The cool, clear and fertile waters of lower D'Urville Island contain some remarkable fishing opportunities.
First charted by French mariner Dumont d'Urville in the late 1820s, the area still bears many of the French names given during his exploratory surveys, such as Sauvage Pt, Le Brun Peninsula, Chicot and Piege rocks, as well as the pass between the mainland and the island well known as French Pass (Passe des Francais).
Its coastal features, including unpredictable depths, tidal currents and winds are still formidable navigation hazards for the unwary, even with modern charts and electronics, let alone in the early sailing ship d'Urville encountered them in.
D'Urville Island is an area we've been visiting with our friends, the Morleys, for nearly 40 years. It's a place that burns itself deep into the saltwater-angling soul.
The Mirfin family had a great few days at D'Urville this month.
Going on holiday is always a mission, especially when you come home from weeks on the road fly-fishing the rivers of the northern South Island. Gear is thrown in the truck, the boat hurriedly packed with all the equipment that could be needed, and then we're into the vehicle and adventure-bound, over hills, around dusty one-lane roads and down a steep incline into a bay of paradise – a remote emerald jewel of glistening water, golden hills, bush clad islands, and surging wild coastline.
The fishing was as awesome as ever, in fact it isn't much different to when we first started all those decades ago.
I guess our knowledge and equipment is better and we know where to target what, under whatever conditions are thrown at us by the weather gods.
This time we relaxed more, fished less, but still had great catching regardless.
The lower cod limit has certainly changed our fishing techniques over the years, probably for the better, as we tend to treat the ever-present blue cod as a bycatch now and angle for other species as much as possible using both rod and net.
On this latest trip we caught 19 species of fish, most edible and some not, but the list included snapper, blue cod, kahawai, red gurnard, trevally, blue mackerel, mullet, spotties, banded wrasse, blue moki, barracouta, rig, red moki, eagle ray, spiky dogs, parrot fish, monkfish, sand shark, and tarakihi.
We went out one evening to a favoured rock, fishing live baits off the boat for kingfish, but apart from one solid run, we returned emptyhanded in the kingfish stakes.
Perhaps the best part of the adventure was that afternoon when the kids caught dozens of live bait by berleying schools of mullet and small kahawai into the clear, shallow waters near the beach, where a feeding frenzy and melee of flashing silver fish were easily caught on a small hook tipped with a scrap of fish flesh. There were a lot of highlights from our brief summer holiday to the Marlborough Sounds and many didn't revolve around catching fish.
Driving my boat through the hole-in-the-rock was one, near Paddock Rocks, on the southern end of D'Urville Island.
Another day we had a huge seal on the sea surface beside the boat, eating a fish it had caught. It was awesome to see nature at work, including porpoises travelling by and schooling fish boiling the surface all around.
Back on land, the kids had a blast going swimming, beach fossicking, building sandcastles and a fort with driftwood, canoeing, digging trenches, and even having a mock battle with granddad using pinecones as grenades and small logs as bazookas.
Fun is where you find it, and the kids enjoyed shooting stones far out into the bay with their slingshots, jumping off the wharf, trapping possums, swinging on a tree swing, playing games inside at night, among lots of other fun experiences, although fireworks were postponed because of strong evening winds.
My brother Scott and I enjoyed exploring new bays, reefs, and camping spots for the future.
Alas our few days passed too quickly before it was time to head back to civilisation, work and responsibilities, but family fun together is never time wasted and was a great tonic for all.
- © Fairfax NZ News