VOL 8 - An Abundant Archipelago

Anglers : Mathew Bergersen, Aaron Styles, Luke farmer, Jake Pyne, Wilfish Flanagan, Jesse Flanagan, Mark Collins
Skipper: Rick pollock
Location : Three Kings, New Zealand
Species : Kingfish, Albacore Tuna, Bass, King Tarakihi, Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, Trevally, Mahimahi
Technique : Livebait, Deadbait, Jigging, Stickbaits, Trolling
Author : Mathew Bergersen (AKA Bergy)
When I think about the Three Kings, images are conjured up of stark and inhospitable islands that jut out from the depths where the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide. Known as a sport fishing mecca, anglers travel here from all over the world to test their skills and slug it out for that trophy fish. For the last three years Just Another Fisherman has chartered a multi day trip with fabled skipper Rick Pollock aboard his well known vessel Pursuit. This years highly anticipated adventure would take us to the Three Kings Islands and I was eager to see for myself what this remote archipelago had in store for us.

The island group sits on a submarine plateau around 35 miles north west of Cape Reinga. Deep trenches, sea mounts and banks, namely the King and Middlesex banks, make up the surrounding terrain. Combined with an abundance of bait fish and areas of nutrient rich upwelling it's no wonder the fishing can be hotter than a junkie's spoon.  In residence you have XOS kingfish, trevally, bass and king tarakihi, joined by the pelagic contingent during game season when marlin, tuna and mahimahi add to the mix. With such a smorgasbord of species to tackle Rick's operation is perfectly suited to those like us who enjoy sportfishing versatility. 

The quintessential starting point for a trip to the Kings is always the notorious Mongonui Hotel. Time spent there on the eve of departure, getting reacquainted with friends not seen since last years trip and mingling with locals, was as memorable as the journey itself. The weather gurus had thrown us a forecast to test the mettle with a steady 20-25 knots and around 2 meters of swell, nevertheless we had enthusiasm to burn and set off to search the horizon for those denizens of the deep.
While en route to any spot or anchorage we always had lures in tow. Although this resulted in the "American style capture" of one stripey, marlin were somewhat elusive for us and would turn up when least expected. Like during a frenzied jigging session on the King Bank. Two guys were hooked up on solid kingfish when a trio of stripeys appeared boat side, fixated on a watermelon that went overboard after lunch. Quick work from the young deckhand diverted their attention to our live mackerel offering and moments later we were hooked up. Meanwhile two kingies had surfaced estimated to be 25 and 28 kilo, but with bigger fish to fry they were left floundering and we backed down on a very energetic marlin. After a close quarters battle spanning all of 10 minutes it managed to shake the hooks, though short lived it was spectacular to see up close.
Other pelagics however fell for the allure of our spread. One afternoon while reminiscing over a cold beer during 'fivesies' the unmistakable sound of a reels clicker jolted us to life. We had hooked a double of mahi-mahi, soon followed by a mahi and yellowfin tuna combo. Although not big fish excitement came from the fact they were bucket list species for the boys who landed them. Yellowfin have reached an almost mythical status among kiwi anglers over recent years so this catch was particularly revered. Since that first night at the Mangonui Hotel we had been salivating at the thought of sashimi and 'ahi poke', which we gorged ourselves on soon after.
Despite the harsh conditions we fished multiple days at the King bank and with good results. The prospect of tagging or bagging that trophy kingfish or bass meant we were all willing to get thrown around a bit.  There were plenty of stroppy kingies in attendance to stretch the arms, with both jigs and liveys working well. The latter proved more potent, attracting a few fish that weighed well over 30 kilo and some king-sized trevally taken on jigs, a welcome by-catch. A morning of bottom bouncing got off to a rusty start following a night spent drifting for broadbill. After a fruitless drift.... "Hit the bunks or hit the piss, you're done"! Nothing like a dab of that firm Rick Pollock style encouragement to get the boys humming. We soon had a swag of chunky bass and king tarakihi on deck, enough for everyone to take home a few good feeds.

Albacore are becoming a regular player on our trips aboard Pursuit. Last year at White Island we targeted them with live baits on light spin gear, this year near the King Bank we got stuck into them with stick baits. These longfin are a formidable foe on light tackle, but when weighing between 10-14 kilo as these ones did they are a challenge even on the heavy gear, providing a lot of fun and a great way to break up a days trolling. Explosive stickbaiting sessions were the highlights of our trip. Its a form of fishing that never gets old. Whether it's just a boil, a follow, or you get a hangry fish crash tackle your lure, no matter how many times you see it - veteran or newb - the reaction is the same...  a whole lot of hootin' and hollerin'.

We spent our last morning within the relative shelter of the Kings, casting and slow trolling lures around the islands in search of kingfish. At first this didn't play out as we hoped it would with bust off after agonising bust off. I'd hate to know how many dollars worth of lures were left behind. However there was a happy ending, one filled with searing runs, screaming reels and packs of irate kingfish vying to destroy our lures. It seemed they had the upper hand at first but all in all we didn't do too bad and managed to pull a few doozys out of their haunts. One lengthy struggle in particular resulted in the tag and release of 31 kilo fish, quite a feat considering how shallow it was.

When Abel Tasman first arrived at the abundant archipelago way back in 1643, he found the islands to be inhabited by Maori. Lucky fullas, what a place to call home. We joked about how cool it would be to build our own shanty among the verdant greenery that is endemic to the islands. The fact that the islands have remained virtually untouched since their discovery is part of the charm though, there are few places left where this can be said. Sometimes people ask me what it is about fishing that I find so enchanting, and it's hard to explain. Every trip is somehow intriguing, even if it's to the same old spot. You get to spend time with your mates exploring remote destinations like the Three Kings, and even make a few new ones along the way.
Just Another Fisherman would like to give a special thanks to Pursuit Fishing Charters and Lion Red for supplying us the brews.