July 23, 2012 – Kaikoura Coastline
The trees and shrubs swam through fog as I poked my head outside to test for a morning frost. Satisfied with my packing for the day, I joined friends and began the drive north to Kaikoura.
A unique peninsula on New Zealand’s east coast, it is situated near a large marine drop off, providing deep water, ample shore line, and a backdrop of mountains. We turned our backs on the alpine region though, and instead drove out to the edge of the island and spent our day along the rocky coastline.
Besides the obvious scenery, Kaikoura is known for its incredible whale watching and multiple seal colonies scattered along the coast. A road rolls out to the edge of the peninsula, and from there, it’s a walk along the tide-sensitive coast track to a few bays and rocky beaches. We departed just around low-tide and made our day-camp in a spot we hoped would hold some fish. The rocks changed from sharp, jagged, and angular limestone to rounded and slippery bits where we had to watch our footing to keep from following a seal into the ocean.
Along the way, we investigated some lounging seals, their young, and had to pass by an eerie colony where a few eyed us down by looking over their backs. It was a rather odd perspective, at least from our view. We tried to follow the ten meter rule but sometimes a bark and huff would warn us the footpath was actually under seal jurisdiction, so we obliged by staying out of their way. Some of the younger animals found a haven in small bushes and shrubbery, while larger seals liked boardwalks and huge stone sculptures where they could survey the scene. Bird nesting sites kept us from venturing further on some bits shore, but we were able to find a spot with enough bait and water to give us some hope that a few fish might be sliding in and out of the kelp.
Between flat pieces of broken rock and tide pools, there was plenty of bait. From camouflaged crabs and inverted shellfish, small fish and urchins, there was enough to keep me occupied without even having a line in the water. But soon enough, we had some bait cut up, hooks rigged, lines out, and heavy sinkers that held our hopes close to the swaying sea bottom.
The first inkling of a hit is a tingle that can’t be replaced. A bit of clicking from the reel, the rocking of the rod and a taught line awakens a bit of me that I can only find in half-seconds scattered amongst the watery world of a planet on which we inhabit only the dry parts. Even if that first hit is a miss.
Knowing something had an interest in our bait, we re-rigged and settled back, waiting for the next curious creature. Euan had the first catch, and happily reeled in a red cod. My rod answered in time and I too had a hook-up. We each ended with two and for a few hours of fishing in a place we had never been, we were happy to have something on the line. With the tide nearing its apex and the clouds dimming even the last bits of light, we gathered up the girls and tip-toed back past the seals and wet fingers of the sea to the parking lot.
Whatever it is you’re after, be sure to fish along the way. -Kendrick