Techy Thursdays - Kaikoura's Blue Moki

By JP Samuelson 09/03/2015
 

A coastal species commonly ranging south from Auckland Islands to Stewart Island at the bottom of the South Island and East toward the Chatham Islands, where the water is cold and nutrient rich. Statistics according to Wikipedia has proven that these mature fish generally grow up to a length of 80 centimetres, though most do not exceed 63 centimetres but, in saying that, I have personally seen a very large adult specimen in Tairua while snorkelling.  Well over 80 centimetres swimming very close into shore, this fish eyeballed me for easily 2 minutes while swimming around minding my own business. I was left in awe, whilst eyeballing it back.  I'm sure he or she knew I was thinking, where is my fly rod now. When I looked up towards the beach, I noticed how close this fish was into shore feeding late afternoon, literally within casting distance from the beach.  Really one of moments I was like - bloody hell!!

Blue Moki have very selective feeding habits along with sharp eye sight, feeding primarily at night on invertebrates, small fish and crustaceans. This makes them highly susceptible to the fly, if presented as naturally as possible. Blue Moki is a species of trumpeter native to the south-western Pacific Ocean, closely related to the "Morwong" family. Juveniles inhabit inshore waters, preferring hanging around rocky reefs, while adults mostly occur in offshore waters forming schools over open featureless bottoms. The species have a few varieties in New Zealand waters namely; territorial Red and Copper Moki, living in and amongst the reef. These Copper and Red Moki have striped markings distinctively different to the Blue Moki, not to mention their names suggesting the major difference among common "Moki". 

These varieties are slightly more girthed with a mouth facing even more downward, including having rounded fins and which doesn't grow as large as the Blue Moki. 

I have seen plenty of Red Moki whilst snorkelling and have even heard of an angler catching one on fly - so there is another species for you to try your luck on. Red and Copper Moki's unique design and appearance would closely resemble them to their Australian cousin the "Blue Bastard" due to their mouth which faces down - which also suggests a similar, diverse feeding nature.  

So any of you Aussies anglers not scared of a bit of cold water, should accept a challenge and consider the South Island for your next salt-fly trip - this place has its own specialist species to conquer. High to outgoing tide is usually the best time to pursue Blue Moki along the shores and weather conditions depends on specific locations but for this feature the destination is, Kaikoura. Optimal weather conditions here, is when light northerlies and westerly's calm the seas (blowing offshore), creating prime land based conditions and spots to cast to for an array of cold water reef fish species, not just Blue Moki. The water-visibility along the shore can be easily effected by North Easterlies due to the sediment run off from glacial rivers into the sea - but not as bad as with a southerly push when it get totally discoloured. So avoid cold southerly conditions or a combo of strong easterlies - either from the South or North - or try find shelter on either side of the Peninsula. The Peninsula protruding out to sea often get clearer condition on the lee of whichever direction the flow of wind and swell comes from.

Kaikoura traditionally was a small whaling community, rich in marine life with a strong commercial fishing industry. Today, it boasts a thriving tourism industry that has probably some of the best scenic opportunities available, not to far south for visitors to enjoy and travel to. Two to three hours north from Christchurch or one and a half hours south from Picton in the Marlborough region. The scenery of the Kaikoura ranges is spectacular and the land most certainly mirrors that of what lies beneath out at sea. This is where the ocean drops off at a phenomenal one to one ratio on the southern end of the Peninsula. Be aware though, main hazards along the Kaikoura coast being; the extreme remoteness in which you can find yourself seriously vulnerable to hypothermia, un predictable seas with strong currents meaning wading can be treacherous or nearly impossible in accessible places when the tide starts running out. The Kaikoura trench bring with it the added risk of tsunami waves, especially due to the unstable geology as the Southern Alps divides the South island with two tectonic plates grinding parallel to each-other, stretching the island out at about roughly 10 centimetres annually. 

Big seas can trouble anglers as this part of the country is extremely exposed to big storm systems, also for the land based angler, seals pose a real risk while walking along the coast and not paying attention to your surrounds can quickly turn to a terrifying surprise - Lucky there are no salty's though right...The continental shelf reaches nearly a kilometre out from shore and dropping well beyond 1000 meter in depth, which in turn push with it, nutrient rich water up from darkest depths - creating a thriving chain of marine life. With strong underwater currents - making for a extremely diverse marine environment - full of marine mammals - fighting for survival in the cold conditions - this place will demand you to show a certain level of respect. As you should always do when it comes to any ocean. An increasing Barometer helps - as this tend to trigger instinctive feeding habits coinciding with good seasonal chances or favourable weather periods - creating desirable opportunities for fish to feed up, before the next bit of bad weather forces them, either out to sea or into hiding - in cave systems way from the coast.

Gear requirements should be kept light, no more than a six to eight weight rod would suffice, rigged with intermediate fly lines or sink-tip lines if casting off and over deep ledges - even for over the sand - its good to get your fly as deep as possible, almost crawling them at a slow pace along the bottom. I like bringing out my switch rod for when I'm casting over the sand - I get more distance and can effectively have my fly in the strike zone longer. Increasing my chances of hooking up to a good fish... As I mentioned before currents sweep along the beach which attract hungry predators hunting for their favourite prey - again using a sink tip helps.

Leaders should be no more that 10 pound at about 10 feet - attached to a small un weighted or lightly weighted fly - so the fly is just off the bottom while retrieving it. Examples of flies should imitate either hatching nymph types, crayfish, shrimp or palalo worm style flies, depending on whether you are fishing over sand or a slightly rocky bottom. For the sand I like using shrimp or worm patterns but over the slightly rocky bottom it doesn't matter. Weed guards are recommended - but not essential and staying in touch with your fly at all times is crucial as Blue Moki are seriously fussy.  

I've spend hours observing and studying their behaviours which proved them to be a shy day time feeder. Quick to spit the fly, sight casting to fish, truly is a very hard task...My success rate has not always been high with this particular species - but when you do get them to eat the fly and with all the conditions coming together - the rewards are most definitely worth the effort. Hooking other species make up for this challenging kind of success rate but again that's why we do it. Challenging our patience, skills and observation abilities to adapt to whatever conditions.

Here is a list of more land-based species available in this area I have personally laid eyes on, whilst snorkelling - a variety of Sharks and rays, Trevally  Bluecod, Redcod, Wrasse, Trumpeter, Kahawai, Mackeral, Barracouta, King Salmon, Searun Brown trout, Warehou, Flounder, Red Gurnard, Terikihi, Butterfish, Rockcod, Pigfish, Goatfish, Mullet, Stargazer, Grandaddy Hapuka, Sea perch, John Dory and Crayfish (yep).

NOW PERSONALLY, I HAVE NOT YET CAUGHT ALL THESE MENTIONED ABOVE PARTICULARLY ON FLY - ALTHOUGH MANY I HAVE CAUGHT ON FLY - BUT NOT ALL OF THEM. 

I AM ALSO NOT CLAIMING MY METHODS ARE ROCK SOLID OR THE ONLY WAY TO SUCCESFULLY CATCH BLUE MOKI - AS YOU ALL CAN APPRECIATE

THIS IS ONLY FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE AND TIME SPENT EXPLORING MY SURROUNDS THROUGH YEARS OF BEING AN OBSSESIVE COMPULSIVE, ADDICTED FLY ANGLER - WHO REALLY JUST LOVES GETTING OUT THERE AND SHARING WHAT I HAVE LEARNT.

THANKS FOR READING AND I HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT AND THAT IT MADE YOUR CASTING ARM TWITCH EVEN JUST A LITTLE - I WILL BE SHARING MORE OF MY EXPERIENCES WITH SOME OF THOSE SPECIES NAMED AT MORE SPECIFIC LOCATIONS - SO FEEL FREE TO CHECK US OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND SEND US ANY FEEDBACK OR TIPS ON YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES - SO WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM THIS STRANGE OBSESSION; THE SALT FLY LIFESTYLE. 

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