Hi, dear reader, and welcome to the next episode of the irregular New Zealand news! This time I don’t have any fresh fish – ehmm, I mean experience – but I can reach the archives to get some :) So let’s do it!

What? You and fishing?

Yep. “One shall try everything eventually, right?” – thing a voice in my head was saying when I was replying to an email from my colleague, which was an invite to a fishing competition at Coromandel peninsula mussel farms. I had no rod, bait or hooks, and I didn’t even have a car at that time. However, my colleagues promised me that they’ll arrange everything for me and that I can share a ride with them.

So one Friday evening we met with one of my colleagues at the Gallagher carpark. I had nothing with me but sleeping bag, some snacks and warm clothes. Had I known what type of event am I going to, I would get also at least two packs of beer…so next time. On our way there we visited a little town of Thames to fill our ice boxes with ice – just so we can put all the caught fish somewhere. I still had doubts we’re going to actually catch something…

The way from Hamilton to Coromandel
A view from a lookout at Coromandel peninsula

Camping in paradise

And so it happened that the same evening we happily arrived to the camp, where another 15 or so colleagues, a dinner (fish and chips, what else) and a fridge fully loaded with beer were waiting for us. I knew noone there, but soon we found common topics to talk about :) In the end, it was a typical company teambuilding event…

The camp was found at the very end of Coromandel village at the north end of equally-named peninsula. There was no phone signal – it lied the very end of the world. There were only caravans, fish and chips stands and a beautiful nature.

Our huts, our cars…
A view of the camp – it was loaded with caravans. They had a nice showers there though!
And also a very beautiful bay :)
Priceless view…

Mussel farms

On Saturday we woke up at 4AM – we had to get to our boats till 6AM. We rented two little barges, which were to get us to a good place for fishing. There were no waves – we were fishing in a bay. The weather looked awful on the first sight – it was cold and raining. But it was actually good for fishing! So we jumped to our cars and drove to the boats, and boarded together with rods, bait and ice boxes.

Our boat was called Maata. Everyone was pretty sleepy in the morning…

We left the harbour at dawn and we headed straight to the mussel farms. That’s where people grow mussels on a large area. These mussels grow on ropes that are kept straight thanks to floats. The mussels feed on everpresent plankton and grow for 18-24 months, until they’re collected. It is a multi-million-dollar business. Fried mussels are obviously a delicious thing here. You can eat them with chips (what else). It’s not much healthy, but it’s very tasty.

A view of the mussel farm from our barge

Fishing competition

My colleague quickly explained me how the rod works. It’s not difficult at all, and because we were on boat, we didn’t have to throw the hook with bait anywhere…we just had to drop it down and wait. There was a company-wide fishing competition – the one who gets the biggest snapper wins. The Australian snapper is one of the many kinds of fishes you can commonly find in the seas here. It is a predator and it can grow even slightly over one meter. It’s also pretty common and very tasty, which makes it ideal for both commercial and hobby fishing.

Snapper (Pagrus auratus)

It took like 5 minutes to get the first fish. However, when we got it, the whole “crew” sighed. “Well, we have a winner here. We can go back home now…”, one of colleagues said. And he was right. The snapper had 5.9 kg and nobody managed to catch a bigger one for the rest of the day.

So it began – take a frozen squid, put it on the hook, drop it down and wait for the tackle. The tackles were coming usually very soon, but it was just sneaky snappers having a breakfast. Everyone around me started pulling snapper after snapper, but I had still nothing. Suddenly, I felt a stronger tackle and then a pull…I got a fish! I started pulling her slowly to prevent fishing line from breaking. And after a few minutes of pretty unfair battle it was mine. However, I was surprised that crew members didn’t put the fish to the freezer together with all other fish. Instead they put it to a bucket full of water to let her bleed out.

I asked why they did it and they explained me that it’s a nice catch, but that it’s not a snapper. And that it’s called kahawai or also Australian salmon. Alright, so what? Is it a fish? Is it MY fish? Yes, it is! I was so happy. Do you know how great feeling it is to catch a fish? I can’t describe that. “Next time I’ll get a nice snapper”, I was telling to myself while dropping another bait.

A few baits later I again got to fight a fish…and I got it again! But my colleague dropped another bomb: “Hehe, this is also not a snapper. This is a trevally.” Ondřej! Why do you always need to have something extra?!?? Lunchtime was getting closer and I was starting to realize and accept that I’m not going to get a single snapper. But a third tackle came and I got another fish – the SMALLEST snapper on the whole planet. It was barely legal, so we kept it, but it did not secure me a win.

Fishing is fun and easy! Trevally on the left, kahawai on the right.

Eat what you catch!

We then spent all afternoon doing a very “pleasant” but necessary job – filleting the fish. Everyone had a role – one was cutting fins, one was filleting, one was washing and packing the fillets…my job was to carry the fish from ice boxes to the “filleting line”. Then I went to have a very necessary shower (the fish smell so…fishy!) and after that I joined my other colleagues at the barbecue…

On Sunday morning we just packed our stuffs and left for Hamilton. On the way there we stopped for a nice breakfast. I had three bags of fish fillets in the ice box. I have to admit that fishing was always in my mind the most boring activity one can do…but this trip changed my view. If I’m ever going to have the opportunity again, I’ll definitely go again :)

When I got home, I throw the smelly fishy clothes to washing machine and the fish fillets to the freezer…but not all. Kahawai went straight to the oven, together with lemon, garlic, salt and olive oil. The result was better than expected. The feeling of catching a fish by myself and then cooking it and eating it…what a feeling!

Kahawai baked in alu foil with garlic and lemon – delicious!

And what about your leg?

The leg is getting better and better! On the last check they took my cast and stitches off, and gave me so-called “moon boot”, which keeps my calf tight. I can take it off for night, which is a plus. I am walking around with walking frame, but I don’t need it for most of the day anymore – my doctor told me that I can (and shall) start putting some weight on the leg. And I was able to go to work this week! My colleagues prepared a room for me downstairs, so I don’t have to climb the stairs to our office. I can also park my car straight in front of the building, which helps a ton. They did everything they could to help me get back to work, and I am so grateful and thankful for that.

Last week they even went on and visited me at home. It was about lunch time, when I heard knocking on the door. When I opened, I saw all my office (14 people) coming in, carrying pizza boxes. They came to my house to organize a surprise pizza party! What an awesome team I have!

Tomorrow I have another hospital visit and on Thursday I’m going to orthotics house to get a special in-shoe thingy that I shall use instead of the moon boot. It shall increase my mobility even more. I’m getting back to normal life – I can drive (I have automatic, so no need for left leg), I can go to work, I can do shopping, … I can do most of the things now. I still can’t climb stairs properly, but that’s going to change soon.

And the best thing is that the doctors have plans with me! Last time I saw them they told me that when everything heals properly, I will get another surgery – a “tendon” transfer – which will eventually allow me to walk normally again. Maybe even run? Who knows. And that’s going to happen in a few months. So I certainly have something to anticipate.

Thank you for reading the article! I still have a few stories to tell, and I’ll be sure to share them soon :) So see you next time!