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
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!
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!