06 January 2012 | Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
Fishing at Great Barrier Island
After a couple of days at Great Barrier, Michael and I still hadn't caught the amazing Red Snapper that Dave, our friend of Riada II, had been telling us existed somewhere in the murky depths. But, Dave continued to assure us that they were in fact swimming around down there, so I asked him to teach me how to hook them - in other words, put his money where his mouth was!
I'm an early riser and so is Dave, so we agreed to head out around 6 am. The morning started out sunny and almost warm. We dingied to a mussel farms not too far from the anchorage and tied up to one of the many buoys. Mussels here are grown on rows and rows of large barrel-like buoys strung together and held in place with horizontal ropes. From these buoys, vertical lines hang down into the water, on which the mussels grow. The mussels that grow on the buoys and on the lines that hold the buoys together, are free for the taking.
While we were tying up, Dave pulled off a cluster of mussels to use as bait and as 'burly'. Burly is a local word for bait that is thrown into the water to attract fish. Dave told me, that the key to success when fishing is the 'burly'. The whole time we were fishing, Dave was throwing bits of tuna; preserved in salt, mussels, shells and bits and pieces of raw fish into the water around the dingy. This paid off!
Now, I have to say that I'd never really fished before. Maybe, I'd cast a line or held a rod with some bait dangling in the water off the side of Gromit. I'd last about 5 minutes and then give up bored. But this was different, this was the real deal!
In the beginning, Dave baited my hook and he cast my line and I sat holding the rod. I didn't feel like I was really fishing. I told him that I'd cast the next one and he asked me if I knew how to and I said yes, because I had cast the fishing rods we have aboard Gromit. Well, it was all in the wording! If he had included the words 'this kind of reel' when he asked if I knew how to cast, I would have asked what the difference was and avoided the rats nest of fishing line bunched up on the reel. Feeling rather silly and apologizing sheepishly, I tried to untangle the mess, to no avail. We ended up cutting it off and I tried again, this time keeping my thumb on the reel so it wouldn't spin out of control. Success!
Next was the whole bait issue. Now that I was at least casting my rod and feeling a little more like a fisher-person, I thought I'd better take the next step and bait my own hook. I'm not usually 'ick' about things, but mussels and raw fish...... And it's not even the feel of these things, but rather the smell on my hands. Well, I bit the bullet, so to speak, and had Dave teach me how to securely attach a chunk of tuna and very gloopy mussels. Success again! I had my first bite.
I began reeling in and I was surprised that this wasn't so easy. I thought I must have a hundred-pounder on my line! I knew to pull up on the rod and then reel in as I lowered it toward the water. I'd seen it done so many times, but seeing and doing are two different things! I was finally kind of getting it, but concentrating so hard, that I misjudged how close the fish was to the surface and gave another mighty pull upward, yanking the fish right out of the water and giving him the advantage he needed to spit the hook out of his mouth and disappear, right before my eyes, down into the depths, probably with a smug smile on his fishy little lips!
Dang, I yelled as I wacked the dingy seat with my hand. I knew not to pull the fish out of the water like that, but it all happened so fast! Another piece of bait and couple more minutes and again I had a bite, but this time it felt like a two hundred-pounder. I did it right, though and brought a really nice sized Red Snapper to just under the surface. Yahoo!! I kept it just under the water until Dave got it into the net and we pulled it into the dingy - all amid squeals of delight coming from me! I was so excited. I'd baited, cast and reeled in my first fish!
I caught another one, a bit smaller than my first, and then Dave pulled in two. I got one more and we called it a day. It was now 9:30 am and we headed back to the Gromit. I showed my catch to the 'mouths-hanging-open' crew of Gromit and Michael and I headed into shore to begin preparing the fish for the smoke house.
Dave had generously given us the fish he'd caught, and Michael and I gutted and butterflied them while Dave prepared the fire in the smoker. I sprinkled them with salt and sugar, put the hooks through their top edges and hung them in the smoker. Six hours later, with a little tending of the fire, we took out our golden brown, tender, succulent fish.
(Photo album to follow.....soon!!!)