First up, trip well worth it

18:22, Jan 31 2013
Mandy Smith
Catch of the day: Mandy Smith with her first bluenose, caught during a charter trip out of Wellington.

Let me tell you about our fishing charter last weekend.

There were 13 of us who made the ferry trip on Friday afternoon in hot but slightly windy conditions. The trip itself was pretty uneventful but was a good time to catch up with each other and get to know those we haven't gone out with as often.

There were also a few spirited games of cards, specifically 500. I am sure there was the odd person who was playing the "learner" card only to score consistently well. The jury's still out.

Mark Watson
New experience: Me with my first bluenose, caught during one of the many experiences that made the charter trip out of Wellington worthwhile.

Being a reasonably social trip, I took the opportunity to catch up with my daughter, who is living in Wellington, and also visit her workplace, which was pretty neat. I also got to see her new flat for the first time, which was also great.

I made my way out to the camp ground afterwards when the rest of the crew were just arriving back from a look around Petone. It didn't take long before the anticipation of a good day's fishing kicked in and a few fishing stories came out. All good fun.

The start the next morning wasn't particularly early as we were meeting at the wharf just before 7am and had only a five-minute ride from the campground.


Once on board, introductions were made and, for me, it was a chance to catch up with the skipper, whom I had fished with a few years ago when he stayed with us. In those days he was well known as an extra keen land-based fisherman, catching many huge kingfish and snapper off the rocks and beaches around New Zealand. Now he does boat charters and has a retail tackle store as well as a bait business.

Once we set out into the harbour, we could tell it was going to be fantastic weather - for Wellington.

Our keen and friendly deckie put out a couple of trolling lures in the hope of catching some fresh kahawai to use as bait or for smoking and it wasn't long before we had one on board. At first I thought it was a monster of a fish because of the effort that it took to reel it in, then I realised it was because the guy pulling it in was used to an electric reel, so winding was a bit foreign to him.

We had agreed to target groper first, so we headed out into "the trench", as it is known to Wellington fishers. In the middle it gets down to about 700 metres so fortunately we fished the sides which were "only" about 250-300m deep. This still proved to be a little deep for some, including me, as by the time you took wind drift and current into it, we all had closer to 400m of line out.

As fortune would have it, even though I wasn't on the bottom, I managed to hook and land a hoki, a first for me. One of the other members did the same so we enjoyed the new experience.

Up the front of the boat Bill caught the first bluenose, which is also a deepwater species and highly regarded as top-shelf table fare.

Steve, Mandy and I also landed a bluenose each but not everyone got to catch one.

For whatever reason, the fish just weren't really biting on this day. We didn't even see a groper but we did manage a few blue cod and tarakihi when we came inshore, but these weren't really what we were after.

One of the other fish to come aboard was ling. When you first see these you have to wonder what they are as they are not the prettiest fish in the ocean; some would say they are downright ugly.

A couple of them had blown their swim bladders and floated up faster than the angler was winding and ended up coming off the hooks. After a little deft manoeuvring by the skipper while we kept fishing, the big deepwater monster was hauled on board.

So in terms of fishing success, you could say we had a terrible trip but I am more than sure everyone on the trip had a fantastic time. Cook Strait was calm and beautiful, and the company superb. The sighting of a whale in the distance just added to what was already a spectacular day.

I had several new experiences in the form of catching my first hoki and bluenose, so that made it worthwhile for me.

Now that summer has finally arrived, I am looking forward to getting back out in the evenings looking for the snapper that seem to be taking their time to come back into the inner Sounds.

The Marlborough Express