|Friday 1st of June- the Rau's|
So I had the whole month of May off from fishing as I had got pretty worn down in April...yes it turns out you actually can do too much fishing haha.
Like any good fishing mission, I started it off by shooting down to my local Top Catch store for some supplies and a pep talk. These boys really know their stuff and being so close to the boat ramp they have their finger on the pulse as to where the fish are biting. I mentioned to Cam that I was thinking of heading out to Motiti Island but he just said “mate, if I was you I would be heading to the Rau’s”. Well I hadn’t thought of that place and to be honest I was a bit dismissive of the idea at first as I hadn't ever fished it out of a kayak. However it didn’t take me long to swing around to the idea and before I knew it I was gearing up for it and searching out the required info.
The Rurima Island is basically in the middle of a string of shallow reefs so the whole area is collective known as “the Rau’s”. This reef is part of the same volcanic chain that gives Rotorua its hot mud and makes White Island blow up every so often. On my nautical charts it even notes that the last time this area erupted was in 1994. It lies roughly 5nm (9km) off shore from Matata and can be easily accessed from either the Tarawera River or from Whakatane. I had last fished here with my old mate Mark Vangroendall when we were teenagers and I remember catching a heap of blue mau mau and snapper so the idea appealed to me on a sentimental basis. I was also keen to check it out because it was basically an excuse to fish somewhere different for a change.
Friday morning I was up and on the road by 7am. I would usually like to be fishing at first light but I have found through experience that it is not a good idea to be driving around in the dark, trying to looking for a launching spot when you don’t know the area. This proved to be true on this occasion as there was a maze of overgrown tracks that may or may not have lead to the Tarawera river mouth, which I was intending on launching from. Luckily, I was in the trusty old Rastafari (Nissan Safari) and we ended up just driving down the beach for a few kilometres.
It was approaching 9am by the time I got kitted up and on the water. There was a small surf break of around 1” to punch through but that was no worries. The only major problem was that it was damned cold and the ‘boys’ had just got soaked haha. Ah well, I had a good paddle out to the Rau’s ahead of me so I knew I would warm up. Before I got stuck in though, I threw out a couple of lures to troll on the way. I had recently read an article by Stephen Worley in the Blade Kayak Fishing Journal, which was all about using lures for catching snapper. It had all made good sense to me, so I had dug out my lure collection and was determined to give his theories a shot. On my stick-bait rod I had tied on a big purple and silver Laser Pro lure which I figured might also attract a kingfish, and on my jigging rod I had a small red and white lure of an unknown brand. These both worked behind me as I paddled along and I was very satisfied by the rhythmic ‘nod’ that the rod tips were making.
It didn’t take long before I had my first strike on the Laser Pro lure. I could tell straight away that this wasn’t a big fish so duly dragged it in and set it free...it was a cheeky Kahawai that had attacked a lure half its own size! Soon after I got another strike on the red and white lure and this turned out to be a reasonable Kahawai, so it went straight into the ice box. The next strike turned out to be a dirty big barracuda. These fish are despised by almost every fisherman in the country and I am no different. I have always through that a fish of that size would put up a decent fight but they don’t. They are just like a school yard bully...all teeth but no fight. The final fish on the lures came just as I was approaching the start of Rau’s reef system. This Kahawai also hit the red and white lure and at around 2kg he was a good fish. I was quite happy now because I knew at least I wasn’t going to go hungry.
Photo 2: a dirty big barracuda on the little red and white lure.
Slowing down to work around the Rau’s, I suddenly noticed that there were some quite big waves breaking around me. Yet again I had got into tunnel vision mode while paddling and failed to recognise how bad the conditions were. The forecast had been for 15 knots southerly, dying out early morning but it was now 10.30 and it definitely was not dying. Holding steady at 15 but gusting close to 20, it was on my limits and I began to feel a bit concerned. This was mainly due to the fact that it was an off-shore wind so it would make it very difficult to paddle back to shore. I decided to go and anchor in the lee of the island and see if the wind died down.
I was anchored for not even an hour before I decided I needed to make a run for shore. The wind gusts were getting extremely strong and I was even contemplating having to spend a night camped on the island. Before I could move though, I had to get my anchor up, which was easier said than done when 1m waves were pushing me around. I soon found that my anchor was stuck and several times I was nearly capsized while trying to retrieve it. “Better safe than sorry” I thought as I pulled my knife from its sheath and cut the rope. Ideally I shouldn’t have done this but considering the conditions it was a smart choice.
A couple of painful, shoulder wrenching hours later, I was still 2nm from shore. The wind was still just as strong but being closer to the beach the waves hadn’t had a chance to build up just yet. I decided I should at least have a fish before I went home so I rigged up my drogue and started to soft-bait. I was surprised that I very quickly caught a snapper. It wasn’t huge but it was a good little eater so it went into the ice bin. I continued to fish for the next couple of hours and was rewarded with 9 snapper of which I kept 6. None of them were big but they were all good fish for the table so I knew mum would be happy. To me this was a real bonus as I had all but written off the fishing due to the weather. Also, I had stopped in an area that I knew nothing about and didn’t really expect to be any good. It really showed me how important it was to take any opportunity and be flexible about how I fished...natural baits, lures, and soft-baits should always be carried to take advantage of any situation.
I ground back up the beach at 4pm. I was dead tired and struggled to even lift the kayak onto the roof racks but I had a bin full of fish and had checked out a new fishing destination, if only briefly. Sadly, I had not found a competition winning snapper for my mate Nick but I had given it a big effort and made some very good safety calls, so I couldn’t be too disappointed.
Photo 3: back on the beach after a hard day fishing. The small islands in the background are the Rau's.
Paddle hard everyone.