Fighting off sharks for tuna meal

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013
tuna stand
BLANTON SMITH
Reporter Matt Rilkoff didn't let this one get away.
Wild Appetite - day four
Matt goes kayak fishing for tuna with guru Herb Spannagl on day four of Wild Appetite

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To catch a tuna you must chase the birds.

From high in the sky they see a tuna far better than you ever can in your wet-seated kayak and so when they start diving, you start paddling.

"See those petrels," said kayak fishing guru Herb Spannagl of a group of dots far in the distance. "Now paddle. Paddle like hell to get to them."

The problem with birds is, like tuna, they keep moving and therefore so must you, until your shoulders burn, your back twitches in revolt and your arms turn to clay.

But persistence pays off and and after three hours on the water, just six kilometres off Port Taranaki, I had enough albacore tuna to keep me in meat for a week.

Problem is, I still hadn't got through the kahawai I caught with Steve McEwen in Mokau on Monday, the little pig Ray Potroz tracked down for me on Tuesday, the butter, cheese and milk Connie Bethell gave to me on Wednesday morning or the fern shoots I had collected with Dawn Bowen that afternoon.

Far from starving, my attempt to live off the land for 12 days has so far produced an abundance of food.

It's probably helped I've called on experts to guide me through it and Herb is arguably the country's top dog on kayak fishing, or at least one of them.

"When the tuna hits it will just go flat out. Don't try and stop it," he said as we glided through the mirror flat water.

"Just let the reel do the work and be patient."

Patience means not losing your cool when 20 minutes have passed since your reel starting whirring and you still haven't be able to confirm whether you actually have a fish on the end of your line or a feisty bucket.

There are other frustrations, too, and they are mostly called sharks. Able to sense the panic of a hooked tuna, they hone in and attack.

Not only is this bad news for the tuna, it is quite distressing for your bladder, which is more aware than your brain of the ridiculousness of sitting in a moulded piece of plastic several kilometres out to sea.

Luckily I didn't have to see one. That pleasure fell to Herb, though he did try to get me over to have a look at the mako savaging his tuna an arm's length from his boat.

"That's not going to happen, Herb," I said as I paddled far, far away. I've always thought of myself as being at the top of the food chain, not some middle order ocean snack.

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Today: Goat hunting with Wolf.

Tomorrow: A day off to cook the spoils of a wild appetite.

- Taranaki Daily News

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