The last time I fished and Mohaka was also my first time. I did quite well compared to fishing locally here in Napier, so I decided to go again. Arriving at the beach about 630pm on the Saturday just as the day was starting to cool into dusk was perfect as far as I could see.
The conditions were good, sea was very calm and clean, it should be a productive evening fishing was my first thought. Unfortunately my ‘thoughts’ were way off target, and the baits were totally untouched.
I decided to try for a Kingfish seeing as nothing was touching the cut-baits. A prime livebait in the form of a 30cm Kahawai was caught and despatched on a sliding line where it swam around happily for a few hours but it too was totally unmolested.
As darkness set in I resumed with cut baits of Pilchard and Skipjack. Then I noticed one of the tip lights wobbling. Aha! about time! Unfortunately the fish that appeared in the surf in my headlamp beam was not the Gurnard or Snapper I was hoping for, but a small Tope shark.
I replaced the shredded trace and released the shark only to have several more of them hook up over the next hour or so. I realised then that the sharks were only taking the Skipjack baits and not the pilchards. Changing to pilchard on both rods bought some relief from the sharks.
At about 10pm one of the rods started a gentle lean and kept bending. By the time I got to it line was peeling off the spool. I soon realised this was not a fish. It was a bloody stingray!
Anyone who has hooked a stingray on a surfcaster knows what a pain in the butt they can be. If you haven’t hooked one, just imagine someone has tied your line to an underwater tractor! They are often so big and heavy that there is nothing you can do to turn them and ultimately catch/release them. Many people will just lock up the reel and break the line because a prolonged scrap with a stingray can soak up an hour or more of fishing time.
So here I was, alone in the dark attached to a sizeable stingray and then the thought just struck me, damn! the gaff is still in the van.. So even if I manage to get this thing into the surf I have no way of landing it and unhooking it. After about 20 minutes of give and take I had the ray swimming up and down the beach just inside the first wave. I just could not get it up onto the beach, every time a wave washed it onto the shore it would power back out and I could do nothing but watch as the reel released line to it.
I thought ‘maybe I should just break the line’ but that would mean replacing the whole terminal tackle rig, and I wanted my gear back! I couldn’t really see the ray (my headlamp is not very good) but the angle of the line told me it was pretty close. Just then a larger than normal wave pushed the ray up onto the beach into ankle deep water. I locked up the drag and shoved the rod into the spike. Then sprinted back to the van to get the gaff. Thirty seconds later with gaff in hand I waded into the shallows and gently dragged the beast onto dry land.
I was pretty buggered by then, 40 minutes of fighting these things on full load will turn your arms into jelly and announce back muscles you never knew you had.
After flipping the ray over and removing the hooks I dragged it back into the water and watched it swim away. Maybe to torment another fisherman on another day.
After that the rest of the night was dead as far as fishing went. I retired to the van for a few winks at about 1130pm. Up again at 3am with the full-ish moon lighting up a perfectly flat sea, I had more baits in the water. Only pilchard this time. Nothing was interested in my baits until about 5am when one the rods started another slow bend.. Not again! Yep, but this one was considerably smaller and I dealt to it inside 10 minutes. As the sun came up I decide to try livebaits again. There were lots of splashes and surface disturbances indicating baitfish in the surf so I figured there may be a Kingfish snooping around.
A fat little Kahawai was procured with sabiki bait flies and sent out on a slider with a hook in its back.
Every now and then my livebait would go berserk and start splashing around on the surface. Obviously it could see impending doom swimming around underneath it. But it remained intact and survived so no Kingfish were harmed on this trip.
I was getting no bites at all on the pilchards so I caught another small Kahawai and cut it up for bait.
Finally at about 7am the cut Kahawai bait produced a nice Gurnard. Five minutes later another one joined it in the bin. That was it, bite-time over. The sun was up now and chances of catching anything else getting slimmer by the minute.
So, an eventful trip if not overly productive. But that’s fishing…