When four jetski fishing buddies headed across the Manukau bar on a recent Friday, all had different goals in mind.
When jestski fisherman Saia Latu first saw a marlin freejumping close to where he was snapper fishing, he had no idea he was hooked up to it.
Jun Lin, Colin Li and Mark William headed out wide with a billfish as their target while the fourth, west Auckland’s Saia Latu, was more intent on putting a few fish in the bin to share around the family table.
After crossing the bar, the foursome eventually split up, leaving Saia at 55 metres where he was jigging up a good feed of snapper while thinking about the tasty raw fish meal he was providing the key ingredient for.
His tackle of choice was a Shimano Trinidad 14A reel, spooled with 20lb braid on a Shimano Blackout rod. It was armed with a 140g pink/silver jig, attached to the mainline via several metres of 30lb leader joined by an Albright knot.
The snapper were on the bite and Saia was in his “happy place”, which was made even more exciting when he saw a striped marlin “freejumping” not far from the ski.
‘Wow, that is pretty cool’ was his first thought, describing it as an “amazing” sight. A few seconds later his line started rising towards the surface, Saia realising he was attached to the freejumper.
“I wasn’t geared up for a marlin and it was the last thing I expected to hook up on, especially as I only had light jig gear.”
At this stage he only had minimal drag applied and the fish was fast emptying the spool.
“My only choice was to follow the fish and I reached 50kmph, all the while trying to control the ski, hold the rod, and call my mates for assistance on the radio, explaining I was hooked up to a billfish and needed help. It was madness.”
A short while later the cavalry arrived, and like a scene from a western movie, the three friends herded the billfish back towards Saia’s ski every time it looked like bolting.
This went on for some time, the marlin slowly tiring to the point Saia had the leader through the rod tip – a caught fish, not that he knew this at the time.
“I was just happy to see the fish up so close, my biggest concern being for my safety and that of my friends, not wanting to deal with a fish at close quarters without a gaff or gloves.”
The jig had been swallowed by the marlin, leaving the light trace vulnerable to its rough mouth and rasp-like bill. It was a miracle it had withstood the hour-long fight. Eventually breaking, the fish swam off none the worse for its experience.
“I am still shaking now when I talk about it, it certainly had the adrenalin pumping.”
Saia said he maintained a relatively light drag the whole time and believed the fish hadn’t realised it was hooked. The fact the line was ultra-thin braid helped as there was not a great deal of water pressure on it. Both factors would have contributed to the fish staying on the surface for almost all of the approximately 60-minute encounter.
Not being a game fisherman, Saia had no idea of the fish’s weight. Even when going through the GoPro footage – the end game was captured on video – it is hard to determine the marlin’s size.
“When I had it alongside, it was certainly longer than the ski, so the guesses range around the 100-120kg mark, but we will never know. But what I do know is that the day will never be forgotten.”
What started out as a day targeting snapper over the Manukau bar ended up with west Auckland angler Saia Latu catching a marlin on a 140g jig.
Saia is relatively new to fishing. While he was never into it, his late brother Eni was “mad-keen” and it was almost as a tribute to him that he took it up four years ago. The brothers worked in a Pasifikaowned and operated recycling and repurposing business, the Trow Group, and Eni used to say fishing was a good release from the pressure of the job.
“Initially I was looking at buying a boat and it was suggested jetski fishing was a good option. A good mate, Clinton Sampson, was a great mentor, along with Glen Cox, John Greaney and Andrew Hill.”
From these early mentoring trips Saia met up with the guys who were part of the Manukau day, where crossing the bar was another first for the Tongan-born angler.
“I realise now what my brother was on about, fishing is a good escape from work and the Manukau trip was a mental health day.”
While it was more of a technicality, Saia learned during the interview for this story that he had ‘officially’ caught the marlin. The International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) says a marlin is considered a caught fish when the leader reaches the rod tip or a leaderman’s hand is placed on the trace.
It’s interesting to note the IGFA regulations around what disqualifies a fish. Rule #7 states:
Using a boat or device to beach or drive a fish into shallow water in order to deprive the fish of its normal ability to swim.
Herding a fish might contravene that rule but regardless of the technicality, it was a mighty effort and one that will be talked about for some time among the fishing fraternity!
– Grant Dixon