Saturday 23rd June
Today was the first day of the Bridge to Cape Kayak Classic. For this competition, I have specially journeyed up to Houhora in search of two things- a big snapper and a big kingi. Knowing that I have some pretty serious competition who will be fishing some pretty serious country, I figured Houhora would be a good bet for me...considering I don’t know anywhere else up here. Also, it was basically just an excuse for me to come back up here fishing, which is something that I have wanted to do since the end of my NZ trip.
Photo 1: the biggest snapper that I have ever let go.
I had an alarm set for 5am but I was awake at 4. I was really excited about today and I was constantly waking up and checking the time all night. I ended up reading the news on my phone until the alarm eventually did go off. Then I was up, coffee made and breakfast scoffed. With my gear already loaded, I simply had to transfer some ice from my big chilly-bin, before driving down to the launching ramp.
I was on the water at 5.45am and heading out the heads. With no moon it was very dark but I found that by turning off my sounder, my eyes quickly adjusted and I could see pretty well. It was amazing paddle as I headed out and around Perpendicular Point. I don’t think I have even seen so many stars in my life; they were so bright that they were reflecting off the surface of the ocean...very cool. As I paddled out, I flicked out my little red and white lure and on the softbait rod, and a big stickbait on Kevins (Bay Fisher) T-Curve which he had leant me. I quickly had a Kahawai but I didn’t want one of these quite so early on and thankfully it threw itself free.
Photo 2: an early start, lit by the headlights of my truck.
At Stanley Point, I stopped and flicked a softie around for a few minutes. I quickly reminded myself that I had all day to do this and preferably needed to get a bit further up the coast before sunrise. My overall plan for the day was to get up to Grenville Point (where I had got my big snapper on my NZ trip) and then work my way back towards the harbour as the day wore on. However, the one big variable that would influence this plan was the wind. This was predicted to grow to above 20 knots during the day, so I didn’t want to be too far from home by the time it got up to this level.
As I paddled Houhora Bay, I noticed there was a lot of sign on the sounder. Just like at home, I knew this would be snapper feeding on the bottom so I couldn’t help myself and had to stop for a quick fish. Within 10 minutes I had feisty pannie in the net and this was quickly sent off to fight another day. Once again I urged myself to push on as I could always fish this spot on my way back...I also knew it wouldn’t hold anything big.
By 7 I was just off Farmer point on the opposite side of Houhora bay. Out from this point is a small island and I figured this would be my first serious attempt at fishing for the day. On my sounder I could see that it rose sharply up from 14m to around 8m, so I flicked out the softie hoping to drift it down this drop off. That’s pretty much what happened and I was straight into a solid fish. Sadly, it was not to be and after a short but hard fight, it bit through the trace. I was gutted but happy at the same time as I knew I was in the right sort of place to find my trophy snapper. I continued to work this area for the next half an hour, loosing another fish, and enjoying the sunrise as it slid out of the ocean at 7.30.
With daylight now helping me to plan my fishing, I decided to head up to Perforated Point. I could see Grenville Point but the breeze was starting to get up and the current was running quite hard against me, so I knew it might be a bit too far in the fishing yak. I reasoned that there was more than enough country to ‘hunt’ from Perforated Point back to Houhora, so I would just have to put in a big effort to see what I could find.
At Perforated Point I found there was a beautiful archway that I could paddle through. With a crystal blue ocean below me, and this gigantic arch above me, it was quite a special place...man I love fishing from a kayak! Once through, I could tell the wind was already on its way up and decided that I definitely would not go to Grenville. Instead, I decided to start fishing right there and work my way back. On only my second cast, I had a very solid strike. However, this fish also made its escape and I was left feeling frustrated but happy at the same time. As it turns out, this was a pattern that happen all day and I think these fish weren’t really that hungry – perhaps just attacking out of habit and not really swallowing the bait.
Photo 3: an amazing arch that I was about to paddle through
I continued to fish hard along the next 100m of coast. I discovered that the bottom went from 12m up to around 9, before rising straight up and out. I also discovered that there was a lot of kelp and boulders in the 9m depths so I had to be careful when working this area so as not to get snagged. In general I found it best drifting along the 12m line and throwing by softie either side to search out fish. And fish I did find. All up I pulled 4 good snapped of around 7lb from this area. Some were dark from the kelp and some were a bright red so you could easily define where they lived (red and they live over the sand, brown they live in the kelp). I discovered that having caught these fish, I got no more strikes. Obviously they were resident snapper and once caught it was time to move on.
With the wind picking up I had to use my drogue more often. This had its limitations though, as it prevented me from manoeuvring when snagged or trying to get a good angle for a cast. In many places I didn’t use it and had to try and back-paddle while keeping in touch with my line. One of these places was near a big cave. I had caught and released another nice snapper and decided to try my luck in the mouth of the cave. With waves punching in, things were a bit turbulent but I found that the reflection helped to push me back out and away from the rocks. My first cast into the mouth of the cave was hit and I was into a really nice fish. I played this bugger hard and he played hard back; at times I was being dragged into the cave. For once though, things went right and I netted a beautiful fish. I guestimated it was around the 12-14lb mark and for a short while I contemplated putting it on ice. However, I reasoned it was not a winning fish and would be more beneficial doing it’s breeding thing here in the ocean. I gave it a kiss and sent it on its way. Man did this ever pump me up...such a huge fish by my standards and I just let it go. I thanked Tangaroa for his gift and asked if he could give me a bigger one. My very next cast got one but this was back down in the 7-9lb range. All up, I pulled 4 solid fish out of that one cave area and I was stoked.
I continued to fish down the coast. I pulled a few more snapper, all in the same size range as what I had been encountering, and decided to keep a few for the pot. In the end I kept 4 snapper and 1 big kahawai that had gobbled the hook. I was feeling pretty satisfied by this point so I never really cared that I didn’t find my big one. As I paddled through a bunch of boats who were fishing the mussel farm in Houhora Bay, I couldn’t help but feeling a little bit smug...especially as none of them were catching.
The day ended with a big Kahawai that was caught on my Halico lure which I was trolling for kingfish with. I set him loose and struggled into the Houhora entrance. The current was running out extremely fast and it started to rain hard, so it was a little bit uncomfortable in the end. Ultimately I had to beach and drag the kayak up to the campground as I was just too buggered to paddle into the current any more. A huge day.
Photo 4: the end to another amazing adventure at Houhora...the Jaffa is all loaded up for her next mission.
Tide 4am high
Moon: practically none
Methods: softbait primarily but trolled lures and even flicked around a popper and a stickbait briefly
Colours: lime tiger was definitely better that nuclear chicken in the softbaits
Jig head: 3/8oz – I have never lost so many in all my life...they were bitten off and snagged on a regular basis
Observations: bites were slow/lazy and they did not chase a ‘jerked’ softbait. All were caught on the drop as it neared the bottom. All of them fought hard.
Fish: 3 big Kahawai, aprox 10 snapper from 5-14lb. Average was around 7-8lb.