Gone fishin' lately?
[Published in New Zealand Marine Scene Magazine September/October 2001 issue. Written by Jonathon Clarke, reproduced courtesy of NZ Marine Scene Magazine.]
Graeme Sinclair and the gone fishin crew teamed up with Primetime for a fishing hell trip in the North!
Primetime was profiled in the last Christmas' issue of Marine Scene and the pedigree of John Gregorys fantastic boat and operation was obvious. After the first season on the water all that was promised has been realised, with the boat catching a greater number gamefish for the season than any other New Zealand vessel, and establishing a reputation for achieving and satisfying the most demanding of customer briefs.
"My trip on Primetime was truly exceptional, far exceeding expectations. A fleek ship and great crew" Graeme Sinclair after his own success on board the luxury 58 foot Sportfisher.
Graeme wanted to record rare footage of the elusive and much sought-after Broadbill Swordfish, long regarded by sport fishermen as the ultimate gamefishing challenge. After unsuccessful trips to the Three Kings Islands Area on other vessels Graeme coincidentally observed Primetime at the Kings with three big Broadbill on the deck, and upon discovering Primetimes impressive feat of thirteen Broadbill Swordfish captured in June/July, a collaboration was inevitable.
In addition, Primetimes unique construction to a 200 Nautical Mile Survey Specification allows her to fish areas not reachable by any other charter vessels, areas that John Gregory knows to hold Marlin and Swordfish of spectacular size. Areas Graeme wished to visit. A deal was struck.
John has given Swordfish the same intense analysis that he does to all his fishing, and this coupled with his immense experience and detailed knowledge of the fishing grounds is responsible for his impressive results. Eight of the thirteen Swordfish brought to the boat in recent weeks have been above 244 Kg.
Primetime has shown the way, particularly in demonstrating that catching Broadbill Swordfish regularly is a reality, and not a chance occurrence. Even more importantly, that Broadbill Swordfish are present around the coast of New Zealand for the majority if not all of the year. This is economically important in terms of extension of the gamefishing season beyond the established January - April Marlin season, and to generate international interest from foreign anglers for whom Swordfish is their ultimate challenge but their local fisheries are no longer viable due to commercial depletion.
"Broadbill Swordfish are the ultimate, to catch one is the ultimate, to fish for them the ultimate sportfishing challenge and the ultimate test for the sport angler" Graeme Sinclair.
John was to find Broadbill Swordfish for anglers Owen Bungo Young and Paul Moitee Obrien, for Graeme to record for his TV program "Gone Fishin", then some Mako shark fishing footage, and maybe some Hapuka and Snapper on the way home. Thank you very much, please, no problem.
It was still blowing 15-20 knots as John sets the first drift line with approaching nightfall, but Primetime sat comfortable and flat in the swell. Matt and Jono, the crew, set the baits as the guys relax, warm in the saloon with a pre-dinner drink. Bungo is to be first in the chair. The anglers are both ready and prepared, already briefed and the drills done. Everyone is waiting now, and time is killed with excited chat and fish stories.
Dinner was served and, typically, a fish took just as everybody settled at the table. The clicker started off slowly then sped up, line going out. Stopped. Then nothing. "CRANK IT IN!" "GOT TENSION?" "CRANK IT IN!". There was good tension on the fish, hook set, Bungo was onto it and fighting hard, it was all on! Forget dinner. "Fish on! Make sure plates are stowed well please! Secure the galley!"
Floodlights on. Gear cleared. Deck cleared. Matt and Jono quickly organising the deck. Preparing for the fight. Preparing for the capture. Engines already fired by John. Boat rounding down on the fish. Bungo harnessed and buckled. Bungo settled to the fish. Camera crew running. Cameras rolling. Reel screaming. Green high-vis line scoring out and down deep. Fish sounding deep.
Then the fish was on the surface, thrashing into the air and the light, 20 meters out, at the far edge of the floods, writhing side to side, slashing spray across the surface. Swordy? Still not sure. Not a good look yet. Engines roar, backing down hard, wave crashing into the cockpit, flooding, closing on the fish, the fish thrashing and surging, out to port in a sheet of spray and foam, clear dorsal fin slicing through the power wave, "SWORDY!" "ITS A SWORDY!" all shouting! Closing in. Leader taken by Matt. Bongo cranking like hell. "GAFF! GAFF!" Spray, Thrashing, .
But the fish was gone, surging close in and off to starboard, leader gone from reach, line pinging of the reel as the fish sounded deep. YEAH! WERE ON A SWORD!
Settled into the battle now. Angler, boat and crew working the fish hard, not letting him rest, let him rest and he will fight forever. Circle hard, drag the leader over his face, make him angry, make him fight angry, lose his energy, lose his power. Try to turn him over, roll him over, anger him, fight him, wear him, get the line back from him. Then he takes all the line again. Fight him, turn him, hurt him, anger him, roll him over. And then he takes all the line again.
Bongo working hard, well. Standing up well. Crew all talking though the fight, what to do, what to try, whats happening and whats working. Engines thundering as John continuously rounds on the fish, turning away as the fish runs at and under the boat, cunning, taking any opportunity to take line, or to break off. The big boat rolls powerfully underfoot, surging across the swell. Drag lever goes up to sunset, 24-kg of drag on the fish now and the rod loads up, bending down in a circle to follow the steep slant of the line. Line close in on the cockpit coaming because of the rod load bending. Fish straight down 300 meters. Hours go past.
Shark fin in the wake. Makos zeroing in on the fight distress of the hard fighting Broadbill, the Shark and Swordfish being the oldest of enemies. The shark will take advantage of the trapped and tiring Swordfish if it can, not so afraid of its deadly sword. First hacking through the tail to immobilise, then tearing off the sword at the base to disarm, then devour the stricken fish at leisure, ripped off chunk by chunk.
Tuna bomb flashes and cracks near the shark, hopefully he has gone. John works the boat hard to try to lead the fish off the shoal area and to the deep open water, free of sharks. But the fish wont be lead by the boat, stays firmly over the reef, in the thick of shark country.
Bongo begins to make gains on the fish. The line angle suddenly comes up. "GETTING BETTER ANGLE, HE"S COMING UP!?". "SHARK ON HIM?" Back up hard. Bongo cranking like mad. Fish on the surface, thrashing, worn out, leader coming up, "SHARK ON HIM! SHARK ON HIM!" Big Mako, 200 Kg plus, whacked into him 15 meters out, tail whacked, leader in, gaffed, transom door open, second gaff in, Mako back on the fish, fight the shark with hand spike, another Mako coming in, right at open transom, stab with spike, smack with tag pole, tuna bomb into the water, flash, crack, sharks gone. Half hitch gaff rope around the sword for the haul aboard. Bloody swords gone!! Sharked at the transom!! All hauling the fish in on the gaff ropes before the sharks come back, a big job, the fish is big, about 300 Kg. At last safe on deck, close the transom door, take a breath. Congratulations to Bongo, shake Bongos hand, well done everybody, sorry Bongo, for the bloody sharks.
"Got it all on film, guys, good footage, great stuff" "Great fish, dont worry about bloody shark bites".
Bongo, tired, all smiles and silly grins. Buzzing with achievement, and a dream realised. He doesnt care a damn about the shark bites.
A few clicks in the dark, almost indiscernible in the steady breeze, then again with more urgency. Jono and Matt are already at the gear, ready to clear the deck. Moitee is called, awake, and coming quickly to the rod, the line clicking out slowly into the night. John calling from the bridge to let the fish have line.
Silence. "HES COMING TOWARDS US!" "CRANK IT UP!" Moitee already cranking the line in for all hes worth. "WEVE GOT TENSION" "HES ON" Engines fire. Boat thundering round on the fish. Floods on. Moity fights rod to the chair. Gear cranked in. Cleared off deck. All awake now. Cameras on, crews running. Line peels out fast. Clicker racing. "Turn that racket off please" LINE GOES SLACK! "WIND! WIND!" "SHIT!" "WIND!" Moitee breathes again as he gets tension back on the fish. What is it? Swordy?
Fish fights hard, deep. What is it? Fighting like a Broady, with power, headshake, deep and unmovable. Could still be a big Bronze Whaler.
Cranking in line. Coming straight up to the surface, shatters through the surface, huge, 20 meters out, spray, foam, giant flank arcing across wave, black, silver, gold, sword slashing air and sea, slashing, powering out to port, fish leaping across, chair turned after fish, engines thunder boat after fish, Moitee trying to take the line, fish turned, leaping, smashing spray and foam, crashing through the seas, dorsal, tail sickle slicing wave and spray, huge fish, Moitee cranking line, no tension, sword swinging across, spraying water, no tension on the line as Moity tries to catch up, the fish crashes again far out to port but the line is out behind the boat. There is no tension on the line.
Moitee brings the line in. Trace is cut through by the sword somehow turning on it. Everybody has seen the huge fish in the floodlights, dont know if it was possible to fight it on 37-kg gear, even if it hadnt broken off. The consensus put the fish at easily 400 kgs plus.
Boat slowing in the dark, engines shut down, beam on to the sea. On the bridge, Johns intense concentration, face lit only by the dim instrument displays, glowing of ever-present cigar, indispensable strong, sickly sugared coffee always close to hand. Checking the drift line. Calls down to the cockpit that the drifts good, that the gear can be set. Matt and Jono work setting the three sets of gear at different depths, shrugging off the cold. The boat and seas are quiet, Moity, Bungo, Graeme and team all dozing fitfully in the saloon and cabins. The crew work on.
The fish has gone, the sea empty, quiet and black. Moitee climbs from the chair, looks out into the dark for a while, wanders away.
Everybody drifts back to their positions of before the strike, settles down to tired semi-sleep. Jono starts to reset the shallow bait, feeding out the gear slowly by hand to keep it clear of itself, untangled. Matt examines the trace he is holding, cuts the mangled bait away from the swivel at the top of the trace, dragged up under the powerful run of the fish. He checks the trace and hook for damage, prepares to rig another bait. The bait has no shark tooth slashes on it, has been crushed flat by the Broadbill, and driven up the leader as the fish powered out 150 meters of line with the hook firmly attached, then unaccountably dropped off. The big hook still has its painstakingly achieved needle sharp point and razor cutting edges. But Matt re-works it in any case.
The crew are subdued, thinking to themselves. Fourth fish dropped. Where is the luck gone, normally staunchly with us. Think over all the gear, what happened, checking everything mentally, again and again.
At dawn the Broadbill have gone deep again, sharks take interest in the baits and the boat. A big shark around 3 meters comes in close on the transom, dorsal and tail slowly cutting across the berly slick, oily and spreading out astern, only a few minutes old. Berlying to have some Mako fun, and get Graemes shark fishing footage. Sun is well up now, the air starting to warm up after the early morning chill.
The shark is not at all afraid, and must be close to 200 Kg, the water is clear, clear, blue. The shark distinct and beautiful in the crystal blue water, turns back toward the boat. Graeme is awake, the others resting. He hadnt planned on angling during the trip, but was quite keen to have a go, as is his nature. As the bait was brought closer in to the boat for the shark, the chair was adjusted and the harnesses improvised to suit his mobility level, and Graeme was on the fish. The shark had come in, turned side-up, eyes rolled back in the head for the bite, and chomped down the large chunked Hapuka bait. Cruising off and into another slow turn. Graeme set the circle hook by bringing the tension up slowly, and the fish woke up as it felt the barb.
This Mako didnt jump. It fought hard. Engines in reverse chasing down the fish brought the camera guys from their rest, and the day had begun. Graeme was having too good a time! This fish was tagged and freed after 25 minutes, still pretty green. Graeme having a go turned into a long session. The berly bringing the Makos up to the baits, the sharks feeling the hook then suddenly coming to life! The hard part is finding the berly slick again after chasing the fish about, as the boat must park up again on the trail that is already laid. The Mako trail.
Graeme was in the chair and staying there, quite happy, harnessed to the bent-over rod, the seas coming in, crshing over the transom as Primetime reversed hard on the running fish, fish jumping, high, twisting jumping again, end over end leaping. Graeme taking line, losing it, getting it back, the thrashing shark worn down, fought on the leader, subdued at the boat, jabbed with the sharp tipped tag pole, cut free, fish swimming with the boat for a moment, tag swirling by the dorsal, huge swipe of the tail and the drive away and down out of sight in the deep blue water.
The big shark passed the bait again, but wouldnt take it. But turned again for another pass. Still wouldnt take. The smaller sharks had all dissapeared as this monster cruised the berly trail, just under the surface, dorsal fin and tail slicing through, swirling wake trailing behind. 380 kg at least. Didnt look at the bait again, and dissappeared after a while.
Graeme surrendered the chair after his seventh fish, under pressure from Becks and Martin the technical crew, both trying to get into the chair. Still hooking up, some fish fighting hard others more interested to have a look at the boat, until fought on the leader. Then they churn the water up at the transom, thrashing about with the tag prick.
How does a Mako launch itself so far, so high. One instant its airbourne, then seemingly as soon as it splashes down, its 5 meters up in the air again!
Sun high overhead, bright blue sky, empty blue sea, no wind, sun warm on the skin. Nice and warm for the end of July.
There was the sign, the fish marks, the distinct pinnacle showing clearly on the depth sounder with the big fish sign on the top of the up-current side. Right in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight, there is this pinnacle coming up from nowhere and covered in big fish sign.
The Hapuka droppers went down on Johns signal and were loaded up immediately on reaching the bottom. 37-kg Shimano TLD 50s with superbraid bent over almost double with the weight of the enormous struggling fish. Two anglers at a time, two anglers per a team contesting the Primetime Vs Gone Fishin Hapuka challenge.
John positioning the boat over the hot spot, lines going down, the fish fighting all the way up and bursting to the surface, with each pair of anglers claiming the title, then being beaten by the next pairing. Bungo and Graeme looked to be safe with a couple of 30-kg fish until John descended from the bridge and fought up a 45-kg bass, shortly to be joined by team mate Martin the cameramans double hook-up of Hapuka at 25-kg and 28-kg. The decky team, Jono and Matt, going last seemed to have the running when they magically produced beauty little Koheru live-baits from somewhere and sent them down on solid looking rigs.
Both waited, then one after the other the rods loaded up like never before and then the fish started to rip line from the 37-kg gear with the drags pushed to sunset. Huge Bass? Daytime Broadbill? Then with the rod still bent straight down and with the fish taking line, Jonos fish leaped 5 meters clear of the sea, far out off the stern, a Mako, repeatedly jumping, cart-wheeling end over end, again and again. Then breaking off, tension gone, still jumping high and wild, again and again. Matts fish also launches itself through the surface, also a Mako, going ballistic, spectacular in its high, wild, end over end leaping. Also busting off after its show.
So, the deckys team comes up with zip, but at least they produced lots more good Mako footage. John and Martins team, with Martin who had never caught a Hapuka before, taking out the Hapuka challenge title. Hapuka for dinner then, thanks to another of Johns secret spots in the middle of nowhere.
The trip is drawing to a close due to expected bad weather. Primetime had relocated to the lee of Reinga at 20 knots, powering effortlessly across the ocean seas back to the shores of New Zealand. John will try to put the team onto some nice snapper and then head south and home before the weather gets more uncomfortable.
John says to use the heavier gear that Matt has prepared. Graeme says no, that his trusty 10-Kg snapper rig is well proven and up to the job. Bungo says more or less the same. John leaves them to it, men who know their fishing.
It will be drift fishing as the pinnacle is a very small area, maybe only 30 meters diameter, with deep all around. Another of Johns special spots, spied out in his years of traversing these waters. The lines go down with light sinkers, basically straylining. The light rods are immediately bent over, line ripped out, the fish reefing the line and busting off. Big powerful Snapper, impossible to hold fish like this on the light gear.
But Matts 15-kg gear suffers the same fate. As John repositions the drift, the baits are hammered within seconds of reaching the bottom, reefed by the fish, and broken off. No one can believe it! What size are these Snapper? Even John seems a bit surprised when Jono and Matt hurriedly rig 24-kg gear and still no one can hold a fish, incredibly strong runs, head nodding, running, and the 80-pound traces come back busted through by the fish powering around the reef!
The 37-kg Hapuka gear is quickly deployed, Graeme, Bongo, Moitee and crew are all a bit bemused. No one has seen this type of thing before. So many big Snapper in one place, so strong, and so difficult to fight out of the foul ground. The baits are again aggressively hammered as soon as they get down, Graeme has the 37-kg outfit loaded hard, Bongo and Moitee are also on fish immediately. Its difficult to keep the lines clear of each other, big fish on and fighting hard! Again no one can believe that they are fighting Snapper and losing on 37-kg! Graeme has colour in the water, and then again colour, and a huge Snapper comes up to the boat. Into the net and onboard! Must be 12 or 13-kgs! But strong! Wow! The guys start to get the better of the fishing now, and the fish, still aggressively attacking the baits, are coming to the boat more regularly. All are over 10-kg, and some closer to 13-kg. Some fish are still running away on the 37-kg gear, reefing the line and breaking off. What size are they?
The fish were netted, hefted into the cockpit, hook removed, quick photo or held by the angler for the camera crew, then released. It was great to see these huge fish return to the water, lie still for a split second held by the tail, then swim off with a powerful surge as they realised that they were free again.
Everybody was having a blast! Taking turns on the rod, catching a monster, hooking into another one, getting reefed and busted off, then catching another one! The crew rigging up the gear as fast as they can, and still not keeping up with the shouts for another rod! The teams competition was resurrected, Matt looking good on a very big fish until a line cross-over and his mono line being cut by Graemes superbraid! Bungo thought he was on, then got dragged back into the foul and busted off. Moitee threatening at the death by playing a strong fish for 20 minutes on the l5 kg gear, but when the fish was finally brought to the boat it was not quite as big as his in-fight build-up. Go Moitee!
Night was approaching, the weather change also expected, and a long way to go to get home. Who won the teams competition on Snapper? No one has any idea! But what Snapper fishing that was! What would it have been like after dark!
Coming into port, time to fly the flags. Up the outriggers they go. The black on yellow Broadbill flag has pride of place at the head. Then the black on red shark flags over the white/red tag and release for the total of 29 sharks captured and released. The outriggers both full, swaying, straining under the load as the wind pulls at all those flags.
Twenty-eight Mako and one Thresher taged and released, eleven good Hapuka, one big Bass, one nice Bluenose, a handfull of King Terikihi, a dozen 10 Kg plus Snapper, and of course, a 271 kg Broadbill Swordfish. Including the weight of the tagged and released fish, the anglers captured 4.2 metric tonnes of fish! And their tired bodies know it!
"I have no hesitation recommending Primetime as an exceptional experience, and our trip was certainly one to remember" Graham Sinclair.
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