Hunt for the sneaky blue cod

It was another classic day out on the ocean aboard my trusty Viking 400 and I had just finished a very blustery but productive gurnard session out from a northern Hawkes Bay beach.

On the way in, if there is some extra time in the day, I love to set up over some reef to try my luck for the much sought-after blue cod. Blue cod are a species that are under increasing pressure these days and many spots have been mostly fished out of adult fish, leaving mostly smaller juveniles.

Heading into what I assumed would be another failure, turned out better than expected. I dropped down a berley bomb and lay back into my seat. The wind had settled into the afternoon, making the ocean look more like a mirror. A few fish came on the bite quickly with small cod and scarlet wrasse ripping my baits to pieces. A large bend folded into my rod, and I wondered if this might be the fish I had been hoping for but, alas, it was just a kahawai doing his best to trick me.

I dropped down again and had a strong take, which turned into wild headshaking. Yep, blue cod! But not big enough for me, as it was right on the 33cm size limit. These borderline cod kept coming and I must have had about three before the species changed again.

This time, the line shot off wildly under the kayak and my reel screamed as something big took off. I got the mystery fish under control and discovered it was a barracouta. On the top hook, a poor little blue cod had been taken for a sleigh ride, before being shook violently as the ‘couta attempted to shake the hook free near the yak. The ‘couta ripped through the line and the lucky little cod surely thanked me as he swam cautiously back to the bottom.

Whack! The other rod doubled right over and began wobbling as a fish shook its head. Hopefully, this would be the one I was looking for. The fish fought oddly, taking line where it could straight back to the bottom in short bursts. Halfway up and the violent head-shakes began, and I knew this must be a cod. Out of the gloom, a dark blue fish appeared and my net was already waiting in the water to secure a very special capture. A quick burst down had me nervous but inevitably the plump bluey went into the net. It was my first blue cod of 40cm in several years, so I decided to take it.

As I paddled back to shore, I reflected on a brilliant day spent relaxing on the salt. I can’t complain when I am lucky enough to have fresh fish for dinner too!

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