Talking to the Hauraki Gulf’s King of Snapper – Captain Swish

Hauraki Gulf Snapper

The ocean has stolen many a sailors heart. Talking to Bruce Duncan aka Captain Swish it’s clear his heart was captured by the briny a long time ago.

I plan on quizzing Swish about his long standing relationship with ENL and Furuno and how he is finding the latest Furuno TZTouch 2. The conversation ends up dovetailing philosophically on numerous occasions into a how lucky we are to live in a place like New Zealand, where a feed of fresh fish is often a taken for granted luxury.

As I speak to Swish he is just home from a day teaching someone from Top Catch a few tricks, at one of his favourite reefs, just a few minutes from home. The spoils include a nice line of snapper to 12lb. “There’s fish in the fridge that can’t get any fresher and the beer is cold, hey, it’s just another shitty day in paradise” he laughs. “Where else in the world could you go a few hundred metres from your biggest city and catch prime fish like we did today.” Yep, even after all these years Capt Swish is still fizzing on fishing.

Often called on to jump on Auckland’s luxury charters as a fishing guide to host high flying billionaires while they are in town, Swish is a passionate fishermen who takes nothing for granted. “I just love it all, straylining, game fishing, you name it, but what gives me the biggest buzz is seeing the smile on people’s faces when they catch fish and, you know, seeing it through their eyes. You take someone who hasn’t been fishing before out and they look in awe at the patterns around a kahawai’s eye – or the look on their face when they pop a freshly shucked scallop in their mouth - stuff like that still blows me away.”

Swish’s relationship with Electronic Navigation Limited (ENL) and Furuno dates back over 30 years to the very first Furuno Fishing Competition, held on Waiheke Island. “It has been a wonderful relationship. I’ve got the utmost respect for what the Hodson family have achieved, first of all with Furuno and the value they have added to the brand globally, then with the groundbreaking WASSP multibeam technology. It is extraordinary to think technology like that has been developed out of little old New Zealand.”

Swish is a self confessed bait fisherman, and his favourite form of fishing is still straylining for snapper. “I just love casting a bait out, feeling the line peel away under my thumb and then seeing that line come up tight. You can’t beat it.” This love of snapper fishing in the Hauraki Gulf saw Swish help out and star on the very first “Snapper Secrets” video.

Prompted many times by mates to start writing some of his knowledge down on paper he penned a book ‘Fishing in the Hauraki Gulf’ in 2002. It was a first of its kind book combining Swish’s knowledge of hundreds of spots with stunning aerial photos and graphic diagrams on how to fish them. “It just goes to show what a thirst for fishing we have in New Zealand” says Bruce “The first print run sold out in 2 weeks, since then it has sold over 16,000 copies. ” That launched a writing and speaking career which has flourished ever since. Bruce estimates he talks to well over 3,500 people in his fishing seminars every year, passing on knowledge and passion for future generations. “My passion has always been passing on my knowledge to other fishermen, especially the next generation of fishos coming through. It is so important to pass on our passion and knowledge to the kids out there. I’ve always said that families who play together, stay together and fishing is one of the best ways to do that.”

So what does Swish think about this first ever touch screen sounder?

“Well you know, old skeptics like me often think we know it all. So I was a bit dubious about this ACCU Fish and Bottom Discrimination stuff, but you know what, my very first trip changed all that. I was planning back from the Barrier at 19 knots. I drove over a wheelie bin piece of foul I’ve ever never seen before, thanks to my 1kW transducer, and ACCUFish marked three nice sized fish 54, 62 and 42 cms. The great thing about the TZ Touch 2 is I can scroll back on the sounder, touch the screen and the mark will overlay perfectly on the plotter where I saw that little bit of foul. I sorted out which way the wind and current would lay me, anchored perfectly up current of it, my first two baits were a 54cm and 62cm snapper – I was sold!”

Swish’s passion he says has always been learning the fishes habitat, where they live, and what they feed on. “You’re always learning, even when you are an old salt like me. I’ve always been a keen diver since I was a kid and have dived most of the Hauraki Gulf. You get to see the different types of kelp, different types of seabed, the different type of bait holding at various spots. You soon learn that fish hold on the changes in these bottom types. That is where Bottom Discrimination  is so helpful for new fishos learning the habitat of where they fish. And with ACCUFish, often the snapper are holding down in the kelp but you will still see an ACCUFish mark down in the kelp – quite simply no other sounders are built for NZ conditions like this!”

Marking snapper using ACCUFish in the Rangi Channel

In Bruce’s spare time he fishes from his Reflexion sportfisher powered by a 250 Cummins – originally built for the Malaysian and Chilean Navies he describes it as “bulletproof.” “There are certainly flasher boats out there, but it ticks all the boxes for me.” His ideal trip over summer sees him steam towards the top of the Coromandel for the first few nights “From there it is 12 miles to the Barrier or 14 miles to the Mercs, it all depends on where the where the briny calls me. As long as there are fresh scallops and some fish biting, nothing is a problem! That is the passion of life.”

I ask Swish what he thinks of New Zealand’s fishing future? “It is up to us to take care of it. Most importantly we need to pass on this passion to future generations. But we also need to think things like “do we need to keep 7 snapper each time we are out fishing?”…..maybe we need to take it a bit easier on the stocks, especially in spawning season. That way the great Kiwi way of life will still be there for a long time to come.”

Talking to Captain Swish makes you reflect that we can have all the great technology in the world, but ultimately it is all about how we use it and enjoy the rewards that matters. Good on ya Swish!

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