Friday morning I had a phone call from Wayne Kostanich, one of the leading charter boat skippers based in Helensville, The team of 10 who had booked him for the contest had dropped 3 members, 2 replacements had been found, did I want the last place?
With my wife out at the pictures with 3 lady friends, I had to agonise about my decision. YES, I WILL BE THERE!
The "fine print" said I had to get a ticket, 5am start at the wharf, 6am start fishing, and you had to be in the weigh in enclosure by 5pm. The forecast was for calm to light easterlies, and only 2 to 3 feet of swell on the coast, and low tide at 9 am the boundary was no fishing outside the Kaipara harbour.
I never managed a photo of the boat, but she is a 10m bladerunner cat, and 3.6 m wide, a foil between the hulls lifts her to plane quickly. Powered by two 250 horse Suzuki outboards she cruises at just over 30 knots and can take plenty of rough sea (needed for the harbour entrance). The skipper is a second generation commercial flounder fisherman, and started taking fishing parties on his old launch. He saw a need for a faster boat and bought AliKat 8 years ago.
At 32 knots on a flat sea it takes just over an hour from Helensville to cross the southern end of the harbour to the "graveyard", and soon we were anchored up but I was the only one who could just hold bottom with braid and 32 oz of lead, 26 meters deep but 6 knots outgoing rip 2 hours before low.
We moved closer to shore, but only small fish, so after an hour back to the mussel beds, and snapper started to come onboard, nothing over a kilo, but plenty of bites.
I do not like using braid, but it is practical in those conditions, I find it too brutal, snapper grab and run, and when hooked head shake, they are the same shape as your black bream.
This is the rig I started with, a 2 dropper trace with 6/0 recurve hooks on 36kg trace with quick change clip for sinker changes, with 1kg lead on 24kg braid. You may say overgunned, but we can get up to 30kg tope, and the main aim is to not lose sinkers. Bait was squid and trevally fish pieces.
Some slightly bigger fish, and so as the tide slackened, I changed rods to 14kg nylon and a lighter trace and only half a kilo of lead. Straight away, I was into something better. a snapper of 2.5kg, and the next drop it's twin, from then on just fish up to 2kg.
With the outgoing tide slackening the 1m swell coming over the bar gave a confused sea on the stern quarter, which got worse on the flood, back to the braid, and trying to pull in even a modest fish from 75 m back was bloody hard work. When it took me 5 minutes to drag a small fish back to the boat, we moved up the harbour entrance to shallower water and less current, we being the last of about 10 boats to leave the graveyard.
One of the crew suffering
This spot gave a few snapper, but also some red gurnard, but it was very slow, One tope caused some mayhem.
The skipper about to perform major surgery.
This one for Logger, the northern end of 30 miles of Woodhill pine forest on sand dunes. my rod has the 2 yellow tapes, easy to find my gear amongst all the rods.
The Daiwa 50sh is an old surfcasting one and only half full of line to lower the gearing for the graveyard.
This was the last of about 7 moves for the day, and 2pm started back to the wharf and to the weigh in, I presented 1 snapper (too small) a kahawai of 1.72kg and a gurnard of .92kg, the last 2 were hung up, but with most fish still to be presented I was not hopefull.
I went home, and had a cuppa and a bun, filleted 2 small snapper, gave the 2 bigger ones away, and colected Luca the neighbours fishing mad 12 year old son, and back to the prizegiving a bit late, as they were just about to raffle off the second gurnard prize, ME! my mates allerted me and I just got to the MC on time to claim a rod, reel, T shirt and cap from Shimano, line and a fish scaler. Part of the prizegivings here are spot prizes and sponsors products thrown to the crowd, Luca claimed a pair of side cutters that landed under a table near us.
The heaviest snapper was 7.5 kg, Kahawai 3kg ang gurnard just on 1kg
Helensville in the background, and the river and very muddy marina.
Summary for the day-- Ticket $40 (about 18 pounds)
Pool for heaviest snapper $10 and I had the 2 heaviest
So apart from a great day's fishing, I could show a profit. Now that is a good day's fishing even if I was knackered