The Humble Tinnie by Hayden James
No matter where in the South Island you go it is hard not to find a small aluminium dinghy. It could be fishing a Canterbury lake for a trout, or in the Marlborough Sounds catching snapper. There are many factors why the tinnie has become so popular with the main feature being the price.
For around $300 or so, a small second-hand dinghy can be purchased with just the aid of a set of oars, a whole new fishing experience can develop.
The first boat that I purchased was a small 10-foot Parkercraft dinghy it cost $400 and came with oars, anchors, plus a set net and a box of bits and pieces. Well before you knew it the net was being paid out over the side of the boat and catching moki and butterfish.
Offshore from where I live is a small area of foul ground that at times holds good numbers of snapper, so eventually, my rowing improved and I was out on the spot, that had eluded me until I got a boat. There was only one small problem with this boat it had a habit of leaking, it was quite nice on a hot day to have the water sloshing around your feet, but in the winter this changed, and the boat was exchanged for one exactly the same except that it didn’t leak.
Not long after getting my second boat, an A-frame trailer was built so it was easily wheeled up and down the beach. In due time a 3.3hp outboard was purchased and made fishing much more enjoyable without the thought of rowing home after a pleasant day’s fishing. Before changing to a different boat a trip to D’Urville Island was in order. So the small 3m dinghy was loaded up with gear and towed to the island and would be the fishing platform for the next few days. When the weather came right we were soon fishing along the D’Urvil1e Peninsula, so although it was a small ”close to shore boat” we still had the advantage of fishing in close to shore where larger boats would have run aground.
Living very close to New Zealand’s top scallop beds a decision was made to get a bigger boat and more powerful motor to pull a scallop dredge. So after reading the local paper and seeing a 3.5m Fyran with 15hp Johnson, a few inquiries were made and the next day I had a new boat Quicksilver 2.
The first real trip for the new boat was from French Pass to Catherine’s Cove to spend a week at Darryl and Simone French’s D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort. The weather wasn’t the best with strong Northwest winds. Although one morning we did manage to make our way up to Moleta Point and had a good feed of blue cod for our efforts.
Setting up Quicksilver 2
The 15 hp Johnson motor has a cable for charging 12v batteries, most motors will have this feature. So the electrical setup can be the same as on larger vessels. Quicksilver has a Humminbird Wide Eye Sounder with a fixed mount transducer and has provided me with many new fishing locations. The sounder was totally submerged one night as the bung was left in the boat and it ﬁlled with rainwater but still it keeps going. Navigation is not a problem with a Lowrance Global Nav GPS system the unit is handheld but is wired into the 12 volt system and can still be used as a handheld, this provides the boat
speed and course and is a god sent when scalloping as the speed can be monitored and a track of the boat is displayed, so the same line can be re-dredged.
For those of you who aren’t sure how the GPS works, it determines your position by tracking satellites and gives you your position in latitude and longitude figures or as a dot on the screen. Late last year I added a VHF radio for safety and now have communication with short and regular weather forecasts at hand, (as well as listen for fishing reports from other boats).
All the electronics are run off the one 12 volt motorbike battery and as the motor is not electric start, the electronics are all that run off the battery and is charged by the motor alternator.
All the electronics are located on a dashboard in the bow of the dinghy and it has a sliding perspex window to keep the spray and rain off them as they are not recommended to get wet.
Each unit has a 2 amp fuse and the main cable has a 5 amp in it, so if a short circuit arose the electronics will not be affected.
A small 360 gph bilge pump is fitted in the stern area and is fitted with 2m of hose and used as a makeshift wash-down pump for scalloping. This is also connected into the 12 volt system.
I had a complaint from an anonymous “mate” who regularly comes out with me, that the aluminium was cold on his feet so it is now lined with artificial grass to act as carpet (the things people have to do for a good deck-hand), I would have to agree the carpet is nice on a cold morning.
Along the top on each side of the boat are two holes where the oar rowlocks sit in. I have designed a bait board to fit into them, the bait board measures about 1.1 m by .3m so it’s big enough to act as a sorting table.
Locations to Fish
Speaking only from my small boat experiences all of which are either in Golden and Tasman Bay or Outer Marlborough Sounds. Undoubtedly the best fishing I have experienced in small boats is around D’Urville Island. Despite its reputation as being a rough, windy place when the weather is good the small boat fisherman can have a ball, with butterfish and moki in close to shore amongst the kelp and the blue cod on any of the headlands or foul ground. A couple of years ago I took Quicksilver 2 from French Pass to Catherine’s Cove the ride across was ﬂat calm but in 4 days time the weather had changed and I had to shelter behind another larger boat, so it is a good idea to travel with a bigger vessel or be prepared to wait for suitable weather.
Catherine Cove is a great spot for small boat fishing as there are good fish to be had if you know where to look and there is normally a sheltered bay somewhere if it is blowing, And if its to rough you can head to the newly formed bar in the northwestern side of the bay. I used to have a yearly trip to Bulwer Lodge in Waihinau Bay, and from there it was only a short trip to the Outer Sounds and some of the better fishing spots such as the Chetwode/Forsyth Islands.
Most of my fishing is in Golden Bay. During the summer months, snapper is the primary target and well within small boat limits. The mussel farm in Wainui Bay is always a good place to start or over some of the shellfish beds. Scallops are also available from July 14th to February 15th and they are always within a short boat ride from either Collingwood or Tarakohe boat ramps. For the more skilled angler, there are blue sharks and mako sharks and kingfish off Separation Point. The weather will determine the fishing at Separation Point as it can change from ﬂat calm to a mass of white foam very quickly.
The fishing in Tasman Bay is mostly for snapper over the shallow mudflats or along the Boulder Bank, kingfish are also a regular catch along the Boulder Bank. The further North you head towards D’Urville Island you will start to encounter blue cod and snapper.
The small boat is very versatile. Their controllability makes setting nets and long lines a piece of cake. I have tried just about everything in my boat from live baiting to trolling and dredging for scallops.
Small Boat Safety
A constant watch of the weather is needed in small boats. Before any boating, at least one weather forecast for the area should be seen. If in an unfamiliar area it is a good idea to ask one of the locals about the area’s weather and where it comes from, and so on. If in doubt don’t go. A tinny may open up many fishing opportunities, but these small craft are also very dangerous. Always stay close to shore, and if the wind increases decide immediately to call it a day!
At least two means of propulsion should be available. If anchoring in a powerboat make sure the motor is running before you retrieve the anchor, also have extra fuel. An anchor and ample amounts of rope should be available. Means of bailing are also a must, a half cut bottle is ideal and of course one life
jacket for each person. Quicksilver 2 fishes up to 10 km offshore and carries all of the above and VHF radio for communication, GPS, maps and compass for navigation, handheld ﬂares and a spotlight.