Big game fishing - Give it a go
Bruce 'Captain Swish' Duncan
December 19, 2019
Most of us get our first taste of game fishing when hooked up on a kingfish, the sheer power and speed of these yellow tailed critters gives you such an adrenalin rush you can’t help but want to know what a marlin on the end of your line would feel like.
This summer is the time to give it a go, never before has there been so much information for even the most inexperienced fisherman to catch the fish of their dreams.
It was not that many years ago that game fishing was only for those who had launches or very big trailer boats with huge fuel capacity, giving them the range to get out wide to chase the big fish. Way back then, before the days of GPS, we were young, dumb and ten feet tall – not to mention bullet proof. I recall being way out the back of the Poor Knights with no land in sight, in a 6m runabout dragging lures. A well known charter boat actually swung over to us to ask if we were lost - small boats just did not go out game fishing then, let alone out of site of land. (I still don’t know what they were worried about; all we had to do was find the coast again, turn West and hope we didn’t run out of fuel).
Today it’s a very different story with reliable fuel-efficient motors, chart plotters and safety equipment such as 406 EPIRBs giving your exact position to within a few meters if you did get into trouble.
Today four-stroke outboard motors give you fuel efficiency with a solid reliability factor, plus the speed to enable you to go a long way out to sea and back the same day. Even with the price of fuel, the cost of a day game fishing split between the crew is way cheaper than in years past. Another major leap forward is the affordability of combo GPS chart plotter sounders, plus we now have access to surface temperature maps, helping remove much of the mystery that used to surround game fishing.
Check out a video NZFW put together with the Yamaha Marine North crew last year that explains a bit more detail and even features some cooperative marlin action..
Knowing the surface temperature where the drop offs, rises, and seamounts are, and to be able to go directly to them has been a game changer. Thinking back to the old days, so much of what we did was hit and miss. How we didn’t get lost was more by the grace of God than good management; and who knows how many fish we missed.
Setting up the boat for game fishing in the initial stage can be quite daunting when you look at the cost of all the rods, reels, gaffs, lures and the like, but what you will find is that a lot of the guys that want to go out on the boat will all have some gear of their own. Gradually, you end up buying extra rods, lures, extra trace and crimps and before you know it the garage and spare room will be full of it.
At any game fishing contest today just watch the smaller trailer boats coming and going, looking more like porcupines than boats with all the rods poking out of the rocket launchers and rod holders but very often this can be overkill. The thing you should never lose sight of when game fishing in a trailer boat is that you will always be limited for room and more is not always a good thing. Most people tend to run too many lures out the back thinking this will give you greater chance of a hook up, but it’s a false economy.
More often than not when an extra lure is run out the back on one of the lighter rods such as a 15 kg rig with a smaller tuna lure attached and Murphy’s Law says a thumping great marlin will pick that as the one he wants to eat. When you least expect it there is a reel screaming as it loses line faster than a speeding bullet, a marlin bouncing all over the ocean and nobody can remember who’s turn it is in the chair. By the time everybody wakes up and clears the gear the marlin will either have spooled you or dropped the lure and be halfway to Fiji. Keep it simple and focus on running no more than three or four lures.
If you don’t feel things are right, then make a change to an existing lure rather than putting more gear out. If the lure spread and colors are right and running well the fish will come in and have a look.
Game fishing out of small boats has come a long way in the last ten years or so and there are now a lot of fishing clubs that are IGFA affiliated. If you are just starting out I suggest you join a club where you will find people willing to share their time and experience with you.
Once upon a time, for example, broadbill were only caught from big boats on a full moon; yet today landing one from a trailer boat during the day is a common occurrence. This is what life on the water and fishing is all about, being given the chance to go out at an early age and learning from the wealth of knowledge that has been built up by fisherman over the years. Today you can Google everything from tying bimini twists rigging lures to spooling reels, but there is no substitute to being shown how to do it right while out on the water.
Like any sport there are some dangers involved, especially when handling a big grumpy fish alongside a boat. Having an experienced crew member on board to help you learn from experiences and, dare I say mistakes, is a huge advantage.
Believe it or not one of the biggest problems a skipper faces at times is getting a crew together, someone will always have a lame excuse like it’s their wedding day or wife’s birthday so by joining a club it gives you the opportunity to put an experienced crew together as well as going out on other people’s boats.
How good do we have it in New Zealand? Where else in the world can you head out for a day’s game fishing, come back to the coast for a bit of snapper and a dive for crayfish and scallops all in a day?