A two-day competition was held over Queen’s Birthday weekend by the Cook Islands Game Fishing Club in Rarotonga, producing the South Pacific island nation’s first ‘grander’ – a marlin over 1000 pounds.
On Saturday the weather was overcast with a rising wind from the east. Twenty-six boats entered the contest and most were on the water by 7am. Fishing was a bit slow early in the day with only a few small tuna, a 27kg yellowfin, and a couple of mahimahi and wahoo caught, but the action picked up in a big way by mid-afternoon when blue marlin of 231 and 208kg were weighed in. About 1:30pm, the weighmaster had received a call from Cameron Thorp who reported that they were into a very big fish and may be late getting to the weigh-station!
Cameron and his friend Brendon Gardiner had left Avatiu Marina at 6:30am in Cameron’s boat Tamahine. They trolled along the coast for a while without much luck, so headed out from the southern side of the island. They had a marlin strike but did not hook up. A little while later they caught a 12kg mahimahi, then lost a wahoo right at the boat.
By this time they were about 12km off the south coast and were running two rods, one line out about 60m and the other a shorter one at 30m.
Around midday there was a large swirl on the long rig as a huge marlin struck the lure – a 10-inch red and white Iland Cruiser rigged with a 10/0 hook. The fish took off on a blistering run, jumping all over the ocean and almost emptying the reel. Cameron estimated at that stage they only had about 50m of line left, with the drag almost at sunset.
The Iland lure that caught the big blue.
The reel was a Shimano Tiagra 80-wide spooled with 300m of 60kg nylon backed by 60kg braid. They had to turn and chase the fish and try to recover some line. After getting a bit back, the fish was having none of it, and almost spooled them for a second time. By early afternoon the wind had got up to 15 knots and the sea was quite rough, with the wind against the current producing a short chop.
After three and a half hours of give and take they almost had the fish to the boat several times, but then it would make another run. A little later the marlin all but gave up and became almost a dead weight. It was still about 150m out and starting to sink. For the next hour-and-a-half they tried to plane the fish up. Backing down quickly, they managed to gain a few metres on the fish each time. Finally, they got the fish to the boat and got a gaff in. Then the fun began.
How could the pair get a huge marlin onto a six-metre open boat? Fortunately, three fellow fishermen had heard them on the radio and came out to lend a hand. Three of them could not get it aboard, but eventually, with the help of a fourth person, the fish was dragged over the stern without sinking the vessel – quite a balancing act! When they got back to the marina, they retrieved the boat with the fish aboard onto the trailer and towed it to the weigh station at the fishing club.
Some high fives, handshakes, cheers and more than a few beers were consumed when the scales went to 472.6kg. A ‘Grander’, the first ever landed in Rarotonga.
(L-R) Cameron Thorp and Brendon Gardiner with Rarotonga's first grander at the club weigh-station
Cameron is originally from Auckland but has lived most of the last 15 years in Rarotonga. He started off as a deckhand on several boats and then became a skipper with Akura Charters while also running his own boat. His mate Brendon Gardiner has lived in Rarotonga for five years and loves his fishing, often going out with Cameron and sometimes decking on Akura.
Cameron built his boat Tamahine, a Tahitian Poti Marara-style vessel that is often used for catching flying fish and as a chase boat for spearing mahimahi in Tahiti. It is constructed of glass over plywood and has a very fine entry, allowing it to cut through the seas very well. It is also extremely stable. He launched it three years ago and has already put 2000 hours on the engine, a 130hp Yamaha.
Cameron walks, talks and thinks fishing and by the time you read this he will be off Maine on the east coast of the USA, fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Last year, during his first season there, he caught a 250kg fish while fishing from a 23ft Mako cabin boat. Clearly his big fish experience has paid off!
Cameron walks, talks and thinks fishing. A nice yellowfin from Tamahine
15 July 2019