The humble Kahawai is often overlooked as a ‘real fish’ in this country. Comments like “just a scummy kahawai” and “cat food” are to my mind elitist and just plain wrong these days. A shame really, as there are many times when catching a Kahawai is the only difference between counting a fishing trip as a success or a failure. It’s often referred to as “the people’s fish” for several reasons. Kahawai are present most of the time along most of the coastline of NZ. When they are around they are usually voracious feeders and hooking one is relatively easy. They’ll eat almost anything, and put up a decent fight on light gear.
I’ve met people who refuse to eat Kahawai, they seem to think its a rubbish fish, bait or cat food etc. They are usually boaties who can venture far offshore to catch other species. To the surfcaster, the Kahawai is an important fish. Ok its not in the league of Snapper or Gurnard taste wise, but if you relied on catching those two species for a feed you would starve. I have no problem cooking and eating Kahawai. Kill and bleed the fish as soon as you land it. If time permits, head and gut it as well. Cook it the same day, it doesn’t freeze well, so fresh is the key. There are numerous fancy Kahawai recipes around but even treated basically, crumbed and fried its very tasty. Smoked Kahawai is very nice too.
Since June I have caught nothing but Kahawai in HB waters, (discounting other rubbish like spiny dogs and our worm filled barracouta) so I’m very happy to be able to take home a kahawai and have fresh fish for dinner. Believe me, after 7 or 8 fishless outings in a row, catching a humble Kahawai feels great 🙂
With the steady decline of our commercially hammered species like Snapper and Gurnard, the surfcaster will need to lower his or her sights a little, and accept the fact that if you are going to eat fish, it will most likely be Kahawai, or some other species you used to feed to the cat.