In the early hours of a crisp pre-winter morning, Off-Site big cheese Ethan Neville and myself found ourselves wandering through the Auckland CBD, a spring in our step and full of confidence. But we weren’t there for a beer or kebab or any late-night escapades for that matter; we were there to go for a fish with local charter legends Hauraki Express.

We’d heard only good things about Hauraki Express and the operation they run. Ethan and I were also coming off a bad run of fishing outings, and as a result had been deprived of self-respect and mojo – so this was the perfect cure! We were joined by Paul Rountree and Steve Turner, with skipper Nick Jones at the helm. 

After a few g’days and a safety briefing, Captain Nick gave us a comprehensive overview of the game plan ahead: “We’ll start with some snaps, and finish with some kingies.” No complaints were heard, and the hammer was put down.

As we took off to find some mid-gulf workups, Midnight Express – an Extreme 985 Game King – made light work of the slight chop we’d been met by, making for a comfortable and relaxed crew. Captain Nick was good for some chit chat on the way out also. No ‘skipper’s secrets’ were withheld, and instead he was keen to share some local knowledge of the surrounding fishery.

Before we knew it, we had rendezvoused with some gannets and dolphins. Nick dished out some Daiwa slow jigging outfits, and it was apparent that the boys were most definitely ‘on’. We fished the tail end of the work up using kabura and inchiku-style lures. After dropping our lures to the seafloor and retrieving them upwards, everyone started bringing in snapper of above average size, and in reasonable succession. Most snapper were hooked in the bottom third of the water column, with a handful taking our lures on the drop. The mood lifted as we realised the trip no longer ran the risk of failure. Very quickly, however, the bite disappeared. Our lines were brought up, and before we knew it, we had found ourselves at a new spot enjoying another hot snapper bite. A smooth operation indeed!

After some sandwiches and chippies, we got on with targeting kingfish. Hauraki Express have a good reputation for their consistency in the kingie-catching department, and this reputation was certainly upheld. Captain Nick found some positive kingfish sign, and then took his time positioning the boat to ensure we’d drift across it. “Drop now, three colours,” were his orders, and we did exactly that, sending our live baits 30 metres down where Nick had seen the sign. And as if it was scheduled, multiple hook ups ensued. Everyone caught a kingie in this short and sharp session (except for Ethan – he didn’t catch one despite his best efforts), with the average fish size sitting at about 90cm.

It was smiles all round as we pinned it home. The Hauraki Express service had ticked all the boxes fishing wise, and more importantly, it did so in an efficient, safe and enjoyable manner. By 4pm, we were back at Westhaven where our catches were processed by the Kai Ika Project. It was like clockwork. After a few ‘hoorays’, we dispersed in different directions to enjoy our evenings, fresh fillets in hand.


Article by: Josh Rudd