There are very few species in the world that manage to rip 50 or so meters of 80lb braid off your reels spool even though you have tightened the drag knob with a pair of pliers. With that said Yellow tail kingfish are one such species and on a recent trip to Tauranga, New Zealand I got to experience first-hand at what these brutes can do to a man.
Having jigged for some of Australia’s toughest species over the past 10 years, I was eager to skip the country to sample New Zealand’s fine fishery. A location I had always wanted to visit had come to just hours away from dropping jigs to the deep, my dream had come true.
Along with six other keen anglers, we boarded our flight and only a few hours later touched down in what looked to be very grim weather. Arriving at our new home for the next five days, we settled in with an early night keen to get tight lines the following morning.
The weather gods must have known we were coming and scheduled a magnificent forecast with 5-10 knots of wind for most of the week with one day pushing into the twenties.
We were met on the pontoon at Sebel Trinity Wharf, our accommodation for the next five days by Mark Armistead from Extreme Sportsfishing Adventures who quickly loaded us up. Heading out of the Tauranga Harbour, the towering Mt Manunganui over looked the ocean. Mark didn’t hesitate to get us tight into the action and took us directly to a shallow drop according to him. Schooner Rock as it is known was 67 meters deep and the sounder lit up like a Christmas tree instantly, Kingfish haven we thought and each of use let fly our already rigged jigs. By at least the second drop; few had hooked up and were getting their arms almost ripped from their sockets. Immediately after boating one fish, it was back to drop again for a little more punishment. This continued on all day with fish of 15, 16 and 18 kilos a common catch. All fish were released.
The second day we had decided to head wide and get away from the school fish and look for something a little larger. This time we found ourselves jigging in 140 meters just water which can take its toll on your fitness very quickly. Nevertheless we all slugged it out until just before the tide change six anglers all hooked up. These were no ordinary fish but rather the grand daddy’s of what we had caught the following day. Still, locked drags and being almost pulled from the boat was enough entertainment to keep us huffing and puffing until each fish was landed.
With the best going 50+ pound and five others all around 40 pounds, no one was complaining. With flat conditions install for us for a third day, our options in hitting the school fish were limited as other anglers let us know they had shut down as it was too calm. That was fine for us as it gave us another opportunity to target the big brute for another gruelling day. Once again we found ourselves digging deep keen to hook something epic. Fish were sounded, jigs were dropped but unfortunately the fish didn’t want to play our game. Working hard we found ourselves almost burnt out when out of the blue one of the boys hooked up.
This was it, action stations. Each of us quickly moved in dropping jigs right next to Jason as he battled his fish. Instantly, two of the other boys hooked into some solid fish. After releasing the ones caught, our short session had come to an end and the fish we sounded had all but headed off. Nevertheless, the fights were fast and furious which is what we had come to expect in such calm conditions.
The following day we were greeted by a strong South westerly blowing around 25knots, but it was still easily fishable. Back to the school fish we headed and there was no down time once we arrived back to schooner. It took a little while to find the fish but once found, I looked around and each of us were tight to fish. A four way hook-up, now who would complain.
Nonstop action continued on for hours. By this time it was 4pm and time to head back as with the blowing wind we were looking at a two hour travel. Still, tired arms, sore backs and weary eye’s we were all glad to pack up and head in.
Each day we would head out looking for underwater mountains where bait and currents would converge. This had the kings schooling up and it was a matter of dropping the jig into the domain before hooking up and holding on. By the last day, on one wanted to fish, rather we just enjoyed a nice day cruising around but when fish were found on the sounder, a few of us had one last go with no real intention of actually getting tight. Still, with longer arms and worn out backs, we were all pleased that we had endured such hard core fishing over the previous days.
Our total tally was estimated at around 160 kingfish to over 50 pound caught and released, five snapper to 6.5 kilos caught on the jig, kahawai and a few other species only the New Zealanders would know. We sacrificed around 30 jigs, 30 hooks and a lot of leader but that is all in a week’s fishing.