Anglers : Mathew Bergersen, Aaron Styles, Leon Parkin, Jared Fisher, Luke farmer, Jake Pyne, Wilfish Flanagan.
Skipper: Rick pollock, Deckhand: Mark Collins
Location : White Island, East Cape
Species : Kingfish, Albacore Tuna, Bluenose, Gemfish
Technique : Livebait, Deadbait, Jigging, Stickbaits
Author : Mathew Bergersen (AKA Bergy)
A long range live aboard charter to me would have to be at the pinnacle of angling adventures. You wake up at your spot, fish for as long as physically possible while breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared for you, and repeat this for consecutive days. It is a true pleasure seldom experienced. The man behind such an operation is Rick Pollock, said to be a Captain of considerable repute, it can also be said that he is at the pinnacle of his game. Many national and world records have been claimed on his boats, among them an all tackle record for Southern Yellowtail Kingfish of 52kgs. So, how fortunate I was to meet this "Gentleman of the Sea" as I joined the JAF team on their second charter with Rick aboard the well known vessel 'PURSUIT'.
This trip was booked well in advance and the day we had been so eagerly anticipating finally arrived, it felt like Christmas eve. We assembled at the Whakatane Sportfishing Club for pre-boarding beers and a steak dinner, using the time to discuss possible game plans with deckhand Mark Collins and get to know our Aussie guest Will who had flown over to complete the crew of seven. We had a less than hospitable weather forecast and fishing reports were lacklustre. There were plenty of kingfish about you just couldn't get them past the marauding bronze whalers. A few good fish had come out of Waihau Bay so plans were to spend a day in the area towing lures for Marlin en route to the Ranfurly Bank where we could try a range of methods targeting more of the same along with Puka, Bluenose, Tuna and of course Kingfish. Looking out over a deceptively calm harbour it was hard to believe we were heading into 25-30 knot southerlies. It didn't matter,we weren't even onboard yet and already the banter was flowing, the boys were keen.
The first night was spent tucked into Omaio Bay, East Cape. There our goal was to load up on livebaits for the next few days, in hopes of enticing those big kingfish. Hinged upon doing well at this task all were willing to burn the midnight oil, some deciding to forego sleep altogether. The sun was already peeking over the horizon and out of fifty or so livebaits maybe six of them were big enough to deter rat kingys, not a great result, although it turned out all those tiny mackerel would eventually be very useful to us. After some strong coffee and a hot breakfast we were underway. Leaving the shelter of East Cape we ventured into open water where the wind was blowing stronger and the waves kept getting bigger, our hearts were set on visiting the notorious Ranfurly Bank but it wasn't to be. Rick knows how to avert a crisis, before morale even had a chance to dwindle he came to the table with a sack full of suggestions for us to marinade on, it didn't take long for all to agree on a new plan and the course was set for White Island. No sooner had the lures been set than a striped marlin appeared in the spread and took a halfhearted swipe at the long corner before it disappeared then resurfaced having another two at the shotgun. Unfortunately it didn't hookup but what a way to kick things off, nothing like an adrenaline rush to go with your scrambled eggs. That was our only shot on lures for the day, we arced out wide to around 2000 meters finding only a couple of logs and a jumping southern right whale, a spectacular sight at least. We reached our destination in time for "after fives", the calmer waters a welcome sight after a long day of being thrown about in rough seas.
White Island is an active marine volcano just fifty kilometers off the coast of Whakatane. Surprisingly this barren, hostile landscape plays host to an abundance of life, it's surrounding waters are teeming with fish and the island is home to one of the country's largest gannet colonies. This was to be our anchorage for the next two nights and also where we would encounter some phenomenal fishing. Rick had marked a patch of fish on our way in and suggested trying a few drifts before winding down for the day. We deployed Jigs, stickbaits and whole flying fish which Mark instructed were lethal on kingys, he was right. While jigs bought in some good fish the dead baits were consistently snaffled by larger specimens. All eyes were on JAF head honcho Aaron Styles as he tussled with a feisty hoodlum when our attention was diverted by a striped marlin that appeared on the surface meters from the boat. There was a look of disbelief on everyone's face, we were drifting in only forty meters but it was no mirage, the marlin swam past then came back to inspect a stick bait that was being frantically thrown at it before moving on, by then all the excitement had us speaking in tongues. Some modest sized fish graced the deck over a short session, Aaron's in the mid twenties and Leon, a kingfish virgin popping his cherry with a solid 21.5 kilo model, It was just the tonic to help everyone find their rhythm and prepare for the more challenging adversaries we would encounter.
Most of the following day was spent targeting bluenose at the Rangatira knoll, a sea mount rising up to 150 meters from around 600. It can be a wild place when wind current and swell oppose each other, but that fickle mistress mother nature was feeling generous with her affection and we enjoyed some reasonably calm seas now relishing our decision to miss out the Ranfurly Bank. We had good success plumbing the depths and more new species caught for some of the boys with bluenose, gemfish and ruby snapper all taking up residence in the hold. Rick kept himself amused dishing up entertaining commentary from the flying bridge, my personal favourite "anyone who's worth anything is hooked up right now", when I happened to be the only guy who wasn't hooked up. We were about to pack it in when a school of albacore appeared under the boat increasing the tempo and prompting a change from heavy gear to our lightest spinning outfits, those tiny mackerel were bought into play paired with small hooks and light drags equating to an exhilarating scuffle with these powerful fish. Predictably pandemonium ensued but eventually each angler managed to land at least one of these beautiful longfins, this was a new style of live baiting for us and a highlight of the trip. Another pre dinner kingy hunt saw more PB's improved on and the heart breaking loss of "Pittachinis" estimated 40 kilo hog. The kingfish were running rampant and had gone into a feeding frenzy, even stickbaits got annihilated boat side while we loaded up on flying fish later that night.
We woke to perfect conditions on our last day and lucid vibes enveloped PURSUIT as we rehashed the previous evenings banger session over breakfast. After a brief sightseeing tour of White Island we found ourselves back at the same spot for one last shot before heading home. It was as if the kingys were waiting for us, from the first cluster of baits through until there were no baits left the morning unfolded like a well orchestrated fireworks display. We saw a steady stream of hoodlums flop over the rail many of them in the twenties, with three fish going well into the thirties, Jared "Pittachini" capitalized on a second chance at that elusive hog, and after being hauled from one end of the boat to the other had the pleasure of tagging and releasing a monster 37 kilo kingfish!! As things were winding down we repositioned for one more drift, I was on the bow and Aussie boy Will at the stern for what was to be one righteous finale. We deployed the last two baits and almost simultaneously hooked up on a couple of freight trains. Rick called them to be around 30 kilos each as they screamed off in opposite directions, it took a while to subdue them but some fancy work at the helm from our veteran skipper helped us raise two nearly identical fish. It was a scene of jubilation as they popped up along side the boat and were duly sling weighed, tagged and released, two kingfish at 33 and 34.5 kilos!