Colins Manihiki fishing stories
Thu 26 Jul 2012 04:19
Manihiki is an island of fishermen and each one seems to have a technique for getting one fish or another.
I'd idly got to talking to some gents about fishing and they asked if I had been mackerel fishing here. Well I remeber trolling mackerel lines behind the boat in the Channel, but needless to say here it is different. I asked my tutor what we would need and he said, "fins and a mask, and I'll prepare the rest". Still a mystery. The appointed hour came and I picked him and his daughter up from the shore in our dinghy and we went back to the boat. Then he stuffed a load of grated coconut into his mouth and spoke through it that I should do likewise - hard to breath at this point. THen into the water we hop and look around underneath for a shoal fo mackerel. Once spotted the trick is to dive down in front of the shoal and spit out the coconut in a salivary cloud, give it a flip with a fin to spread it out, and then head for the surface. Hopefully the fish will follow into the bait, then the next 'cloud' is laid closer to the surface until the fish are all around. Then from the dinghy are produced tiny half metre canes with a short piece of line, a barbless hook with some white cotton the end to resemble coconut. Whilst still in the water you dangle this into the could of coconut, and hook a mackerel, flick it into the dinghy where hopefully it falls off the hook, then down again for another, all the while baiting the area with coconut. Fantastic fun when the fish are in, fast and furious - left me laughing afterwards. We caught more than 40 fish between the two of us, each 20cm long. Perfect.
Rod fishing for Tuna
Here we use monster hooks that they call, 'tuna circles'. Lace a bait fish like mackerel onto the hook and drop to 50-60m just off the back of the boat. I'd have more to report if I actually caught anything, and didnt have my bait taken by little fish before I ever got it down far enough.
Milk fish trapping
This was a village expedition to an outer motu to 'harvest milk fish for the second time this year. The village stock a brackish pond with milk fish in case a cycolne comes along and wipes out all their food supplies. Once in a while they go and harvest the larger fish and share them around the village.
We use a 3 and 5/8" monofilament gill net for the job. Wade out shin deep through the mud circling the fish and catching 800 or so in an hour. Everyone eats them raw whilst we are there and back on the boat we make Ika Mata (raw fish with coconut milk) in the evening and soussed milk fish overnight in vinegar, with our share much like orkney marinated herring - both very good.
There are various fish traps made of piled up blocks of coral formed into ever-decreasing channels until they enter a pool via a small entrance, each carefully designed for a type of fish. I'm holding a net with a couple of decent surgeon fish from the shallow maze behind me, and Cathy is sitting in wait for the Titi (Moorish Idol) run to start when she'll jump in the water with the coconut frond and usher the fish into a small pond at the end of the trap where they'll be scooped out. Though we didn't see it happen as we were a week too early they can get hundreds in a day. Meant to be very good eating as well.
We netted across the motus for milk fish, snappers and parrot fish
Out on the reef at dusk hunting for small grouper and snappers with John Williams. Hoping between sharp coral heads as it got darker, defeated me in the end and I waded home shortly before John returned with a bucketful of fish hanging from his shoulder.
We asked Matieu and Rangi if we could pick up some oysters for the korori (meat) and this we did for a day. With a hooka system (compressor on the surface pumping air down a pipe to a standard diving regulator) to breath whilst diving we collected nine baskets of discarded pearl shells (black lipped oysters) and spent the day opening them and shucking out the meat. We ended up with ten small bags of meat for our efforts so you can see why korori is a rare as rocking horse poo. Thanks to R and M for a great day and everything that went with it.
Smoked fish KaiKai
Mr Api, possibly running as the next prime-minister of the Cook Islands and keep fisherman, (fingers crossed he does, he's a wonderful, honest, man of the island people). Whilst much of the village is away in Rarotonga for the festivities those that remain often eat together by the wharf, and loves to run up his smoker-bins in the evening. He splits open the fish into halves, and then bastes them with brown sugar and soy sauce. The smoke is from coconut sawdust and gives a lovely flavour.
We spent three or four nights ashore with the villagers and ate the fish accompanied with breadfruit, rice, coconuts, wonderful hospitality and alway magic home made music.
One of the less obvious types of 'fishing' is killing sharks. All you need is a machette and some bait. Hang over the wall and wallop at a shark as it passes. Sport? Ethical?