“No one finds the fish like Furuno” – An interview with Nathan Adams
When Nathan Adams says he is keen for a yak on the phone you don’t turn the opportunity down. With thirty years commercial fishing under his belt and an enviable sport fishing career that includes all tackle world records and Nationals wins he clearly has an uncanny recipe for finding, hooking and landing fish.
Nathan admits he has tried to fly under the radar and not let too many secrets out over the years, especially when his livelihood has come from the ocean. I wondered how forthcoming he might be. But 1 hour and 41 minutes into our phone discussion he was still regaling tall tales of big fish that had me captivated. It is clear that Nathan simply loves finding and catching big fish, and he can spin a great yarn.
Like many Kiwi fishos Nathan is a mutli tasker, earning his income across a few different industries. In the recreational industry he is most notably the man behind the very successful line of New Zealand trolling lures RED GILL CUSTOM LURES. “We don’t make as many lures as some other brands” says Nathan “but that is down to supply. I make them all myself, and I literally can’t keep up. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to making them, my reputation depends on them and I cringe at the thought of having them produced overseas.”
The lures certainly seem to account for more than their fair share of notable NZ captures. This season NZ’s first weighed Striped marlin 142.4kg was caught out of the Manukau on 26th December on a Red Gill, then the first Blue Marlin (203kg) was caught on a Red Gill out of the Bay of Islands on 28 December, a couple of rare West Coast Blue Marlin including a 234.1kg on the boat Tackle Box were caught on Red Gill lures, plus many competition wins for anglers chasing striped marlin and tuna. “I was stoked to see literally hundreds of striped marlin caught on our lures this year over what was a cracker NZ season.” says Nathan
The downside of lure making Nathan says is less fishing time for himself in summer. “During the game season I’m up at 6am pumping out the lures, often I won’t finish until 2am in the morning.” But when Nathan does get a break from lure making and hits the water, you can be sure he will be running a pattern of Red Gill Lures and making the most of it. When you’re hot you’re hot and Nathan’s most successful stretch of fishing around the 2012 Nationals saw Nathan and his team account for 10 stripies to 144kg , a 358kg black marlin, a swordfish and a world record 335.4kg bluefin tuna, all caught over a 12 day period. Quite a couple of weeks.
The bluefin capture out of 40m of water, Nathan says was one he will never forget. “I’ve never heard a reel howl like that, ever. We were targeting a Black Marlin and assumed that was what we were hooked up to, especially when it died after 20 minutes and sank to the bottom in 65mtrs of water. I winched the tail wraped fish up and when it came into view the boys called it for a marlin but when I looked over the side of the boat, I could see the little yellow fins between the sickles and the tail, and said “It’s a Tuna”. We were all utterly amazed though when a giant Bluefin Tuna came to the surface. The word got out and by the time we had towed the fish in to Houhora, there must have been well over 100 people at the weigh in. We were really lucky to have Guy Jacobsen , John Batterton and weigh master Lisa Lilly there to guide us through all the paperwork required to claim an IGFA 37kg & All tackle world record. That has since been beaten but we still hold the world record in the 37kg line class.”
At 18 years of age his 6m tinny ‘Western Break’ now has 25,000 hours on the clock – a testament to original builders BlueWater. Two bits of kit that have remained consistent over that time are Honda and Furuno. “I’ve done over 5000 hours on most of my Hondas, the economy is second to none, they are super reliable and they never miss a beat”
When it comes to electronics Nathan is Furuno through and through. “Furuno make the best fish finding equipment…hands down. Go on any commerial boat and it is generally Furuno. Furuno fish finders have the best display. Furuno’s display has far more definition, making it much easier to see exactly what the transducer is reading and if you know what you are reading then you can’t help but turn that into fish. I love my trusty Furuno FCV585, but prior to that I had a FCV582 600w with a 1kw 50Khz transducer running through a Matching box. It could read clearly in 500 meters and pick up the bottom in 800m. When Furuno brought out the 585, I immediately upgraded and ran the unit through a 1kw duel frequency 50/200 IT transducer which is hard wired into a Matching box, and now I can read the bottom down to 1200m and fish down to 700m. I also do a bit of sword fishing on a mates boat who has a Furuno FCV295 and that is an even better unit. Ideally I’d have a FCV295 in my boat, but I have made do and learnt to make the FCV585 do things it is not supposed to do.”
With his 1kw duel frequency transducer he says he can read to 500m on 200khz and has read as deep as 1250m on 50khz. “Your average person is not going to get that sort of performance out of the box, but learning to tweak the settings especially the gain offset is the key”
(with the FCV-588 being Furuno’s latest rendition of Nathans trusty FCV-585, and the DFF3 for use with TZT2 for deep water performance equivalent to FCV-295)
Fishing in duel frequency Nathan says het gets “the best of both worlds. Using the narrow beam on high frequency I can pinpoint the exact edges of the reef and pinpoint small pinnacles in deep water. And with the 50khz I get the wide beam to display and find where the fish are holding. ”
Nathan says he couldn’t have got the results he has got daytime dropping for swords without his trusty Furuno. Daytime dropping for swords is a relatively new technique here in New Zealand. But six years ago there were only a handful of boats doing it and doing it well and one of those boats was the Western Break. “We were lucky to have got into it early at the Garden Patch, when often baits would literally be in the zone 30 seconds before they were eaten” says Nathan "Some of those sessions we were only landing 1 or 2 fish from 10 bites, we were pulling hooks on a lot of them, but we’ve got a lot better with our technique.”
He has mastered his technique over the years and is not far off accounting for his 100th Daytime sword (all caught with Furuno FCV585 or FCV295 sounders) and last month while prospecting new grounds, caught six fish over 4 days fishing, five over 180kg and the biggest going 266kg, from six bites.
Nathan’s passion for fishing led him into 26 years of commercial fishing. “Originally that was longlining for Snapper in the Hauraki Gulf but back then a lot of the fish were small and the fishery wasn’t as healthy as it is now. That led me to fish out west and we were catching prime export quality snapper in those days on rod and reel and getting good money, like $12 a kilo back to the boat for whole snapper. Originally the price was good, but then the Japanese economy faultered and Snapper prices dropped dramatically. On my last trip I only got 20 cents a kilo back to the boat after the quota lease was deducted and that makes you seriously question things.”
Despite being anti-gillnetting at the time, when a mate suggested he turn his attention to netting rig/spotted dogfish he gave it a go. “I like to try and do things differently to everyone else, and instead of fishing in the Kaipara harbour, I used my West Coast beach fishing experience and fished outside the bar and along the beaches. The results were pretty mindblowing. In a year I caught 30 tonne of rig, about 5 ton of Gurnard & Trevally ( also a target species) and only a few hundred kilos of non target species like Kahawhai and Snapper. It certainly opened my eyes up to how selective gill netting can be if done properly. That niche all fell by the wayside when a few lobby groups put a lot of effort into shutting us down on the West Coast, arguing we were endangering the Hectors Dolphins. Despite having these dolphins around the gear on regular occasions we had never caught one in the net and I don’t believe we ever would have in the future either, due to the low profile of my nets which were designed to selectively catch sand shark and Gurnard. There were also some new electronic pinger devices available which had been proven to stop Hectors Dolphins becoming tangled in set nets in the South Island where they did have a problem. During the ensuing Government consultation process it became clear that most of the conservation lobby groups involved were more interested in banning as much fishing as possible than finding ongoing solutions to what was “in the North Island” only a perceived problem. The result was a set net ban that cost me 80% of my buisness’s turnover. To keep paying the mortgage and putting food on the table I turned my attention to chasing Hapuka, Bass and Bluenose, and have made a big part of my living fishing for them with droppers and on rod and reel since then, and this is a fishery which requires a good fish finder and the ability to interpret what is being displayed on the screen.”
Nathan says his days commercial fishing days might be numbered “it is hard on the body, I’m getting older and to be honest my heart is not in it anymore. I’m more interested in the rec industry. I think recreational fishing industry is where it is at for me going forward. I’d like to see my lure business grow and maybe do some chartering or guiding. One of the things I have to nail down is how to keep up with demand for my Lures and other game fishing tackle, while still keeping the integrity of the product.” Nathan says a new boat is on the cards “I’m not sure what sort of hull but you can be sure I will be running Honda outboards and it will have a Furuno sounder.”
Originally based in Muriwai beach, Nathan is now based in Mangawhai. Not only has he come home to be closer to family, it is an ideal fishing location he says – within a 3 hour range he has most of the Far North Island hot spots east or west at his finger tips. “It’s only 1 hour to Tute’s, I can shoot over to the Kaipara or pretty quickly to Hoki or the Far North.
With so many epic catches and stories already amassed, I asked Nathan what he had left to tick off. “I’d really like to catch a 1000 pound Blue or Black Marlin in NZ. I like catching big fish, and to me a grander Blue is something I really have my heart set on. I’ve played one at Waihau but we pulled the hook and it earned its freedom. I have also wired a 975lb Blue for a mate at Waihau. I think there are more grander fish here in New Zealand than a lot of people think, Its just that most boats and crews out there these days don’t have the experience or aren’t using gear capable of landing a Grander. Im also planning to have a crack at some Sword Fish records too."
I’m sure it is something Nathan will tick of the list and I hope New Zealand gets to hear a lot more of Nathan’s yarns in years to come.
NOTE: If you would like to see Nathan in action, tune into ADOS Addicted to Fishing Saturday 9 July at 5pm on PRIME, where Nathan takes Nicky Sinden fishing for swords, it should be a cracker.