I’ve been a fisherman and outdoorsman most of my life. I learned to fish when I was just a wee lad off the stinky shores of the Salton Sea when it used to be teaming with Corvina, Crocker and Sargo fish. Even the Whitewater trout farm had some good action for bare hooks. I can remember hiking from Hurkey Creek Campground, across Highway 74, onto a trail through the woods to Lake Hemet where a box of worms and a Zebco push button reel on a cheap rod caught many 8” catfish and a stringer full of lake perch. And, occasionally I even caught a trout for dinner. I’m not even going to address the fact that I was about 12 years old and unsupervised. It was fishing in its purest form.
Over the last six decades of life I have had many opportunities to fish. Take my kids fishing and teach them life lessons and pass on the joys of being close to nature from that feeling that fishing brings. Then there is also the catching aspect. Because we all know that it’s called fishing not catching. LOL
I Was An Expert In Mexico
While cruising in the Sea of Cortez for almost eight years, I became very good at catching many varieties of fish. Both by dingy fishing around anchorages as well as dragging hand lines behind Dazzler.
One time while traveling between Santa Rosalia and Bahia de Los Angeles I was dragging my favorite Mexican flag feather jigs on two separate hand lines. I caught and released 12 dorado in less than two hours. It was incredible! Another time I remember dingy fishing at one of our favorite anchorages and we caught 18, 4-9 pound yellowtail with a silver Crocodile lure. The lure would barely hit the water when the next fish hit it with that oh so famous strike that a yellowtail does followed by the screams of the reel’s drag. And the endless Cabrilla we caught and released. A little side note here. Just keep what you’re going to eat then catch and release everything else to increase your fishing skill and fun experiences with the entertainment that a fish leaping out of the water provides. Fun times!
While in Mexico, I guess because of my background, inability of saying no, or fishing success, I was first talked into putting on a fishing seminar in Puerto Escondido. Thanks Jack! I suspect it was an overwhelming winner for other cruisers. Who knew? Additionally, word had stretched to La Cruz, where I was talked into conducting an annual fishing seminar there for cruisers, many of whom were preparing to jump to the South Pacific.
During the seminars I discussed techniques, weather, equipment, hand lines, lures and looking for productive locations. I even included a fish filleting demonstration with a large fresh Dorado and Pargo. Bonus! We grilled the fish and all participants took part in having fresh grilled fish after the demonstration.
Where Did My Fishing Mojo Go?
Fast forward to the South Pacific. One would think that I’d have died and traveled to fisherman’s heaven. At least that’s what I thought. Little did I know that saltwater fishing in the South Pacific had other ideas. It was obvious that I was behind the fishing curve and needed some more schooling. Or as I like to call it, “Rail Time!” We drug hand lines all over the South Pacific with little action. There are a lot of factors, but I’m afraid that the reality is the waters have had a lot of local and global fishing pressure.
It has been since 2019 that we actually had any wet lines. Wow! Where did 2020 go? I wish we could just forget everything that happened last year, but the effects have been long reaching. Recently we left Whangarei Town Basin Marina and got our first chance to get in some dingy fishing. We were all excited to actually tie on terminal tackle and try to figure out how to put some fish on the grill. Although, we drug lures, tantalized the bottom of the ocean with plastic baits and even tried to temp fish to eat freshly thawed dead baitfish, nothing seemed to work around the local waters between Whangarei Heads and Rangihoua Bay. Or perhaps I wasn’t doing something right. We did, however, get something in Whale Bay to steal our freshly thawed bait offering.
I know there is some kind of tackle that we have that will work on these fish. But what? Jilly decided to join a local fishing group on FaceBook and posed the question of what to use to catch NZ fish. Lots of different answers were provided including using burley in a burley trap. Wait a minute! What the heck is burley? I didn’t know either. Break out the internet again. Burley is a combination of smushed and ground up meat products of differing flavors shoved into a plastic sausage like tube, frozen and then sold at all the bait shops to thaw and put in a burley diffuser. This diffuser basket is then tied off at a certain depth to the side of your boat. You then put some dead bait on your hook, drop it into the chum slick behind your dingy and wait for the action.
Wait a minute. I’ve seen this chum crap being used during Shark Week to get pictures of sharks trying to eat boats. I’m not sure we will be trailing a burley chum line in an inflatable dingy through shark infested waters. Something here sounds like a possible Darwin Awards candidate application. The area we’ve been fishing has a good population of Bronze Whaler sharks. They are a type of reef shark that love to eat fish line caught and from those who spear fish. No spear fishing or chum line thank you very much! Wouldn’t want them to accidentally take a bite out of our inflatable dingy. LOL
The Curse Has Been Lifted
We also got advice to troll a blue over silver deep diving Rapala lure at about 6-8 knots. The rest of the advice included working the lure closely around structure, rocks and points. It just so happens that we have these lures and techniques in our fishing arsenal. Due to some changes in the weather we had moved from Whale Bay to Wairoa Bay where there are four small islands to fish around. The first day out dragging said Rapala behind Sparkle hooked a very nice Bonito. Score! First fish. Has the curse been lifted? LOL The sashimi and grilled Bonito were awesome. The next day we went out fishing again and this time we scored two very nice Kahawai fish. Once again sashimi and fish tacos, outstanding!
One lure and two different fish species. Could it be that we found the magic bullet? We will see. Several days later and after leaving Kerikeri Cruising Club and Marina where we took on some supplies, we headed to Rangihoua Bay, the birth place of New Zealand. That’s a story for a different post.
After putting in a hike ashore and learning about the Marsden Cross Memorial, we decided to try our fishing luck again. After a short troll around the shoreline rocks with no results, I decided we needed to head out to a remote island about a mile away called Motuterahiki Island. There was about a half meter swell slapping the eastern side of the island. The water drops off to about 80 feet all around it. Looks good to me. I asked Jilly, “Clockwise or counterclockwise?” She gave a reply that included something like she doesn’t do anything the normal way so we went counterclockwise around this island that was about the same size as a city block. We had almost completed one lap around the island when it happened. Bang! Fish on and the drag was singing out. This is where the story gets a little different depending on whose side you choose to believe. LOL
Watch The Rocks!
Whatever the fish was it was big, strong and or big and strong. I roll off the throttle and put Sparkle into neutral. Could this be an elusive Kingfish? Let’s not get our hopes up just yet. One thing for sure, if it is a Kingy, I didn’t want to let it get into the rocks. So, I continued reeling against the line being stripped from my reel. The engine then decided it needed to shut down. No big deal we were still about 200 feet upwind and up swell of the island. I hand the rod to Jilly while I restarted the Yamaha outboard. I then moved us away from being allowed to drift onto the windward side of the island and its rocky shore. Jilly hands me back the rod and I continue to fight Mr. Fish. Pumping away on the rod and reeling in the fish I start gaining line against its strong tail thumping pull. I hear from the port side of Sparkle, “We’re getting too close to the rocks.”
Close has many meanings! Close could mean I want to sit close to you. We’re close to New Zealand and yet we are still 500 miles away or it could mean impending doom with certain death to all that are nearby. Apparently, I didn’t interpret close in the same way Jilly did. Who knew?
Once again I hand the rod to Jilly, tell her to let the fish run while I start the Yamaha again to move us away from the north side of the island. This time Sparkle doesn’t want to cooperate with my starting efforts. I pull and pull and pull some more. Yes we were getting a little closer to the rocky shore of what is now being called “Death Rock” from the port side of Sparkle. The outboard sputters to life. I put her in reverse and back away from the island. Just about this time a swell decides that we need a little more water inside Sparkle and some water enters over her transom.
I ask Jilly, “Is the fish still on the line?” You would have thought the wall of water that Moses and God created for the Israelites to walk across the seabed had let go into Sparkle’s interior by the look on Jilly’s face. The newly acquired indoor swimming pool came complete with our now floating five gallon bucket. I ask Jilly again, “Is the fish still on?” Still there’s no reply as I motor us away from the shore of the island only to have Sparkle’s engine stall once again. We were now in a position that would allow us to drift past the leeward side of the small island while we continue to fight this fish but Jilly still has this look of impending doom on her face.
I take the rod from Jilly and start pumping the reel where I finally get my answer. The fish is still on. Wow! It’s a miracle after all of the supposed near death experiences that the port side of Sparkle had endured. Just about that time I see the leader line appear from the water near the rod tip and about eight feet below the surface I see the long silver belly of what appears to be a Kingfish. Just as I’m saying those words, the fish pounds its tail and dives away from the surface rapidly peeling line from the reel. I guess he’s not ready to give up yet. Ha Ha Ha
This happens about three more times. Just as it gets close to Sparkle, it turns and dives for the depths. The last time he got into some rocks. I know a few tricks to try to get him out of the rocks. I let the line go limp and handed the rod to Jilly while I tried to get Sparkle started again and steer her to the other side of the rocks where this fish was hiding. I instructed Jilly to start taking up the slack on the line as we steered toward the fish’s hiding spot. After getting past that location I shut down the engine. The fish was obviously free from the rocks and Jilly was cranking away on the reel. “Here take it, my arms are getting tired” she says. I grab the rod from Jilly and Bam! The fish was still on and more importantly it was out of the rocks. After a few more soundings we finally tired the fish enough to attempt to boat it. I lift it over the port tube of Sparkle and as it hits the deck I hear, “Take that you Asshole!” Hummmm!
I measured this nice Kingfish against my tape on the floor of Sparkle. It was just over the 75 cm length requirement. The jubilation and cheering from the port side of Sparkle was as if we had just won some kind of world fishing record.
I quickly got it on the stringer, de-hooked it and cut its gills to bleed it. After a few high fives, I got Sparkle’s outboard running again and we headed back to mothership to prepare our catch.
Apparently, our Yamaha decided that this outing was the appropriate time to be temperamental. It was acting like water had somehow gotten into the carburetor or something. It still remains to be an intermittent issue. But, I think it is the new California EPA fuel tank I installed during our lockdown experience last year. It is supposed to let air in but not allow the tank to vent out when the fuel heats up in the sun resulting in a rectangular tank becoming round like a ball and rolling all over the floor of the dingy. Thanks California government. NOT! LOL
The sashimi and fresh grilled yellowtail Kingfish was incredible and it looks like my “Fishing Mojo” is back!
Until the next near death experience or as I like to say, “The difference between brown nose and kiss ass is not a matter of closeness, but rather death perception.” LOL
P.S. I’m sure there will be a “She Said” article about this same adventure where we were both mere inches from the jaws of death when the hand of God waved over us and pulled us from the doorstep of Fiddler’s Green and just like that life returned to normal. Until then, tight lines to you all.