There is always something a little more intriguing about a fishing trip when it's in the Far North. It may be the seemingly endless selection of new fishing spots to choose from, or the stories you hear about bigger fish being lost, or taken from these waters.
We take a much anticipated trip up North at least once a year, to a spot we've dubbed "PJ Bay". Without giving too much away, it's on the East Coast in the Far North, where the Cavalli Islands are just a stones throw away from shore. The location has its own boat ramp, mooring, and a log cabin perched right on the waters edge, where you can cook the days catch over an open fire and enjoy a few cold ones in the last of the afternoon sun. A setting that really gets the loins quivering.
This year we hit it for four days with a mad keen crew of six, probably over equipped with rigs to suit most applications, scuba diving gear, five kayaks and a brand new FC500 center console named Red Beard, spoilt for choice some did say. We had a mixed bag of weather over the four days, typical of a New Zealand winter. A bit of drizzle, persistent south westerly winds, but a whole lot of sunshine to be stoked on and with the wind being offshore we had no shortage of sheltered spots to fish.
Each of us had set individual goals for this trip, which was cool as it meant there were a variety of fishing techniques being used each day. Stalking the shallows on kayaks with soft plastics. Straylining big stanky baits in unknown territory. Live baiting for Kingfish, and snooping for crays along the rugged coastline. There was never any lack of diversity on the grill come tea time.
On the yaks we experienced some awesome fishing in glassy conditions within eye shot of the cabin. The water clarity was near perfect which was awesome for diving, but made it difficult for catching snapper in the shallows. Early morning and evening proved to be the best times to get out, flicking lures into guts and around the edges of foul. This produced some beautiful fish up to 13lb, tense times when fishing in three meters of water on light gear. We had three or four sessions following this theme, each saw someone else return with a bruised spirit after facing defeat at the hands, or fins, of a walloping resident snapper. These are the experiences that keep us coming back for more!
Diving at PJ Bay was spectacular. It usually takes a lot more motivation to get wet during winter months but the water was crystal clear and surprisingly warm, almost tropical. Again not having to venture far from our cabin, we found some likely looking country to go snooping around. It was evident that the area has not been under pressure from commercial fishermen, almost every boulder or crack you poked your head in to had crayfish residing there. Packhorse (Green Lobster) were more prevalent, and unfortunately during this time of year female reds are in berry meaning they were off the menu, but without too much effort we still managed to come up with a bag limit to share among the crew, and it was interesting to see the areas we had been fishing from an underwater perspective.\
Bait and burley were what really got things humming for us. The straylining sessions we had in the bay and out around the Cavalli's were nothing short of epic! I'm sure the day we spent out around the islands will be talked about for many trips to come. The morning kicked off with a rare catch, that being a 15kg Kingfish, tail hooked and landed using a 6kg soft plastics setup. Not a bad bycatch when all you are after is some fresh bait! We moved on and found a likely looking snapper haunt to stop, drop, and setup shop on. After saturating the area with salmon and pilly chunks we had fish going berserk throughout the entire water column, our baits being inhaled only seconds after dipping beneath the surface. During a quick fire couple of hours we each caught and released more than our limit of fish, balanced out with a few agonizing bust offs among them. At one point we had a patch of wild weather blow through bringing twenty something knot winds and heavy rain. This set the stage for an energetic scuffle that was about to take place, resulting in a snapper just shy of the magical twenty pound mark. Pretty unbelievable for a spot we had never fished before, it makes a statement about the calibre of fishing up there.
It seems "PJ Bay" has it all, it's like a fisherman's retreat, good for the soul and all of that. It's a place you can go to hone your skills, practice the art of hunting and gathering, become a master of campfire cookery, even reach enlightenment, depending on how many whiskeys you've had. I look forward to the next trip up there, maybe during the summer months when there will be even more possibilities. Marlin from a kayak perhaps?