As you would have seen from my reports over the years I’ve slowly been getting my kids Bella (now 11) and Oscar (now 9) into the sport I love myself.
We started in the early days catching maccies off the wharf, went straylining for snapper, and then tackling bigger fish like kingfish. Seeing the kids growing up fast was a big motivation for me selling my charter business two years ago, as I wanted to devote more time to fishing with them and having some cool adventures with them while they were still young. They are growing up way too quick.
The kids have done very well learning their fishing, albeit having a low tolerance to big hours on the water. That has slowly built up this summer, they have got out to the Aldies for the first time snorkeling, as well as snorkeling the marine reserve at Mayor, and Oscar came out wide when we got the big bass a few weeks ago. The Senator 620 has been the perfect platform for these adventures, nice and stable but also compact enough for the kids to know their way around the boat. The kids have got to the stage where they can do a whole day on the boat. It has been so satisfying seeing them enjoy their time on the water. Not just the fishing, but the whole experience, and any fish are just a bonus each time we go out.
I’ve been pretty keen to see them eventually tackle a marlin, and while they discounted it to begin with they soon saw the possibilities once we started fishing light line. With a Tiagra16 - 8kg mono and a skippy howling off it, they got buckled up in a Black Magic gimbal belt and harness for the first time and actually at that point I think they really got the buzz for game fishing.
I started hearing comments like “Dad, I really want to catch a stripey this year”, aaaaahhhhh yep, they had the bug well and truly! The big question was….could they handle it? That got tested out a few weeks back when one of our skippies got eaten by a Mako Shark. Oscar got buckled up on a 37kg Tiagra rod and 50W with 37kg line and he was in a hell of a state in tears seeing all of the line come off the reel. We slowly got him calmed down and then he really started to enjoy it. We gave him the option of giving up, but no…..he wouldn’t let us touch the rod, he wanted to do it all by himself. Our 100l chilly bin with a couple of towels on top proved to be the ideal game chair. I also started fishing game gear for kingis with them, so they could get used to the whole system. With a few fish under their belt with absolutely no help from me I knew these guys were ready to tackle a marlin. I’ve got to admit I woke up freaking out the night after that Mako encounter realizing I hadn’t told Oscar to make sure he backed the drag right off if he got pulled in. I made sure I went over that a few times later on with both of them, and mention it everytime I clip a harness on them…..they’ve got the drill now. That could have gone horribly wrong and I kicked myself for not explaining it to him.
All I had to do now is wait for a good bite and some good weather. Last Thursday I was out fishing for bluenose and puka and heard a boat called Sav have some solid action south of the Aldies. They dropped two fish, and then hooked and landed a third. I was lucky enough to run into them at the ramp at 7ish that night and got the run down on exactly where and how they caught the fish.
That was the break I wanted! I was making brekkie Friday morning and I dropped the news I was going marlin fishing, which to be honest did not go down well with the kids. “DAAAAAD! You’re not going without us!?!?!” It took a bit of explaining that I was going to do some research and make sure I knew exactly where they were for them.
The kids headed off to school, I packed the boat up, and was on the water about 9.30am. I headed out behind Slipper to the 80m mark, caught a skippy within a minute of the skippy lures being in, bridled it up and popped it out on the rigger, with a dropback in the line.
Being on my own I prepared two gaffs and tied them off, and got everything I needed ready in the event I hooked one. Put my gimbal and harness on so I didn’t have to stuff around with that if I hooked up. I made a couple of sammys, kicked back and went with the wind, about 20knots of sloppy north wester. I’d just finished my little snack when Brett the Butcher called. “What’d ya up to bro, snuck out for a fish have ya” He doesn’t miss much. We were just talking about how he was going to do an overnighter with his boy that night when the rigger popped “Gotta go bro I’m on” I hung up and grabbed the rod, and started stripping as much line off it as I could. 10 seconds later I went into gear, wound like anything and came up tight. Line smoked off the reel, and a stripey came straight up in the air. YEEEEEW! I clipped the harness on the reel, put the phone on speaker and called Brett back. “Got another Mako have you bro?” “Na mate, it’s a marlin, and it looks like a solid one” At that stage the reel howled “Gotta go bro!” I called Linda at game base to tell her I was hooked up.
Typical, the marlin shot straight back towards Castle into a snotty sea, so it was a mission getting line back to begin with, too rough to back into it, I could only just hold my position like that, and hard to drive down the line by myself without blowing back on the line. I headed at 90 degrees to the fish, gunned the boat a bit, and managed to crank a bit of line back. The fish then started to track towards Mayor and I just idled the boat parallel with it while and slowly closed the gap up. I was fishing my favourite set up – a CD Tournament fully rollerd bent butt 37kg rod with a Tiagra 50 spooled with 37kg Varivas line. A pleasure to fish. Pretty soon I had the double in sight, but didn’t want to rush things on my own, so just tracked along with it for another 15 minutes, until it was business time. I called Linda to tell her where I was in the event the **** hit the fan. I grabbed the leader in one hand, the flyer in the other and somehow got the gaff in, and then another. Looking at where the hook was I realized I was bloody lucky, the hook was wedged on half way down the bill and the leader had wrapped twice around. I got the fish around the transom, sucked it up, and pulled it on. It hit the deck with a thud, and looked a solid one. “Gamebase, Provider, got that fish on board!”
I turned the motor off, had a wee clean up and a rest, called Brett to tell him to get a brine made up, and started tracking for home. I was back at home in time to have a couple of steinies, and booked a weigh in for 3.15 so that the kids could come and have a look at the fish on their way home from school. On the scales the fish went 120kg. My PB stripey. “Can we got get one tomorrow Dad?” Too right! We were pumped!
We had a mint sea the next morning, and it was just me and the two kids. I put two skippy lines out on Tiagra 30’s at the 80m mark and 2 minutes later one of the reels howled. Bella did the honours as she was on strike. I’ve been using single Bonze 8/0 light guage hooks in the skippy lures and they are just awesome. They’re usually perfectly hooked and the hooks pop out so easily while the fish is still in the net. One thing I’ve noticed is how well they last in the skippy lures. Even without an anode they are lasting so much longer because they don’t have the wire reacting with the hook. (Going to try running singles in the marlin lures.) They are big hooks for skippy lures but my theory is that a big sharp hook is also going to have a good chance of setting if a marlin happens to come and eat the skippy while it is being wound in.
I bridled the skippy up on a circle hook and 300 pound Varivas bite leader, sent it swimming and clipped it up in the rigger. We talked through what was going to happen on the bite, and then kicked back. A playful pod of dolphins came in to entertain the kids and they were just loving it. Belas strike finished and Oscar was on strike gimbal all on ready and waiting. They were just starting to get a bit dozy when the rigger got slammed. That woke everyone up in a hurry! “Righto mate, grab the line of out the holder and point the rod back.” It took a while but the dropback took up, line started peeling off the clicker. “OK mate, hold on tight, bend your knees and go up to 9kg” He did, and slowly the mono stretched out, then line started peeling off the reel. Harnessed up, the tears started. “Oh no, what have we done” I thought!!! I called up gamebase “Hi Linda, Provider, we’ve got a junior angler on a marlin!” It took a good ten minutes before we got Oscar calmed down, but the whole time he wound when he could. We got Mum on speaker phone to tell her the news and that Oscar was fighting what we thought was his first marlin. She gave him a big pep talk which was what he needed and soon the tears dried up and he started cracking a big smile. “How old were you when you got your first marlin Dad, you were over 20 aye?” Haha, that’s the way mate…although you haven’t got it yet! The fish tracked towards Mayor like the one the day before and we kept closing the gap up. Bella did a great job encouraging her younger brother, and Oscar did a sterling job, getting a wind, having a rest, getting another wind, and keeping the rod loaded, on 9kg of drag the whole fight. An hour later both the kids yelled out “Dad it’s a marlin!!” They had seen the fish come up waving its bill around. Awesome! “That was so cool” they yelled. The next thirty minutes it put a great show on for the kids. It was getting tired. So was Oscar, but he kept at it, and his humour increased the whole time. He started calling the fish “Jeff”. “Come on Jeff”
Linda called us for an update, we told her that it was a marlin, and she got everyone to get on the VHF and give Oscar a bit of encouragement which was awesome.
We got the double in sight, then the fish started doing big lunges. It had thrown its stomach, not ideal as that meant the hook was probably there as well. We got some GoPro of the fish, and then got ready for the tail end of the fight. I grabbed the leader, got the fish close and stuck a flying gaff into it, and then a second one. HOLY! Man it was a solid fish! The kids got a bit of an education, but I explained, the only time any swearing is allowed on the boat is when you’ve got a fish beside the boat. I tied the gaffs off, and wondered how I was going to get the fish on board, I only just managed with the one the day before and this was a whole lot bigger. “You mean MY FISH is bigger than YOUR FISH Dad, ohhhh in your face!” Oh yep, it starts here…..
We weren’t in an ideal position with a bleeding fish in mako country, I tried to get the kids to help me in a game of tug of war, but we couldn’t budge the fish, so I called up the crew on Evil Angel, who had just put a fish in the boot near us to come give me a hand. Jamie jumped on and did the honours. There was a huge holler as soon as the marlin thudded on the deck of the boat. Man, I was so proud of Oscar, he had just caught the fish of a lifetime, I put the fish somewhere in the 130-150kg mark. An awesome accomplishment for a 9 year old kid who is only 30kg himself.
We called up Linda at Gamebase to tell her the news, and then we dialed up Mum to tell her that her son had just landed her first marlin. By this stage Oscar was getting pretty dozy. We got a couple of quick photos and he hit the bunk for a well deserved sleep.
Back in Tairua we picked up Mum, and headed for the weigh station. Oscars fish drew a good crowd, and it went 134kg on the scales. A new junior club record on 37kg. But more importantly, I got reminded once again that he held the yellow jacket in the family for the biggest stripey. Ok mate! He was proud as punch, and so was I. We got a team photo and got the fish off to Brett the Butcher, before going and watching Tairua play Mercury Bay at the rugby club and had a few well earned beers.
Back home that night we got cleaned up and then had a few more drinks down at the fishing club. I asked local fisho Alec Stevenson what he was up to the next day, as I was over trying to lift marlin into the boat by myself. He was keen. It was time to go get Bella one!
I was up at 4am next morning, actually I don’t know if I really slept, I had too much adrenaline. Knowing that there might be a bit of sibling rivalry, I decided to fish a different line class today, and also thinking it would be cool to get one on 15kg. Knowing there were some solid fish around, I respooled a Tiagra30 with fresh Varivas line. And put a brand new wind on leader on. Bella got up and she helped me measure the wind ons and also the new bite leaders I rigged up.
We realized our lucky shirts from the day before were still dirty, so they got put in the wash and then the dryer. We were good to go. We picked Alec up and hit the water. Oscar took a well deserved break.
Things were a bit sloppier today and skippies were a little harder to get today but we eventually found them. I’ve got no tuna tubes so it is a matter of finding them wide enough that we can put them straight out. The first bait got eaten within 15 minutes. It dug deep, but so did the fish yesterday so we played it like a marlin, Bella did an outstanding job on the rod, and so we were a touch disappointed when we got the fish to the boat and saw a shark fin. It was Bella’s first shark though, so it was good practice for a marlin, and it was a solid shark too, a 100kg+ Hammerhead.
I asked Bella if she was still keen to try for a marlin, or whether we should put Alec on strike. “I’ll see” was her response “I might just go have a lie down in the meantime” Fair enough too!
We set the skippy lures again, and put a couple of marlin lures out on the riggers just in case, and went searching for more bait. We found it a bit closer to the Aldies, and this time it was a double and we set too baits out, both on 15kg. The sea glassed off to oily calm, we were cruising in a happy place, when out to our port side a marlin went charging after something. Then a mako started doing flips. Alec was in the middle of saying something like “Mate its like someone has flicked a switch, its feeding…….”he didn’t quite get the word “time” out when the rigger got slammed, Bella jumped out of the bunk “Do you want it?” I didn’t have to ask she was on the rod and there was no waiting for the belly to take up, the marlin came straight out of the water and I yelled “Up to 5kg, hold on and wind!” She did really well as I gassed the boat as the marlin charged us, the line came tight and the Tiagra30 howled in protest! “Hi Linda, Provider hooked up for a junior angler, Bella Muir…and its on 15kg!!” This fish didn’t pull the same amount of line off initially, sometimes the light drag has that affect, and all was going smoothly. Bella did a great job never missing a beat on the winding. The fish turned out to be a real nuisance whenever we got it close to the boat though, and it was a fish we really didn’t want to stuff up, as we knew Bella wanted it really bad, and to be honest, so did I! We got Belinda on the phone again and told her the news. It was great having Alec on board, he kept a good eye on Bella while I drove, and offered her heaps of encouragement and told her stories about his own daughter, Kelly catching her first couple of marlin. Kelly got on the phone as well and wished her luck. “Girl Power” was the call.
Each time we’d close the gap, get the fish swimming close enough, get on the leader, and the fish would charge straight under the boat, it was a real little pain on the leader. Bella each time did an amazing job of putting the clicker on, backing the drag off and saving the fish from busting us off, while at the same time making sure she didn’t touch the side of the boat with the rod. She did so well.
Three times doing that, and it became obvious we weren’t going to get it on that side of the boat, it wanted to go in one direction, so we tried the port side this time, and…2 hours into the fight, I grabbed the leader for the fourth time, and Alex stuck the gaff in, I grabbed the bill, and we hauled a still very angry fish on board. Alec gave it a good whack on the head and we let out a few cheers. “Gamebase we’ve got a nice stripey on 15kg for 11 year old Bella Muir.” Bella, who had stayed calm and collected the whole time now burst into tears. What an effort, I gave her a big proud Dad hug. Wiping away the tears she then started beaming the biggest smile which didn’t come off her face for the rest of the day. “Dad that is the best thing I have ever done!”
Alec summed things up perfectly as we came back up the harbour, it was drizzling, glassy calm, with the mist in the hills "Where else would you rather live?"
Back at the weigh station this fish went 92kg. A new junior club record. For the third night in a row we headed to the club for some celebratory drinks.
We went out the fourth day, and tried to get Belinda one, but she didn’t quite have the mojo the kids had. However we did get two stripey bites, one jumping all round the boat for us, another one buzzing the boat all lit up, and Belinda had a practice run on a 200kg Hammerhead. Getting Mum one is now top of the list for my deckies!
What a cool few days, a weekend none of us will ever forget! The only thing missing is I can't call my own Dad to tell him how proud I am of the kids, but I am pretty sure he was watching over us and bringing the bite on the whole time anyway! The luck certainly went our way.