Story: Recreational sea fishing

Dangling a line from the wharf on a tranquil evening has many rewards, quite apart from catching a fish. At the other extreme is the adrenalin-fuelled challenge of a threshing, 3-metre marlin in the open ocean. Living within easy reach of the coast, many New Zealanders love to try for a meal of fresh fish.

Story by Carl Walrond
Main image: A 1920s promotional poster

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Sea fishing in New Zealand

At weekends or in the summer holidays, thousands of children and adults take lines, fishing rods or nets to the beach. They look for where fish gather – near reefs, or where sea currents meet.

What fish do people catch, and where?

  • Spotties – often caught by children from a wharf.
  • Snapper, kahawai, kingfish – from rocks on the coast, and small boats close to shore.
  • Red cod and blue cod – further from shore.
  • Marlin, tuna, sharks, swordfish – in the open ocean.

Fishing methods

There are many ways to catch a fish, including:

  • using spears to catch flounder at night
  • pulling a lure behind a boat
  • surfcasting – using a rod from a beach or rocky coast
  • fly-fishing from a boat.

Big-game fishing

Big fish such as tuna are caught in northern New Zealand, where they feed on smaller fish. The sport became popular after the visit of a famous American writer, Zane Grey, in the 1920s. He wrote of his adventures chasing marlin and sharks, and introduced better fishing gear.

Today, about 33,000 New Zealanders belong to big-game clubs. Tourists flock to the Bay of Islands in summer, keen to try their luck. Serious anglers compete for cash prizes. In 2005 New Zealanders held three world records for catching the biggest fish. The biggest striped marlin weighed 494 kilograms – over 100 times heavier than the average snapper (4.5 kilograms).

Most people catch big game using a rod and reel. Some try to attract big fish by pulling a lure that moves like a little fish. Others use bait to catch marlin and swordfish. When a fish is hooked, it may fight for hours.

Conservation

There are rules to stop commercial fishing boats taking too many game fish. Big-game fishermen are careful with the fish they catch, returning many to the ocean. There are limits on how many kahawai and snapper people can take.

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Recreational sea fishing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/recreational-sea-fishing (accessed 20 September 2018)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 12 Jun 2006