charter connection This article is how it appears in October 2005 NZ Fishing News magazine. The crew from Star Trek wish to extend a huge thanks to NZ Fishing News for allowing reproduction of this article.
Star Trek
- a good reason to stay on Earth
You have to be lucky sometimes
and this was one such occasion.
Here I was on board Bryce and Sue Hooton's Whitianga based charter boat Star Trek, with the gentlest of zephyrs lightly rippling the sea's surface, and poised to cast my first big, bloody bait into the highly productive waters surrounding the Mercury Islands. Quite simply, I was in paradise. Even the trip over had been memorable, with several large schools of trevally feeding so voraciously they'd fizzled the surface to a white froth, the collective slopping sounding like a rumbling waterfall. It was great to see, and I just hope they don't attract any unwelcome attention from cruising purse-seine boats.
To be honest my expectations hadn't been high. Just prior to "snapper spawning season" can often be inexplicably unproductive, so my wish list with Bryce was simply for a snapper "over ten pounds". He didn't think this would be a problem; in fact he guaranteed it - but fortunately I negated this potentially fatal jinx by alerting him to his overconfidence and toning it down a little. Even so optimism was high on board.
Our skipper for the trip, Phil Nelley, had some exciting spots lined up for us, and in addition to owner Bryce, I also had the help of NZ Fishing News area reporter Marty Bowers (who had caught two snapper over 20lb the weekend before!) "hot angler" Richard Hadrell, and "free diver extraordinaire", Simon Wallis.
- Too easy
Phil kicked things off at the first possie with a modest snapper of 3 kg (and to be honest I was happy enough with that), but a move to another spot saw Tar Trek's "pet angler", Richard hooking a much better calibre of fish, his erratically surging rod indicating a decent snapper. And sure enough, when the coppery shape came tiredly to the surface, it was a lovely fish of nearly six kilos. Mission accomplished-already-and we'd only been fishing for a couple of hours!
Fizzing schools of big Trevally were a great sight.
(That's always good for reducing the pressure felt by all charter boat owners, skippers and fishing journos, I can tell you!)
But that was nowhere near the end of our trip. In addition to a bunch of smaller fish, including a solid 3.5 kg Trevally to Bryce, both Phil (again!) and Richard landed gleaming beauties of around five kilos each, and not to be left out, I successfully managed to wrestle a ripper of nearly 6.5 kg to the net, too. (I'd like to say it was skill, but I'd actually placed the outfit in the holder to take pictures of Richard, the crackling nylon alerting me to the buckled over rod as the re-curve hooks took hold.) Then, with the action slowing as darkness enveloped us, we up-anchored and headed for Bryce's "night spot". (It could actually be argued that every spot's a night spot for Bryce, as he's totally blind. It was really fascinating to hear him describing the submerged location to Phil and suggesting how we should anchor up on it.)
 - Night bites
I wish I could say we slaughtered a bunch of whoppers as a result, but a slight miscalculation in the flukey night breezes resulted in Star Treks wooden butt facing slightly out towards the open sea instead. This meant an entirely different species of visitors came up our berley trail. At first I thought one of the guys had hooked a massive Kahawai as it was ripping up the surface, but instead it turned out to be a "cute" little Mako Shark. And it had only been freed for a minute or so when my big bait was inhaled by something more impressive. After surviving a couple of initial bursts, I pumped the fish in closer, and outlined in the cockpit light, was a bigger Mako around two metres in length. This fish looked pretty docile, so I pulled back even harder on my eight-kilo outfit- and this successfully ignited the Mako's booster rocket, the tail thrashing whitely on the surface. In an instant my rod was wrenched down hard and the line began pouring off the Daiwa reel- but abruptly stopped when the line broke. Good fun, but no one complained when Phil suggested going to another spot for when we woke up in the morning.

Star Trek delivers! A bunch of lovely snapper - enough to make even the most demanding anglers happy!

 - Getting old?
I admit to being a bit tardy in rising the next morning. Going to bed after midnight didn't help, and nor did the comfortable berth, flat seas and earplugs. The sun hadn't quite risen yet, but I was probably the third up and fishing. So as Marty cooked us up the Mother of Breakfasts (spectacular mate!), big baits were again raining down behind the boat, and it was neat to see a small school of juvenile kingfish take up residence in our berley trail. (Even a visiting pod of large dolphin's couldn't dislodge them) And to prove a reasonable call had been made, Bryce managed to land a nice snapper of around 5 kg. (He might be blind, but he certainly gets his share of fish, with no quarter asked for and none given) However, despite a few other promising bites and runs, that was it, so time for another move.
 - Thank you "Spot X"!
We stopped at Phil's "Spot X". Fortunately this was on the way back, and although a sluggish tide meant things were a little slow initially, it still had that "feel" to it so we persevered. Occasional raiding parties of Barracouta proved a nuisance -  and a boon. A nuisance as they snapped off quite a bit of our tackle, but a boon because the landed ones were destined for transformation into big, gleaming, snapper baits. Marty was the first to taste snapper success, his thread line outfit overcoming the resistance offered by another 5.5 kg specimen. And when Phil followed this up with a similar sized fish, our interest intensified further - and I began to do pretty well shortly after. Even so the session may well have been even more productive if I'd already worked out how to effectively place the long, thin barracouta baits onto my double recurve hooked rigs. For example, the poorly positioned hooks almost certainly cost me the trip's biggest snapper. There was plenty of weight and I survived some powerful runs (This is the one we want guys!") and then, inexplicably, the usually reliable circle hook simply let go. Gutted. And although two or three reasonably weighty fish followed this disappointment (just the usual 4.5 - 5.5 kg specimens!) several others failed to hook up securely, despite holding onto the bait so firmly that line was ripping off my reel's hard-set drag. Upon winding in, the hooks proved so choked they couldn't possibly have gained any purchase. But finally I got things right, the VIP rod wrenching over and thankfully staying that way. The modest current helped the powerful fish put on a stubborn fight, and made me appreciate its final appearance on the surface even more. Silvery orange with a creamy white belly, the chunky fish weighed nearly 8 kg. Then, to prove it was no fluke, I caught an identical fish on the next cast. From a publicity point of view we now had enough fish- around a dozen snapper over 10 pounds - but the concept of leaving these large, hungry snapper in order to take photos of a cruising Star Trek was hard to get enthusiastic about. Fortunately I did manage to get in one more cast, and this resulted in yet another 5.5 kg red. What a fantastic session to finish with.

The night fishing also proved productive- until the wind shifted and the makos moved in! Marty puts pressure on yet another big red. A sight to gladden a snapper fisher's heart - a nice red, beaten and about to be netted.
 - The Operation.
As far as I'm concerned, the big stars of Bryce and Sue's operation are their boat and the area fished - both are very impressive. Star Trek is a handsome, strongly constructed vessel that's simply a pleasure to be aboard. Her "Pelin" Cape Brett  design provides a broad six-metre beam that makes her very stable - an ideal fishing platform - and there's plenty of living space on board too. Measuring 13.7 metres (45 feet), she's a decent sized craft, and with the 8V71 Detroit pushing her along, she has a cruising speed of around 9.5 knots - perfect for game fish trolling. (Besides, not everyone wants to blast around at a million miles an hour, especially as this often means paying hundreds of dollars more these days!) What I also really like is that she's a "proper" fishing boat. There are no fancy upholstered seats, luxurious wood panelling or shag pile carpet to worry about spilling drinks on or dragging blood and guts across; this boat is made to be lived on by people who enjoy life and the outdoors. Which is just as well as Star Trek specialises in overnights trips, regularly spending four or five days at the Great Barrier, Mercs or the Aldermans - all great fish - catching destinations. This means live aboard comfort is important, so there's a decent amount of seating for those who want to lounge around or snooze in the saloon, while upstairs in the flying bridge boasts good seating too - great for times like ours, when the sea's a millpond and there's so much to see. Below are various sized berths for up to eight anglers (sleeping bags are needed), and in addition to being pretty comfortable, they aren't as cramped as many I've slept in. She's also a nice boat to fish from, mainly because she has a wide and spacious cockpit. We had up to six anglers fishing at once with very few tangles, despite Bryce casting where his "gut" instinct told him to! (This guy is fearless - and so independent you often forget about his disability - until he blunders into you occasionally!). Although snapper trips are a real speciality, kingfish and hapuku are also real possibilities, while "dabbling" with game fish netted the boat eleven marlin last season along with a good number of decent yellowfin. For this reason the Hooton's have equipped the boat with a wide selection of gear, ranging from Shimano Baitrunner outfits through to 24 and 37 kg Penn International gamefishing tackle. So rest assured if you don't have reasonable or suitable gear yourself, there's plenty on board to use. And I must mention the compressor on board, as this boat is also ideal for diving expeditions (sorry we didn't get a chance to see your scallop diving capabilities, Simon!), with easy access provided by the walk through transom and handy duckboard. Nor would this article be complete with out alluding to the fishing available in the area once more. I've only fished around the Mercs and nearby islands a few times, but on every occasion I've been pleasantly surprised by the calibre of fishing offered. The average size of snapper is as good as I've found anywhere, and quite honestly I wish I was back there on Star Trek right now.

Marty didn't mind holding up the writers best fish, as he'd caught a couple over 9 kg the weekend before!

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