Cape Town to Three Kings
23 October 2019 and the day has come. We are going to New Zealand for a bit of fishing! Well, more than a bit of fishing; we will spend two weeks in the country. First stop, Whitianga and then off to Mangonui where our live aboard charter to the Three Kings Islands will depart.
But first, I need to come clean with you. Although I’ve been fishing our local waters extensively, I have never been off this continent. My longest flight ever was Cape Town to Johannesburg and the only other country I have ever seen was Namibia. Needless to say, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.
About the flight:
Johannesburg to Singapore on Singapore Airlines: Holy crap! There’s only so many movies to watch, small talk to make and if I slept any more I would reach my quota for the month. Geez, I’m glad John convinced us to take premium economy.
I would definitely want to go and spend some time in this place. From what I saw, it really looks beautiful. And electronics are so cheap here!
We had a few hours to burn before our flight to New Zealand, so we went to a lounge where we could eat and drink as much as we wanted. Well, that was what they advertised. But every time we ordered another round of Tiger beer we got the stink eye. They obviously do not cater for South African “boertjies” and the odd American who basically grew up on beer.
Air New Zealand:
Everyone around me seemed to be able to sleep, but for some reason I could not. Luckily, the air hostess did not mind me emptying a bottle of their finest whiskey. Apparently, I woke up a few of the other passengers during the flight but I have no recollection of this so I think that my mates are just making stories up. For some reason all the photos that I took came out blurry.. Not sure why.
Finally, after what felt like days (oh wait, it was days) we arrive in Auckland. Immediately, I phone my wife to let her know that we have arrived safely, forgetting that it’s something like 2am at home. Obviously I did not get the exact greeting I was expecting.
Bags collected, packed in the rental and we are off to Whitianga. By the way, it is pronounced with a “F”, like fitianga, But it is spelled with a “w”…don’t ask.
At this stage I am not feeling too A1 anymore. Somewhere between jet lag, the Singapore eat-as-much-as-you-can chicken curry and a bottle of whiskey, something went horribly wrong. I blame the Singapore chicken curry.
But there’s no time to feel sick, I need to take in as much as I can in a foreign country. The bit I saw of NZ on the way to Whitianga was really beautiful. Some parts reminded me of Cape Town, while others were much like the Garden Route. I can see why so many South Africans are able to live here.
Once in Whitianga, we check into our Airbnb and hit the stores for some food provisions and more beer. Stocked up on food and beverages, we took the scenic route back to our accommodation. Once again, I am gobsmacked by the beauty and tranquillity of this little town. It really reminded me of Knysna, except there’s no burglar bars on the buildings here.
Bags offloaded, rooms allocated and meat on the Weber, we crack a cold one and start rigging our gear for the warm up sessions on Kaos with Epic fishing charters over the next few days.
The jet lag and drive from Auckland seems to have taken its toll on John. He fell asleep sitting upright. But then again, I’ve seen this guy sleep standing upright in the cabin on the way out to the Alphard banks. He then wakes up and moves to the couch. The comfy leather couch must have been too much for him, though. He’s out like a rock. Johann and I had a few laughs while trying to get a hook up but just could not get a strike.
Day two in NZ and my brother joins us for fishing the next day. I have not seen him in 20 years since he moved abroad, so this was quite a long awaited reunion.
Day three and we meet up with Captain Owen for the day. He explains to us that we will first catch a few livies and then head out to the bank for Kingies (Yellowtail). Livies caught and off we go for the proper fish.
As we stop on the fish, I ask Johann if I can borrow one of his jigs… one that he is pretty attached to. “Of course”, he says. I still can’t say exactly what happened but that jig went straight overboard, it did not even touch the boat.
Obviously, the Kiwi skipper could not help himself, and it did not take long for all the boats in the area to start talking about the South African Charter Captain that through his first jig overboard in NZ.
I donated that jig to Neptune, that my story and I’m sticking to it.
We didn’t catch any monsters that day, but we racked up the species and even caught some snoek. Haha, when the Kiwi’s hook a snoek they immediately up lines and go to a different spot. My brother, Pieter, also caught his first yellowtail.
The next day, John and Johann went out on Kaos for more jigging while Pieter drove me around and showed me a bit of the countryside. Oh my word, this place is really something to behold. Photos will never do it justice; you have to see it for yourself!
Our stay in Whitianga comes to an end and the rest of our group will soon land in Auckland so bags were packed and off we went. (By the way, after four days I am still not feeling all that well…something was seriously wrong with that Singapore chicken!)
Back at Auckland airport we met up with Roy and Marius. Roy rented a van to taxi us from Auckland to Monganui. It can’t be called a minibus, it really was more like a panel van with extra seats.
From the airport, we departed to the north shore to overnight at a “resort” that Roy also booked for us. I recall the words “cheap and cheerful” being uttered a few times. We went to the pub just outside the “resort” and had a few cold ones before hitting the sack.
The next morning as I got my bags ready to leave, I hear Roy frantically shouting from down the road. As he was packing the van, someone stole his bag with his cash, wallet and passport from the stairs outside his room. It seems that even in NZ they steal bags that are left unattended.
After about three hours of frantic phone calls we are off. First stop, the tackle stores to stock up on some new jigs. A few 300 – 800gram jigs. Squid jigs for the Hapuka and Bass. Other odds and ends. Oh yes and of course I decided that I needed a Jigstar Ninja ML as well.
Painstakingly making our way to Mangonui (interlink trucks are overtaking us going uphill), I still feel like dying from that Singapore chicken. Roy then insists that we stop at the next pharmacy to get some meds for me. Wow, an hour after taking meds I feel like a new man, ready to take on the Giant Kingies. Thanks Roy!
At last we are in Mangonui, we offload our bags onto Enchanter and meet Captain Lance who insists that we should put in the effort of catching livies during the night to take with to Three Kings. Geez, these Kiwi’s just can’t get enough of their livies! After getting our jig bags sorted we try to get a few livies but utterly fail. In our defence even Kobe (our deckhand) also struggled.
Oh yes! We also saw some Mangonui monsters on the commercial crayfish boat docked opposite us.
Day one on Enchanter
She is really a beautiful vessel. Well built and plenty of space. We get ready to set sail. Roy can’t join us because he needs to go and sort his passport at the South African embassy, which is all the way in Wellington. Next time Roy.
Lance gets on the boat and immediately asks how many livies we got.. There’s a mumble of the number three and Kobe says “they were up till 1am trying”. Lance just looks at us and says ” F@#&ing useless bunch of c….
Don’t worry Lance, we came to jig not catch sharks.
Off we go. Fourty-five minutes into our trip and the weather came up. Pretty messy beam sea makes walking around on the mono hull pretty crap. Time to crack a cold one so that we can get our balance right.
Cape Reinga is our first stop, about halfway to Three Kings. Lance “calls lines in, seven colours”. We all frantically run to the rail (Lance does not like you sitting around if its fishing time).
Jig down seven colours, jig-jig-ON. Everyone is stuck on some nice class kingies, all over 15KG. Apparently these are rats? Okay, I like where this is going. A 15KG Yellowtail is a rat to these guys!
I then hear Lance ask, “wtf do you want to do with that noodle Johann?” I look up the rail and see that Johann hauled out the extra light Jigstar Slow Jerk with wiki 900 reel, gives two jigs and BAM! He’s up and down at the front rail and, after about ten minutes, boats a proper tail of over 20KGs. It’s not long and he gets reefed by a cracker of a tail. Lance looks down at Johann and says: “I told you.”
After catching a few more (and also landing my first Golden Trevally), we set sail for Three Kings. Lance says that we can get comfortable; we will only reach the Islands just before nightfall.
Day two and I wake up to the noise of chains rattling as the anchor is pulled up. It’s still dark out, the sea is pretty calm. We are all trying to stay calm in anticipation of those monster kingies hanging on the other end of our lines. Kobe prepares breakfast and John plunges a fresh brew of coffee. An hour or two goes by (one has no need or concept for time here, you only know it’s time to get up and time to go to bed). Suddenly, the hum of the diesel engines changes as Lance throttles back. “Right boys, get ready!” he calls from the fly-bridge. “Lines in, 10 colours, Jig hard, Jig Fast & Hooooold on lads!” he shouts. All four of us are ready at the rail and down go the jigs. Jig-Jig-Jig-(I think to myself that this is going to be hard work)-another jig and BAM! F% hold on, tighten the drag of the Stella 20k….fooook these fish are strong. When I get the fish to the boat, Lance says it looks like a 22KG (this guy can guess weight to the nearest gram!).
The day goes on and its kingie after kingie after kingie. Initially it felt like my arms wanted to fall off, but strangely enough after a few cold ones and enduring the battles, you actually start to get used to it. We had double, triples and quadruple, more times than I care to count. We caught and released well over 60 Kingies!
Lance calls lines up and we set sail back to the islands to anchor for the night. Kobe prepares some Tarakihi sashimi for us and Johann has “one more” while John and I move over to more of a gentleman’s drink. I can’t remember much of that night, other than a seagull flying into the flybridge and running around on the deck. I probably went to bed two hours into the night with a bruised and knackered body.
Day three and I wake up to the hum of the diesel’s, make my way up deck and again it’s still dark out. Get the brew started and sit down with the guys, discussing the strategy for the day. First, we’ll go to the deeper waters for a go at some hapuka and bass.
Again, the RPM changes on the motors and Lance shouts “get ready boys”. This is a bit different; we will be jigging in 300m of water with 600-800gr jigs. Holy S**t , this is not for sissies!
Someone asks Lance “How many colours?” and the reply was… ALL of them!
As I’m jigging down there in the pitch black water I’m just saying to myself, please don’t let it be a rat, please don’t! What do I catch? A pink Maumau of about 1 kg.
Johann’s first down and he catches two Kingies in one go. Then, all hell breaks loose with all of us catching giant hapuka or bass with nearly every down. Johann caught a “stonker” of about 45kgs.
After a while we call it and head to the bank for more kingies. Again, we are off to a quick start and produce some big fish. But then it starts to slow down with one coming onto the jig every now and then. It goes on like this for the rest of the day.
Upon return to the Islands, Lance says that we will now have to catch live bait. Argh, not again! So we try and catch livies and, yet again, horribly fail at producing the goods with Lance yet again telling us that we should definitely stick to jigging.
Day four, Lance says that we will try the Middlesex reef and see if it’s not holding good fish.
By now I’m up as soon as the key swings the motors.
Again, it’s hard work but we get a few flurries of doubles and triples.
We also racked up the species with more hapuka, pink maomao, terakihi as well as a few others which I can’t remember, let alone pronounce.
If I recall correctly, this is where I caught my 33kg PB and Marius caught his PB and the biggest of the trip of 34kg.
Day five and, for the first time, we are still at the Islands when the sun comes up. At last, I can see the Three Kings in all their glory. Really spectacular. Asem rowend! I wanted to get the drone into the air and get some footage, but every night the wind pumps at the islands, so Lance says that a few miles from the Islands the wind will be gone and we can stop for a bit of footage. Stopped, got footage, almost chopped Johann’s finger off with the prop…nothing strange. Enough mucking about, off we go to jig till our arms fall off again.
The previous trend seemed to continue with the fish just not interested in playing along anymore and it was hard work to get those hook-ups. But when it came, omw was it worth it! It seemed that as the sea got better, the fish got worse. Most of the time, it works like that here in the Cape as well, they want a bit of movement in the water.
Mid-morning it’s all over and Lance points the bow to port. The sea is as flat as a dam, complete opposite to what we had going out. On the way, Lance comes down tells us that he has the Rugby results. Yes, at this stage, we were still not aware that the Springboks won the World Cup!
Back on land, back to civilisation, back to reality. An epic chapter of adventure comes to an end. Roy meets us at the dock to taxi us back to Auckland where we would spend another day before departing home. At least I had another day to explore Auckland with my brother and get to see more of this country that somewhat reminds me of home.
Enroute to South Africa, we have a one hour layover in Sydney airport, only to be told at customs that we now need to remove all the braid that’s on our reels. “Why?” we ask. “It’s a rule”, they reply. Where’s this rule documented? No its not documented yet. !#$@%#$#
So there we stand, removing about R10 000 worth of braid and dumping it in the bin. Thanks Ausies. To this day I’m still sure they were pissed at us winning the World Cup.
You might be thinking, “why would a charter operator fly halfway across the world to catch fish?”..
We are crazy about catching fish on artificials… No No, I know what all the Sodwana guys are thinking… We really do NOT like Trolling.
Jigging, Popping & sight casting. That’s our thing, that’s what we love. That’s what we are good at & that’s what we want to experience.
Every year we get a taste of the kingies (Geelstert) on jig at Struisbaai (we have caught up to 18KG there).
I think that Struisbaai is the biggest reason why we went to Three Kings (Johann’s been to Three Kings twice now), it gave us a taste of the pure power of these fish.
Don’t get me wrong. Catching 80KG tuna on a jig or a popper is freakin awesome, but where we catch the tuna, there’s no place for them to reef you. So its not the same.
In the end, we traveled half way across the world for yellowtail fishing because just like you, we love fishing. Its not just a business for us. Its a passion!
Till next time,