Steve Hill


YOB: 1958
Experience: Recreational Fisherman
Regions: Canterbury, Catlins
Interview Location: Curio Bay, NZ
Interview Date: 11 January 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Steve Hill and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: Steve, I think you said you were born in Christchurch. What year was that? 

HILL: 1958.

CRAWFORD: What age do you first remember spending time around New Zealand coastal waters?

HILL: About four, really. Before I started school. 

CRAWFORD: So, that would have been with family, supervised visits to the beach? 

HILL: Yeah. In Christchurch we went to Sumner, New Brighton Beach, Akaroa Harbour which is on Banks Peninsula. Later on, when I was five, my parents started taking us away on holiday to Okains Bay, which is out the heads of Akaroa Harbour, and turn right. So, it's 55 miles from Christchurch, and that’s where I started getting into fishing.

CRAWFORD: At five years old, were you fishing with your mates, or fishing with your parents, or uncles and aunts? 

HILL: I was fishing with my parents. Started off with a little rod catching Herrings. [laughs]

CRAWFORD: Did they have a boat, or was it shore fishing? 

HILL: Just shore fishing. 

CRAWFORD: Did your parents have experience fishing, or was it something new to the family? 

HILL: No, my Dad did a lot of fishing all his life. He was brought up on Banks Peninsula, across the way from Akaroa Harbour, a little place called Wainui

CRAWFORD: What kind of fish might you catch by shore fishing around there? 

HILL: We used to get Herrings and wee Guppies, sort of thing. And then we used to go fish off the wharf at Akaroa, and start catching bigger fish. When I was a little bit older, about seven or eight, I must have been, I always remember catching Red Cod. 

CRAWFORD: Red Cod? Right off the wharf? 

HILL: Yep, yep.

CRAWFORD: When you started, how often would you have gone fishing? Daily? Weekly? During the holidays? 

HILL: Probably about every three or four weeks. I always remember bringing a picnic lunch with Mom and Dad, and always making sure I had my fishing rod in there. And when we got the fish, at first I wasn’t fussed in eating them. We would cut them up to feed the cat, and the cat loved them. 

CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any swimming - were you a big swimmer? 

HILL: Yes, yes. A lot of swimming. 

CRAWFORD: Any boating or anything like that? 

HILL: Oh, yes. I owned my own boat when I was 12 years of age. 

CRAWFORD: What kind of boat did you have? 

HILL: It was a little [Prang dinghy, with a little Seagull Attwood motor] 

CRAWFORD: So, at the age of 12 you were mobile, you had your own vessel. Where did you go with that boat?

HILL: We started going to Okains Bay. We spent 23 years going over there, every Christmas. We used to go during the year as well, and we’d hire baches [cottage] over there. And how I got my first dinghy was ... the newspapers years ago, and the bottles, the glass bottles you get 5 cents for them, cutting lawns. And I owned my own boat at 12. I paid for it all, including my Christmas money.

CRAWFORD: As a 12-year-old were you boating with or without parental supervision? 

HILL: I had parental supervision, yes.

CRAWFORD: At what age were you basically on your own, without direct supervision?

HILL: 14. 

CRAWFORD: Did you do any snorkelling or Pāua diving - those kinds of things? 

HILL: Yeah. I started Pāua diving when I was very young. I always remember it, I was eight, it was Christmas. My parents got me a snorkel set, and I wasn’t shown how to use a snorkel. I still remember it this day, and I said "Oh!" and I swallowed water, and to this day, I can still taste the water when I talk about it. But I got more and more confident.

CRAWFORD: Pāua diving - was that something you did from time to time? Or was it as dominant as fishing? 

HILL: Fishing was more so, depending on the time of year, and when we could go to get Pāuas and that. But I had done a lot of diving with Pāuas, yep.

CRAWFORD: What about scuba diving, did you ever do that? 

HILL: No, no.

CRAWFORD: And what about surf boarding? 

HILL: Yes, definitely. 

CRAWFORD: What age did you start boarding? 

HILL: 15. 

CRAWFORD: A little later than when you had the keys to the boat on your own. And roughly what age did you have access to a vehicle when you could start driving around? 

HILL: As soon as I was 15 years of age, I had my license.

CRAWFORD: So boarding, license, access to a car, and your boat. Did that expand the range with which you were spending time in New Zealand coastal waters? 

HILL: Yes, yeah.

CRAWFORD: Where else did you go, besides the places on Banks Peninsula?

HILL: Up to Kaikoura. We drove up to here, and to Mangamaunu which was a good place to go fishing. Just out of Kaikoura, along the coastline here. We used to fish in between there, probably 30 miles or so and back this way. There was great fishing along there, we used to go up there for the weekends. 

CRAWFORD: Fishing for what there? 

HILL: Oh, whatever fish we got, you know? We try always for Blue Cod and that. And School Shark or Rig, and Elephant Fish. 

CRAWFORD: Sometimes you specifically were going after School Shark? 

HILL: Yep. Sometimes we would go to [Berthings Flat], I don’t know if you’ve heard of that. On the way to Akaroa, just before you start climbing the hills on Banks Peninsula, and the flats, far as you can drive. It's all fine gravel, and it's very good for fishing there as well. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. That was from age 15 or so. The, next break point? Did you finish school and move off to a job or something?

HILL: Well, soon as I was 15 I got my license and I also left school. Started an apprenticeship, building with my father. 

CRAWFORD: As in building houses? 

HILL: Housing, yep. And that was 10,000 hours I had done that. We would always go out of town to different places, and everywhere we could go fishing, we went fishing. 

CRAWFORD: After work, on the weekends, holidays?

HILL: Yep, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Seems like fishing was your reason for being? 

HILL: Oh yes, yeah! 

CRAWFORD: So that’s from when you were about 15-16 years old. You started working full-time, that’s the new way of doing things. What was the next major thing that changed then? 

HILL: As I said, I worked for my Dad. Him and I were the best of mates. We always went away fishing together, on holidays, over to Okains Bay. I updated my boats, got bigger and bigger boats and that. 

CRAWFORD: Tell me about that. 

HILL: Well, I went from a little 8-foot pram dinghy, to a 12-foot boat, with a slightly bigger Attwood - about a 7-horse Attwood on it. Johnson, from there. I went on to a bigger boat, oh probably about 18-foot, then I got a 24-foot Haines Hunter, and ever since then I’ve had boats all my life.

CRAWFORD: When you were getting into your early 20s, what did you max out at - what was your big-boy boat? If the pram dinghy was your kid's boat, what did you end up as being your fishing boat as an adult? 

HILL: Near 20 years old, I had that 20-foot boat, and had a 150 hp Attwood on the back of it. That was also for water skiing, kind of cruising around. We’d go around to different bays around the Banks Peninsula, and always fishing. 

CRAWFORD: And that fishing was still pretty much in the same region? Banks Peninsula to Kaikoura? 

HILL: Yeah. We sort of buttoned off from that. Later on, when I was 20 or so, I met a lady - you know, things change in your life. But I still did a lot of fishing around Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. When was the next major change in your life around coastal environments?

HILL: I updated to another boat, slightly bigger, it was a 22 foot, with a 200 Attwood on it. More practical for fishing, and also setting nets and longlining. We would have got further out here to sea.

CRAWFORD: Roughly how far offshore? 

HILL: Sometimes we went out as far as 10 miles. We used to go out ... there’s a Groper haul, way out here we used to go. 

CRAWFORD: That’s the first time you’ve mentioned something other than rod and reel fishing. You said you had nets? What kind of nets did you have? 

HILL: Oh, just the monofilament for catching Butterfish and Moki and all of that. 

CRAWFORD: What kind of length of setnets would these be? 

HILL: Only about 40 feet long or something like that.  

CRAWFORD: Bottom set? 

HILL: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. So, there was angling, some setnets, something else? 

HILL: Longlines for Groper.

CRAWFORD: Describe those for me.

HILL: A longline is basically a 40-foot line, you have a weight on one end, and we had 12 hooks on it. 

CRAWFORD: Was this a horizontal or vertical line?

HILL: A line to fish horizontally along the bottom.

CRAWFORD: What were you going after with the longline? 

HILL: Rig, Gunnel and Skate, and School Shark. Yeah.

CRAWFORD: So, a combination of gears now, as you’re getting older on a bigger boat, and you’re getting further offshore?

HILL: We didn’t go out 10 miles very often. You had to be very careful of the weather change so much out there. There’d be four boats go out that far. It wouldn’t be one, it’d be four of us going about together.

CRAWFORD: Right. Keeping an eye on each other. 

HILL: Exactly. 

CRAWFORD: Did you fish that way based out of Christchurch through your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s?

HILL: When I was about 36, I moved to Queenstown and spent about ten years there. We had a holiday park there.

CRAWFORD: Did you make trips back to New Zealand coastal waters to go fishing, or were you pretty much a Queenstown guy? 

HILL: Pretty much a Queenstown guy. But I'd still come back to Christchurch for fishing again, because all my gear was still over here.

CRAWFORD: Would be maybe once or twice a year then? 

HILL: No, that would be the least. I would try to get over six times a year over here.

CRAWFORD: Weekends or weeks off - that type of thing? 

HILL: Yep, yep. 

CRAWFORD: What happened next?

HILL: I came down here when I was 47, 

CRAWFORD: Here, as in Porpoise Bay, Curio Bay

HILL: Yeah, and I've been here for 10 years. 

CRAWFORD: When you started fishing here, did you bring your boat down from Banks Peninsula, or were you fishing in some other way? 

HILL: Well, I sold my boat in Christchurch. Had no boat for the first time all my life. Then I bought another boat in Queenstown, which I brought down here. That’s a 24-foot aluminium, very similar to a Stabicraft. 175 Mercury. it’s a hard top. 

CRAWFORD: Is that the boat that you fished from here for pretty much for the past 10 years?

HILL: Yes, yes.

CRAWFORD: So, you moved to Curio Bay, and what I understand is that 'Curio Bay' is actually a specific bay at the head. But that name is used for the entire region, including Porpoise Bay?

HILL: Yes, yeah.

CRAWFORD: When you started fishing here, was it just basically the same kind of fishing gear and tactics as when you were going out fishing Banks Peninsula? Or is it a different place that has to be fished differently? 

HILL: Very similar. One thing I did find very strange down here was the way they catch Blue Cod - using pots, very similar to Craypots and that. No one ever used pots up in Christchurch, but you come down here and it's common.

CRAWFORD: Do you need a licence to fish Codpots? 

HILL: No. No, you don’t. 

CRAWFORD: So, it’s just another fishing gear. It could be anything. But nobody recreationally fishes with Codpots up at Banks Peninsula. There are commercial Codpotters all the way up, but no recreational Codpotters there. But down here, the recreational guys use Codpots as well?

HILL: Yep.

CRAWFORD: Do you also line fish for the Cod down here? 

HILL: Not Blue Cod, no. The only line fishing we do down here, because its more plentiful - we line fish for Groper or School Shark, or the local Skate. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. Where do you dock your boat? 

HILL: Oh, just back in Waikawa.

CRAWFORD: When you go out for a day’s fishing, roughly what section of the coastline do you fish? 

HILL: First I’m in down this way, Slope Point. Or this way here, and this way first I’m up to Tautuku Peninsula. That’s the area.

CRAWFORD: What kind of depth of water, when you fish? Close to shore? Further offshore?

HILL: Fishing at about 150-180 feet. It just depends if we want to get Groper. If not, we’re just offshore about half a mile, catching Blue Cod. Or right in close, targeting Trumpeter. Depends what we’re after. 

CRAWFORD: When you’re fishing at depth, you’re using downriggers?

HILL: It's just a sinker, a heavy sinker with 2 hooks on it. We’re catching Cod, and that’s how we fish, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: When I say downriggers ...

HILL: What do you mean? 

CRAWFORD: in Canada, when they’re doing salmon fishing in the big lakes, they have these heavy-duty arms, with heavy-duty lines with a cannonball - a heavy weight, maybe 5 pounds. You lower the weight down on the heavy line, and it takes your angling line down with it on a clip, so that you can get a very precise depth for your tackle that breaks free when you get a strike.

HILL: Oh, is that right? No, nothing like that.

CRAWFORD: So, you just have a line with some tackle and weight?

HILL:  Just basic, yes. 

CRAWFORD: And when you use tackle, do you use artificial lures, or do you use baited hooks, or what? 

HILL: We use baited hooks and that. This time of year, it's time to get salmon from mid-November to about end of February. We just use lures - or you can catch salmon on bait as well.

CRAWFORD: Lures meaning spoons? 

HILL: Yep, yep. That’s right. 

CRAWFORD: When you use bait, what kind? 

HILL: Just ordinary Blue Cod.

CRAWFORD: And the salmon, are they stocked or wild-reproducing? 

HILL: Some have been in a cage, because you can tell their fin at the back has been rounded off. Because it's been in a cage, but knocked around. And others are just wild run. 

CRAWFORD: So, there’s no hatchery that’s pumping out these animals on a regular basis?

HILL: Yeah, raised down on Stewart Island

CRAWFORD: A hatchery? 

HILL: Yeah, they have the Stewart Island salmon.

CRAWFORD: Well, they do have a salmon farm in Big Glory Bay

HILL: Yes, yes.

CRAWFORD: Technically, a hatchery that supports that cage operation, but that’s aquaculture. You're saying that those animals that have been in a pen, you figure your catch her in the Catlins is coming from that operation? 

HILL: Well, yeah, that’s the nearest place. Otherwise, I’m not sure too sure - it's way up in Dunedin, that’s where the next one is. That’s all that I know of. 

CRAWFORD: Dunedin definitely has a hatchery in Sawyers Bay - that's right where I'm renting.

HILL: But you know, we’re getting some really good salmon out here. The biggest salmon that has been caught off the rocks out here is 22 pounds, and the others are just 14. 

CRAWFORD: When was that roughly? 

HILL: That was only two years ago. 

CRAWFORD: Is the salmon fishing around here something that goes way back in time?  Or relatively new? 

HILL: I don’t know, I can’t say.

CRAWFORD: But salmon has been a big deal here, ever since you’ve moved here 10 years ago?

HILL: Yeah, it started for me with people that I knew about six years ago. They may have been doing it before that, but that’s what I know.

CRAWFORD: Ok. A variety of targeted species, a couple of different kinds of gears. Do you do any longlining down here? 

HILL: Yeah, we do. 

CRAWFORD: And a little bit of setnetting still as well? 

HILL: No, no nets. No, there’s a total net ban on. 

CRAWFORD: Anything else that would be particular to this region, that would have been different from how you would have been fishing at Banks Peninsula? 

HILL: No. Everything else is pretty much the same

CRAWFORD: In general, throughout the course of a year here, how much time would you spend on the water fishing? Once a week? More?

HILL: No. I’d have to say at this stage, due to work commitments, it's been probably once every three months recently. Beforehand I was out every month. But things have changed the last couple of years, because of our workload.

Copyright © 2017 Steve Hill and Steve Crawford