Trading the Winter Blues for Blue Water and Blue Marlin in Tonga!
The New Zealand winter drags on for far too long in my mind! The wind, the rain, then more wind and rain! Come the middle of this year I was craving a decent Vitamin D and Vitamin Sea injection!
So when the Tairua butcher, Brett Collins, turned up at my doorstep on a cold blustery Monday morning in July and suggested we go fishing in Vava’u Tonga in a few weeks time, I didn’t take much convincing!
A few weeks later we were sipping ice cold Ikale lager on the deck of the Aquarium overlooking Vava’u harbour set to board Morning Glory, owned by Brett’s mate Terry Robinson. Terry owns the charter boat Cascade which once again took a break from their White Island, Ranfurly and Three Kings schedule this winter to fish and whale watch in the tropics.
I’ve been lucky to get to a few other spots in the South Pacific and flying into Vava’u from Tongatapu it instantly struck me as one of the nicest spots I’ve been to. The water was the bluest I’ve ever seen, you could see whales broaching from the plane, and there were islands, lagoons and hideaways galore – paradise!
After stocking up on fruit and veges at the markets it was time to set sail. Making up our crew was our mate from Tairua Glenn Crowe, and two keen lads from Tauranga, Corey Davies and Mike Easton and Terry’s crewman Charles. Mike the skipper of Cascade also had a crew of mates joining him for the week so we fished in the same general area and rafted up each night for a few “quiets”. The first proper days fishing saw us steaming down to the South Bank, no sooner did Terry put Morning Glory into its first turn on the bank than the flying fish imitation we had running shotgun popped, we looked back and there was a wall of white water coming towards to boat – BLUE! Wow, what a show, this thing just went nato! Next minute it was a few metres off our starboard and Terry had to put the hammer down to keep ahead of the fish. The blue gave us the classic pose as it arced around showed us its tail and took off for the horizon with the Tiagra howling! You beaut! We agreed that Crowey was first in the chair as he was the only marlin virgin on board, and he went to work cranking in his first marlin. The fish dug down deep most of the fight and Crowey battled away sweating out a few of the duty free that was consumed the night before! Pretty soon the fish game up, Mike grabbed the leader and a nice Blue of about 110kg popped up beside the boat. On the board!
Our next anchorage for the night was next level goodness! Port Morelle - what a spot - this is paradise! The bluest clearest water I’ve spent the night in. We swum ashore and chilled out on the beach before coming back aboard for some of Charles wonderful sashimi and nigiri creations! Fresh mahimahi and yellowfin, eaten on the back of a boat in paradise – it doesn’t get much better!
The plan the next morning was to steam out to some northern seamounts, we got out there to find things pretty dead, and we were returning hoping to pick up something on the way back in when Corey's homemade JoeYee imitation on the short rigger got popped and the 80W started howling. This looked like a big fish, we'd seen a bit of a splash but first thoughts were a very big tuna, and this was affirmed by the line heading straight down and at this stage a very empty 80W. Corey went to work lifting this fish up but very little headway was made, and then it looked very much like we might have a dead blue on our hands. Up to sunset it was and Terry would get some angle and plane it up a bit, then it would be Coreys job to gain some line as the boat came back. 5 hours of grunt work by Corey later who did an awesome jon in the chair - BOOM! a very solid Blue Marlin came up in the dark and we all hauled this beast aboard! Best estimate was 230-250kg. She was a late one getting home, 11.00pm by the time we were back in port, a quick feed, a rum and we hit the hay. The Blue went off to a very grateful village the next morning.
The next day we headed back down the southern bank it was all on, there were birds going ballistic everywhere and Mike and the boys on Cascade had been having a blinder, smashing the yellowfin, and proceeded to tag a couple of Blues in the process as well. We were marking some mean bait and individual tuna marks off the side of them on the Furuno. We came away with a very productive day, I managed to knock off a nice yellowfin which we vac packed to bring home. There were countless mahimahi coming in and smoking the lures. Brett got his first sailfish which came in and smoked the biggest lure in the spread and Mike released a small Blue on the same lure. What a mental day!
It is never a dull day in Vava’u it seems! Aside from the fishing the whales are a spectacular sight to see. From July to October each year humpback whales turn up in the warm waters of Tonga to breed and give birth to their calves. Every day we'd see at least thirty whales, jumping spectacularly clear of the water. Another side attraction were a couple of sea caves Terry took us to. One was an open air cave, packed full of bait fish that was simply spectacular. The other, Mariners cave, was an airbubble came, you needed to dive in under a ledge and you would come up in an underwater bubble cave, pretty cool!
Our last day saw Brett get another first, this time his first wahoo, and today a constant stream of mahimahi was hitting the deck, so it seemed the logical thing to do to whip up some mahimahi burgers for lunch! I’ll remember sitting in the game chair of Morning Glory for some time to come, sun beating down on the back, tucking into fresh mahimahi and papaya burger, washed down with and ice cold beer, not that is what I call winter!
Big thanks to Terry, Charles and Mike for the hospitality! A winters break to Vava’u is just what the doctor ordered and I’ll be back for sure!