Black dream
  |  First Published: April 2012

You’d think after all these years as a commercial fisherman, deck hand and skipper in the charter fleet, and as the host of the Ultimate Fishing Show, that I’d have ticked all my piscatorial boxes. I’ll never have enough time to do everything that’s on offer to anglers, but my biggest goal was to catch a black marlin in New Zealand.

Black marlin are normally a by-catch in New Zealand as the temperature is a little too cold for them to be consistently targeted. Naturally, this didn’t deter my enthusiasm as I’ve dreamed about getting a black there for more years than I can remember.

I slipped the 389 Stabicraft off the beach with only my cameraman in tow. Black marlin like structure and I knew a few places that have the right water and reef structure to bring blacks into range.

I’d rigged a small lure in the hope of getting a skipjack tuna and I’d taken some vacuum-packed jacks out of the freezer that I’d caught earlier in the year. I got the lures in the water and then got my jack swim bait sorted out. I’d been trolling for a while when the swim bait ‘popped’ on the flat line but nothing else happened. I figured there must have been a bit more swell than I'd realised and put it down to nothing more. I decided to check it anyway and as I reached for it, it got smashed and I was hooked up – but I didn’t know to what!

I was single-handedly getting a harness on, driving the boat, and keeping an eye on the line all at the same time. I briefly glimpsed the fish but I still couldn’t tell what species. Everything was right for a black…

A few minutes later the fish was back at the surface doing everything she knew how to dislodge the hook. Finally I got a decent look – a black marlin, hoorah!

The sea was getting up and holding my footing was becoming more and more difficult. The fish was a good fish, not huge by international standards, but it was a black and it was fighting with dogged determination to win its freedom. The battle was on.

I noticed a mate of mine out to sea on his charter boat Double Strike so I called him up to tell him I was hooked up to a black. He offered to send over his deckie. Little did I know that the deckie was a young French lady, Audrey, who had never leadered a fish in her life, let alone my dream black marlin.

In the episode you’ll see me acting pretty casual about the whole thing but I it was one of most anxious times I’ve experienced in a long while. She got ‘deckie 101’ training in about 30 seconds because I was winning the battle and the fish was close.

We were all on one side of the boat as angler/skipper/director, newbie deckie and cameraman all needed to be across the action. Once Audrey had her first wrap I got out of the harness and went to her aid. She did a fantastic job with no experience and helped me catch the fish of my dreams. Merci, Audrey.

We got the fish alongside the boat, put a research tag in and sent her on her way to fight another day. There was cheering all round and I went back in with a very satisfied grin on my face knowing I had just completed a boyhood dream. I was stoked.

A couple of weeks later I got a call from a young local guy who said he had some footage of a black marlin at the very spot I got mine. Turns out he’d filmed it two days beforehand. That young underwater cameraman’s footage was great and he is now a full time part of the team – a dream he wanted to achieve!

It’s amazing to think that one fish, rare to our waters, got to help a couple of blokes realise a dream, and neither of us have looked back since.

Keep ‘em tight.

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