Onus is on skippers to know marine environment regulations

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By Bostik Gone Fishin presenter Graeme Sinclair

 

Recently we cruised out on a flat, oily-looking Hauraki Gulf, hell bent on finishing a fishing story that reflected the state of the area’s fish stocks.

The day started with an on-water interview with Mike Rendle, who has just published a very informative new book, How to Catch Fish and Where — The Big Fish Edition.

This is a great little fishing guide chock full of tips, diagrams and photographs, and ideal as a Christmas gift to be absorbed over the holiday period.

Mike also had a bin full of very nice snapper that he and his partner, Kim, had hauled in while we were still cruising out of our home port.

As any boat driver/angler in Auckland knows, or needs to know, there are restricted areas in the Gulf known as “the cable zone”.

 

Significant deterrant

There are boundaries marked on charts which are supported by the words “no anchoring or fishing”! Sounds clear, right? The fines for any breach are massive, and are a significant deterrent for anyone breaching the regulations.

Two boats tied together, drifting, and two different sets of electronics and no consensus as to the boundaries of the zone. Two skippers on my boat and one on the other. Our gear telling us we were in the zone and the other guys swearing black and blue that they were out of it.

We were NOT fishing by the way — it was an interview situation — but the potential for error was worrisome.

This is not a mistake you want to make. If you are caught in breach of these rules you will be severely fined, and it will ruin your Christmas.

The onus is always on the skipper to know the regulations governing operations in our marine environment including, of course, fisheries rules and regulations.

“I thought I was okay” is not an excuse, so make sure you operate safely and legitimately over the summer holiday period as a mistake can be costly.

Having separated our boats, we cruised out an extra couple of miles, spotting snapper and bait schools the whole way. Our first hook up proved to be a jack mackerel.

The sounder showed a massive abundance of them, with their bright red signature blobs, and while they are revered as table fish in other countries, we tend to think of them as bait.

Our plan was to hit Anchorite Rock for a kingfish, so a few “jack mack” live baits was ideal. As soon as our sabiki rigs hit the zone they loaded up, and within 15 minutes we had a tank full of “bait”.

Fresh bait, micro jigs, blade jigs, soft baits, flasher rigs, stray line gear, rapalas, surface poppers, stick baits and half a tackle store of additional bling — we were ready for action!

It is a fair old run out to Anchorite Rock, and when you sit in a wheelchair, bliss is defined as being able to sit without tearing your finger nails off. It was a day of bliss as the footage clearly indicates.

James was on the helm, but had rigged a 300g catch jig on his beloved Maxell Transformer outfit.

This gear is tough, and it needs to be — 300g of jig getting the “mechanical heave” needs to be attached to a good rod/reel combo.

 

Don’t let it end in tears!

We arrived, set up a drift, and on the first drop James hooked up on the jig. Kingfish have a habit of heading straight for the bottom, and if you don’t stop them the game generally ends in tears.

James’ solution was to crank the drag up as far as man and gear can endure, and hang on. If you can get a quarter turn retrieve, you grab it!

The result is visually spectacular, with rod and angler straining to make ground.

This first fish succumbed, an 80cm specimen with dinner written all over it.

Bay of Islands skipper Bruce Smith always used to say that if kingfish were as big as marlin they would be impossible to catch — they’re far too tough! Pound for pound they are demons and, perhaps, the best scrappers we have.

With dinner taken care of that still left a bin full of live baits. James rigged an exaggerated ledger rig — weight on the bottom, two metre trace and a single hook high on the trace so that the bait was well clear of any bottom obstruction.

Add a treble hook and a jack mackerel and you have a very simple live bait rig that will hook kingfish, snapper and john dory.

James lowered it in to the blue just on the edge of a jumbled chunk of the Anchorite reef system. No sooner did it complete the journey to the bottom than there was a familiar tap, tap on the rod tip.

It is the signature take of a john dory and, sure enough, the options on the dinner menu doubled. Down went the same poor old live bait and another JD committed the same fundamental error.

Sometimes trying different techniques pays huge dividends.

It is easy to focus on one species, especially with the abundance of snapper in the Hauraki Gulf, but there are plenty more options if you are prepared to experiment.

Remember to ensure you comply with the regulations relating to safe boating and fishing over the holiday period.

Have a great Christmas and we will, literally, catch you next year.

Tight Lines!