Mat Hewetson had fished in the BOP many times over the past decade, usually at White Island but hadn’t fished off Mayor Island. When he recently moved to live in Tauranga, it was therefore only a matter of time and he soon found out it offers great fishing.
Mayor Island (Tuhua) is a dormant volcano 35km (22 miles) north of Tauranga and covers 13km2(5 sq. mi). The island is quite steep along its coast and rises to 355m (1,165ft) above sea level.
The island is believed to have risen from the sea about 7000 years ago. The island is considered special
by Maori partly because of the presence of black obsidian, a volcanic glass created by the rapid cooling of silica-rich lava, prized as a cutting tool. The obsidian was called Tuhua by Māori who called the island by the same name. Captain Cook called it Mayor Island when sighted on November 3, 1769, in recognition of the Lord Mayor’s Day that was to be held in London a few days later.
Mayor Island today is a wildlife refuge, but this area of the Bay of Plenty around the island is renowned for game fishing. With marlin, tuna, mako sharks, swordfish and even tiger sharks all inhabiting the surrounding waters. The island and the waters close to its shores however, are now a small marine reserve. There are several tramping tracks around the island and it is also popular with divers. Several pa sites are known on the island, which was inhabited until 1901.
Up until the start of this year, I had never fished around Mayor with all my previous BOP fishing trips to White Island or off Motiti Island. Since moving to live in Tauranga in late 2015, I had wanted to put in a few trips there over summer to troll for game fish and also jig for kingies. On the very first trip out in January in a Surtees 610 we encountered a marlin and also had a large tuna strike, but unfortunately they didn’t hook up! We managed to land a couple of nice albacore, a great tasting tuna and also fat skipjacks for bait.
We also had good success jigging for kingfish on the many sea mounts to the south east of Mayor and in near Tuhua Reef. It was a shame the marlin and yellowfin didn’t stick as it would have been a very successful inaugural visit to the island. But with such a promising start I knew I would be back soon to try again.
We made plans for a second visit a couple of months later in March as the game fishing had really started to fire. We trolled all day to the north of Mayor but unfortunately didn’t see any marlin and only caught a solo albie, always a welcome bycatch for the dinner table. We did see a couple of sunfish and the conditions were glassy, so a great day on the water. Because of work commitments I didn’t manage to get back out to Mayor again until April and this time was on a different Surtees 610 which had a lot of interesting gadgets on board.
DEEP WATER FOR BLUENOSE
This Surtees was owned by Papamoa local Bill Dyck and his boat was fitted with an electric Minn Kota motor which would help to keep us positioned over our fishing marks. I had seen these before on smaller boats, like Editor Barry
Thompson’s McLay – but never on a larger 6m+ hardtop boat. On my 3rd trip to fish off Mayor Island we were planning to target deep water fish such as hapuka and bluenose.Bill advised that the built-in GPS on the electric motor would keep us over the spot even in 350m+ of water. This could give us a great advantage as it meant we would stay directly above the mark and we would hopefully catch bluenose or hapuka. Keeping above your mark in deep water is critical for successful fishing and usually comes down to the skill of the skipper allowing for the drift with the wind and tide. When you drop your large baits with heavy sinkers down, they take several minutes to reach the bottom and the boat can move past the structure where the fish are living. So any advantage to stay above the mark will result in more bites. As soon as we reached Bill’s mark he turned off the Honda outboard and switched on the Minn Kota with the remote control.
The arm came up from the front of the boat and extended into the water and the electric motor hummed quietly away. It did indeed keep us over the spot and we baited up and dropped our baits over. Bill was first to hit the bottom and he instantly hooked up and 10 minutes later had a double of bluenose! I then also hooked up to a powerful fish that took off and pulled the 24kg line. It gave me a great fight all the way to the top and a fat 16kg bluenose was in the boat.
We took photos and then rebaited with squid and dropped back down and Bill hooked up again and then I did too! We had a double hook up and laughed together as we both strained to get our fish up. Bill had caught another double and I had a good 14kg bluenose. Wow! – we had four drops and six fat bluenose in the bin. The Minn Kota was proving excellent and we decided we had enough bluenose and to head into the shallows to fish for some tarakihi. In 150m at Bill’s tarakihi spot, we engaged the electric motor again and proceeding to catch a dozen nice fish on fresh tuatua baits. It was after this trip that I thought I really should have fished off Mayor Is a lot sooner as it was proving to be a pretty impressive destination and only an hour by boat from my new home port. With swordfish grounds also close to Mayor, it will definitely be more frequently fished over the rest of the year.