2018 Nationals Report by Rex Manley
Returning the NZACA Nationals to Wellington this year was an opportunity to good to be missed. Step outside the Capitals bright lights and fancy restaurants and you’ll soon discover a rugged and spectacular coastline that stretches from the sandy beaches of the west round to the rocky and variable reefs of the east. Variety is the name of the game on these beaches but so are the many challenges. Wellington fishing is not for the faint hearted.
Four of our clubbies hit the beaches this year and I’m not sure any of us were truly confident. Yoey and Trish decided to hit the west coast and the sandy/stony beaches of Te Horo. Mark I checked out both sides of the local boundary starting at the rocky outcrops of Makara and then swapping them for the familiarity of the gravel beaches behind Wainuiomata. I chose Palliser Bay and based myself not far from the famous isolated fishing village of Ngawi. It was a place I’d always wanted to visit having heard so much about it. It was a shame I hadn’t taken a few more notes on how to fish it.
I sent Mark a few pictures of the area and it didn’t take long before he was making the trek over the Rimutukas to join me. Palliser is a fascinating and exciting stretch of coast. Kilometres of rocky reef greet you when you drive down the hill into the bay. It’s an amazing sight that seems to stretch on forever. It certainly looks the part.
I’d rented a cheap cabin and there was room for two of us. I’d scouted a few likely spots and Mark had done the same as he drove in. We decided on a few areas and gratefully hit the hay. At 4.30am the next morning we were heading out to our first spot. It was to prove to be challenge. Despite attempting to work out where the sandy parts of the beach were we soon found this beach held a lot of foul ground. We moved but It didn’t seem to matter where we went, our shock leaders and gear were soon swallowed by the hidden ocean cover. Lack of knowledge of the area caught us and bit us hard. With no sacrificial sinkers and little knowledge. we were starting to run out of ideas.
As luck would have it we came upon a couple of Wellington anglers. They were good buggers who Mark had met previously at the casting. There was a beach, they told us, 20ks back called Whangamoana. A lot easier to fish. We didn’t ask twice.
Thirty minutes later we were hurtling along a sandy track towards the middle of the beach. The terrain that greeted us was primarily sandy, a shelving drop, rumoured to produce quite a variety of fish and reminiscent of North Shore Road. The day before they were catching snapper here a local told us. We could hardly wait. After a slow start the fish began to arrive, firstly Kahawai and then Mark scored a nice gurnard. Things were looking promising, but the fishing gods had other ideas.
Meanwhile over on the other coast Jim and Trish were also giving it a good crack, fishing the plentiful shellfish beds of Te Horo. Trish had a kahawai and Jim lost a good snapper. Then the weather kicked in with wind and increasing swells and things took a turn for the worse. Meanwhile on our side, well protected from the weather, the sea remained perfect, so perfect it was an invitation for some less welcome species. We soon became plagued by spiny backs.
We changed tack, throwing out mussels to try and snag that elusive Moki. They were frequent visitors to this beach, so we were told and perhaps they were. But another pest also arrived, our old foe the red cod. As the moon rose high in the sky and tide ebbed we called it a night, determined to throw everything at it in the morning. And throw it we did.
Unfortunately, the spinys decided to return as well and latterly the red cod. Somehow Mark found a way through and picked up a couple of nice kahawai and then an awesome 1.3kg gurnard. But I struggled, bagging cod after cod, spiny after spiny. As the clocked ticked round to nine am it was almost a relief to head back to Upper Hutt to the weigh in. We’d certainly given it a good go all the same.
At the weigh in it soon became obvious that locals definitely had the edge. A good range of fish were passed over the scales including some top-class kahawai, gurnard and especially Moki. While the Pania team were unable to match the epic hometown catches many lessons were learned about this vibrant fishing location. A few new spots were discovered, a few different approaches learned and bait ideas revealed. Those who participated were much wiser at the end of this competition and will be better prepared for the future. It was a weekend well spent and one I enjoyed. I’ll be back again for sure.