A crusade for a king

Rick with his PB 21lb snapper beat that Crimpy

The Canterbury Crusaders launched a brutal attack on the Tasman Bay but no makos were hurt in the making of the epic adventure—just a few greyboys and an assortment of table fish! It wasn’t the fit athletic professional rugby team but more a motley, ageing, randomly tuned gang of middleaged Christchurch fishers, sporting enough weight between them for two scrums.

Amongst the ranks were such characters as Gayboy, The silent assassin, Del Boy and a guy who fell out of the top bunk every night—quite literally. He argued that he was trying to perfect his dismount procedure, which led us to assume that his first wife had divorced him for exactly that reason—he had a poor dismount routine. Then there was Steve ‘Pieman’ Terry who has latterly been renamed ‘Sumo’ on account of the fact that his galloping waistline is matching pace with his advancing years.

Kelvin Klein with a blue warehou

Like many manly Kiwi traditions, this blokes’ annual fishing trip to d’Urville Island has played out for two decades, organised by a oneeyed Dutchman whose name I won’t mention here… I’ll mention it over here—Rick Vander Zwet. This year, six boats comprising 20 fishers communed at French Pass and launched daily sorties around the island, location dictated by whim and personal preference but, to a greater degree, the weather. Easterlies brought lumpy seas and poor fishing for the first few days—when the wind is from the east, the fishing is the least—but perseverance and good local knowledge helped most teams scratch a good feed of snapper, Greyboy and tarakihi from the depths.

Appropriate gear and knowing how and when to fish the various pinnacles, foul and reef structures proved pivotal. Slow jigs on light tackle proved deadly when conditions allowed but in big seas with flooding current, bait on basic ledger rigs with 6/0—8/0 hooks worked better—more particularly, fresh kahawai was the game changer. Big hooks were the go—I had 5/0 recurves straightened by big snapper. Flasher rigs worked well on pannies but you need XOS to hold the big boys. For slow jigging, I was using a Shimano 300HG TranX reel spooled with 20lb Shimano Kairiki braid and matched with a Blackout rod. A variety of slow jigs from 100g to 200g caught an array of fish, from Rick’s PB 21lb snapper and my surprise JD to Kev’s big blue warehou.

Crimpy with a brace of beauties

Mid week the weather gave us a window of one day to fish and bathe in almost idyllic conditions, which concentrated boats over the prime spots; we counted 35 in a huddle at one stage. The fishing really lit up, with snapper coming on the bite for a good spell. However, not everyone capitalised, which highlighted my previous comments on gear and know how. As an example of this—and not wanting to point the finger or take the piss—‘Sumo’ and his crew of ‘electric reel driven and window weight laden’ fishers became so desperate to catch a snapper, he actually attempted to park his 8.5m Osprey on top of our 6m boat so he could get on the spot. I think their tally for the week was eight blue cod, a leatherjacket, 22 spiny dogfish and a suckling snapper still dripping milk!

Crimpy with a slow jigged JD

The highlight was Rick’s PB 40 kg kingfish—an absolute horse. Mechanically jigged from above a school of big kahawai at 40m. It pulled serious line and was quickly heading for the foul. With the tide pulling us into the shallows, it was a combination of Rick’s skill on the rod and some judicious manoeuvring of the boat to steer it into the deep that finally spelt its demise. What a way to end the crusade.

Roll on next year boys.

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