Solo angler’s six-hour battle to reel in 288kg swordfish near Whakatāne

An angler who has been deep-sea fishing for decades landed “the fish of a lifetime” after a six-hour battle on the water near Whakatāne last weekend.

Andrew Hope was alone on his 7.2m boat Hope Hopes when he hooked a 288kg swordfish near Whakaari / White Island on May 16.

With no chair on the boat, he spent more than six hours on his feet trying to pull the fish in.

“You’re really excited that you’ve actually hooked a fish, that’s fantastic. But then you realise [you’ve] got to get this fish to the boat. You really don’t have an idea of the size of it until you get a lot closer. You are full of adrenaline.”

He described his catch as “a fish of a lifetime” and the largest swordfish of the 12 he’d caught.

The experience was physically and mentally draining, he said. At one point, Hope had the fish within 50-60 metres, but it ripped away to about 300m, swimming downwards.

“With a marlin, they generally stay on top and you can drive up to then, and get that line back. But these fish play usually very deep and so it took me several hours to get that line back.

“I finally had it back and thought it was under control and that very shortly I’d have this fish beside the boat and then it took off another 100m. They do that several times.”

Hope used 37kg tackle on a Shimano Ultegra 80W reel with a stand-up harness.

He felt elated when he finally had the fish at the boat, but it began to thrash around and its bill hit Hope in the head as he struggled to get a rope around its roughly 1.2m wide tail.

“I felt the fight wasn’t over until I had a tail rope on it. I was feeling quite anxious and concerned that it could be attacked by a shark beside the boat.”

Unable to lift it onto the vessel alone, he tied it to the side, killed it and began what would be a slow three-hour journey back to shore.

A crane was used to lift the fish from the water to the weigh station before Hope took it home to fillet and share with friends and family.

Hope got the itch for fishing from his parents and grandparents, who would often take him on fishing trips around Whakatāne and Tauranga.

He said he has tagged and released the majority of the billfish he has caught, including two over the last couple of months.

“Some fish come up and they are not going to survive being tagged, they are just too exhausted, which was the case for this fish.”

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