Anglers: Aaron Styles (Just Another Fisherman), George Bourke, Nick Jones (Hauraki Express), Luke Farmer
Location: The Three Kings Islands, New Zealand
Boat: Midnight Express
Target Species: Kingfish, Bass, Trevally, Snapper, Crayfish
Technique: Livebait, Softbait, Topwater, Bait, Diving
Words By: Nick Jones
Aaron Styles, George Bourke, Nick Jones , Luke Farmer
The scene was set for an outstanding few days of fishing. Our vessel Midnight Express, relieved of Hauraki Express fishing charter duties for the week, had just been loaded up at Whangaroa wharf in the early afternoon with all manner of food, refreshments, fishing tackle, diesel and ice. The crew was perfect – all experienced anglers who could look after themselves and not take fishing too seriously. Laughter and maintaining a high level of morale is crucial for these multi-day adventures crammed together on a modestly-sized boat, and it was a promising start with dad-jokes liberally flowing as we set about filling the livebait tanks with prime Whangaroa Harbour jack mackerel. From previous experience we knew these little treats would serve us well on our first day at the Three Kings.
But we had a decent row to hoe before we could enjoy the islands in all their splendour. There was a solid 15-20 knots of southeast wind and swell to negotiate on our journey north, but the heavily-laden Midnight Express performed well and we were settled into Tom Bowling Bay on New Zealand’s northern coast just after dark. We wisely took it easy on the Pals and Lion Reds that evening, as we were eager for an early start and the action that was bound to come our way.
We rose before dawn and Aaron rustled up some breakfast while George whipped his percolator into shape with a couple of strong brews. At this point I feel obliged to give a huge shout-out to Aaron who not only catered and cooked fresh, healthy food for everyone for the duration of the trip, but even made sure the lads had electrolytes before bed every night. He was like our very own boat mum…anyway I digress.
We hatched a plan to troll our way over the continental shelf drop-off that runs from North Cape up to the King Bank, and somewhere along the way at mid-morning the water changed to a tropical electric blue. We all looked at each other and thought ‘jeez, this looks like blue marlin country’. And that’s exactly what it proved to be when a mere 20 minutes later the Black Bart Hot Breakfast was popped from the long rigger then demolished by a rampaging blue marlin. ‘Who’s on?!…Jonesy’s on!’ was the call as we cleared the gear and I strapped into the harness ready to rumble. At this point there was about 300m of line out and the fish turned 180 degrees and greyhounded towards the boat, leaving a huge belly of line in its wake and unfortunately throwing the hook in the process.
‘Ahwell, you’ll get another one’ was the call, but alas it was not to be as we neared the islands and thoughts turned to an afternoon on the kingies.
We made a beeline for an area that had served us well in previous years, but the lack of current and schooling fish weren’t favourable and we only managed a couple of kingfish around 15kgs – measly specimens by Three Kings standards. So, we moved on and around the corner things immediately looked more promising with huge hump-headed trevally breaching the surface. Our attention turned to catching these epic fish, and we rigged up our soft-bait sets with small grub lures and flicked them out. The fellas didn’t have to wait long with hits either on the drop or within the first few twitches, followed by reels screaming in agony and fully grown men screaming in ecstasy. Boy oh boy, we enjoyed a couple of hours of the best trevally fishing imaginable in New Zealand, with countless fish around 10-15lb and a few threatening the mythical 20lb mark. We even enjoyed a couple of four-way hook-ups, and fair to say the net was in seriously high demand that afternoon! As were the drinks…
Back at the anchorage that night, we enjoyed a few yarns with the lads Matt, Harry and Tommy on the commercial cray boat Florence Nightengale. These guys spend about two-thirds of the year potting around the remote islands and see more than their fair-share of rough weather and amazing sights. After enjoying a reasonably calm night by the main island, we awakened from our deep slumbers and moseyed over to our koheru spot. George put the pick down, and Luke got the burley flowing. It wasn’t long before the electric blue and yellow koheru were hooning around behind the boat. The tiny aji softbaits proved deadly, as long as we avoided the marauding trevally and rat kingfish accompanying our livebait quarry. With the livie tank replenished, we headed to some shallow reefs where we were sure some big kingfish would be cruising.
And sure enough, our live koheru were soon under attack by yellow-tailed thugs. We enjoyed an epic session, with baits getting inhaled and the lads free-spooling some line out before flicking the bail-arm over on the big Daiwa Saltigas and trying our best to stop the first punishing run. Some battles were lost but most were won, and George claimed biggest fish honours with a thick-shouldered specimen weighing 34kg. It would come as no surprise that livie supply was gone by the early afternoon, so we decided to scope out some deeper areas for some tasty fish to feed the families back home.
We scoped out some deeper reefs and quickly found some promising looking bottom sign. Ledger rigs were deployed with big triangles of trevally fillets. I was the first to hook up – a few aggressive munches followed by an insane amount of weight. I pushed the drag up to sunset, but unfortunately couldn’t lift the monster off the bottom before it found its cave and busted me off. “Ahwell, they’re here boys!” was the call as we circled around for another drop. This time Aaron found himself attached to another piscatorial battle. However, unlike yours truly who was left licking his wounds, Aaron managed to make some progress on his fish and after a back-breaking effort a huge bass exploded to the surface behind the boat. Chahoos all around as it was hoisted aboard by all hands on deck. It was an impressive beast, weighing in at close to 50kgs and making Aaron look like a garden gnome in the ensuing photo session. Luke was next, but his fish was quickly identified as a kingfish with it’s quick tail-beats, and he had the punishing task of winding up a 20kg king from over 100m! George was next with a pesky shark, and I put the icing on the cake with a 20kg hapuku. The drinks sure flowed well that afternoon.
Our final morning at the Three Kings was a repeat of the day before – filling the tank with koheru before hitting the islands for some slow-trolling action. Luke got honours for the morning with a 30kg king, and the team managed to pull a few more around the 25kg mark from the shallow terrain. Alas, our time was up and with heavy hearts we plotted a course for North Cape, chucking the lures out along the way without success. That evening we enjoyed a snapper softbait session under the Surville Cliffs. It turned out all the fish were hiding out right up in the shallows – 1-2m of water – and the best fish was inevitably lost in the tiger country. That was it on the fishing front, and we begrudgingly began the long journey back to civilisation and reality.