Have you ever had a trip where the back up plans turned out to be better than your plan A ever could have? That's exactly what happened to us when a long weekend getaway to the Coromandel took an unexpected turn, leading us to Taranaki, where we embarked on an unforgettable weekend. Our journey included chasing marlin, a delicious feast of crays, snapper, tuna, and more, all in the company of some great people.
Here's how it all unfolded.
Day 1 (Friday):
The Crew: Drew, Alec (aka. Bung), Flynn, Daniel (aka. Greeny), Puka (aka. Henry), Mase, Lachie
Our adventure began early on Friday morning as we gathered at Drew's workshop at Tasman Marine. Lachie, Flynn and Mase made the trek up from Desolve HQ the night before after the weather on the east coast destroyed plan A. The weather in New Plymouth, however, was in our favour and we set off, full of anticipation. Two boats set sail, one helmed by Drew with Bung and Flynn on board, while Greeny skippered the other with Puka, Lachie, and Mase.
We started the day catching live bait near the Sugar Loaf Islands, hoping for something big when we headed out wide. We mainly caught small snapper, tarakihi, and some gurnard all while fending off too many barracudas for our liking. The bommy-knocker was working overtime.
Greeny's boat had a similar story, catching a frostfish which wasn’t wanted but are such a stunning fish to pull in.They're also known as sword bait so probably no coincidence that a massive swordfish, which are even more rare in the area, was landed by a handy angler the next day. A good omen perhaps...
A few more hours went by without much to report. The weather was brilliant all day but the fishing wasn't quite so brilliant, so we decided to check on the cray pots and call it a day. We trolled on our way to the pots, but no luck. We managed to get enough crays for the evening and even found a long-lost pot which was thought to be gone for good. It made a hell of a mess being hauled up, especially at Puka's expense.
Back at Drew's, we prepared the day's catch.The spread was unreal and included a whole baked snapper, crays grilled with butter and lemon, and some venison backstrap courtesy of Greeny's culinary skills. To wash it all down, we sampled Puka's entrepreneurial creation, a gin & juice called "Goodness Gracious," which went down a treat after a long day under the sun.
Day 2 (Saturday):
The Crew: Drew, Bung, Flynn, Greeny, Jimi, Mase, Lachie
Saturday saw us rise at the crack of dawn once again, with the same crew on board, ready to give it another go. We shook the dust off, loaded up our boats, and it was back on. Puka had a business meeting for his GG’s and Jimi took his spot. The morning started with catching live bait in the port, setting the stage for the day's mish.
On Greeny's boat, an unexpected issue forced us back to the boat ramp for quick repairs. Thanks to Max from Tasman Marine, we were back on the water within 40 minutes, and heading out wide.
Throughout the day, regularly scheduled programming resumed, catching a good feed of snapper, tarakihi, and gurnard, although nothing to write home about. Both boats also tried trolling in the afternoon in the hopes of landing a tuna or, if we were exceptionally lucky, a marlin.
Some of the boys were a bit worse for wear on day 2 and the hair of the dog wasn’t working. After a bit of patience and a couple of naps on both boats, the shotgun fired on and Jimi found himself in the action. We quickly realised it wasn’t a trophy and the big man quickly hauled in a skipjack which went straight on the ice.
Back to Drew's for afters and with a few beers down us, motivation to cook was low so we hassled the local chippy to fry up our fillets. It might seem like a waste to some people, but that had to be hands down the best fish and chips most of us had ever had.
The forecast for Sunday was overcast and not as flat so we plotted our strategy to go 100% into chasing a marlin on the final day.
Day 3 (Sunday):
The Crew: Drew, Mase, Max, Flynn, Greeny, Jacey, Terry, Lachie
The final day of our adventure arrived, and with it came a few new faces to join our crew. Bung and Jimi couldn't get out of other plans so Greeny's partner Jacey and her grandfather Terry, who's boat it was, jumped on board with Lachie. Max, who'd run our repairs the day before, jumped in on Drews boat with Flynn and Mase to fill it out.
It was a cooler morning, quite gloomy overhead and a bit of a rolling swell. Conditions were looking perfect to land a stripey but you're always up against the odds no matter the conditions.
With everyone's eyes on the prize, we set out with hopes for a memorable day on the water.
Spirits were high as both boats cruised along, we found our desired water temp, the lures were sitting nicely one the wake but there was no doubting the underlying tension. Having photographers on board always adds an extra layer of pressure. Even though us guys from HQ were stoked with the weekend regardless, the local lads wanted to deliver. Just as we cracked a beer the call we'd been waiting for finally came - "FINS UP BOYS!" Drew's boat was the first to get some action, and soon enough, a marlin smacked the short rigger.
Everyone hustled like madmen to get the other lines in, and Max jumped on the rod. The first few moments with a marlin on are absolute carnage. The adrenaline, excitement and a pinch of panic.
The reel screamed and in no time our striped marlin was jumping far away from the boat. Drew and Max had the boat moving in unison with the marlin to keep the tension on without leaning on it too hard. Fifteen minutes or so in it was still all go, it felt like we were hooked on properly. Just as we though we were making good progress and felt comfortable Max felt the line go slack when it shouldn't have. Just as he suspected we'd been spat out. A gut punch but it was still early days.
Over on Greeny's boat they hadn't had much action but were trolling similar areas.
The last marlin started a dangerous cycle of cracking a beer to bring on good luck - but it didn't take many for it to work wonders again. Fins were spotted again on Drew's boat and the marlin hung around for a while before the shotgun got hit.
Everyone sprung to action again, but this fight didn't last anywhere near as long before spitting us out. A lure was hit over on Greeny's boat also but unfortunately, it was another skippy.
Things went quiet for a while, as we both spent a hour or two trolling up and back.
Over on the Greens boat there were suggestions of packing up and heading back in. It felt a bit early but, unknown to us all at the time, Terry had mistaken his sleeping tablets in the darkness of the morning for sea sickness tablets! He was battling more than just the seas.
We kept him going another 30 mins and right on queue, a lure was hit Greeny's boat, this time it wasn't a tuna.
Jacey was on the rod fighting hard on what would be her first marlin if she landed it. The call went out and all fingers and toes were crossed over on Drews boat, praying for Jacey to land it. No one deserved it more than her.
Fish and angler fought tooth and nail but ultimately is was Jacey who came out on top. The other boat zoomed over to check it out but a big old mako had the same idea. The poor striped marlin had a hell of a day. After being bitten a few times, there was no point releasing it and instead it was hauled into the boat - but not before the mako took off with a tail.
There wasn't much time for photos with not only the mako situation, but also Terry's sleeping tablets were well and truly setting in.
We made it back to the workshop to clean up and try to figure out what to do with the big bastard! The vibes were on another level and Jacey was greeted by friends and family making their way down to check out her work.
It was back to Drew's one last time, Terry was off to bed, but this time a bigger job was on hand to fillet the marlin (if you can even call it that) for the smoker. By then the clouds had burnt off and it was rude not to crack open a couple of beers and GG’s to celebrate.
You couldn't ask for much better. The Taranaki hospitality was 5 stars that weekend. A couple of weeks later Greeny was down in Wellington and dropped off the smoked marlin for us to share around the office and take home. Being able to connect with others through the food and share with our team makes it even more special.