Marlin MasterClass - learning on the job - July 2012

Gamefishing Education

Last updated 10:54 29/06/2012
The writer with his 132.8kg bigeye tuna, caught on 24kg stand-up tackle after two hours and 45 minutes.
Gary Bowden awaits his first chance to grab the leader.
Nailing a personal-best kingfish, as well as his first billfish, were two goals Richard Harvey ticked off his ‘bucket’ list.
One of Peter Van Eekelen’s aspirations was to catch a marlin on spin gear and that was achieved on the Marlin Master Class trip.

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Over the past gamefishing season NZ Fishing News, in conjunction with Gamefishing NZ, hosted three 'master classes' held during five-day stay-away trips aboard Arenui.

Each of the trips involved a maximum of four anglers aboard Geoff Lamond's 47ft O'Brien gamefisher Arenui, along with a host 'recorder' from NZ Fishing News.

However, the weather was not as keen to play ball as the 'students' were, with only one of the three 'classes' reaching the prime destination, the Three Kings Islands. The other two were either restricted to the shelter of the mainland or rescheduled.

The first of these trips was written up by Mark Kitteridge, appearing as a Charter Connection feature in the May edition. The following relates to the second and most successful trip billfish-wise.

The aim of the programme is to give readers the opportunity to experience all facets of game fishing, from rigging and deploying switch and live baits, to hands-on experience tracing and tagging fish, all the way through to light-tackle gamefishing. Fortunately, trip number two contained all those elements, despite marginal conditions at times.

Ivan Penno was the first angler on the board, releasing a nice striped marlin that had been teased and switched as Arenui made its way up the coast. It was a great start and a portent of what was to come. It also provided crew member Gary Bowden with an opportunity to 'pull' on the trace, a first for him. (Gary was to land his first marlin later in the trip, completing a personal quinella.)

A regular on NZ Fishing News Readers Trips, Christchurch angler Peter van Eekelen, was keen to target a marlin on spin gear. "No problem," responded skipper Geoff Lamond as crew members James Brown and Shaun Thomsen rigged another koheru in anticipation of the next marlin to come up on the Bonze Lures teasers.

When the bite did come we were on the Middlesex Bank, sharing a drop-off with another charter vessel, Enchanter. Naturally, as soon as it felt the tuna circle hook in the corner of its mouth, the fish headed straight for the 'opposition', where the anglers were deploying a number of live baits. It was a recipe for disaster, but with some dumb luck (the skipper will say it was skilful boat handling!) the fish stayed clear of all the other lines, and within 15 minutes Peter had achieved his objective of nailing a billfish on his Shimano Stella 20000.

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That same day the crew enjoyed some great bottom-fishing action, landing a number of kingfish to 30kg-plus, all of which were released to fight another day. Richard Harvey (who'd joined the trip as a last-minute replacement when another angler had withdrawn due to ill health) landed two personal bests during the session, and by the end of the trip had also procured his first billfish - prompting his grin to get even wider!

The Marlin Master Classes are a follow-up to Geoff's 'Thinking Outside the Square' series of lectures hosted by a number of clubs and tackle stores during the off-season. While I had attended all these sessions, there was nothing quite like seeing the master and his crew putting it all together on the water. You can take in all the theory in the world, but there is nothing quite like doing it.

While the main concentration was on billfish, there were plenty of other education opportunities, such as tips and tricks for catching reluctant baitfish, as well as preparing tackle for a number of species.

The writer had a 'close but no cigar' encounter with a substantial bigeye tuna on the second day there. The crew had been enjoying a successful run teasing and switching striped marlin when fish came up behind all three Bonze teaser lures near the Middlesex Bank.

A small koheru was pitched to one of the visitors giving the lures a good shake, and it took the bait. No one had seen a bill, and the call was "possibly a shark". At this point all four guests had caught a billfish on stand-up tackle and spin gear, so it was decided the 'photographer' could have a shot at this bite.

After 30 minutes, the calls as to the fish's identity were wide and varied, but few included billfish and none tuna. However, with an hour passing and the quarry still unsighted and fighting doggedly 100 metres down, the suppositions stretched to black marlin and swordfish, with tuna earning a mention, too.

Despite the best efforts of the skipper to get a reaction out of the fish, driving this way and that, it remained stubbornly in its comfort zone, leaving the angler out of his. Watching the same section of line come off and on the reel repeatedly proved very frustrating.

Finally, after the two-hour mark was reached, the fish headed up, with the angler gaining plenty of line, and eventually the wind-on leader was in sight. The hands of the crewman then wrapped around the trace and at last the fish was identified as a substantial tuna, which unfortunately did one last big circle and was clipped by the prop, thus disqualifying it from any potential records.

Then, following one more run, the tuna was brought back up and landed, where it was identified conclusively as a bigeye.

Because it had been 'DQed' there was no rush to get it back to the weigh-station. Had it been a legitimate catch under IGFA rules, it would have created a dilemma as to whether or not to stay and keep fishing or head back to the nearest weigh-station, which was half a day away.

Eventually, when it was weighed some 36 hours later, thanks to the team at the Houhora Club, it tipped the scales at 132.8kg, a mere 200g short of the national 24kg line-class record and less than five kilos under the world mark. (And no, you won't be seeing a feature article any time soon profiling the 'new' tuna technique - teasing and switching bigeye tuna!)

The Marlin Master Classes will be run again in 2013. They will follow the same formula, where the objective is to give students as much hands-on experience as possible. Contact Geoff for details.

NZ Fishing News would like to acknowledge the assistance of Geoff Lamond and his team, along with Marcus Mabee, distributor of Costa sunglasses and Black Pete Tackle, for their valuable contributions to the programme.
2013 programme
Two Marlin Master Classes have been set down for the 2013
season - March 6-10 and March 24-28.

- Fishing News

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