Winner’s Trip to the Wild South

If there’s one place where kiwi fishermen, divers and hunters would rather be at all times, it’s Fiordland. Untouched and unspoilt, it’s still home to true wild country and true beauty.

Some happy plumbers on board M/V Tutoko II

So, with the borders closed and the usual destination (Niue) off limits, Rheem and Plumbing World rightly decided to send the winners of their summer promotion to the deep south for a week of diving, fishing and hunting.

On January 31, these five lucky winners, along with the four extras who took their opportunity to tag along, assembled in Queenstown. Among the extras was long-time Rheem sales rep Wayne Richards, who shared the hosting duties with Plumbing World manager Richard Robinson.

“There was a really good mix of guys and ages. I wasn’t the oldest thank god,” Wayne quips. “From QT, we travelled by bus to Te Anau, stayed at the local hotel, and the next morning went to Te Anau Helicopters,” he continues.

An ex-ferry boat called Tutoko was waiting for them at the edge of the Dusky Sounds, where they were greeted by skipper David, deckie Caleb and, of course, everyone’s favourite person, the private chef.

With the gear unloaded from the chopper and the bunks claimed, it was off to their anchorage for the next three days – a place called Supper Cove. Once everyone was settled, the daily routine could begin, which, as expected, involved interchanging diving, fishing, eating and relaxing.

Crayfish – the likes of which only be found in Fiordland

“Out of the nine guys, five of them were divers. Every day the divers did two trips and would go out and get crayfish. Three of the divers said they’d never seen crayfish like it.”

“We’d also fish two to three times a day, and caught plenty of blue cod. Then we’d finish up around three thirty in the afternoon.”

Food, of course, came next, which always started with a cheeseboard.

“A lot of what we caught we’d eat that evening. The meals on board were six star – what the chef did with our catch was incredible.”

On another day, three guys went ashore early in the morning for a hunt. Unfortunately, they didn’t get anything, but there was still more than enough seafood to keep everyone entertained and full.

It was on day four, however, that the guys stepped up the fishing and headed away from Supper Cove towards deeper waters. As expected, the deep south provided and they ended up landing three 20kg groper – but there was no shortage of drama getting them onboard.

The drama started when one of the winners, Mark Galbraith, hooked a fish in 185m of water while fishing right next to two of the other guys.

“He lost it, but then quickly hooked another,” Wayne recounts. “He didn’t have an electric reel so he was winding it up but then all of a sudden the line broke. Having lost two fish, he was absolutely livid, and we thought that’s the end of that. But lo and behold the guy next to him got a little bit of a snag as he was winding in, and turns out he’d hooked Mark’s broken line on the way up and he wound it in with the groper still on it. So we tied Mark’s line back onto his reel and he ended up landing the 20kg groper!”

Wayne Richards from Rheem very proudly holding up someone else’s catch!

You’d think that’s crazy enough, but the story was far from over. Groper, or hapuku, have swim bladders which often inflate as they are pulled up from the bottom – and this was exactly what happened to Mark’s original lost groper. Just after they landed Mark’s second fish, his first one popped up two metres from the boat.

“If I was telling someone they wouldn’t believe it, but it’s a true story. That night the chef cooked one of the whole gropers on the BBQ, and it was amazing.”

They spent the next day travelling six hours out into the sea, through the Foveaux Straight, and into Doubtful Sound. There they disembarked Tutoko and took the bus to Lake Manapouri. One ferry and bus trip later, they were finally back at Queenstown after an unbelievable week. The catch was divvied up, and each of the team went their separate ways. Needless to say, no one was complaining about the Niue trip being replaced with a journey to the deep south!