The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)
Big Game Fishing — The Sport in New Zealand
Alone upon a river's bank serene An angler stood, and all around was green And looked it.
He waited till the evening sun grew dim, Then saw a fish—or else the fish saw him—And hooked it.
Proud as a cockerel with a crimson comb He took the fish—or else the story—home, And cooked it.
Recording angles hov'ring o'er his bed Weighed what he caught, weighed also what he said.
And booked it.
Lord Grimthorpe, who visited New Zealand last year and spent a pleasant time big game fishing in our famous northern waters, has, since his return to the Old Country, written in eulogistic terms of the tourist attractions of the Dominion. In a recent article in the “Yorkshire Post” he advises those of his readers who can, to avail themselves of any opportunity offering to pay a visit to “this lovely and hospitable corner of he Empire where people, climate, and sport all combine to make the visitors feel thoroughly at ease.”
“Four days out from Fiji,” he writes, “and the hills and inlets of New Zealand break upon the view. The entrance to the harbour of Auckland is beautiful. Deep blue sea, girt with wooded heights and innumerable bays and coves, and frowning Mount Rangitoto, standing sentinel over the scene, form an unforgettable picture.
Having arrived in Auckland, the ‘Queen City’ of New Zealand, the next thing to be decided upon by those whose intention it is to engage in the thrilling sport associated with big game fishing in New Zealand waters is how to reach Russell, the picturesque fishing headquarters. There are alternative routes. By coastal steamer—a journey which takes a night—or mainly by train, a journey which occupies a day and brings the traveller to Opua, the terminus of the railway, whence launches run direct to the fishing camp. For the scenic splendour alone of the journey a stranger to New Zealand would be well advised to travel by rail.
Arrangements may be made some weeks in advance with the New Zealand Deep Sea Angling for a launch and accommodation at Otehei Bay.
The launches used for this sport in the Dominion are about thirty feet long and decked over forward. They contain a cabin and an open cockpit aft. There are usually two revolving chairs, one forward and one in the cockpit. During fishing operations, the butt of the rod is fixed in a movable socket, fastened to the seat of the chair and the angler dons a sort of harness which hooks on to the rod and causes the strain of playing a fish to be taken by the muscles of the back. Thus, apart from reeling in and guiding the rod, no work is done by the arms.
There are many varieties of rods and reel on the market, all of which are more or less satisfactory, but so far none which could be considered perfect has as yet been designed. The general requirements are, however, for a stout rod of about seven feet in length, a geared reel with powerful check (9to fix on top of the rod, not underneath) which will carry about 400 yards of line. At the end of the line is about 30 feet of wire trace, holding a single hook, about the thickness of a prong of an ordinary fork, with a length of about three inches, and diameter of one inch.
Let me describe a typical day's fishing from the camp at Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island.
(This camp contains a large central building with verandah dining rooms, lounge, and bathrooms. Nearby are several neat wooden bungalows, each containing bedrooms.) It is a fine warm morning with a slight breeze, and a page 38 dip in the sea before breakfast is an essential preliminary to the day's work. Breakfast over, we walk out along the wooden pier, at the end of which is a small wharf with derrick, weights, pulleys, etc., for hauling up and weighing the catch. Alongside the wharf are the launches, in each a boatman waiting for his respective party to start out. The task of inspecting our tackle being completed, we board our launch for the fishing grounds at Cape Brett.
Once clear of the Islands, one of our party stands in the bow of the launch keeping a sharp lookout for signs of fish on the surface, for often a fin or a tail may be seen. However, nothing is seen this morning, so our first object is to catch bait before taking up our position off Cape Brett.
We soon locate a school of kahawai, or small kingfish, making a great disturbance on the surface, and, letting out two hand lines, direct the launch through them. Two or three are soon caught and placed in a tank prepared for the purpose.
The next stopping place is left to the discretion of our expert boatman. The engine is stopped and the boat allowed to drift.
The kahawai, which is a fish not unlike the trout (weighing three pounds or more) is put on the hook, and one of us takes the forward chair, fixing the rod in the socket, letting out about ten fathoms of line, and holding the line over a finger. From the chair aft, another fisherman does the same.
Now is the time of anticipation. The mind is filled with a mixture of thoughts. Fears of losing a fish when hooked—doubts of being able to stick it out if the sea gets any rougher—excitement at the prospect of catching a world's record fish—and, after an hour or two, surmises that the fish we have heard of have gone to the South Pole.
However, to-day is to be a lucky day, and very soon a good strong tug is felt at the line. A shout of delight proclaims the fact, and the other fisherman reels in his line.
With all possible speed, the lucky angler throws out about ten fathoms of line, and while the slack of this is being taken up sets himself comfortably in the chair attaches the hook of his harness to the rod, drops the end of the rod on to the gunwale of the boat and prepares to strike. All the slack being taken up, he leans forward, grasping the rod firmly in both hands (bearing in mind to have the check on the reel full on) and hurls himself back. This he does at least twice to ensure that the fish is properly hooked. Meantime the boatman has started the engine, and is prepared for all emergencies. The fish hooked is a good fighter, and the next thing we know is that the line is running out at an incredible speed. The reel screams like a steam whistle. In a few seconds the fish has taken out 200 yards of line. Then goes another 100 yards, and the fortunate fisherman is beginning to wonder what will happen when all the line is run out. The strain ceases, and as the angler glances up he has time to see an immense blue and silver body come flying out of the water, turns a somersault ten feet in the air, and go in again head first. He now knows that he has on page 39 a mako shark—‘the aristocrat of sharks’—and the finest fighting fish the world knows.
The boatman now steers nearer the fish, and some line is reeled in. Suddenly there is another crash, and off goes the fish again. As a rule these fish go straight out to sea, and cases have been known of their taking a boat ten miles out before allowing themselves to be landed. The angler gradually establishes the mastery, and during quiet moments is able to pump the fish, that is, to lower the rod to the gunwale, hold the line, slowly lean back as far as the chair will allow, then drop the head of the rod quickly and reel in the slack. After the fish has run seven or eight times, and has broached (or leaped) perhaps ten times, two and three quarter hours have elapsed. At last the angler has the mako alongside, and the boatman gaffs him.
This is the type of fight put up in a greater or lesser degree by all the big fish in New Zealand waters. That the thrills and excitement of playing these monsters can hardly be equalled by any other sport may easily be imagined.
Big Game Fishing For All.
Two New Zealand lady anglers, each of whom recently landed a big swordfish in our famous northern fishing grounds, proving that the thrilling sport is not too strenuous for the fair sex.
Zane Grey, the noted American author and fisherman, who has world wide experience in fishing, calls these waters ‘the fisherman's Eldorado.’ and that is not an exaggeration description.
But to return to the story of our anglers after their triumph. They continue to fish till evening, but without further fortune, although they see in the vicinity other anglers playing swordfish, and, to add to the interest and excitement of the day, see these monsters of the deep leaping and somersaulting in the air.
Back once more at Otehei Bay, the catch is officially weighed, and the fisherman turn in, well pleased with their day's work.
The expense involved to those engaging in this thrilling and health-giving sport is not prohibitive if shared between two or three, for a launch may be hired for about three pounds a day, plus petrol, and to share the delights of the chase, and the fun with a friend adds additional pleasures to the wonderful sport of big game fishing which New Zealand offers to the world.”