Shark summer

by | Feb 18, 2024 | What's Happening

As a kid in the 1970s I still recall the reaction people had to the Jaws movies. I was 9 when Jaws 2 hit the cinemas in 1978. In Norway they were called Haisommer, ie Shark summer. A couple of years ago director Steven Spielberg stated that he “truly regrets” making those movies as he believes it drove a frenzy of shark killings. 

Last month it was 25 years since Hayley and I moved to Whangarei on the Northland east coast, after me having followed Hayley back to NZ eight months earlier. We moved here because of our scuba diving with the added benefit of me enjoying some great saltwater fishing. During all those earlier years when I familiarised myself on this coast the shark sightings were fairly rare, certainly if compared with Australia. There were sharks around but in general most people didn’t come across any or weren’t bothered by them. In the past few years there has definitely become an increase in numbers in these coastal waters. There are more people these days that practise spearfishing, an activity that does increase your chances of meeting sharks. That doesn’t explain the increase in numbers and the chances of seeing sharks even out fishing. The water temperatures have increased and during the past three years we also had the La Niña weather pattern. That meant the wind predominately came across from Chile, pushing the surface water across to New Zealand and by the time it arrived here had further warmed up. This particular summer the weather effect has changed to the El Niño pattern. Marine scientists have explained that now the winds blow the opposite way and drag up water from our coastal depths, dropping the water temperature but it creates an upwelling of nutrient-rich water with increased fish life.

The photo above of a Bronze Whaler shark taking a Yellowtail Kingfish off a spear was taken by Luke Potts (Aquatic Rehab Spearfishing). He has for years been one of New Zealand’s best spearos  who has provided lots of great online content. Due to some health issues he had been unable to do any diving for many months but is now back in the water and creating lots of informative videos. As far as filming and photographing sharks interacting with spearos he’s definitely the man. (see links page) I have previously posted one of his shark pics, when Aidan met him at the Mokohinau Islands. Check this post from 5 years ago, also with some underwater pics from Aidan “Summer Diving”.

Over the years Aidan has had multiple shark encounters. On a dive trip to the Hen & Chickens this summer he saw half a dozen in one of the dives and had to push one of them away with his spear. In the middle of last month we went out for an evening fish outside the entrance of Whangarei Harbour. After having caught a few snapper I hooked up to a large kingfish, the first time I was using my Penn Slammer IV 6500. It was a good sized fish that we estimated to be over 20 kg but after playing it for a couple of minutes it was taken by a shark. We’ve experienced this before that it’s particularly the larger pelagic specimens they target. No match for a 300 kg Bronze Whaler. I had planned to take Aidan’s Water Wolf underwater camera. Regretfully I didn’t, as that could have been some pretty epic footage (as long as it wasn’t lost when the shark ripped off the fish)!

We haven’t seen Aidan as much on a daily basis as he moved out a few months ago, to go flatting with his mates Daniel and Braeden. They live in a house on Daniel’s family farm outside Tangiteroria, a farm where Aidan had spent a lot of time already. There’s been a lot of rabbit, hare, pigs, goats and possum shooting. His flat mates have also had to suffer through him cooking up paradise ducks and black swan breasts with pinenut & raisin biryani (the latter cooking with his girlfriend Imogen, using a recipe from the book A River Rules My Kitchen). The annual paradise duck shoot, dedicated only to that species, when they’re in big flocks started yesterday and goes for a week until next Sunday. Aidan is shooting with mates while I’m giving it a miss. It’s a lot of firing of shots and little to no dog work involved. 

There are more big changes coming up for Aidan this year as he will be heading to Europe in late June. (Our proper hunting season starts on May 4th so he’ll get the first 7 weeks of it.) He will be gone for a long while, starting off at the football European Championship in Germany. He applied for several tickets and managed to get tickets to two matches, to a group stage match in Dortmund and to a quarter final in Berlin. After that he’ll be spending the summer and autumn in Scandinavia. 

After all the appalling weather events last year this summer has been very hot and nice for all holiday makers. I’ve only had about two weeks off work. After having had a relaxing new years at Melanie’s Coopers Beach motel, I went on a little road trip with Finn (some pics above). It’s great spending time with him and nurture some of our common interests, especially around music. Aidan and I naturally have our time to pursue our outdoors interests but it’s so nice when Finn and I make the effort to get out and about. Finn is highly motivated academically and is currently looking at where in the world he will end up studying at university next year. He’s also very focused on healthy living, exercising and he’s a talented musician (he studied piano and is self-taught on guitar). He had celebrated new years with mates at Urupukapuka Island in the Bay of Islands before we drove down to Tauranga and Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty, then to Waikato (he convinced me that we should visit Hamilton Gardens, which actually was an impressive internationally themed park). On the way back north we also stopped for a couple of days of city life in Auckland. 

A big common interest Finn, Aidan and I have is football, playing it and watching. We got a bit of shock news last week, when one of my good friends in Norway for 40 years suddenly died. We always used to watch football with Atle when we were in Norway. Aidan had expected to watch some of the European Championship with him in July. Sadly, that’s not to happen but all of us treasure the times we had with him.

As per usual, some food photos must be included… A traditional Norwegian Xmas aquavit, my crayfish & fennel risotto is a family favourite, a new recipe from Normandie that I did with a couple of pheasants and apples cooked in cider, my liver pate (use either pheasant livers or chicken livers or a mix of both) and some very fresh kingfish sashimi with some hot wasabi.
As mentioned, it’s been a very hot summer, up and around and sometimes over 30 degrees, and humid. Some times in the mornings or evenings I’ve taken Bentley to stretch his legs on some beaches and for swims. A couple of times I also let him have a run in dune terrain but it’s far too hot for any proper exercise. On one of those walks I managed to lose my phone in the terrain. I spent a while looking but it was just no chance to find it. Luckily, all four of us in the family are linked up on Find My iPhone. I drove in to town, borrowed Aidan’s phone and drove back to search. Unbelievably, I managed to track it down, lying under the nearest gorse bush in the photo below. One happy man! I recommend for anyone to make sure they have that function turned on and linked up with someone. I would have had no hope finding it without that. 
More updates will come soon which should include some late summer kingfish action, preparing for hunting season and a new edition of Leon Mortensen’s book to be published! 




Finn and Bentley on the Tutukaka coast.