The lure of the big fish ...
Getting hooked on the Marlin Queen
On a trip to Rarotonga one of the exciting options open for visitors is to go out on a charter boat for a half, or full, day of fishing.
The big fish are out past the reef – tuna, wahoo, marlin and sailfish.
They are prized among fisherfolk but my aspirations were somewhat smaller, you see my “one that got away” was not a 60kg monster, but rather a six-inch sprat.
I truly am one of the most pathetic of chaps with a rod. Actually, make that person with a rod because when she was a lot younger my daughter just needed to throw a hook into the briny for her to land a fish. So too with my younger lad. Still, I had to love them.
But with a Churchillian outlook of never say die, I fronted up at Avatiu marina with a positive attitude and a weather eye on the grey horizon.
Awaiting me was the cheery mob from Marlin Queen, who had two boats ready to accept me aboard.
There was the fine looking Strike Time, which had four on board, or else the newest boat in the lineup Popeye. I had been at her christening and felt an affinity with her, but I opted for Strike Time. At 6.75 metres she was slightly bigger and with the conditions looking as they were I figured she would suit them better.
My fellow ballast and I introduced ourselves and I was relieved to find that none of them had ever been big-fish hunting before. Phew, I can stay silent and so they’ll be nine the wiser, I thought.
Our skipper Katoa Piniata then dished out the numbers to the patrons – 1, 2, 3, 4. This fellow, as a honorary guest, didn’t get one because my job was to photograph the others as they reeled in the big ones.
The numbers are the order in which the guests take over the road. If it is your time, and a strike happens you get the waist rod holder. It is all timed and all very above free-board.
My fellows were two couples, Kalen and Elyse from Canada and the Lisa and Jim from New Zealand.
It was amusing to think that people from Calgary and Gisborne could live thousands of kilometres apart and yet be thrown together in the Cook Islands on a six-and-a-half metre boat.
And a great mob they were too. The gals were excited and effervesant, the chaps got a word in when they could. Lisa was up first and keenly awaited the first twitch on any of the six lines trawling behind us.
It didn’t take long for the hit and she squealed with excitement and nerves as she got ready to grab the rod. She had something big and it took a while before our skipper saw the catch just under the surface.
“It’s a wahoo,” he said.
Now I had just had a meal of wahoo the previous night and it is one of the nicest eating fish you can get. Looking at it as it was dragged over the side of the boat I thought we had landed a barracuda!
It was long – about 1.5m - and narrow but our chief said it probably was 18 or 19 kilos worth of prime fish. Excellent, I thought, while trying to count the extremely sharp teeth bared at me.
Any potential for injury to the fishermen was expertly dealt with by the skipper’s club. Then the large chiller was opened and in it went for later post-voyage action.
While you may think that fishing should be a relatively silent affair, there is a lot of radio chatter that goes on between the charter boats.
They act together in a siblinghood of mates trying to do the best for their guests. They say where they have found fish, where things seem to be dire and where birds – indicating potential catches – are flying about.
That doesn’t always help and so for the next hour or so we mooched about trying all sorts of lures to attract the attention of another bite.
Just as we, more correctly I, had given up hope our lines snapped while it was Elyse’s time. Another excited squeal, then focus on putting on the waistboard and then she was into it. And it was a big fight too. Not quite that of Lisa’s monster wahoo, but good enough to allow her to take time off the gym if she felt like it.
Katoa announced he could see colours under the water and up popped a very nice yellowfin tuna.
The colours were extraordinary, almost too pretty to eat …
Okay, that’s a bit silly, it was very pretty but raw fresh tuna is too hard to turn down no matter how good looking the fish.
It was quickly bled and then also made its way into the chiller.
Then we hunkered down again as the waves began to get more than a bit choppy and this fellow was glad to have had a sausage roll and coffee before heading out of the port.
It seemed like hours between strike No 2 and the next and … well it was. Fishing folk may enjoy the s but I was trying to work out if I could get the internet and would the nearest pizza shop deliver to us.
All that ended when snap, another strike and Kalen was now on the line. It was a big beastie, whatever he had, but his fight wasn’t to last long as the fish got off.
He took it with a shrug we were now all wanting to hit the dock and check out the catches.
It did not take long as by crikey the boat had a bit of toe. When our skipper said things were about to get bumpy he was not fibbing. We tore across the waves back to Avatiu in record time and had a most exciting ride along the way.
Once on the dock Katoa showed off his filleting skills and cut the fish into large portions to go with us when we went. Let me tell you the wahoo was fabulous just pan fried in butter with lemon drizzled on to it and the tuna made for a fabulous sashimi.
Thank you Katoa and the team from Marlin Queen. It was a terrific outing for everyone on board. – Richard Moore
The Marlin Queen team can be contacted by email at email@example.com, on Facebook, or call them Rarotonga 55202.