Challenging summer but good fishing

by | Mar 31, 2023 | What's Happening

This update will touch a bit on all kinds; A NZ summer with some severe weather events but with great fishing when the weather has allowed it, fish stock & preservation, a bit of food and of course dogs. But first I’ll just briefly go back to my last post from December, on diving and treasure wrecks. In January I finally made a visit to Dargaville Museum with my sister-in-law Melanie. Very impressed with the entire museum but we were there particularly for the maritime part, set up by the late Noel Hilliam. In January 1977 Hilliam, Kelly Tarlton and two other divers salvaged some very exciting artefacts from the French corvette L’Alcmene that went down off Baylys Beach in June 1851. Among these are a cannon (originally presented by King Louis-Philippe and later regifted to the officers onboard L’Alcmene) and two bronze swivel guns (one of them pictured below). 

After the Dargaville Museum visit we continued up the west coast to Opononi, also with Hayley and Finn. What we didn’t know while we were there was that Aidan’s old hunting/fishing/diving buddy Liam Prosser, who moved south a couple of years ago, was patrolling the coast outside with a couple of mates. Liam, who more than anyone encouraged Aidan to join him spearfishing, has long been one of the country’s best young spearos. His big goal for a long time had been to spear a marlin, which is what he was after outside Opononi. As we arrived home in the evening we were told that he had been there and he had indeed managed to spear a striped marlin. Photos below.  Still aged 19, he is only the second teenager in New Zealand to spear and land a marlin. I believe the only one before him was Jackson Shields 15 years ago when he landed one at 126 kg. Shields is from the most prominent spearo family in NZ, owners & operators of the Wettie dive shop in Auckland. Liam’s fish weighed in at 92 kg.

Melanie, Hayley and I have also tried to keep up some of our summer ocean swimming (also pictured below). An activity we took quite seriously two years ago when we made a point of trying to swim in in the ocean every single day. Melanie then later went back to Brisbane, though that got a bit delayed with the first severe weather event of the summer, the Auckland floods on 27th January. While Hayley and Finn somehow had made it to Mt Smart Stadium to see Elton John in concert (pic below), only to be cancelled and for them to have a hazardous trip back to the hotel, Melanie was one of 1200 people unable to be evacuated from Auckland International Airport and had to spend the night there. She did eventually get herself back to Brisbane a few days later.

Summertime is the time for outdoor concerts and a week prior Aidan had been to see Red Hot Chili Peppers at Mt Smart. Two weeks after the cancelled Elton John concert Hayley, Finn and I were at Eden Park to see Ed Sheeran.  Two days later we were hit by the next terrible weather, when cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand. Again, with more floods, slips, collapsed roads, power outages and sadly 11 people died. 

There’s been more rubbish weather in between hot days around 28 degrees. Both Aidan and I have had limited time off work during this summer because of our trip to Europe a few months back. Aidan and a couple of his mates have still managed to get out a few times and have done extremely well on snapper. The snapper fishing was on fire both along the coast and in the upper harbour already in December. This has continued after new year, also further ashore. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on but there are likely several reasons. It’s funny to think that when my cousin Øyvind and uncle Jack last visited in 2017, it was the worst snapper season in memory on the Northland coast. This summer has been the best season with both number of fish caught and the sizes. It’s almost been too easy to land multiple big fish. While that’s exciting at the moment, it does worry me what’s to come next as it can’t be sustainable. We’ve seen similar patterns in the South Island, first with decimated scallop beds which forced strict regulations, and with the blue cod fishery. We have already experienced the same with the ban on scallops here in Bream Bay (the best scallop beds of the North Island). When we first moved here nearly 25 years ago we scuba dived for scallops in 13-15 meters . In more recent years it became a nice activity on freediving in 6-8 meters as the scallop beds moved. Then it became too easy in 2-5 meters of water and every man and his dog were out gathering scallops up to several times per week. The scallop beds were so badly hammered that they’ve now been closed to have any chance to recover. It will be interesting to see if the snapper fishery in the Northland & Auckland areas will follow suit with the blue cod fisheries in the top of the South Island, where they at times have had to close off certain areas to open others. Time will tell in the next couple of years. Sorry to be the party pooper.

On one of the last trips Aidan and a mate had off the coast, they caught several large specimens but also let go of the two biggest (weighing 22lb and 20lb).  Considering snapper is such a slow growing specie and those big ones are the biggest breeders, I believe it is the right thing to do. As long as the fish is in a good condition to be released again. On another trip Aidan also caught a new pb Trevally and they were sharked on a kingfish, taken away by two bronze whaler sharks. That’s the kind of action we’re hoping to get on Aidan’s underwater fishing camera that he bought in Norway. We’ll see now when the weather has stabilised a bit and we’re coming up to Easter. We’ll keep you posted!

Aidan with two nice snapper and guests digging in at some snapper sashimi, on a beautiful evening in between all the awful weather.

An expression that I first saw penned by Clarke Gayford (husband of the until recently New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern), who writes and makes fishing tv shows, was about people suffering from “Snapper Tunnel Syndrome.” That is those who only will eat snapper. Yes, it’s a very good table fish alongside other celebrated species like hapuku & bluenose and John Dory. But NZ is blessed with so many excellent eating fish that many don’t take proper advantage of. I’ve mentioned it before how many different types of fish that are versatile and of excellent quality and also grow much quicker. A 20lb snapper is likely at least four times as old as a similar size kingfish or a 100 kg marlin.

Aidan and I pictured above on a rock fishing mission and Bentley leaping about in the surf like an excited salmon. We’re only a couple of months away until his second hunting season kicks off, so we’re working our way through the freezer of last season’s wild meat (pheasants, quail, ducks, hares, rabbits and turkeys). The grilled mustard duck with balsamic dressing has been a favourite entree of mine for more than 20 years. A dish ‘everyone’ seems to like, even those a bit reluctant to the great wild food pantry. 

In other news my mate Geir in Norway had a very interesting pointer litter born on 25 February (5 males, 5 females). It’s the first litter from his little firecracker Barentsviddas E Little Wing (Barentsviddas C Nansen – Barentsviddas D Wind Cries Mary). The sire is the very young talent Rypeparadisets Cacciatore (Caronte del Cangia – Høytjønnas Berthe). The Italian bred Caronte is owned by our Dutch friends Ilona & Wim Joustra and he is highly merited in European Grande Quete trials. Berthe is by Nansen’s litter brother Barentsviddas C Donald (by the Italian parents Anter – Giga) and Myrteigens Sol (Black Luckys Rapp – Ella F). Very strong lines!

As per usual Aidan is the one who has been getting out and providing the fish, so I’m looking forward to some kingie trips now in April in various places. Then we will be starting to look ahead to the hunting season starting in early May. Pictured below one of my favourite photos from last hunting season. Aidan suddenly hears ducks coming into the pond and turns around just as I’m taking the photo of him and young Bentley.