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My first fishing experience in New Zealand

My first fishing experience in New Zealand Header Image

Fishing in new zealand

For the longest time, I have been wanting to go fishing in NZ! When I arrived in Opotiki in February, I learned that my host loves going fishing. I asked him if he could bring us go fishing one day, and he said yes! You have no idea how happy that made me! But as time passed, I started to get anxious thinking that maybe he’d forgotten all about it.

Good thing he didn’t.

When he said we could join him for fishing, I was thrilled!

Seasickness

One thing that definitely did not cross my mind was seasickness. In fact, seasickness is a major problem when it comes to fishing. If ignored, it would ruin the whole experience. Tremendously. Hence, the first thing that people tell me when I said that I’m going on a fishing trip was, “Be careful of seasickness”, “Eat seasickness pills”, “Don’t throw up when you’re fishing” etc. Honestly, it made us uneasy. And, it wasn’t cheap. Thankfully, it worked. 

Two (effective) ways the locals used to combat seasickness:

  1. Drink beer/wine
  2. Eat cold apples

They’re weird. But, they work.

Going Fishing

It has been raining continuously for the past few days. The clouds lingered and hid the sun most of the day. Saturday. What a pleasant day to go fishing. We went to Barry’s friend’s house just a 3-minute drive away and pulled over at his spacious backyard. The glorious white boat with a splash of red, compact but not too cramp, unveiled in front of our eyes. Words like “Ramco boats”, “Sport fisher” and “Twilight zone” ornamented the exterior of the boat, the fonts made the boat seemed more cartooned, more amiable. Despite being around for more than 20 years now, the boat did not seem to age. 

The second thing that caught my attention was the shiny black Suzuki motor that hung at the back of the boat. It was brand new. Emotions welled up inside of me. We were so close to experiencing our first fishing trip. I had wanted this day to come so desperately that I couldn’t believe it when it’s finally here.

Off To The Boat Ramp

The boat was safely hooked to the back of a Hyundai Terracan—a rare sight in which I’ve never seen happening in Malaysia. People don’t hook things to the back of their cars back home—not boats, caravan, and certainly not caravan homes.

Barry’s friends, two of whom did not follow us, wished us good luck. They asked Louis if this was his first time, to which he said yes. With a double thumbs up, they said, “Then you will catch a great deal of fish! Loads of them!” I have no idea what hit my head, but I added eagerly, “It’s my first time too!” The guy who introduced himself as Fish roared, “Then she’ll catch even more!” I needed that. That made me fishing-ready.

At The Boat Ramp

A white red boat going into the water with a man unhooking it from a reversed car

The sky was clear and the sun made me squint when we arrived at the boat ramp. Clouds still hung about in the sky, but they’ve made way for the glorious sunshine which was now burning our skins. I was grateful for the sunblock I lathered generously on my face like they were free. We were the first to hop on the boat. The moment my fingers brushed across the boat, now it was as real as it gets. Teeming with excitement, I couldn’t help but smile at Louis all the time. He was equally delighted.

It was a smooth and comfortable ride. When Wok, Barry’s friend, revved up the motor in max power, we started clinging onto the bars ahead of us. “Hold on tight, guys!” Wok said as he sped up. We were literally holding onto dear life.

Heading Out Into Sea

The backview of a boat with baskets and a rising crash behind
A surging wave approaching the boat
From the interior of the boat with waves crashing on the side

Like riding a bull, we were bouncing vigorously on the water. 

Going up – zero gravity – CRASH! 

Again and again. Our boat was battling the relentless and persistent waves as we were still near shore—where the waves were the fiercest. “Hold on!” Wok screamed over the thundering waves and thrumming motor engine. I was still holding on to the overhead red bars for dear life. My palms, the part where you grab monkey bars and leave calluses, were red and stinging. Nope. Still not gonna let go. It’s either having calluses or having my life thrown out at sea. I chose the former.

Arriving At The Fishing Spot

A girl holding a fishing rod with golden strings hanging out into sea on a boat

I was looking at the hills and mountains of Opotiki growing tinier and tinier until they were a foggy image. Though fierce, the waves were much tamer than when we were near the shore. The deafening motor engine made it impossible for casual conversation. 

In what seemed like forever, we arrived at the first spot to fish. Wok used a fish finder device to detect fishes in the area. We looked at the visual display of the device but understood nothing from the reading except for the number 50 on the bottom right corner of the screen under a frequency graph. Mm. Fancy stuff. Then, Wok passed the wheels over to Barry and asked him to hit the button, which will then release the anchor. Ensuring that the anchor was safely in place, Wok cheerfully boomed, “Let’s catch some bloody fish!” I felt the need to acknowledge his enthusiasm, so I cheered, “Wooh, yeah!” 

The boat wouldn’t stop in motion because of the waves. That was when we felt our stomach churn and dizziness starting to kick in. It didn’t last long because we took the pills. Barry and Wok were clumsily moving about on the boat preparing their baits and rods. Louis and I stood rooted to the ground, stunned at what we should do. We snapped back to reality and started observing the way Barry hooked on the baits. The baits he prepared were frozen fish meat and squids.

The Ins And Outs Of Fishing

A man opening up a box with another hand putting a captured fish inside

The rod was a clumsy little bugger. I focused too much on the handle, fishing line and hooks that I hit the tip just about anywhere and at anyone. Also, the hook was ridiculously sharp, with the rationale of hooking fishes with a clean strike. Of course, I was extremely careful with the hooks, but still poked myself with it. It went through my jacket and I thought to myself, “Oh, look at that! I caught myself!” It wasn’t really funny then, but it is now.

Once Barry hooked the baits on our rods, he directed our positions such that Wok and Louis were on the right side of the boat; Barry and I on the left. He handed me the rod to which he released the lock switch and the fishing line dropped deep onto the seabed. Once the fishing line stopped unrolling, we know that the bait had dropped onto seabed. I used to assume that fishing meant catching fishes on the surface of the sea. Boy, was I terribly naïve. 

Size Limit

A measurement on the side of a boat for fish size limits

I mean… it wasn’t a competition or anything like that, but my first reaction when Louis caught a fish was, “What? You caught a fish? NOOOOOO.” And, indeed, it was a “no”. The fish that he caught was a snapper. It was too tiny and too short to be considered our meal. On the side of the boat where I was sitting, there was a measurement tape with the size limit listed down for Blue Cod, Snapper, Terakihi (whatever that is), and more. Snapper’s size limit is supposed to be around 27-30cm. Of course, with years of experience fishing, Barry and Wok just took a look and said, “Aw, no, it’s too small.” HAH! In your FACE, LOUIS!

Serendipity

Wipe that smile off your face, bro. That’s what we call beginner’s luck.

A man smiling into the camera holding his fishing rod while a red shirt man tries to unhook it

Serendipity kept knocking on his door. Or to put it in simple words – beginner’s luck. Four of us on the same boat, yet the fishes decided to take Louis’ bait. It was so frequent that his rod was struggling to stay straight only a few minutes after lowering down the bait. The handle of the roller even broke apart! He caught a Kahawai, unyielding and packed with protein, the slimy and silver protein still flapping about to stay in the water. Wok casually sliced it, threw it in the bucket (already filled with blood), and it bled to death.

A man touching the fish in an orange bucket

Moving To The Second Spot

A hand holding a fish rod with a fish at the end twisting

It was unfair that Louis kept catching fishes, so Barry suggested we move to another spot. Along the way, we met another 3 guys on the boat who rolled over to say “hi”. Apparently, it wasn’t their lucky day either.

The next spot was my favourite. Now, the winds of luck had started blowing onto my side. I felt vibrations transmitting across the rod to my hands, and it made me jump. “Is this it?! Did I catch a fish?!” Wok replied calmly, “Roll up your line and let’s check.” The first fish that I caught was a Kahawai. Huge, unrelenting, pounds of protein.

A man unhooking a fish on a boat with another person holding the rod

Rolling up the fishing line took forever. I was told that the anchor of the boat went down about 40 meters deep. Hence, that’d be the length where my fishing line dropped to. The weight of the Kahawai was tugging on the fish line as I struggled to haul it on the boat. I went, “OH! OH! OH!” all the way. Wok instructed me to haul the fish onto the boat in front of him so he could get the hook off its mouth. I did as instructed and watched him struggled to remove the hook whilst trying to grab hold of the slimy protein. It was impossible to grab the Kahawai by its body, so Wok and Barry professionally grabbed it by its gills and held it on a deadlocked position. The men did the tough work while I stood and watched in awe. 

The swarm of flying ants

A white surface with countless black-colored small flies on it

Luck doesn’t always stay. All of us kept getting fishes at our second spot before a swarm of flying ants decided to ambush us. They were airborne and all over the boat. I bet the fresh fish and blood attracted them. Barry and Wok were waving them away and started scratching their skin where they were bitten. As I was covered arms and legs, escaping with just a teeny bite on my feet. It hurts alright. Can’t imagine what the men had to go through with tens and hundreds of bites on them.

Wok was just saying that we weren’t going to move anymore because putting down and rolling up the anchors were a nuisance. Apparently, though, we had to. It was getting really annoying. Louis weren’t complaining much, but I can see him holding on to his neck and arms. He was badly bitten too. So off we went, to spot number 3. 

Moving To The Third Spot

Sadly, spot number 3 weren’t a good spot. As a matter of fact, it was a spot with clever fishes. By then, Barry and Wok just wanted to sit down, take a rest, and have some beer. So, Louis and I continued fishing. We hooked on new baits and waited patiently for fishes to take it. I felt jiggles and vibrations on my rods, but when I rolled it up to check the bait, they were gone! Man, these were smart fishes! They bit around the bait, but did not take it. 

The second time, Barry hooked on a whole squid and asked us to lower it down and try again. We tried again, and waited very patiently too. Again, I felt the jiggle and vibration, but when I rolled it up, the bait was gone! A whole squid was gone! The fish that took the bait was smart. Same thing happened to Louis’ bait. We decided then, to call it a day.

At the end of the day, we reeked of fish and blood and tangled salty hair. Louis checked under his shirt, and man, was he breaking out with rashes all over his body! The rashes were also creeping up onto his face, and they were blotches and blotches of marks all over his body. Spreading. We figured that he’d had an allergic reaction to the bites of the flying ants.

One thing for sure: we certainly did not regret skipping work day to go fishing.

We had many firsts today. So did Barry and Wok.

Ticked “fishing” off my bucket list now.

A couple holding a fish each in their hands and smiling

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3 thoughts on “My first fishing experience in New Zealand”

  1. Flying ants!! Never seen those before. Is the guy with the allergy ok now? Thanks for sharing your experience~ we went fishing before too but caught nothing. Fish were too smart and just nibbled all the bait!

    1. I have never seen them before too! Yes, Louis was fine the next morning. The last spot we went was the same, they nibbled around the bait but did not take it.

  2. The world is your oyster when it comes to fishing in New Zealand – a lot more bad fish cliches to come, we re afraid. New Zealand s excellent fishing scene has been recognised since the country s very first discovery. So much so, that New Zealand itself was said to be fished out of the sea according to the Maori legend of Maui.

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