Bluenose bully worth chasing

Terry W Hann

Though there might besome confusion over its name among anglers, one thing's for sure: without the bluenose warehou, also known as bonita, big-eye and Griffins silverfish, fishing our deeper waters would be much less rewarding.

The bluenose is an interesting fish to look at. Though not many people (or restaurants) bother with the "warehou" part of its name, there's no denying the very warehou-like profile, particularly the large, blunt head, which looks as if it's run into something substantial at high speed.

The typically stocky body is covered in small scales and propelled along by a powerful and gently-vee'd tail.

While groper and bass have taken a hammering in recent times, becoming just a shadow of their former numbers, bluenose has remained comparatively prolific, though the average size of 60-80cm seems to be slowly decreasing.

Even so, these are still substantial fish especially when encountered near their upper limit of 1.4m in length and 35kg in weight. And boy, can they fight!

Bluenose warehou are found over rocky bottoms on the coasts of both islands, sometimes as shallow as 150 metres but much more commonly 250m to 800m deep. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they live near the bottom. Schools of bluenose often hold well up in mid-water, a trait typical of the warehou family.

Depending on its environment and stress levels, the bluenose's back can be anything from a dark mossy-greeny blue to a blue-black or olive-brown in colour, but the lower sides and belly are always a bluish silver, tinged with grey-brown.

Voracious predators, bluenose have relatively big eyes to help them see their prey in the limited light down deep, as well as a large mouth filled with a single row of teeth that takes care of any hapless victim, particularly fish such as lantern fish and small ling, along with squid and crabs.

Fishing for bluenose doesn't require much artistry, as much bigger bass and hapuku can also be encountered while targeting them, and anglers do not want to "play with their food" in such deep water. This means heavy-duty stand-up outfits, the reels filled with several hundred metres of 37kg-plus braid, and ledger rigs tied on the end.

The ledger rigs are usually tied from 90-180kg nylon and sport two or three short dropper loops attached to 11/0 or 12/0 circle hooks. Using too big a hook is a common mistake, as not all bluenose are big fish (5-10kg still makes a nice meal or two), and if a big bass bites instead, these smaller hooks can still handle the situation.

I like to have luminous beads or tubing above the hook on each dropper loop. They enable the rig to be more easily detected, attracting the relatively fearless bluenose.

At this stage they usually come across the bait, which should be a long, slim strip of fresh fish hooked just once or twice at one end, or a whole, medium-sized squid, again just hooked once or twice through the end of the hood.

There's no excuse for having sinkers that are too light. Bluenose are not put off by big sinkers, so make sure you get down to where you need to be by attaching a 650g or 900g streamlined sinker.

Unless the fish-finder or skipper says otherwise, initially drop down to the bottom. It often pays to wind up off the sea floor around 20 cranks or so as bluenose will often be here instead.

Bites tend to be a succession of tugs followed by a confident pull down, or a jangle and then slack line, suggesting the fish has headed upwards.

In both cases, don't strike. Instead, either steadily lift the rod tip up, or wind until weight is felt and line begins leaving the reel.

Once hooked solidly, don't muck around with your harness till the fish is well up off the bottom, or you may lose both the fish and the gear to the reefy terrain. Now, pull your dinner in!

Mark Kitteridge is deputy editor of NZ Fishing News.

The Dominion Post