Risky Business – Handling dangerous catch from the kayak


One thing that can be rather difficult in the confines of a kayak is handling fish with sharp teeth and dangerous spines. We have to be extremely careful with fish like barracoutta, scarpie, and the various species of shark found around the New Zealand coastline. It is quite interesting that the species most commonly considered as by-catch are some of the more dangerous caught.

With the Maniyaks being based down in Wellington our most common by-catch is the barracoutta, spiny dogs and scarpies. We have ways of handling each species to minimise the risk of injuries from them. What you need to be aware of is not only sharp teeth, but also dangerous spikes and fish that can catch you by surprise by wriggling out of your grip, unsettling your balance from a fright and ending with you in the drink.

Sitting in a kayak and trying to remove a hook from some fish can be a pretty scary experience but done right it can usually be done safely and efficiently.

Scarpies and similar fish are one of the easier fish to handle on the kayak. They are reasonably calm to handle and the one danger with these usually deep-water fish is their spikes that are adorned over their bodies. When you have these little guys up to the surface they are easily lifted out against the side of the kayak. Using your hand place your thumb inside their mouth on the bottom lip and hold them while removing the hook. They can then be dropped back in the water to swim off back to the depths. While you will feel the scarpies small teeth on your fingers they are not sharp enough to break skin.

Barracoutta are one of the more dangerous fish to have up beside the kayak. They have very sharp teeth and are very fast and unpredictable. Care must be taken when doing anything with these fish. While most will usually bite through the line and steal your hook before getting them to the kayak you will eventually find yourself in the situation of dealing with them at some point. Let the fish run and play it longer than usual, tiring it out as much as possible. Bring it along the side of the kayak and grab them just behind the head firmly. The only dangerous part is the teeth so as long as your hold is good they will be unable to bite you. De-hook and face them away from you before releasing your grip on them.

Spiny dogfish (sharks) not only have sharp teeth on them but also two very dangerous spines along the top of them. One by their dorsal fin and the other further down the body by their second dorsal fin. They use these in defence whipping their tail round and can easily inflict a nasty wound, made worse by a small amount of poison that is left in the wound. They can be handled by holding them by their nose, turning them upside down and removing the hook. You will find they try to whip their tale and squirm round a bit before getting them upside down but just ensure they cant whip their tail round to you.

Whatever fish you catch, if you are unsure about handling them safely then don’t. It is better that you stay safe and in the kayak than injured and possibly in the water. If this is the case cut the line as close as you can to the hook. A new hook and a retie of your rig is much cheaper than your safety.

Make sure you have a goo­d rag or old towel to use when handling fish and a good pair of pliers you can use instead of getting your fingers close to the sharp sets of teeth that you will come across on your adventures. There are other items that can help you such as lip grippers and de-hooking tools.

Just remember that these fish are an important part of our waters and should be treated with care and respect. There is no point in using them to take your frustrations out on by slicing them or bashing them up just to get a hook back then sending back to the water injured or dead.

The Viking Maniyaks are Wellington based duo, Shane Kelly and Bam Blaikie. Keep an eye peeled for more of their tips, tricks and competitions wins right here in NZ Fisher and on their new website, www.maniyaks.com

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