Bay of Plenty

White Island Mako Shark, Kingfish Won Tons, Coke Bottle Albacore Tuna

White Island Mako Shark – Keith Chin and Neil Bond Travel to the Bay of Plenty for Some Very Exciting Fishing

by Keith Chin

The author about to release a White Island yellowtail kingfish.
Photo Neil Bond.

I needed a break from our busy kitchen. When Malcolm McColl offered Neil and I a trip on the Swansong fishing out of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty near White Island we accepted without hesitation.

With the New Year only a few days old, Neil and I boarded our flight to Wellington and then on to Tauranga. The dark blue waters and white sandy beaches looked inviting as the plane made its final approach.

We were armed to the teeth, not knowing what to expect. Both of us had packed our 10kg, 15kg, 24kg and our newly purchased 37kg rods with matching Shimano reels. Raewyn greeted us at the airport. It was a short drive to the marina where we loaded our 80kgs of gear onboard the boat.

We knew that the world famous game fishing grounds around White Island could produce Marlin, Swordfish, Tuna, Kingfish, Bluenose, Groper and many other highly desirable species. We wanted to be ready for anything.

Over a hot cuppa and a hot steamed pork bun, we discussed our strategy for the next few days. I’d check the stores before we headed through the busy streets to purchase our essential items.

Neil with a red snapper.

Just before six Garth Smith, the fifth member of our crew arrived and soon we were underway. Leaving behind us a marina chock full with impressive boats as we headed south towards White Island.

Neil and I wasted no time in assembling our rods and reels, and by the time we reached Motiti Island to lift the Cray pots, all the available rod holders were full. Four crayfish was a welcome sight and the thought of Black Bean Crayfish had our mouths watering. It was easy to catch up on some lost sleep with the constant noise of the motor and the gentle motion of the boat. If it wasn’t for the rattle of the anchor chain around midnight, I would have probably slept through till the morning.

Moored on the south side of White Island, it is an active volcano and the smell of sulphur hung in the night air. A gentle sea breeze soon pushed it away. Our deck lights soon attracted millions of tiny red shrimps. Mackerel darted in and out of the beam of light, with the occasional flying fish gliding on through. We had secession on securing some fresh mackerel and flying fish for bait before we slowly drifted inside – only to crawl into our sleeping bags.

We woke to a glorious morning; it was like were in a different world. A white cloud billowed from the crater and drifted lazily upwards into the atmosphere. Above is a huge flock of gannets squabble noisily amongst themselves. The sea was flat as a pancake and there were countless shoals of fish feeding on the surface. We were in paradise, rod in one hand and toast in the other.

Allister McColl with a huge Oilfish.

Malcolm and his son Allister raised the anchor and we headed out into the open sea for some serious fishing. On the drift, Garth managed a small snapper. I was using small Gamakatsu Sabiki tangle with a decent size squid and soon was the victim of its shots of ink.

Large shoals of Blue Mao Mao moving across the surface gave a bright blue colouration to the water. By the time we reached the groper spot we were ready, all we needed was a signal to free spool our baited hooks down through 230 metres of water onto a bank that showed up on the Sander and it was covered with fish.

Several drifts later I brought a 15.6kg groper to the boat. On the same drift, Garth landed an unusual looking fish and Malcolm quickly identified it as a gemfish.

We employed the use of a long line with twelve baited hooks to reach fish at a greater depth. An hour later our species count increased with a couple of Bluenose, ling and a couple of brown coloured fish, with phosphorescent eyes. Once again Malcolm identified it as an Oilfish.

Our craypots set the night before remained empty except for three rather large hermit crabs that used a different shell for its home. Back on the anchor and in Kingfish territory; Neil was slowly losing line on his reel. His fish hugged the bottom and after a brief fight, the hook pulled. The boys carried on fishing while I prepared tea – Black Bean Crayfish, fillets of Bluenose, stir-fry vegetables, steamed rice and a slab on Cantonese Roast Pork.

Our third day on the water, there wasn’t even a ripple. Neil once again was into a fish that had the same characteristics as the one from last night. But this time we had colour, in the crystal clear waters, the undulate movements of its wings could be seen. The ray regained its freedom when the hooks pulled.

Neil with a “coke bottle” sized Albacore tuna. These are very powerful fighters for their size.

A huge school of Kingfish located the night before was still working on the surface over a reef. We employ every method of fishing, jigging, stray lining, drifting baits on balloons, casting jigs and poppers as Malcolm repositioned the boat a countless number of times.

I was using my Shimano TLD 20 loaded with 15kg line, hooked into two very good Kingie and both times I was reefed. Garth was using 24kg line – three times he was busted off. It was getting a bit frustrating, here we had a school of huge Kingfish before our eyes and our efforts to land one has been fruitless. We wandered off to search for some live bait, but our improvised live bait tank didn’t really work.

The surface was alive with shoals of large Trevally, Blue Mao Mao and ’rat’ kings. Then we saw an amazing sight a hole in the middle of the school and a perfect ball of baitfish that developed didn’t stand a chance. It was all over in a couple of minutes, devoured by bigger fish. I watched Malcolm using a different technique and lands a big Trevally. I was quick to follow suit and my best trevally pulled the scales down to 5 kilos.

My first Kingie was caught on the bottom fishing for something else. A quick photo and I’d released it. Allister using Garth’s eggbeater, casting a red popper had most of the Kingfish action. Once hook up was achieved the rod was passed to Neil or Garth to play the fish out.

It was certainly a day of excitement, it was a great buzz to see the Yellowtail Kingfish chase the popper but the really big fellows eluded us. After checking the pots, it was back on the chain. The Won Ton pastry I brought especially for the crayfish and since we had none, my thoughts soon turn towards the very fresh Kingfish in the bin. A makeshift platter fashioned from a cardboard box, lined with paper kitchen towels served its purpose.

Our first priority for the night before we turn in was to secure some fresh bait to target the really big Kingies in the morning. The flying fish which was plentiful on other nights never showed up and by the time we crawled into our sleeping bags, we had only managed about half a dozen Mackerels.

Our fourth day on the water and it was another cracker of a day as we slowly motored towards Volkner Rocks. Shoals of fish weren’t difficult to locate as we watch the gannets fold their wings and dive into the water. I plaited the double onto my Shimano TLD 50, as shown by Ross Le Compte, only to find that I was short as it only just made it onto the spool. I crimp a single Gamakatsu 9/0 live bait hook onto eight feet length of 150lb Cobalt Powerline, attached the swivel. A further three feet of powerline was threaded with two small ball sinkers, crimped on to complete my trace.

Three balloons of different colours floated away from the boat, we watch as it drifted through the schools of fish and expecting a hook up any second. Suddenly there was a huge boil of white water from beneath the balloon and the ratchet on the Shimano reel protested loudly. The line peeled off at an alarming rate. There were shouts for me to grab my rod. I was already wearing the Braid Brute Buster Harness and had to duck inside for my Power Play gimbal.

White Island crater.

White Island Mako

I had missed seeing the first jump, I grabbed the rod and strapped in. “What is it?” but it didn’t require an answer, the Mako Shark exited the water like a Polaris missile, somersaulting in mid-air before re-entering in a huge splash.

The line continued to scream off the reel but I noticed that the line was fast disappearing into the water in the opposite direction of the unforgettable sight of an airborne Mako.

Thoughts quickly crossed my mind, “hell was I going to land this thing”, but reassurance from everyone onboard to take my time and don’t give it slack.

Neil called out the time “One hour” but the power of this fish was absolutely awesome, as it showed no signs of slowing down. The hard-won line slipped out effortless on 8kg drag.

The sweat was pouring out of me and started to sting my eyes. My mouth was dry and I heard a tinnie open. I can’t believe it, Neil was perched on top of the cabin enjoying a cold beer while he was filming the action with my video camera. I can do with a drink and Allister obliged. Malcolm slowly backs down on the fish and I wind furiously to recover the line.

“Two hours” Neil called, this fish showed no signs of turning; it was still heading towards the shallow reefs between Volkner Rocks. A commercial boat gave us the thumb up and veered away from us. Finally, the fish showed signs of turning, the runs were a lot shorter and Malcolm was still trying to turn it before the reef and shallow water.

”Two and half hours”, the knot of the double slowly inched out the water only to be pulled back under. I decided to put more drag on the fish and pushed in the strike button and move the lever half way towards full. Once again the double appeared and once again it was pulled back under. It seems like ages before the double slowly inched through the guides and onto the reel. The fish was slowly cruising beneath the surface and occasionally the fins would break the surface.

It took Keith 2 hours and 45 minutes to subdue this powerful 149kg mako shark.

I had decided to keep it, smoked Mako is delicious and its jaw to remind me of the struggle I had. Malcolm administers the ”Coup de grace” in the way of a couple 30.06. The gaff that Allister was using seems to be inadequate, till a second gaff secured it to the boat. A boom was swung over the side and the shark was hoisted onboard. It was hooked in the corner of its powerful jaw; the trace was well away from its razor-sharp teeth. A closer inspection showed it has been hooked before, a corroded hook in the other corner of its jaw. A gaping hole in the lower jaw was probably caused by a gaff.

Before we lowered the fish onto the deck, we decided to sail past a boat that was fishing on the other side of Volkner Rocks and watched as their mouths dropped. The shark measured 8 foot 5 inches long, 51 inches around the girth giving an estimated weight of 330lbs (149kg). I didn’t think it was possible to land this fish, with such a small Gamakatsu Hook and a mono trace. I had the best gear, Composite Development 24kg Fin-Nor Rod, Shimano TLD 50 2 speed reel, a great Braid Harness and a Brute Buster gimbal. More important I had a flat sea and a very good skipper.

For almost three hours Malcolm backed his boat and had travelled a little over three miles. He did everything possible to turn the shark before it reached the much shallower waters between the rocks. Great stuff and thanks Mal.

Our last night anchorage was between Volkner Rock and White Island. I wanted to Christen my Kilwell Live fibre 37kg stand up rod with a curved butt and my Shimano 80W. A live mackerel floated out on a balloon and somewhere in the darkness, we heard the balloon burst. Think it was one of Neil’s practical jokes I didn’t make a grab for the rod. A closer inspection of the live mackerel had two scratches down one side of it, otherwise, it was unharmed. Kilwell Game Rods.

In the morning Neil and Garth got shark fever when they saw a fin beside a shoal of distant fish and was quick to lower there baited hooks over the side. It was a false alarm, Malcolm identified as a Sunfish as it lazed on the surface. It was time to head back in. Our marlin lures skipped in the wake, we all knew it was a bit early; all we can do is hope.

An hour out from the harbour, Neil and Garth were enjoying some albacore tuna action and I eventually joined in.

Once we were tied up at the marina it was time to wash our gear in fresh water and packed them for the returned journey home. The boat received a good scrub and I almost forgot Raewyn’s two moist chocolate cakes went down a treat.

I’d taken charge of Raewyn’s kitchen and it was about 10.30 before we dined on more Kingfish Won Tons, Chicken and Mushroom Soup. Beef on Chinese cabbage; stir-fry vegetables and another slab of Cantonese crispy skin pork. After which we reflected on the different species of fish – twenty-six if our memories served us correctly.

You could say it was more than difficult to leave all this behind as we boarded our flights home. There is always next time and I heard that the Salmon are running back home in Canterbury so guess where I will be.

This month’s recipe is the same one I had used on the boat. The guys ate so many of these and they were struggling to finish their mains.

At a recent club meeting, we had a new competition where the completed catch form is entered into a draw that night. Dennis Willis of Oakleys Plumbing has sponsored a voucher for fishing tackle for the “Heaviest Saltwater fish of the month”. My White Island Mako had done the trick. Thanks, guys – I won both of them.

Yellowtail Kingfish Wontons

You will need:
400 grams of filleted Kingfish
12 sprigs of fresh coriander
1/2 teaspoon of very fine
chopped fresh root ginger
1/4 teaspoon of Wasabi paste
1/ 2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 / 4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 pre-soaked shitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon of potato starch
Oil for deep frying
1 packet of Won Ton pastry


Cut the fish very fine and place in a mixing bowl.
Finely chop the fresh coriander and mushroom.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Place two-thirds of a teaspoon of mixture on a sheet of pastry and fold.
Deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. Serve immediately with a soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.
Until next time – Keep your line wet and your wok hot!

Won Tons made with very fresh Yellowtail Kingfish.


This post was last modified on 14/03/2024 2:21 pm

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