West Coast Marlin
with DJ Moresby
The coast to the west of Te Kuiti is genuine New Zealand “West Coast”. The Tasman sea rolls in as two-metre high waves on a calm day to smash against a rocky shoreline backed by vertical cliffs and steep hills. Here and there amongst the rocks is an occasional black iron sand beach or river mouth where the locals launch their boats into the surf in search of a feed of fish. Mokau and Marakopa are both popular river mouth beaches for launching well equipped smaller boats. Larger boats test themselves and their owners on the Kawhia Harbour Bar.
The main year-round target fish is snapper. Gurnard are plentiful, as are kahawai and trevally. Albacore and skipjack (bonito) tuna abound in the summer months. Along with the skipjack come stripped marlin and yellowfin tuna, let’s not forget the much cursed (in this area) Mako Sharks.
There are natural forces at work protecting the fish from overexploitation by man here. Many months of the year the predominantly onshore westerly winds create a barrier of big surf that prevents the launching of boats off the beach. Times are a changing though. Boats designed to fish the west coast improve each year.
Knowledge of “how” and where to fish here continues to grow. The unusual weather patterns of the last few years extended the number of fishable days by bringing us more easterly offshore winds that “flattened” both sea and surf.
Some years produce bumper catches of all types of fish. The only noticeable downturn we have seen is in both the quantity and quality of kahawai caught spinning the river mouths if you did manage to catch some at least half looked like slabs! Out to sea there was no shortage of fat kahawai. So the reason for the river mouths not firing would be something I’d like to understand.
Some years striped marlin catches are very good. These fish have always been here in numbers with few people targeting them. At times it appears every man and his dog was taking advantage of the long calm spells of settled weather to fish for them. That in turn, seemed to feed on itself. The more people that actually fished for marlin the more marlin were caught. With more caught still more people thought “Hey! there really are marlin out there let’s have a go!” Having had a go, and enjoyed themselves many of those involved will now invest in a bit of improved gear; will build on what they have learned, and be back out again next year.
A story or two like this one will hopefully help maintain the interest of those fishing. Aside from helping some friends eat two marlin, I can’t say I know that much about them. Most of you reading this will be ordinary New Zealander’s. If you have access to a boat it’s probably a “tinny,” likely less than six metres in length.
It’s for that reason this article is focused on a friend of mine who like the average reader has done his fishing to date from a tinny like “Joe average.”
Neville Neal, an ordinary guy with a 5.4 metre (18 foot) “tinny.” He would be just like a lot of readers, except that in January 1997 he caught his first Striped Marlin (104 kg) on a snapper rod fishing from a 13 foot (3.9 meters) Ramco “tinny” on a bit of west coast where people were, at the time, not expected to catch marlin.
That summer he took a proper marlin rod with him. Still very much like the ordinary reader except, he caught four marlin off the beaches west of Te Kuiti in his 18 foot “tinny,” the best of these weighed in at 137 kg.
One of Neville’s fishing mates Bill Morris also landed a striped Marlin from this boat with Neville at the controls. This sounds like a lot of fishing effort but in fact, with a “one man” farm to run, pig hunting, snapper fishing and family time, Neville just could not put many hours into his game fishing. This is more a case of someone doing something right with the time available!
It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to catch a marlin on a proper big game charter boat. Assuming the readers are like me, whatever Neville is doing to get these fish is of interest. He was kind enough to share some thoughts and experiences with the understanding of someone who has been helped by the goodwill of others. Neville himself is still learning today, with, he says, a long way to go!
What sort of lures/bait did you use to catch your fish?
Got one on a small red and white tuna lure set in the wash right behind the boat. The 137kg fish took a trolled mackerel live bait. The rest on Hooker (brand) marlin lures 10″ size, red, blue and green colouring.
Bill lost a big one we thought we had at the boat after a 4-hour 45-minute fight using a Shimano 700 snapper reel and matching rod. That fish also took a little tuna lure; brown and yellow. We lost that small red and white tuna lure to another fish and could do with one to replace it!
Did you have to go well out to sea to get your fish?
No, the 30-metre depth mark outwards produced marlin action. I noticed a lot of boats heading out pasted Gannet Island for their marlin but we stayed close in. There was a lot of dead water we trolled through but two spots nearly always produced fish for us. One small bit of water just south of Albatross Point and the other hot area was near Piritoki Reef.
We hooked and lost 3 marlins in 15 minutes at Piritoki Reef one day during the Kawhia Base One Big Game Fishing Tournament. (12/13 Feb 99).
On our way home another day I saw a marlin tailing 100 metres behind the surf break at Waikawau Beach. It appeared to be chasing kahawai. Could have got it land-based! They do come into shallow water on this bit of coast.