Surf ‘n’ turf

by | Jun 30, 2024 | What's Happening

The surf and turf concept is not well known in many places around the world. It was an expression first used in American restaurants in the 1960s, when they extravagantly combined seafood and red meat. Specifically, lobster with the best fillet steak cuts. The trend soon spread to Australia where they often combined the meat with their great King prawns. New Zealand steakhouses soon followed suit too. Personally, I love a good surf ‘n’ turf combo with prawns on top of an eye filet or Scotch filet. However, I prefer our lobster (crayfish) to be championed separately. But when I picked the title of this post, it’s down to what most of these posts are a mix of: – Our interest in hunting and catching food on land and in water.   

As per usual as late summer was moving into early autumn, we gratefully enjoyed what we’ve got on our doorstep – the great Northland east coast! Aidan was catching good size snapper both land based and from boats with various mates. Aidan and I were out on his Pandemonium and the pictures above was from a great day trip I had with my mate Matt Trubshaw. The weather had been a bit rough for a few days before we picked the perfect, calm day to go offshore to the Hen & Chickens islands, with a couple of his mates on a different boat. The grand plan that day was to get onto some good sized kingfish but for some reason they weren’t cooperating. We still managed to get us some feeds from different species. On the way back towards land we stopped and admired a large school of dolphins and two Brydes whales. We had plenty of time to take some photos and video.

Aidan and I have also made good use of his Water Wolf underwater camera. We got plenty of interesting footage, from various areas that basically has helped us understand some of the spots that we fish blindly. At one stage we stopped over sandy bottom in the middle of the ocean, because the fish finder showed large schools of fish underneath. As we found out from what we pulled onboard and later reviewing the video footage, the huge schools were Jack mackerels with snapper underneath. Occasionally a powerful kahawai would also come past. This link shows one video where I drop a bait of pilchard towards the bottom, soon surrounded by mackerel before two kahawai suddenly come charging in. One of the fish gets hooked and is eventually landed, after having had a couple of leaps out of the water beforehand.  Watch the video here (it’s all quiet until the kahawai grabs the bait): Kahawai footage from Water Wolf

Pictured below is also a still from the camera of a Kingfish swimming past at the entrance of Smugglers Bay. Pictured also myself with the kahawai caught in the video above and later that evening Aidan enjoying some sashimi from the same fish. 

After a summer of quite decent snapper fishing, in mid April just after Aidan’s 21st birthday, we went on another trout fishing mission to Rotorua. We have preferred to do it in May-July but last year we went late (August) and this year a little bit early. But it’s always a great area to visit and there’s always some fish around (mainly rainbows but also browns). In one stream that Aidan was fly fishing I decided to put the Water Wolf on a spin fishing rod and let the camera drift through the rapids instead of a hook. In this stream we were sight fishing and I got some footage of several nice trout standing in the stream. I might edit and upload some of that at a later stage. Back home we had hoped to get in some more ocean fishing & diving before Aidan was leaving for Europe but with the hunting season coming through fast, all spare time for him was used hunting.    

Bentley has developed well and he just turned 3 years old in April. For his age he’s had a fairly good number of birds shot for him and it has continued well this season. The pheasant numbers in Northland haven’t been as good as last year but we’ve still found a few. In the photos above he’s pointing a single Brown quail (left), after we had spread a covey, and retrieving an old California quail cock bird (right). With the Brown quail I often end up taking some photos instead of shooting as I don’t like taking more than one or two birds out of a covey. If we find the same coveys on different days that instead gives opportunities for dog work & photos. With the California quail shooting in Northland, the terrain is often so difficult that it’s usually a great achievement every time we get the chance to shoot some. It certainly doesn’t leave any time for photographing until afterwards…

In the pictures below the first shows us back at the car for a break after the opening morning hunt on May 4th, with a couple of Calis and a young rooster. Aidan two weeks later with a rooster and then two different days with what Aidan calls a Northland upland game trifecta; that is Brown & Cali quail & pheasant that all have been shot on the same day. Bentley has certainly got to know all three species very well.

The four photos further down are from a duck hunting area we have had access to both this year and last year, at Tangowahine near Dargaville.  Bentley did some excellent work to retrieve a drake mallard that we shot off a tidal river. Unfortunately, it fell down on the other side into very thick reeds and cutty grass, not possible for the dog to access from the water. We thought our chances of finding that were very slim but when we left, we drove in on the other side and walked down to the area. We tried to walk into it but it seemed hopeless, many meters wide and deep and very tall. However, after a while Bentley suddenly pushed through and disappeared in the thick stuff towards the river. As he didn’t come back Aidan decided to push in after him and soon I could hear Aidan’s loud exclamations and praise for the dog. Out they came with Bentley carrying the bird. In the last photo Aidan demonstrates how thick the vegetation was.

In the weeks before Aidan left he was determined to have as many wild game dinners as possible as he has filled the freezers. On the menu there’ve been quail, pheasants, pea fowl, ducks, rabbits, hares, wild pigs, goats and venison. Separate from our hunting he has in particular shot a lot of hares and rabbits. He also did some possum trapping again. The fur prices have picked up again since the Covid lockdowns so he went and sold more fur before he left. Possum fur is often mixed with Merino wool to make some very nice wooly products for tourists. Without the tourists the prices went down and many buyers didn’t buy any fur at all. 

Aidan left the country last Saturday on 22 June and is now in Germany watching the European football championship. After that he’s heading to his grandparents in North Norway. Two weekends before he left we had another couple of good days hunting, even though the weather wasn’t the best. Yesterday I went out by myself nearby home and had a 12 km walk. Bentley presented me with two shooting opportunities on Cali quail. I was too slow on the first one before it disappeared into the trees but got one at the second chance.


Top pick left shows Aidan shooting at a Brown quail, presented under the gun by Bentley in early June. Top pick right shows Aidan with a Cali quail in mid June, his last bird shot in New Zealand (for now). Then a pick of me on a slightly wet day with a rooster, after good work by Bentley, and one of me with two roosters, the second needing some quick intervention by Bentley to be retrieved. Lastly an afternoon hunt with a male Cali and a male and female Brown bagged. An interesting observation this year is that we’ve seen far more male California quail than females.    

As Aidan now has started his European adventure, there will also be more changes for our family in the times ahead. Finn is in his last year at high school and is trying to work out where he will end up studying next year. More updates to follow in the next couple of months.


Arriving in the forest early morning.