The lure of NZ kingfish by Sami Omari
The waters off the New Zealand coastline must contain something that accelerates growth – every image or email I receive from across the ditch shows behemoth kingfish that dwarf the fish we catch off Sydney.
Most days around my home waters see me throwing small poppers and stick baits in the Harbour or chasing them by jigging offshore however for a solid dose of big kingfish action, the best option is to pack the rod tube and head for the land of the long white cloud.
My latest kingfish expedition was off the Tauranga coastline with Ocean Blue’s New Zealand skipper Mark Armistead at the helm. After watching numerous videos and reading reports of big kingfish on top water lures and jigs it was with an air of anticipation that I touched down in Auckland to be met by the rest of the guests before driving along the scenic New Zealand countryside en-route for Tauranga.
We arrived to find a low pressure system and abating seas which kept us inshore on day one, throwing soft plastics along the coastal sand flats resulted in a 3kg snapper and a John Dory for our efforts with stories of the kingfish bite over previous weeks well and truly whetting the appetite. The second day saw us head further afield to a spot that had been producing decent numbers of smaller fish; small by New Zealand standards is a trophy back home and around the 10kg mark! The sea had glassed out on arrival with barely a zephyr of breeze making for ideal jigging conditions. Once positioned over a likely sounding, jigs were deployed to awaiting schools of kings. Most of the fish were in the 8-10kg range and a few close to 15 with each drift seeing a few fish picked off before the boat was repositioned and the process repeated. After a few hours and just as everyone was warming to the action, the wind forced a retreat to more sheltered waters before we headed back to the comforts of our hotel.
Day three started with a long run to one of Marks favoured top water spots with the morning dedicated to throwing a few stick baits around in search of surface feeding kings. We were running two boats in tandem and when a 25kg fish was landed on the other vessel everyone came to life as we motored across to admire the hefty king and rattle off a few photos. Both boats were fishing a mix of stick baits on top and jigs below with the fish that morning remaining deep and taken on jigs. A change of plan around the tide in the afternoon saw us push out towards a ridge which Mark thought may fire with and sure enough on the first pass through the sounder screen lit up with a tight mass of fish mid water. The next couple of hours were chaotic with double and triple hook-ups the norm as the kings crunched every jig that passed by. The best drift produced a triple hook-up on fish weighing 28, 23 and 21kgs with the average fish taken during the session north of 15kg. One of the anglers on board had never previously caught a kingfish while the other had caught a few but nothing over the 10kg mark; it was the kind of fishing that justified New Zealand’s reputation as a superb fishery.
Once the tide turned the actioned slowed and we raced home on calm seas with three weary but smiling anglers on board. That evening Mark arranged for one of the fish we’d taken to be prepared at a local French restaurant and after an enjoyable meal we ambled back to our lodgings in preparation for the final day. Friday morning came too quickly and following a leisurely breakfast we walked over to the wharf adjoining our hotel and hopped on board for a repeat of the previous day’s action. Our boat knocked over a couple of fish in the 15-20kg mark early on then went searching for the schooling fish which had wandered off with the change in tide. A mid-afternoon surface bite saw the other boat land a few fish to 20kg on top water lures leading us to cruise on over and throw a few stick baits around but finding the fish had sounded. With the end of the trip bearing down upon us the skipper motored back to the deeper water and scoured the area locating some solid markings which resulted in a handful more hefty kings with the last drift resulting in a double hook-up to round out the trip. It was tough to leave New Zealand having experienced some exceptional jigging and a glimpse of the explosive surface fishing on offer; having some unfinished business with those big surface feeding kings has left me yearning for more and vowing to return in future – I’ll be back!