Marlborough Sounds Snapper Fishing

Marlborough Sounds Snapper Fishing

By Phil Walsh

As quietly as a mouse I eased open the lid of the live tank and gently slid in the gleaming 12-pounder. Giving Richard a wink, I swung a leg over the transom and stood all smiles back in the cockpit. Marlborough Sounds snapper fishing.

“Where’s your fish, Phil?” Claire inquired worriedly.

“Little bugger escaped,” was my reply, trying my best to look really disappointed.

“Ah well, that’ s the way it goes; Claire, just have to watch another one, eh? Actually one of you girls can have a go next time.” That’s me with the big heart, I thought wistfully.

The ol’ dongy knocker came swiftly down on another wriggly herring, somehow it miraculously impaled itself with a big 7/0 hook and, within seconds, was cast out the rear of the boat still quivering. Before heading back into the cabin for a beer, I gave the berley pot a good shake and rechecked the tension on the other two rods.

Stepping through the newly painted doorway, my eyes beheld a sight seldom witnessed by budding fishos. There, slaving over a hot stove, cooking at last our long awaited snapper mornay, was our one and only skipper come, reluctant chef, Joe. Close at hand his girlfriend Claire hovered over his every move. With kind suggestions, she fielded a stream of basic cooking-related questions, ever ready to pounce whenever distraction from the fishing end of the boat threatened to curtail our chef’s flagging concentration.

Along with my wife, Michaela, and I, we had friends Richard and Sharon, a very pleasant couple both of whom were nurses, bringing together a sum total of four nurses among the six of us aboard the launch. This was to be our last night of a week’s fishing in the Pelorus Sound and D’Urville Island area. Our trip so longingly anticipated for nearly a year, was virtually all but over. Or was it?

Zizzzzzzzzzzz….the ratchet shrieked, suddenly all the normal sounds, like girlish chatter and snapper sizzling in hot butter, were momentarily cut short as bodies galore clambered with indecent haste towards the stern. Master chef included.

As prearranged, Sharon was the first of the female contingent to be given a rod. With Rich giving plenty of advice, Sharon let the fish stop after its first lightning run. With disciplined patience and with the ratchet loosened right off on the bait runner, she pointed the rod tip towards the fish to keep resistance to a minimum.

Time seemed almost to stand still, as we all eagerly awaited the next run. This second draw of line, considerably shorter than the first, was followed by a brief ten-second pause. Then again the spool, steadily this time, yielded nylon at a slow meandering pace.

Rich and Sharon were confident now that the bait had been well and truly swallowed. Dreamily I imagined the hook happily passing through the digestive tract with the point approaching its burn, when ‘strike’, the signal was given.

Suddenly all slack line whipped up off the water, spraying droplets from the bail arm as it disappeared beneath it onto the now half-empty spool. This gave Sharon direct and full leverage to strike home the 7/ O hook.

“Fish on,” cried Joe, culinary obligations conveniently forgotten. Richard’s seven-foot graphite now bowed handsomely under tension. Rich fumbled a wee bit with the drag setting as Sharon worked hard on her opponent. Some impressive curves were thrown into the rod as the snapper protested with a few short, but solid runs.

A full ten minutes passed as our meal slowly cooled, unattended. Sharon’s fish, now much subdued, swam at the surface inadvertently gulping cool Marlborough air. Being an all-out girl effort, Michaela was nominated to net the fish and it was finally swung in through the transom, congratulations and Yahoo sang out all around. The girls really looked to be getting excited, which pleased us boys immensely!

The cockpit, by now, had become noticeably congested. Cameras began appearing from day bags and boxes that cluttered the floor. Midway through the photo and hook removal drama, I glanced back to see Michaela manning my wee, solid-glass rod. You beauty I thought, as I hastily grabbed for my pocket scales to weigh Sharon’s fish. It proved to be a 17-pounder. Now that really brought a smile to her face. It was a seriously big Marlborough Sounds snapper.

Michaela meanwhile, had entered a fight with a good fish. As she battled it out, Joe nervously fussed about altering the drag, setting. Tentatively, he worked his fingers within the fast-revolving bail arm, having to simultaneously dodge slaps from an irritated nurse.

The boat was swinging port side now as weakening southerly gusts shunted the launch about in the choppy midst of Pelorus Sound. The other two lines out required speedy retrieval to avert tangling with Michaela’s snapper.

“My God, it’s a horse.” I stammered as the broad-shouldered snapper materialised at the rear of the diving board. Having no sooner said this, Claire was reaching for the net.

She spun back around and wildly flailed it about, jostling into a ready position and nearly arsing me in head first, for an unscheduled swim. Anyway, lots of encouragement, backseat advice and cheer were expressed as the two girls teamed up, to skillfully land our new heavyweight for the trip of 18.5 pounds.

Time ticked by and, as bush-clad hills took on a sombre evening shade. All had settled once again. Joe had to be persuaded back to the galley by the girls.

Rich and I, revealing a masochistic streak, insisted that Joe not be excused from his rightful place until the grandiose feast was finally served. With absolutely no excuses this time!

With our tea once again in the running, we set to baiting up the lines again, hoping for just one more fish.

This time for Claire. Sipping on a cool beer, sniggering with smug content at Joe’s deserved predicament, Rich and I once more pondered the merits of the working-class lifestyle so far off in the land of reality.

Zizzzzzzzzzzz…away went the reel again. Claire was as competent on a rod as she’d led us to believe, demonstrating in a professional-like manner, to the guys, just how to perfectly play out and land a 7-pound snapper. Our last fish had been accounted for.

The crew were exuberant! This euphoric sense of being, largely brought on by a mixture of copious alcohol, good fishing and food deprivation, suddenly reminded me of Joe. Again he had slunk out from you know where.

Dusk was near. Everyone clambered up onto the flying bridge for a group photo session in the failing light. Squeezed between Michaela and Sharon, brandishing their well-deserved mega snaps, was Claire’s beaming face. The three of them standing so obviously proud and happy was indeed a sight to savour and a marvellous end to a great trip. Our Marlborough Sounds snapper fishing adventure was finally over. PS. We finally did get to eat Joe’s miracle mornay!

This post was last modified on 15/03/2024 9:04 pm

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