Ate Heineman


YOB: 1950
Experience: Commercial Fisherman, Scuba Diver
Regions: Otago, Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Rakiura/Stewart Island
Interview Location: Port Chalmers, NZ
Interview Date: 15 November 2015
Post Date: 17 May 2017; Copyright © 2017 Ate Heineman and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: Where did you grow up?

HEINEMAN: Born in 1950. Grew up in Milton, which is about 60 km south of Dunedin.

CRAWFORD: At what point did you start spending substantial time around coastal waters in New Zealand?

HEINEMAN: Probably from about the age of 16 when I started going out on fishing boats.

CRAWFORD: And were you doing that for fun, or was it a job for you?

HEINEMAN: I was doing it for work experience, for the start.

CRAWFORD: And was that Port Chalmers?


CRAWFORD: How did you know to come here to Port Chalmers?

HEINEMAN: I decided I wanted to take up fishing as a career.

CRAWFORDF: At the ripe age of 16?


CRAWFORD: Did you have family in Port Chalmers at the time?

HEINEMAN: No, no. My father brought me up. I had no transport of my own. And I boarded in a hotel for the first two years, approximately. And then moved into a house with a few other guys.

CRAWFORD: You started working on other people's boats for work experience - what kind of fishing were you doing then?

HEINEMAN: Trawling for a start. I came up the school holidays and did a bit of that. Then I got offered a job later in the year which I took up.

CRAWFORD: By another trawlerman?

HEINEMAN: Yeah. Initially crayfishing and trawling.

CRAWFORD: What kind of region, generally?

HEINEMAN: Round the Otago area.

CRAWFORD: Within a days' boating?


CRAWFORD: What would bottom trawlers in this region typically target?

HEINEMAN: Flats, Soles and Flounders.

CRAWFORD: You did that for a while, and what happened next?

HEINEMAN: I sort of drifted from one boat to another, one way or another. Ended up spending a few years with an old guy that spent a lot of time making sure I knew what was happening. Spending a lot of time teaching me.

CRAWFORD: What was his name?

HEINEMAN: Charlie McFarlane. And from there I went and worked for a somewhat younger guy, where the financial rewards were a wee bit better. And Charlie was retiring, and it was time for me to move on.

CRAWFORD: And at this point these were two-man, three-man operations?

HEINEMAN: Just two-man operations.

CRAWFORD: Skipper and a mate?


CRAWFORD: Ok, you started crewing with this other fellow, trawling and crayfishing still?


CRAWFORD: Same type of region?

HEINEMAN: Yeah, exactly the same area.

CRAWFORD: What was the next major change in your fishing practice?

HEINEMAN: In my early 20s, I started running boats for other owners.

CRAWFORD: Same region, same fisheries, but you were a skipper rather than a crew mate?


CRAWFORD: How long did that last, roughly?

HEINEMAN: Must have been four or five years probably.

CRAWFORD: Maybe about until your 30s?

HEINEMAN: Before that.

CRAWFORD: Ok, still in your 20s. Then what changed?

HEINEMAN: I bought a boat on my own account.

CRAWFORD: A trawler?


CRAWFORD: It was a boat from Port Chalmers or…

HEINEMAN: Yeah from Port Chalmers. And yeah, trawled and crayfished.

CRAWFORD: How old were you when you got the boat?

HEINEMAN: I think 27, or something like that.

CRAWFORD: And the boat that you bought, what was it?

HEINEMAN: The Craiglea It was 40 feet.

CRAWFORD: How long did you fish that vessel for?

HEINEMAN: 12 years.

CRAWFORD: Then what?

HEINEMAN: I sold that, and bought the Sanspeur.

CRAWFORD: How big was the Sanspeur?

HEINEMAN: It was 4 feet longer I think, but a considerably bigger boat.

CRAWFORD: Bigger in terms of the hold, bigger in terms of …

HEINEMAN: Yeah, the bulk of boat.

CRAWFORD: And because of its size, did you end up taking that boat further afield?

HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah. We did a trip to Westland for Tuna fishing in the early part, while the quota system was finding its feet I suppose.

CRAWFORD: The mid-80s?

HEINEMAN: 87, I think that it was. The year the quota system came in was when I bought the Sanspeur, and later that year we went to Westland for Tuna fishing because we had run out of quota. And the whole system was put into place before it was working properly.

CRAWFORD: Where is that Tuna fishery based out of?

HEINEMAN: Greymouth.

CRAWFORD: And it was a seasonal fishery, right?

HEINEMAN: That’s right, yeah. We left here just after New Year and came back at Easter time. So, it was a summer fishery.

CRAWFORD: Was that a one off or did you do that on an annual basis?

HEINEMAN: No, no. We just did the one year. It was a lot of fun, but we didn’t make too much money.

CRAWFORD: Then you brought the Sanspeur back to Port Chalmers, back to trawling and crayfishing?

HEINEMAN: That’s right.

CRAWFORD: What kind of range now, with this bigger boat?

HEINEMAN: The trawling was, all the areas that we had worked before, but basically from Timaru south to Slope Point, more or less.

CRAWFORD: Where’s Slope Point?

HEINEMAN: Slope Point is east of Bluff - that’s the bottom end of the Area 3 quota area.

CRAWFORD: That was a quota margin that kind of defined where you fished?

HEINEMAN: It did a little bit yeah.

CRAWFORD: But still greatly expanded your range. These were these overnight trips then?

HEINEMAN: They’re up to four or five days.

CRAWFORD: Bigger boats, bigger capacity, bigger range, longer time?


CRAWFORD: Was there any change in your fishing practice in terms of gear, or target species, or anything else?

HEINEMAN: The gear was substantially the same, but a little bit bigger because we had some more horsepower, and that sort of thing. But no, it was substantially the same.

CRAWFORD: Ok. That carries on till when?

HEINEMAN: We sold the Sanspeur about four years ago, or something like that. We were going to give it a major overhaul which included a new engine and other things. And then decided to change boats instead.

CRAWFORD: And that was about four years ago?


CRAWFORD: And what boat did you buy?

HEINEMAN: We bought the Echo, which was a very similar boat to the Sanspeur. And it was built in 91, I think.

CRAWFORD: Pretty much same capacity?

HEINEMAN: We increased the hold capacity, but the same catching capacity.

CRAWFORD: Ok. So you’ve been fishing approximately 50 years - half a century.

HEINEMAN: Yeah. Although I certainly slowed down. I’m not on the boat anywhere near as much as I used to be. In fact, the last four years or something like that, I’ve only done a few weeks most years. I mean this year I’ve only done eight to ten days.

CRAWFORD: The South end of the South Island, you talked about going to the edge of the quota area.

HEINEMAN: I’ve only fished up into Tewaiwai Bay on a very sort of occasional basis.

CRAWFORD: What other time would you have spent on or in the water in this region though. Along the South end of the Island, in the straits or around Stewart Island?

HEINEMAN: Stewart Island has been a recreational area for me for probably the last 40 odd years. We did family holidays, Christmas time. I think we had 22 Christmas trips out of 25.

CRAWFORD: Would you boat down for those trips?

HEINEMAN: We took our fishing boat down with the family and friends, and later on I bought a recreational boat that I took down.

CRAWFORD: A power boat?

HEINEMAN: Yeah. And in between times we did trips across there on other boats as well. With friends or whatever, and even little outboard boats. Go across for the weekend or whatever.

CRAWFORD: Of the time that you spent around Stewart Island, would that have mostly been Halfmoon Bay, Paterson Inlet, that side of things?

HEINEMAN: Most of the time, but we also had numerous trips to Pegasus, and one or two round to the West side.

CRAWFORD: And these were mostly summer trips?

HEINEMAN: Yeah. But there was the odd winter trip, too. But not so much on the family trips. In the winter one year, we went for two weeks, just on a boy’s trip. I took the crew and a couple of mates down -  and one of the other fisherman from here did the same, when we finished our crayfish quota early and had a couple of free weeks to fill in. So we went and did that.

CRAWFORD: This recreational fishing? Codfishing?


CRAWFORD: OK. I think you’ve also done a lot of diving?

HEINEMAN: Recreationally, mostly. And a little bit of light commercial with a cobber [friend] of mine.

CRAWFORD: Alright, let’s go back to that, because that kind of experience, it’s parallel to what you’re doing in the commercial fishery. But it’s still highly relevant experience. When did you start diving recreationally and/or semi-commercially?

HEINEMAN: I was in my 20s. yeah. About the same time as I bought the Craiglea. It may have been a year or two earlier, I’m not sure.

CRAWFORD: And what was the motivation for diving - just for fun?

HEINEMAN: Yeah. Initially I borrowed some gear and took some debris off a propeller - off my own propeller. Instead of employing somebody else to do it, I decided to have a go myself. And then it grew from there.

CRAWFORD: Where would you go diving?

HEINEMAN: I’ve dived all over the place, basically.

CRAWFORD: Where are the areas that you would go the most?

HEINEMAN: I’ve dived a lot of New Zealand. I’ve dived Fiordland, Stewart Island, the Otago coast, Banks Peninsula and some of the North Island, Bay of Islands, Poor Knights, Australia.

CRAWFORD: Recreational diving, sight-seeing?

HEINEMAN: Basically, yeah. I had a go at underwater photography, wasn’t much good at that.

CRAWFORD: And when you were diving recreationally, was this something that you would do only in the summer time?

HEINEMAN: No. I’d do it whenever the opportunity arose, for a long time. If it was winter or summer, it didn’t make much difference.

CRAWFORD: And when you were diving, how frequently might you go diving? Once a month? Once a week?

HEINEMAN: When I was diving… at the peak of it I would have been logging over 100 dives a year.

CRAWFORD: Wow. And this is scuba-diving now?


CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any free-diving?

HEINEMAN: Yeah, a little bit.

CRAWFORD: Any spearfishing of any kind?

HEINEMAN: Did some spearfishing as well.

CRAWFORD: Pretty much a smattering of this and that, but you were an early scuba-diver. I mean relative to a bunch of other guys, you got in fairly early.

HEINEMAN: Yeah, but I wasn’t at the stage where I had to make my own equipment or anything like that, no. The generation before me. Those guys were making their own wetsuits, and things like that because you just couldn’t buy them off the shelf, or they were too expensive. Yeah. I followed after that.

CRAWFORD: It started out as a commercial thing just doing some repairs on your boat, and ended up being more of a passion?

HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah. It was certainly a passion for a long time, and still is. I still enjoy hopping in the water and getting a feed of Scallops or Crayfish or whatever.

CRAWFORD: You’re still scuba-diving to this day?

HEINEMAN: Yeah. Not as much as I used to, by any means.

CRAWFORD: How much might you be diving now? Roughly.

HEINEMAN: Probably 10 dives a year.

CRAWFORD: Good on you man. I don’t know too many people like you.

Copyright © 2017 Ate Heineman and Steve Crawford