In the second instalment of Josh Darby’s Cook Islands fishing adventure, he and cousin Eli check out the inshore action via kayak, followed by a family excursion offshore aboard a charter vessel…
We were ecstatic! In just one morning Rarotonga had laid on an unforgettable fishing experience that had seen us go toe-to-toe with GT’s, yellowfin, bigeye tuna, and mahimahi. It was hard to believe that things could get any better than this – they were about to, and in a BIG way.
Now a few days into our trip, and with the family soon to arrive, Eli and I made the call to head out and try something a bit different. Rob Snr, our gracious host, pointed us in the direction of a row of kayaks laid up in front of our beachfront accommodation. It turned out that two of the kayaks even had rod holders – perfect! We slid the kayaks a short distance down the white sand beach and into the clear warm water of the lagoon. I threw in a dry bag with a selection of micro-baits, some leader, and a knife, and then secured my soft-baiting combo before beginning to paddle out.
Initially there wasn’t much interest in our soft-bait offerings, so we made the call to paddle to an island a short distance away and try our luck land-based. I cast out a 2.5” Zman GrubZ and felt my line suddenly tighten up. There wasn’t much of a fight but there was a sense of satisfaction as I landed a new species for me – a good-sized longtom. This lifted our spirits and soon we were wading out into waist-deep water, peppering the lagoon with casts that led to a range of species attacking our lures, including bluefin and striped trevally, along with more longtoms. Returning to our kayaks, we worked our way further down that lagoon and suddenly found ourselves in an area where almost every cast resulted in a hook-up. Eli ended up taking the honours after a nice-sized bluefin trevally exploded onto his surface-retrieved bruised banana soft-bait. With the heat starting to get the better of us, we made our way back to the Kaireva Beach House where the pool and a few Raro lagers awaited.
Eli with a bluefin trevally that exploded on to his softbait.
With the family having touched down, we made our way to join them at their accommodation and enjoyed a few days of fishing-free fun (if there is such a thing)! This consisted of snorkelling trips, constant pool dips, and indulging in numerous homemade Pina Coladas. The fishing wasn’t over, however, as I had managed to talk my family and my wife’s family into joining Eli and I on a half-day trip out with Akura Fishing Charters.
Akura Fishing Charters is a well-known operator which has three vessels catering for small groups of one or two right up to large groups of 16 (though 8-10 would be an ideal number). Given I had managed to talk all eight of us into going, I booked the 40ft vessel Akura, which is well equipped with an onboard toilet, sound system, and plenty of room to make yourself comfortable. Our crew for the day consisted of Boof, Royle, and Cameron who were all in good spirits and keen to put us on the fish. Cam provided the safety briefing and in no time at all Avatiu Harbour lay in our wake as Boof set course for an area where the crew had recently landed some very large tuna.
One thing I had learned from a recent trip out with another Akura skipper, Pupuke, was what type of birds and workups to be on the lookout for. Just a few birds tracking together over the water often indicated a school of ‘mahi. Lots of birds working the water generally indicated a skipjack tuna school, whereas a dozen or so birds doing the same thing was a potential sign of yellowfin. Thanks to these insights I was able to temper my excitement as we happened upon a large group of birds diving into the blue water a short distance in front of us. Shortly after, though, Boof spotted a couple of birds tracking above the water and quickly made a course correction to intercept them.
Suddenly one of the rigs housed in the rocket launcher up on the flybridge exploded into life with the ratchet singing. Srdjan, my father-in-law, was first on the rod, having never fished before. In the game chair, under helpful instruction from the crew, he began to get the hang of things and slowly made back some of the lost line. The fish was stubborn though, and soon my dad was ready to take a turn in the chair. With the rod fully loaded we watched as a large yet slender shape surfed along the waves off our stern. “Big mahimahi!” the crew exclaimed as the fish showed itself once again. “WIND WIND WIND!” I yelled as the fish suddenly changed direction, introducing slack line. Dad continued to work hard, slowly moving the fish back towards us as we all watched in nervous anticipation. Eventually, the fish began to tire and with a last few turns of the handle, Cam’s awaiting gaff was in range – he didn’t miss! There were high-fives all around and as a nice-sized mahimahi was dispatched and packed away on ice.
Vaughan with a mahimahi he and Srdjan caught.
With the celebrations dying down, Boof reengaged the throttle and we were once again trolling. My brother Sam was identified as the next angler to take the chair and he didn’t have to wait long for some action as the hum of the diesel engines was suddenly broken by the sound of a screaming reel! We were ON, and this fish had already buried a couple of hundred metres of line by the time Sam’s hands had found the reel. A blue marlin? A large yellowfin? We weren’t sure. Sam set to work, pumping the rod, which was under considerably more load than had been the case with our first fish of the day. After a while, he began to tire and asked if I would jump on. I asked the crew if they had stand-up harness I could use. Cam kindly offered me a jandal before hurrying into the cockpit and remerging shortly after with a Black Magic Equaliser harness.
Strapped in, I could feel the tremendous load my brother had had to contend with. The fish had now dug down deep and the crew were calling it for a large tuna. Twenty minutes into the fight I started to cop some good-natured banter from my family and the crew mimicking the instructions I had dealt out to my dad earlier – WIND WIND WIND! My legs were starting to feel it as the tuna circled beneath us and I slowly edged it toward the surface, one handle turn at a time. Finally, we could see colour and I moved to the rail as Royle grabbed the leader. Twice he had to let go as the fish continued to circle strongly, bringing the leader precariously close to the side of the boat, and causing Boof to make the necessary adjustments at the helm. As the fish circled off the starboard side Cam was not waiting any longer, throwing a harpoon from distance. Bullseye! Cam now bore the weight of the fish as he hung onto the harpoon line. Manoeuvring the fish back towards the boat, Royle sunk a long gaff into the shoulder of the fish before another gaff was called for. Boof appeared from the flybridge and the crew of three heaved the fish aboard. Job done!
Josh with a 68kg yellowfin tuna.
Another round of high fives ensued, with both family and crew excited with our now secured catch. With a barrel-like physique, incredible colouring, and large yellow sickles, this fish was truly a sight to behold. The boys set about bleeding and icing down the fish for the trip back. I was kindly offered the heart as a mid-morning snack – delightful!
With that the call was made to head home, but not before stopping at a FAD a few hundred metres off the shoreline to try some jigging. Arriving at the FAD, we began to retrieve the lures when suddenly a blue marlin appeared, lit up and aggressively smashing a flying fish skip bait that had been retrieved to within metres of the stern. Boof powered up the engines and the marlin continued to lunge at the bait before eventually veering off.
After trolling for a while longer we made our way back into Avatiu Harbour where the yellowfin was weighed in at a healthy 68kg and the obligatory ‘family with fish’ photos were taken. Boof then set about filleting the fish, providing us with a generous portion of both the mahimahi and yellowfin to take home. That night we feasted on yellowfin sashimi and panko-crumbed mahimahi, all thanks to the awesome crew at Akura Fishing Charters.
Jumping on a charter can be a great option for the family when on holiday.
@joshdarbyfishing and @nzfishingnews on Instagram to see some amazing video captured on the trip.
September 2022 - Josh Darby
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited
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