Bottom Fishing at the Three Kings Islands

When trevally reach this size they can be a handful on any tackle.
When trevally reach this size they can be a handful on any tackle.

Game fishing is so mind blowing bottom fishing is mostly over looked!

By Andrew Padlie

We all know the famous Three King’s islands as a great fishery for marlin. It’s true that New Zealand’s best marlin fishery is the banks surrounding the Islands and access to the area is a simple task of finding a boat to go there. Because game fishing is so mind-blowing the bottom fishing is mostly overlooked. ln fact the banks and islands of the Three King’s have spectacular and action-packed bottom fishing on hand. Even anchored in the bays at night can yield a catch similar to a day of hard fishing back home. It is that easy to anchor or drift over a bare sign on the fish finder and still catch a feed of tarakihi as the boat swings or drifts.

The species that are available are endless and enormous compared to their relatives back closer to the mainland. Everything that swims there seems to be on steroids. Also the quantity of fish there has to be seen to be believed.

This 20kg kingfish is considered to be small by Three Kings standards.. Bottom Fishing at the Three Kings Islands.
This 20kg kingfish is considered to be small by Three Kings standards.

Schools of baitfish are everywhere which ultimately contributes to the great concentrations of marlin there each year. Over the last two season’s people have been bottom fishing more than before and the catches have been outstanding. It is not uncommon to catch a feed of king tarakihi in a span of an hour. By feed, I mean enough fish for dinner that night and enough for the crew to take back and feed their families.

What you can catch is limitless. Both species of tarakihi can be caught here. The common tarakihi that we encounter mostly around the coastline is caught at the islands themselves. Whereas the King tarakihi is caught on the Middlesex and King Banks and most probably other deepwater structures surrounding the Kings.

The king Tarakihi would have to be the most exciting to catch. Dropping your line in 80 metres of water with a set of flasher rigs will see two to three of these oversized yummies coming to the surface. Even on 24 kg gear, some will still take a metre or two of line. in fact the king tarakihi are so prolific on the banks it is ridiculous at the amount you can catch in such a short period of time.

Even though these are not the biggest tarakihi around they are still large by any standards. At the islands, the common tarakihi is happy to take any bait you offer them. Unlike back home where tuatuas and skipjack tuna are the only baits worth using if you wish to bring home a meal.

To catch both it is just a simple matter of rigging a dropper rig with two to three hooks around the 2/0 – 3/0 and you are ready to roll. This rig can be used for all species of fish.

Red snapper are also very prolific and are of a good size as well. We have given them a nickname of whirlybirds from the way they seem to spiral to the surface when hooked. These beautiful orange fish just love jigs and anywhere you drop a jig in the vicinity of them they will fight each other to devour it. You will find that the whirlybirds will always attack your jig as it is fluttering down so be prepared to strike at any time. Because of their willingness to hit jigs, red snapper can be useful when you have no bait on board. They are brilliant eating and make good live baits for marlin when you cannot catch any mackerel or koheru for bait.

Blue cod are also caught at the Kings, which was a bit of a surprise for me. We rarely catch them back home in Tauranga yet they are prolific at the Kings. Fish in the 2 kg bracket are the norm here. These blueys are of good size that only a few are needed for a feed. Especially after catching all those tarakihi instead. Why the cod are so big I guess comes down to the lack of fishing pressure in the area. Hopefully, the fishing will continue to be that way for years to come.

King tarakihi are a beautiful table fish and are great to catch.
King tarakihi are a beautiful tasting table fish and are great to catch.

Now a fish to go with the name of the place would have to be the Yellowtail kingfish. There are practically hundreds of them around the Islands and banks. All fishing methods from trolling to line fishing will catch kingfish there. But by far the best method would have to be dropping live baits to the bottom on the banks. Kingfish just love a poor hapless live bait and usually never pass one up.

Kingfish over the 30 kg mark are encountered regularly with 20 kg fish considered the average size. Anything smaller a classed as Flats in this area. Some kingfish are just too big to be caught at times and regular bust-offs occur. Most anglers should consider releasing most of their kingfish that way the fishery will remain healthy for others to enjoy as well.

Trevally is around in good numbers with big schools of them present on the king bank. These are what the marlin are feeding on at times and can be a bit hard to catch when a big stick face is on their tails. At the island, they are a little easier to catch and when you do catch one they are usually of good size. The average size would be in the 4-6 kg bracket and boy do they put up a good fight especially on light line.

Trevally makes good raw fish and sashimi if you are into it like me the flesh is very firm and it holds together nicely, Yum. The resident shark population also like the taste of trevally as well so you will have to get them in quickly.

Hapuka, Bass and Bluenose are also caught in monster proportions. The methods used to catch them are the same as the rest of New Zealand. Just a simple dropper rig with big baits will usually see a Hapuka come your way. The bait can be anything as long as it stays on the hook well. Because the water is so shallow the fight is often action-packed. With long runs on heavy drag settings pulling you all around the boat.

The reward at the end of the fight is enough in its own right. A large fish and plenty of brilliant eating fish to be had is not too bad for the effort. The bass on the banks are huge, numbers of 100 pound plus bass have been caught over the years. During the winter months, commercial fishers brave the weather to fish for them in the rough seas and strong currents. And are rewarded with good catches year around.

Other species that can be caught are stingrays, which if you are into a good workout or training session can give a tough battle to help hone your fishing skills for bigger game.

On recent trips, we have only just started to catch snapper at the main island at the King‘s. They only seem to bite when the tide is running a certain way. Just like their mainland buddies, snapper can be caught using the same methods we all use to catch them. The largest we caught this year was a 15-pound fish. I have also heard of some bigger snapper caught as well.

The Porae have beautiful colours and are very similar looking to tarakihi. Bottom Fishing at the Three Kings Islands.
The porae have beautiful colours and are very similar looking to tarakihi.

Porae looks similar-looking tarakihi. Except they have no black band around the tops of their heads and they are a distinct blue and green colour. Many mistake them for the Parore or Luderick that they are called in Australia. They are both totally different species that are not related. The Porare are caught using the same methods as you would use for tarakihi.

Their flesh is very similar to tarakihi and just as nice to eat. There are so many different species at the King‘s that not even half have been caught I would say.

We have caught porcupine fish, southern bastard red cod, school sharks, squid, barracouta, gemfish, eels, pink mao mao and a whole list of rubbish fish. We have even caught what we believe was a Blue Moki as well.

As you can see the King’s have a lot to offer the travelling fisher, from big game to light tackle fishing. The quality of the table fish is incredible. So if you get the chance to visit the Three King’s and the marlin fishing is a little slow – which is a rarity. Then try dropping a line or two to the bottom to fill the freezer. You never know, you might just hook into a marlin!

The Three Kings Islands are shown in the box at the top left of the map. They are about 55 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Cape Reinga isolated far out to sea where the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea merge.
The Three Kings Islands are shown in the box at the top left of the map. They are about 55 kilometres (34 miles) northwest of Cape Reinga isolated far out to sea where the South Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea merge.

Enchanter Fishing Charters

Charter fishing for the serious angler. Fishing remote places such as White Island, Ranfurly Banks, Westport and the famed Three Kings.

Philip Wright skipper of the Pacific Invader with a giant yellowtail kingfish so big it will leave you speechless.
Philip Wright skipper of the Pacific Invader with a giant yellowtail kingfish so big it will leave you speechless.

We are the Three Kings specialists, no other operation spends more time at the Three Kings than Enchanter Fishing Charters. We have three vessels with seabed mapping technology, mapping the seafloor everywhere they go. The three captains work closely together maximizing where and when the fish bite, this is a huge benefit to our customers. Enchanter Fishing Charters has been working the grounds of the Three Kings, Ranfurly Banks and White Island for over 20 years and have extensive knowledge of the fishing grounds. We are dedicated to providing our customers with the best fishing experience New Zealand has to offer. Enchanter Fishing Charters