Cooking Your Catch In the Wok – Kaikoura and Trumpter

Cooking Your Catch In the Wok

with Keith Chin

I’d heard a bit about the Liquidator and had even seen a few photos taken by Ross LeCompte of New Brighton Sports. Ross is also the agent for John Reader’s Clarence Fishing Charters, which operates just north of Kaikoura in Waipapa Bay. When Sandy Jack invited me to join him and a few others for a day’s fishing I jumped at the chance, having turned him down previously because of booking commitments at the Ferrymead Tavern.

Our plan was to drive up to Kaikoura the day before the trip and head out for a fish at first light on a Wednesday. Everything went like clockwork. Dave Green and I were quietly drinking our cups of tea when Sandy arrived with Ted Tomlinson. I had borrowed the trailer from Lyndsey Bishop, complete with a big blue Gamakatsu sticker on the tailgate, which was quickly loaded and we were on our way.

What a great day to be heading for Kaikoura! With very light winds the temperature in the car was a very warm 31 degrees centigrade. Sandy assured me that the air conditioning was working as he had had it repaired. As usual, I slept some of the way. We all had tea in Kaikoura (which was a change from not taking the wok) before we headed for our accommodation for the night in Waipapa Bay.

We made our customary introductions – Glen whom we all knew and who works at Smith City Sports, Torsten Kjaersgaard from Denmark, Nivi Leinent from Iceland, and Sujash Bachoo from Mauritius. We spent the next few hours getting better acquainted and sorting our gear for our morning’s fishing excursion before turning in for the night.

For some sleep came easily, one of our party was happily snoring five minutes after the light was finally turned off. The gentle waves surging up the shingle beach 150 metres from the cottage didn’t help, and the two trains that passed in the night definitely didn’t help. I suppose it was the anticipation of catching a really big fish and not wanting to sleep in, that caused me to drift in and out of a really sound sleep, a problem I seem to have on every fishing trip.

I was reluctant to get out of my sleeping bag, but it was time for breakfast. It was a sort of help yourself and cook your own type of breakfast. We left all the dishes till after our trip, loaded up the car and made our way down to the boat. All the spare rods were removed from the boat to make way for our rods and reels as some of us had elected to use our own gear. With all of us and our gear safely onboard, John Reader launched the Liquidator off the beach with the help of a huge bulldozer. Cruising at 14 knots it took almost two hours to reach our fishing spot. During this time I was trying to find somewhere comfortable to catch up on some sleep, which was no mean feat as the sea was a bit bumpy offshore.

I wasn’t feeling too good when we anchored, and the rest of the party started to fish. Groper and trumpeter were assisted into the boat by Gary and Alan. I grabbed my video camera to film some of the action before wetting my line, but the motion of the boat along with a couple of lungfuls of diesel fumes had me joining Glenn in doing a bit of burleying.

However, I was determined to christen my new Shimano TLD50, 2 speed, filled with almost 1,000 metres of Tigerbraid. I was using a 400lb backbone given to me by Chris Wong of Gamakatsu Importers, and a groper bomb saved from a previous trip. I had my own secret tackle for catching groper, yet to be proven until now. I rigged up some luminous 4″ squid onto Gamakatsu groper hooks. Because of the great depths in which these fish live this should have given me an unfair advantage owing to the lack of height at this depth.

Strapped into my harness and gimbal, the 20oz sinker took the baited hooks effortlessly through 60 fathoms of water to the bottom. Thirty seconds was all it took, and the rod was bent double with the weight of the fish. The advantage of using Tigerbraid over mono was apparent as there was no stretch, which meant instant bite detection.

Switching to a lower speed at the push of a button made the job of bringing my fish to the surface, a piece of cake. My fish surfaced on the other side of the boat and the keel made short work of the Tigerbraid. The constant rubbing caused me to lose a few feet, but the fish floated up and was quickly secured by Gary, using a gaff.

It was then that I realised I had two fish on, a big groper and a big trumpeter. There was no time for me to have my second drop as we made our way back for a fish for blue cod closer to shore. A bit of relief for me and hopefully calmer seas. I had neglected to oil my Shimano Charter Special, so I couldn’t get the reel to free spool and was unable to try out Grumpy’s ground weight forward ticer on cod.

Sandy rigged up a bait suspended under the balloon. It was obvious something big had taken the bait. The balloon burst and the rod was supporting a healthy bend. A good size blue shark was brought closer to the boat where it proceeded to roll itself around the line, similar to the action of foul hooking an eel on the fly. This helped the blue shark gain its freedom.

It was time for our bonus, the lifting of craypots at the end of the charter. It was great watching Gary and Alan working in unison, systematically lifting, emptying, rebaiting the pots. All the crays were measured for size and a quick check made for ‘berries’, with all small crays returned back to the water. I for one was pleased to have my feet back on terra firma, John Reader was there with his bulldozer and we didn’t even get our feet wet.

What a great experience, I had one drop resulting in one groper, one trumpeter, and four crayfish. They were absolutely delicious. Trumpeter has a firm white flaky flesh and when poached in a combination of tangy tomatoes, the pungent spicy aroma of fresh root ginger and the distinctive strong flavour of fresh coriander is enough to blow your tastebuds away.

Trumpeter Poached in Fresh Tomatoes and Ginger.
Trumpeter Poached in Fresh Tomatoes and Ginger.

Trumpeter Poached in Fresh Tomatoes and Ginger.

250 grams filleted trumpeter.
4 ripe firm tomatoes.
40 grams fresh ginger.
10 sprigs of fresh coriander.
1/4 cup water.
2 tablespoons oil.
3 teaspoons sugar.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
Potato starch for thickening.

Preparation: Blanch tomatoes in boiling water to remove the skin, and cut into wedges. Peel the ginger, slice thinly, stack, and cut finely.

Method: Heat the wok and add oil. Sprinkle salt over the bottom of the wok. This will prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom. Sprinkle the finely cut ginger around the wok, add water, reduce the heat to simmer and place in the fillet. Add tomatoes and simmer until cooked. Adding sugar to this dish will sweeten it slightly, and offset the sharpness of the tomatoes.

Lift the fish onto a warm plate, thicken the sauce with a little potato starch mixed with a little water. Pour the sauce over the fish and garnish heavily with fresh coriander. Serve immediately.

Until next time, keep your line wet and your wok hot!

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