Kite Fishing in New Zealand

Roy liked kite fishing.

His brother Brian liked it too, and they took to heading for the beach as often as they could because there's not a lot of other things to do when you're old and waiting. The work is done, but not the time.

They both came to it late in life. Roy was a farmer and his brother an ex Navy man who'd been places. Done things. Arrived home happy to find his place again after the War because the War had left scars on them all. Invisible scars, but real nonetheless as many others in the family could attest.

Kite fishing is a modern affair because the equipment hadn't been invented until the late 1990s; before that dedicated rodsmen would stand waist deep in surging waves and watch the shining curl for fish. With the kite it was a little trickier, but it became possible to take the line out past the breakers along with several baited hooks.

The kite itself is less than 2 meters wide, a small triangular affair in most cases, with the standard crosspiece and a nylon string stretching a good hundred meters down to a plastic milk bottle that acts as a 'man' as long as the correct amount of water is left in it to match the wind conditions of the day. When the kite is in the air it attempts to lift the container but when it cannot the kite flies as if tethered.

Back on the beach is a large spool of line that runs out to the tethering container and a special length of nylon line fitted with small divits every two meters. This section of line is fed out shortly after the milk bottle and as it goes small snoods with hooks are clipped on between the divots and allowed to hand otherwise free in the water. Each snood is short enough so as not to tangle with the adjacent ones and each has a baited hook.

Normally there are twenty or so of these snoods and they are allowed to travel out to sea with the kite as it slowly drags the entire arrangement downwind and over the surf. Eventually the kite can be as much as three kilometres offshore with the main line still attached to the winding mechanism on land.

Most kite fishermen use an electric winch to pull the line back in after at least twenty minutes out there, and when it does return it commonly has luckless fish hooked on at least a few snoods. Of course the preferred fish is snapper, but on a beach there are many other less attractive victims that can be found such as dog sharks or rays.

The Far North of New Zealand is an ideal location for kite fishing as it has a narrow peninsula jutting into the ocean and weather that usually provides offshore winds on one coast or the other. In less definite conditions it can be tricky because a 'street' of cloud can form above the land and on-shore winds on both coasts.

Even worse are the great sets of seaweed that occasionally get caught in the tide change. These are a major problem because they create a weight greater than the winch can handle and the line may snap, leaving the kite and its water bottle free to sail offshore completely unattached to anything else.

Handling those light conditions is an art form that Roy and Brian had largely mastered. Even winds at a tight angle to the beach weren't impossible because the kite could be provided with several degrees of bias by the simple expedient of clipping a tiny sinker to the upwind arm.

For the brothers the best beaches were Ninety Mile and East Beach, and sometimes Rarawa. Very occasionally they would borrow the gate key for Bill's Mount property and have a try at the Kowhai Beach with a Norwester that made almost all the other beaches unuseable.

Other fishermen on other beaches throughout Northland no doubt had their own preferred spots and had likewise developed a respect for the beach and its tides, knowing when it was time to get well above high tide and away from treacherous surges.