far North venture, I was fortunate enough to not only hook into one of these mighty beasts, but two.
At 4.00am on the first morning we headed to one of our favourite surfcasting spots where we normally get solid 5-6kg snapper. This time the target species were small and the action quieter but the surprise catch of a solid 70cm trevally, my personal best from the sand, certainly made up for the slow start. Trevally know how to use the current to their advantage. There was a lot of tide in the harbour we were fishing, as well as sea grass (which was tangled around my line), making it a decent fight all the way to the beach.
Sliding it up onto the sand, I was stoked and wanted a couple quick pics before releasing such an amazing adversary. I noticed the hook had been swallowed and was in the gills which were bleeding. I was gutted, as it was such a beautiful fish and I would have loved to watch it swim away. Quickly dispatched and put on ice, it was to provide a tasty meal that night.
The next day we headed to another of our favourite beaches to set the kontiki. Being the only two on this magical 1-2km stretch of white sand coastline was special. We were going to set the kontiki twice which would allow me to surfcast between sets. After we unloaded the car, I stole a cheeky moment to set up my surfcaster while Steve sorted out the Seahorse. I made a dropper rig instead of a running rig, which I normally like to use so the bait is off the bottom and away from the paddle crabs. I placed a small lumo bead at the hook and followed it with a little ball float. I don’t use too much bling when making home-made traces but this time I thought I would do something a little different than just tie on a hook.
Before Steve walked the kontiki out, I quickly cast out my first bait and set it in the sand spike. I then went to help Steve, only to see my rod buckle over straight away, the fish taking the bait but not hooking up.
With the kontiki set and the baits soaking, I landed a big kahawai. Fresh kahawai is one of our favourite baits for the longline. The rod was baited with a chunk and cast out as we set about retrieving the kontiki, the winch being about 50 metres away from my surfcaster.
As the sound of the winch doing its thing drowned out any other noise, I failed to hear my reel screaming or notice the rod’s healthy bend. Finally realizing I was ‘on’, I raced over and, in my excitement, fumbled the rod out of the holder. After eventually getting into position, the weight on the line was obvious – I knew it wasn’t a kahawai this time.
I had seen a big shadow in the surf previously so thought I had possibly hooked a bronze whaler shark. I discounted that theory as soon as I felt the thump of a decent fish – a kingfish or a trevally perhaps? I remembered the tales of XOS trevally being caught from this beach – if it was one of these, it was going to be a horse!
What an awesome battle! The rod was constantly bent and line peeled occasionally. I got it closer by using the waves and saw a big tail coming out of the water. It wasn’t that usual greenie yellow you expect from a kingfish so that’s when I knew I was hooked up to a donkey of a trevally. I yelled the question to Steve, “could this be bigger than the one I caught yesterday?”
Once on its side and wallowing in the shallows, I saw it was definitely bigger than the previous model – this thing was huge. It was a different shape to the previous day’s fish, with a longer, slender body that had a GT look to it.
I couldn’t believe the length. This thing was roughly around 80cm and, on picking it up, reached to my waist. It was definitely my PB off the sand.
The greatest thing about this catch was that after taking a few quick pics and holding it in the surf for a minute or two, I watched it slowly swim away and disappear back into its own paradise. The next five days I landed a few more nice trevs, but none surpassed this monster. For me, it will always be one of the special ones.
Most fisho’s favorite memories are of the personal best fish itself; however, mine are witnessing magnificent fish return to where they belong.
I don’t know how big these things grow in NZ but being a traditional fisherman with many tales, my monster trev story will no doubt become exaggerated over the years of re-telling!
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