Good time, plus dinner

23:49, Jul 05 2012

I had been watching the weather forecast for the weekend from Wednesday and it was looking good, so I had an informal fishing trip in mind.

I didn't know where, just that I should make the most of the settled weather. Friday night I still hadn't decided where but, because I had to be at a function by 3pm on Saturday, I decided it would need to be an inner sounds trip, either up the Kenepuru or Queen Charlotte Sound.

I woke to that very cold temperature on Saturday and made my mind up pretty quickly that an early start was out of the question, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.

I got up at 8.30am and saw the day was going to be OK, but not brilliant, so decided a quick trip for a feed of cod was the go.

Because I keep telling everyone to get out over winter I thought it would be a good time to test my theories that it doesn't have to be an ordeal, so I packed a few rods and my tackle box and headed off to Waikawa, stopping at the garage in Picton to buy a small packet of squid bait as a backup.

I launched the boat and headed off towards Tory Channel, making my plan as I went along. I kept looking at the fishfinder for any obvious signs of fish life, which is a good habit to get into.


I could see two or three gannets circling high in the distance and changed course to get a closer look. I saw more birds on the water, which is a sure sign of bait fish in the area, so I motored up quietly and studied the sounder for signs of life.

Sure enough, huge bait schools were in mid-water, with a few down deeper. Those birds know what they're doing so if don't have a fish finder, be a bird finder and you might get lucky.

I fished for a while without hooking anything so decided they were too small for my offerings and off I went in search of some cod.

I don't often go fishing just for cod, but circumstances meant that was my best option for the day so I went up to Dieffenbach Point and slowly motored around, checking the sounder for fish holding close to the bottom. It didn't take long and I dropped a jig to see what sort of fish they were.

Next minute a 33cm blue cod. Bingo. Target species and smack in the middle of the slot for a legal cod, so into the chilly bag he went.

I motored back up to the spot I started and dropped the jig again. Same thing happened with virtually a twin of the first fish.

Good and bad, I guess, as I had caught my limit for the day, but didn't have enough fish for three of us for tea, so I decided I should try catching some maori chiefs to add to the tally.

Over the next hour I caught six blue cod between 46 and 48cm, which went back in, and five maori chiefs or "boowackers". These are nice fish and shouldn't be discarded as rubbish. Once they are a decent size you can get a good fillet of tasty fish.

I guess I learned the cod ban must be having a positive impact on the fishery. Although I don't agree with the slot rule in principle, I can see we need to be proactive in managing the fishery.

When using your sounder or fishfinder, always try to catch what you see underneath you and study what those fish looked like on your screen. This way you start to get a better understanding of what you are looking at and over time you will become an expert on your own fishfinder.

Looking back on the day, I had launched the boat about 10am and was back at the ramp about 2pm and had caught a good feed of fish, kept my two legal cod and released the others I caught, unharmed, and also added a handy catch of boowacker to complement the cod. All I had used was half a dozen pieces of squid from a pack that cost $4 and 15 litres of fuel. Not bad considering the motor had been going non-stop for a couple of hours, as I had to idle back up after each fish because the wind and current were taking me off the spot quite quickly.

Without realising it I had done what I encourage others to do – catch a feed and have a great time. If I had a budding young fisherman or two on board, they would have had a blast.

I had not fished that spot before so was fishing like I would hunt – looking for likely territory and terrain that I thought would hold fish. The fish I found were just on the downside of a small bank, kind of like a riverbank.

Study all forms of wildlife wherever you are. For example, when travelling, look at where the farmed deer are in their paddocks at different times of the day, are they sheltering or feeding or just resting?

Ask these questions and you will start to see that nature is clever, but also predictable once you learn its reasoning.

The Marlborough Express