Sunday, 29 April 2018

Angler's Eldorado; The Bountiful Waters of New Zealand's Northland

Riders of the Purple Sage is a romantic saga set in 19th century Utah. 

You might ask what connection there could possibly be between this antebellum American novel and New Zealand's coastal waterways?

The answer is its author. Zane Grey, best known for his fictional accounts of America's Wild West, was also an avid outdoorsman in the style of Ernest Hemingway. In 1927, he was invited to New Zealand to promote game fishing. He found gold in the form of abundant marlin, sharks and tuna, and wrote a book about his experiences over several seasons.

Ninety years later, we discovered the same. Coincidentally, we learned that one of our favourite anchorages; Urupukapuka Island; was also Zane Grey's chosen base in the Bay of Islands.

Alchemy 1 at anchor in Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island.
George flying our Mavic drone over the site of Zane Grey's historic fishing camp.
Zane Grey's state-of-the-art fishing boat, the Alma G, in 1927. Things have certainly changed.
Today, you can charter a remodelled Alma G for your own special fishing expedition. Here is it going through the Hole in the Rock, one of the Bay's top fishing spots.
A few quick successes ensured that we, too, caught the Bay of Islands fishing bug. 

George jigging for kingfish.
My all-time record snapper: 42 cm. If only the photographer had got it in focus!
 It wasn't long before our visitors were also hooked ...

Fishing with William.
George getting ready with the net to land David's catch.
Judy trying her luck up at Whangaroa.
 The results were often spectacular.
I was initially sad to catch this large male red pigfish, even though it tasted delicious. But I later learned that when the dominant male is removed from the ecosystem, the largest female turns into a male to restore the status quo. I am highly suspicious this behaviour also exists in some of our human organisations.
Some catches were not so impressive ...
Tom caught a little bait fish virtually by accident.
 But where there are bait fish, there are bigger ones ...
It is hard to properly capture the love between a boy and his Kingie ...
Some catches promised a lot more than they delivered ...
Baby snapper encased in weed. I honestly thought I was onto a monster! Both were returned safely to the sea.

 and some were simply not right for the table.

William's Skipjack tuna; seemingly common around the Bay, but too dark and oily to make good eating.
Sandager's Wrasse; easy to catch but too beautiful to kill.

Fishing at sunset was a very relaxing finish to the day.
But others (like Julie) savoured the moment in other ways.
Urupukapuka sunset.
And after the fishing came the cooking ...

Ingredients for fresh snapper Laksa.

Kahawai (known in Oz as an Australian Salmon). Plentiful in New Zealand, they are not especially nice when baked or fried, but delicious when smoked (see below).
First brine your Kahawai for 24 hours in 1:2 salt and brown sugar (or maple syrup).
Then hot smoke on the BBQ for 15 minutes with wood chips (Manuka Fisherman's Blend). Eat on its own or prepared in other ways.

Smoked Kahawai Dip:

1 cup flaked, smoked fish
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp plain Greek yoghurt
1 tsp lemon juice
fold in blender until well-mixed but not pasty. Add water if required.
Serve with crackers.

But the Bay of Islands is not all about fish. You've seen photos of our oyster platters on Facebook. 


We also harvested scallops, that George cooked in their own shells with a tasty mornay sauce.

And although we haven't yet caught any of our own, some neighbouring fishermen gave us this crayfish (along with some excellent local knowledge) and Anne and David helped us enjoy it.

In our next post, we get up close and personal with those other great fishermen of the Bay of Islands; the bottlenose dolphins.