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Monsters Of The Deep

By Andy Macleod

Author of Fishing The Remote Coast

Throughout history mariners have told tales of the monsters of the deep, typically giant sea serpents. More recently a NZ research vessel dredged up a giant squid near Antarctica. Weighing almost 500kg and measuring over 4m in length it sure lived up to its name. Fishermen too tell tales of giant fish they’ve sighted or perhaps even hooked – the old story of “the one that got away”. And Wellington anglers are no different, in fact some would say they’re the biggest bulldust artists of the lot. Nevertheless, I can tell you this story with a straight face.

There is some substance to the theory that an unknown monster (or monsters) of the deep lurks in Wellington waters, and not out in the middle of Cook Strait as you might expect, but within casting range of the sandy shores of Palliser Bay. Yes indeed, in the western corner of the bay the mountains meet the sea and the massive depths of the Cook Strait canyon reach close to shore. It is here that, on a regular basis, surf rods double over and disappear out to sea. It has even happened to our very own Skipper Steve – ask him about it in the shop one time.

My first (and only) such encounter occurred at 3am on a cold autumn night. The fishing had been fair, with the odd spotty shark wrenching my rods over. The action kept my blood flowing and my eyelids open. I glanced periodically at my two rods sitting proudly in their rod stands, glowing brightly with reflective tape in the light of my headlamp. Wrapping my hands around a hot mug of thermos tea I settled back into my deckchair. I glanced around at my rods again, but this time one was missing! How could this be?

I rushed over to my rod spike which had bent over to 45 degrees and the only sign of my rod was a neat trail in the sand that led down to the waters’ edge and into the ink blank sea before me. That $500 surf set was history. Believable?! You bet, would I tell a lie? And I know of a few other tales of disappearing rods from this particular spot. Another angler was more fortunate, being on hand as his rod doubled over and he was “spooled” in short order as a giant fish took off at a great rate of knots. Sure he lost all his line, but at least he didn’t have to shell out for a new rod and reel like I did.

So what are these monsters of the deep that lurk along the western shores of Palliser Bay? Well they sure aren’t any of the usual shark species that get caught there – tope sharks, sevengillers or spotty sharks – these grow big and strong but experience tells us we can handle them. The story goes that one surfcaster landed a rare butterfly tuna from this area a couple of years ago – it weighed in at about 50kg. That would be one hell of a fish to hook on a surfcaster, but it seems an unlikely explanation! In the old days surfcasters and handline anglers used to catch very big hapuku from the same area, but would they be capable of such power and speed?

I guess it will take somebody to finally catch one of these mystery fish for us to know for sure. This part of Palliser Bay does throw up the occasional odd ball deepwater fish for surfcasters, and so the possibilities are almost endless. But my pick is a large shark of some kind, perhaps a bronzewhaler, a known inshore shark species that feeds on the bottom and is capable of great speed. Deploying a big juicy bait in this area, perhaps floating it out by balloon, could be very exciting. Just make sure you have gear that’s up to the job (Steve and Felix will sort you out) and hang on!