Thursday, May 5, 2011

Celebrity Fishing Interview - Matt Watson is Extreme

Exclusive FishMax Interview

To date all our celebrity fishermen and women have been Aussies, but today we're looking "across the ditch" and talking to hot NZ Extreme Fisherman Matt Watson.

Watson, presenter of "The Ultimate Fishing Show"  hit the headlines a couple of years ago with an amazing video footage showing what appears to be a dive from a helicopter on to a wild marlin!

Matt was kind enough to take a few moments out of his busy schedule (including  recently appearing at the Brisbane Tinnie & Tackle Show) to answer a few questions for us.

Matt Watson Fishing in Tahiti
FM: What’s your earliest fishing memory?
MW: Would have to be as a young fella, maybe four years old, fishing off the wharf with my Grandad in Weymouth, South Auckland. We’d fish for Kahawai (sea Trout) off the wharf, drag a net for mullet and head out for a snapper fish in the boat. At 8 years old I was the skipper of my first boat, a dingy I found washed up on the rocks. We patched it up and I became a bit of a character around town… you see I was always on my way to or from the ocean and pushing your boat the whole way catches a few eyes.

FM: Catch and release or take home to eat?
MW: Always take a feed but I’m very realistic about what a feed is. Two or three Snapper is enough for me, and the rest go back. I never take the bigger breeding fish and if you measuring a fish to see if it’s legal on my boat you get chucked over board… unless you can say without a shadow of a doubt that the fish is legal then it goes back as well. From the 1100 odd billfish I’ve landed only nine have ever made it into the fish-bin and I preach ‘fish for tomorrow’ on the show.

FM: Where is your favourite fishing spot?
MW: That would have to be the Far North of New Zealand. For consistently strong fighting fish, especially Snapper and Kingfish, the Far North has to be the place. In game season we get a great run of billfish, Blue, Striped and the odd Black Marlin, with Broadbill Swordfish and the deep sea bottom dwellers coming into range in winter, so it’s got it all.

FM: Your best fishing story?
MW:  One people often ask me about is my first 20lb Snapper… you see in NZ the 20lb snapper is a benchmark for any self respecting fisherman and the line I always got from my old man was ‘you’re not a man till you’ve caught a 20lb’r’, so I was on a quest to get my first. I went to the Coromandle Peninsula, about two hours SE of Auckland, and I spent a week getting up early, doing big burley sessions, checking my knots, catching fresh bait and so on. I did everything that should have ensured I got my 20lbr. Well it never happened and with New Years that night I had a big, very big, blow out. About 5.00am the next morning I was dragged from my very foggy sleep by a bloke it turns out I’d met the night before, and had promised to take fishing. It was all news to me but after a bit of protesting and mucking about I get myself up, launched the boat and we were into it. We spied a work up of bait fish and it’s at that point that I realised neither of us had brought a tackle box, or bait, and we only had the rods that were left on board from the previous day… so my morning wasn’t getting off to a good start. I fashioned a lure out of a rag I had on board and managed to catch a Kahawai but it’s fair to say I was over things and proceed to throw the anchor over the side, citing this was my secret spot. I put a fresh slab of bait on the hook and chucked it overboard and from there I found the floor with the intention of sleeping it off. My eyelids were just closing when the ratchet on the reel started clicking off… feeling the way I did I wasn’t in the mood to do anything except put the reel in gear and wait to see if it was anything decent. So that’s all I did. I never opened my eyes, I just reached up and threw the reel into gear, then I tried to go back to sleep. The fish had other ideas though as what ever was on the end of my line was pulling a serious amount of it… enough to clear the fog in the head and get me on my feet. In relatively short order I had the fish to the surface where I got to get my first look at it… the first words out of my mouth were ‘it’s a 30lb’r’ and I asked my new mate to grab the gaff. About then is when things took a big turn. I asked my new mate, with what must have been a very fixed gaze, ‘you know how to use a gaff aye mate’? To which he replied ‘yeah mate, no worries’. He took a swing at the fish and only managed to piss it off, and which point it turned tail and powered to the bottom where I could feel it in the kelp trying to rub me off. I shot a look at my mate, a look that words can’t quite explain, but he got the point. After that I couldn’t budge the fish and I could see my first 20lb plus fish, and the chance to gain my manhood from the old man evaporating in front of me. I’d read a few articles of guys letting their drags go at this point in the hope of the fish swimming itself free, so that’s what I did, before settling down to try and grab some more sleep.  That didn't last long though as the weight coming off the fish had an immediate effect and the reel started to scream off again. Getting it up off the bottom was again relatively easy and again we had another gaff shot quickly. I looked, my new mate looked back, and with a nod knew that he had to make this one count. He swung the gaff and again, to me horror, he only managed to flank the fish and it tore off again. I couldn’t go through that again so I locked up and hoped the line would hold. Luck was on my side and I got it back within striking distance again. New mate swings again and amazingly manages to lift the fish from the water, only for it to come off the gaff, land on the gunwhale, spit the hook and luckily for me, and new mate, it landed inside the boat. With the stress of the battle subsiding there were handshakes and back slaps and it’s at about that point I noticed the gaff. The reason that new mate couldn’t gaff the fish is that the protective clear tubing was still on the point and all he’d been doing as slapping the fish with each swing.

Ultimate Fishing in Alaska
Well we got it in and it weighed 32lb’s, so not only had I got my first 20lbr, I’d also got my first 30lbr as well. I didn’t really rub that into the old man… I don't think a set of coffee mugs with me and my fish screen printed on the front was over doing it do you? I’ve since caught a bigger Snapper, going about 35lbs, and it was a great feeling seeing that big fish swim away after the fight.

FM: Favourite fish recipe?
MW: I don't mean to sit on the fence, trust me it’s not my style, but I like Fish in so many ways I couldn’t single one out. Whether it’s a fresh Yellowfin heart or Tataki Kingfish or good old-fashioned Fogdog Beer Batter and Chips I love it all.

FM: What’s the biggest fish you’ve caught?
MW: That would be my 256kg, 563lb Bluefin Tuna caught off Greymouth in the South Island of New Zealand. The best part is I did it with a handline, it damn near wrecked me but it was an awesome fish and battle.[Ed: See video below] I don't think I’ve ever worked so hard for a meal but it was worth every tendon-breaking minute. I was part of a capture for an estimated 1300lb Black Marlin in the Lizard Island tournament a few years back but it got sharked and you know how it goes… ‘if you don't weigh it don’t say it’.

FM: Where is the most exotic place you’ve been fishing?
MW: Probably Oman… we got invited there for the Sinbad Classic Tournament and it was like nothing I’ve ever done before. The country was beautiful, the people friendly and hospitable and the fishing was good. We were fishing for Queenies amongst massive oil tankers and in the same session had the police turn up with their machine guns to tell us to piss off! You’re not allowed to be so close to the tankers and they take it very seriously. The Tuna didn’t fire but they get some very nice Yellowfin there, which I’d been gagging to get into. I did catch a few Camels though.

FM: Do you have a fishing tip you’re willing to share?
MW: I share them all except my spots. As far as I’m concerned the main reason I do what I do it to help people catch more fish. I also like to educate about what to do with those extra fish, i.e. let the majority go back to fight another day. Watch any episode of the show and you’ll hear me saying ‘there’s no secrets on The Fishing Show’… if we find a lure or a knot or a line that works really well we tell people so that can get into the action as well.

Words: Stevo Perry Pics: Matt Watson/The Ultimate Fishing Show

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