There it was, that small weather window at the right time of the year in the right spot – and not only that, by some amazing twist of fate it was on a Saturday!

So the call was made to Seth, one of my best mates, but given that we are a couple of blokes with careers, kids and lives, getting time away on the right day with the right conditions was less likely than winning lotto. I was stoked that he could be there!

Jimmy Corric
Jimmy Corric with his 18-pound kelpie snapper.

We have been diving together for 10 years, which has included many hours of discussion about locations, weather, time of year, tactics and strategies, so it was really exciting to see the sorts of ideal conditions we had talked about line up – on a Saturday!

Plans were made for a 5:30am departure for Great Barrier Island and an early morning snapper snoop. We were not targeting a feed, we were after big fish! Tactics were discussed, gear was prepared and the final weather checks were made the night before. 4:30am came around, the alarm went off and we were out of bed. It was ‘game on’! During the 45-minute trip to the ramp, plans were made, the wind was analysed and sheltered spots were located. The boat was in the water on schedule and we were off.

On the way over to the island the weather was slightly better than anticipated, so the call was made to go to the seaward side of Barrier. I had a spot where I had spooked a big fish a few years before. It had always haunted me and I needed to go back there to exorcise that 20-pound demon. I knew it was good country and that there were good fish there.

Once we got to the spot we suited up and jumped in. Everything was falling into place: good territory, good sea conditions and right time of year, but there’s nothing like a mid-winter dive to make you appreciate your 7mm wet suit! Mine kept me warm and toasty.

As I was snooping along, I just had the feeling the country was good. The sun was just right, in fact everything was right – all that was missing was a 20-pounder. I swam up to a weedy rock in about 10 metres of water. It came up to three or four metres and then dropped away. I dived down to six or seven metres from the edge, got in low in the kelp and very quietly snuck over the edge… There were three or four good 40-50cm long fish, and just as I lifted my gaze, there he was, the biggest fish by a long shot swimming straight to me!

The big snap was on the edge of visibility but swimming in at my depth, straight at me and straight at my eye level. I kept still, with my gun ready and waited for what seemed an eternity until he got close. Finally within range, he gently glided to one side, giving me a perfect side-on shot, so I shot and stoned him –not even a flick of the fin!

Boat float
The boat-float with a brace of Barrier snapper speared on the seaward side of Great Barrier.

I gently pulled him in so as not to disturb the area any more than necessary and it was not until I got him in my hands that I knew he was a good fish. Not 20-pounds but close enough to make you wonder.

I stuffed him in my boat-float and continued. In the half-hour or so I saw a heap of 40-50cm fish but nothing worth pulling the trigger on. Given the good territory, I thought I’d use some berley, so I dropped my gun and started building a small mountain of kina. As I was dropping a few more onto my berley stack, suddenly out of nowhere I felt myself being pulled backwards! As I spun around I was expecting to see some sea monster dragging me back down into the depths, but instead it was Seth excitedly waving a big snapper at me, spear still in it. I could see his smile in the water!
It turns out his sinuses were playing up so he had opted to gently work the shallows. He saw his fish drop into the kelp as he snooped off a rock at the same time as another good fish was swimming away. A quick breathe-up and a dive off the rock and he shot him where he hid.

Once I realised I was not going to be eaten by some monster of the deep, we surfaced and had a look at Seth’s fish. It was definitely over 20 pounds, dark in colour with a big lump on his nose. He was a cracker of a fish!

As we swam back to the boat I casually mentioned I had shot one too, but it was not as big. Once Seth’s fish was on board and we had revelled in its size, we pulled in the boatfloat and pulled mine out. It was at this point we established that we had both shot good fish. A quick weigh revealed my fish was 18-pounds and Seth’s 22 pounds. That gave us a 20-pound average – not a bad day’s work I reckon!

We had spent just one hour in the water, but given we had achieved our goals already, we had quick feed to recharge the batteries and headed home. It was a snapper snoop to remember.