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Catch the fish of a lifetime with an on-board charter

08 April 2016
Catch the fish of a lifetime with an on-board charter

Mike Davis with a simple guide for anyone thinking about going on a live on-board charter. Have you ever looked through fishing magazines and websites and seen the array of huge catches and wondered; how do I catch a fish like that?

Chances are these fish have come off charter boats like Cascade, Pursuit or Enchanter.  The skippers of these vessels are the very best in the business and specialise in fishing grounds that are generally just too far away for the average trailer boat to get to safely.

Unless you have the luxury of a mate who owns a 40 foot plus launch, you’re best bet to reach out wide is with a live on board charters are our only option.


These boats generally split there season up into two locations. White Island, the Ranfurly Banks and the Three Kings. On top of this they will all provide options for chasing marlin and yellowfin tuna.  

White Island

White Island is an active volcano situated 27 nautical miles out from Whakatane.  In late spring and into summer, White Island is a large breeding ground for kingfish. White Island hold a very plentiful supply of baitfish like mackerel, kahawai and trevally.  

The reason why the photos from this area look so good is because kingfish here average 15-25kg’s, with just about every trip producing fish over 30kg.

To make the most out of what White Island has to offer you really need to spend two to three nights out on the water to ensure you make the most of such a spectacular location.

The Ranfurly Banks

The Ranfurly Banks are located 25 nautical miles off East Cape, making it a long haul from Whakatane.  The Banks are simply a place you must experience and fish before you die, it is that good.  

The Banks are a large area of rocky foul that rises up from the depths of the ocean to vary between 20-200m in depth.  This allows the angler to target huge fish in relatively shallow water which adds to the attraction.  Strong currents converge over the foul giving predatory fish plenty of bait to feed on.

When it comes to chasing top quality table fish like bass, hapuka and bluenose you will easily average 15-30kg fish. Specimens between 40-50kg are not uncommon.  There has even been bass in the 60-70kg class caught here in the past.

The Ranfurly Banks have become the pinnacle ground for jigging specialists, and targeting these big fellas on jigs is second to none.  

The area is known worldwide for its kingfish, including world records over 50kg. If you are into mechanical jigging and stickbaiting, there is no place as good this close to New Zealand’s shoreline.

The strong currents and exposed nature of the Ranfurly Banks mean that there is no way you can anchor on the foul overnight, so the boats generally come back into Hicks Bay and Lotten Point for a secure overnight anchorage.

With the distance required to get to the banks, trips should be at least five days in length.  It is an area that is very exposed, so there will be days when the swell and wind will not allow you to get out.  This is not always a bad thing, as the fishing along the coastline of East Cape and Waihou Bay is very good.  It also allows the team to dive for crayfish or catch a snapper which adds to the diet while away on the boat.


The Three Kings

From March through to the end of May, charter boats spend a lot of time working up towards North Cape and targeting the Three Kings Islands. The Three Kings is a series of banks, the King, Middlesex as well as islands that sit 50 nautical miles north off Cape Reinga, so you need to devote at least a week up here to get the best experience out of the place.

Like the Ranfurly Banks, the Three Kings are very exposed and good anchorage is limited so you need the weather to play its part.  On a calm day there may be a two to three metre swell rolling through so you need the wind to a settled.

The Kings offer the most diverse range of fishing available in New Zealand and is certainly up there with the best fishing locations on the planet. Species like marlin, broadbill, tuna, mahi mahi, kingfish, bass and hapuka are all available and are all massive.  With so many species you can break your trip into different days to target certain fish types on varying days.

The warm currents from the North converge on the banks and provide huge amounts of baitfish for the larger pelagic species to chase.  Over the autumn months the marlin fishing is out of this world, and like the Ranfurly Banks, the mechanical jigging for kingfish and hapuka is nothing short of amazing.

When the weather is not ideal to reach the Kings, the fishing around the northern tip of New Zealand is exceptional with amazing snapper fishing, arguably the best in the country, and diving still available in crystal clear water.   Cape Karikari, North Cape and Cape Maria Van Diemen will offer snapper and kingfish like few would have experienced in our country.

There are good anchorage sites up around North Cape so you are reasonably close to the fishing grounds at any time depending on the species being targeted.


Over the winter months some of the boats target bluefin tuna off the west coast of the South Island.  This is something that am yet to do, but my friends that have say it is an amazing experience. The fish are huge and the coastline is as rugged as it gets so it is not for the fainthearted.  

These fish get up to 400kg so you need to be prepared mentally and physically for the challenge ahead. Trips off the west coast are shorter in duration because of the inclement weather.  In saying that, the boats tend to book out a week of fishing to give the angler the best couple of days possible to catch that fish of a lifetime.

Most of the fishing is done at night time by chunking for the bluefin, and the heaviest gear available is used; generally, 130lb tackle and 130w reels in the chair.

More reasons to head on a live onboard charter

During your week ask questions. Your skipper and deckie are very skilled boatmen and anglers.  They understand their sounders, currents and the boats drift.  By listening you can learn a lot from these guys that will put you in good stead back home.  

How often do you get to spend a night on a boat with no light pollution? It’s just you, a few mates, and millions of stars.  It’s not just the fishing that is great but the whole overall experience that needs to be taken into account.  

You will have very little cell phone reception which is a blessing these days.  Make the most of it and enjoy the fishing and fellowship of other anglers.


If you are not prepared and you forget something, then it could ruin your experience.  Make a list and buy the best possible terminal tackle, don’t scrimp and do it on the cheap.  If you loose the  trophy of a lifetime due to you purchasing cheap hooks or leader it may cost dearly.

When you plan for these trips get strong and fit.  I have seen many blokes catch a couple of large kingfish or hapuka and then suddenly they aren’t able to continue fishing.  You are going to get sore arms, but this is a good thing.  If the weather packs in for a day use that to recuperate.  I can’t stress this enough, get fit to go fishing and your overall experience will be better for it.

Also don’t ruin a day by getting too drunk every night, enjoy a beer but remember the fishing is better than anything you will experience close to home so make the most of it.

The biggest kingfish come in off the Ranfurly Banks prior to Christmas, but the most settled weather is in March, which will give you more days out on the banks so work out what you’re wanting from your trip and plan.

Lastly leave your ego at home, these guys have had the best anglers on the planet out on their vessels so they know a thing or two about fishing.  Listen to their advice and don’t get too greedy about taking fish home.  


The boats are approximately $3000 per day divided by 6-8 anglers.  For fishing comfort this is ideal.  This usually includes food, snacks, dive fills and fishing gear or you can take your own.

When you break it all down it is not that expensive, and remember you are on a fishing trip of a lifetime. Plan a long way out in advance to work in with the best weather to suit your needs.  

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