Blue Moki – Latridopsis ciliaris
The profile of blue Moki is much the same as a trumpeter. They can easily be distinguished from trumpeters by the absence of longitudinal stripes. The blue Moki is the most common Moki, although there are several related though much rarer species of Moki such as the copper and red Moki. To make matters even more confusing they change colour throughout their lives with the backs of younger fish being more of a green or even coppery brown. These fishes are all brightly coloured when first taken from the water. After capture, their colours become more pale and subdued.
Blue Moki is a reef species generally associated with broken ground and kelp. They are often caught over adjacent sandy or muddy areas where they suck up food with their extendable mouthparts. According to the late David H. Graham, in his excellent book A Treasury of New Zealand Fishes, he tells of examining the stomach contents of hundreds of Moki. He found in their stomachs 12 species of shellfish, five species of crabs, and four other types of crustaceans including whalefeed, together with three species of worms. He reports never having once found a fish in any of their stomachs.
Best Baits for Blue Moki
Therein lies the two secrets of Moki fishing. Firstly, be fishing in the right place where Moki has been caught before – with rock and kelp close by. Second, you are much more likely to catch Moki if you are fishing with the right bait: shellfish (mussel, tua tua), crab (swimming crab, and other crab species best caught with baited pot), other crustaceans (crayfish, shop-bought shrimp and prawns). All the top Moki surfcasters, rock fishers, and kayak anglers will tell you that the best bait for Moki is crayfish (tails and bodies parts). Sometimes you can purchase frozen crayfish bodies which aside from being a top bait for Moki are also excellent for rig sharks.
The mouth of a Moki is relatively small for the size of the fish. It is certainly much smaller than that of a trumpeter or snapper of equivalent sized fish. They tend to suck in the whole bait.
Moki are rarely caught on cut fish bait alone – although I have caught them on cut fish bait, un-baited flasher rigs, and metal jigs. The best baits are, as mentioned above: mussels, tua tuas, crabs and crayfish parts, particularly tails and legs. Try to keep your baits quite small so they will take them whole. Mussels from the supermarket bought alive in the shell, are a good bait for Moki. Be sure to tie it on the hook well with bait elastic.
I caught several big Moki one evening many years ago when the sea at Birdlings Flat was eerily flat calm. I have never experienced the sea so calm at Birdlings Flat either before or since. It was a very strange winter evening! There was no detectable wind and a total absence of waves breaking on the beach or rocks. A fine mist drifted slowly in and out. Strange as it may seem the sea was like a millpond. The place was chillingly still and quiet! Obviously, these were ideal conditions for Moki to feed. Also, I caught them on jack mackerel cut baits! It certainly pays to keep a fishing diary.
Indeed David H. Graham reported that Moki would leave Otago Harbour on the approach of cold weather or dirty water. They take best at the change of light and after dark. If you arrive at the beach and find conditions to be very still it might just mean it could be good for Moki fishing.
I have also caught Moki on flasher rigs while fishing off Stuart Island and also in the fiords of Fiordland. Smallish baited flasher rigs work best. I remember one particular trip with Bill and Lyn Ayto aboard the Takaroa II fishing in the eastern approaches to Foveaux Strait and the eastern side of Stuart Island. This is a vast area of foul ground, rocky headlands and sunken reef systems interspersed with areas of sand and mud. We caught quite a few Moki, trumpeter and blue cod. These southern New Zealand species usually inhabit the same type of rough ground.
Moki are powerful fighters when hooked on rod and line. If surfcasting it pays to tie your shellfish baits on with bait elastic to prevent them flying off during casting or being taken by pickers like mullet. The ideal hook size is from 3/0 to 5/0. I prefer to use a chemically sharpened suicide pattern.
Blue Moki migrate each winter up the east coast to spawning grounds off Gisborne.
The flesh of blue Moki is a light greyish colour that lightens when cooked. To my taste, it has a stronger flavour than most other fish and is excellent for eating.
Can reach 80cm in length and weigh 10kg but most specimens are smaller. Blue Moki are strong fighters when caught on rod and line swimming with strong darting runs.