I’ve dived the North Island a few times since taking up spearfishing and always find it an amazing experience – if not challenging and contrasting to the deep south of Bluff!
This trip entailed exploring the area North of Auckland over a few days. It started with a miserable shore dive in was the only place that looked remarkably diveable, and although we found some small crays, the massive swell and poor visibility did not have my hopes set high for the rest of the trip.
A small amount of luck, combined with some good contacts, resulted in scoring a trip out with Jackson Shields from Wettie to the Mokohinau Islands. Commonly referred to by the locals as the Mokes, these small islands sit 55km NE of Omaha. With the weather gods aligned and a 5am start driving down from Tutukaka, it was going to be a long day! Meeting Jackson at the boat ramp, it sounded like the Mokes could be a dive spot where anything was possible.
We steamed out, taking well over an hour on an inky flat ocean with a slight leftover slop from the previous windy days. Arriving at the Mokes was surreal. Situated in the middle of nowhere we could easily see the bottom at 20m. I was fizzing! With the mention of anything from snapper, kingfish, pink mao mao to crayfish, I was itching to get in the water. We divided up the coastline and each set off for an early morning snoop, but I was far too active and noisy. After ruining a nice panni I told myself to settle down and remember – this isn’t like Southland diving. With the snapper front quiet, Jackson decided to head us to target some kingfish.
For a large Southern lad, hunting kingfish is like running a marathon. The constant current and repeated deep diving wears you down and I bloody wish I had done some more cardio before coming up! After the first few drops my eyes widened. Jackson shouted that there was a donkey coming my way and to quickly dive. I breathed up and ducked under to see a nice 30kg+ kingfish stare at me from the gloom and casually swim back off. The donkey hung around for several drops, but always out of range.
Several more drops resulted in plenty of looks, but – alas – no shots on this fish. With the interest waning from the kingfish, Jackson spotted a nice big bird workup several hundred meters off the islands and told me that’s where the kingis would be.
Although we swim in plenty of current down home when cray diving, I have to hand it to the North Island lads: this constant swimming and diving in current, looking for Kingis, is hard work!
Second drop down on this school of over a 500 Trevally, Kawhai and bait fish – out of the chum and fish bits – came this good-sized kingfish! I couldn’t believe it and almost didn’t shoot. But a quick shot through the head and a brief tussle on the end of the reel gun landed me a just-shy-of 20kg kingi! After this I proceeded to collapse on the boat and was glad when Jackson said that we’d call it a day. After all; I had a day of snapper snooping ahead of me tomorrow.
The next day required a trip to the Bay of Islands. We launched from Kerikeri and headed to spot X. I set into my routine and Ant and I split up the coastline we would each snoop. My area seemed very quiet and as I met Ant around the point, I shared my disappointment. He replied that he’d seen five snapper, shot a nice 10lb and let two other 15lb swim along. To say I was seething would be an understatement, but, alas, this is what diving can be like!
We shifted to the next spot and, unfortunately for me, all the consecutive diving and a slight head cold led me to have to hop out for the day and let my ears stop screaming. Ant had more luck and shot a nice 15lber. With me looking like the fat kid missing out on candy, we decided to call it a day – but not before one last drop.
Ant dropped down and came back up with, what I can only presume were, cries of joy that could be heard back in Invercargill. Floating on the end of his shaft was a stonker of a snapper. A beautiful eater that went just north of 20lb. What a day for some! I left Northland with memories of excitement and disappointment, but this is usually what signifies a good dive trip as it leaves you craving more!
I’ll be back to Northland with the goal of a 20lb snapper and 30kg kingfish!
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