Jun 20, 2018

THE MIGHTY HAPUKU

The water has cooled down and it is now a great time to get into deep water fishing!!!

Steaming out in the early morning for a full day deep water winter fishing. The smell of coffee and fresh bread rolls in the oven, fills the cabin. We are excited!

Hapuku are highly prised for their eating qualities with superb flavour and texture, so we fish for them as often as we can here in the Bay of Islands. The Bluenose, Bass, Broadbill Swordfish, Terakihi, Gemfish and Kingfish are other amazing fish that are in their best conditions in the winter, leading up to their spawning season in spring.

Hapuku (polyprion oxygenios) is a member of the wreck fish family found throughout New Zealand and a few other southern hemisphere countries. It is generally found in depths from 50 metres to 800 metres. These fish can grow up to 180 cm long and 100 kg in weight, though most commonly caught from 10 to 40 kg. Hapuku are a long-lived fish reaching sexual maturity at 10 to 13 years of age and are capable of living for over 60 years. They start off living a pelagic life style which means they live near the surface of the open ocean and when they reach around 50 to 60 cm they become demersal which means they head down to the sea floor to live the rest of their days there.

Before we continue out, we catch some good live baits that we will use out on our hapuku grounds, anywhere from 3 to 10 nautical miles off the coast in depths from 100 to 400 metres. These fish are not particularly fussy about what they eat and a wide variety of baits; dead, cut or alive are used. The heavy deep-water jigs we have on board does also give great results.

The gear is more important than the bait for the hapuku. And we have high expectations on what experience our new gear will give. Braid line is essential to feel what is happening at the end of the line. Braided lines have no stretch, so you can feel the bottom and detect bites in the deeper water. If you were to use monofilament line as we did in the old days, it is very difficult to feel the bottom and very difficult to detect bites as the line would stretch so much. The electric reels are very convenient and saves a lot of winding. You can of course argue that you do not have to be efficient when fishing, but you soon get tired of winding up 400 metres of line, just for checking the bait etc. Much easier to just push a button and let the reel do it for you. Using electric reel is really something special when fishing in this deep waters from 100m-400m, you must try it yourself! The ‘Screaming Reels’ is decked out with Daiwa Tanacom 1000 electric reels, from 'Screaming Reels' fishing shop in Russell, to make the deep-water fishing much easier than conventional winding. However, you do have other options as there is plenty of top quality equipment on board.

At one of our favorite places we can see them on the sounder, deep down, and I can almost hear the heartbeat of the crew through the engine and the wind. We are all excited, this seems a bit too easy! We hook the bait, drop them down and start drifting. Nothing. We do it again. And again. We must change spot. Before we go to the next spot we need some lunch and we catch a few snappers and a trevally. The trevally goes as sashimi and the snappers gently pan fried in olive oil and salt. Yum.

Later in the afternoon after the boat has released a few kingfish, the lines are in the water, the hooks are down at approx. 250m with fresh bait, finally one angler feels the fish! Yay! Waiting a few seconds and then it is definitely on. The angler pushes the button. One minute later the first hapuku of the day is landed! It is a 10kg, small, compared to how big they can be, but for the angler it is huge.

Then, at the same spot the next angler, who is fishing with a PENN Fathom on a PENN Ocean Assassin rod, gets a massive strike deep down at 250m on his big shad jig lure. After setting the hook nicely there is a 30 minutes fight and winding where the angler must work hard for every meter to land the second hapuku of the day. A 14kg fish this time, in superb condition! Well done!

Very happy and with a bit exhausted crew we start to steam back home. My deckhand has some work to do filleting the fish nicely for everyone and put in the chiller while going back. There is plenty of lovely fish for all of us and we share with everyone on board!

In the evening that day, when boat is clean and put away and I am coming home I can not wait to get dinner ready! We put the fish gently in the pan and enjoyed it together with a herb risotto and a fresh tomato salsa. Totally divine and made us all lick the plates, including the kids!

Summing up, the water has cooled down and it is now a great time to get into deep water fishing!!!

Come and have a go!

/Hamish

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