Kahawai stories

June 1, 2021

To celebrate National Kahawai Day 2021, we ran a competition asking you to share your kahawai-related stories. Here are some beautiful stories below.


Respect for kahawai – Andrew Penny

“I will admit that it took some time to hold kahawai in the high regard that I do now.

Growing up fishing in the Manukau, I never really saw any respect given to these fish. But once I was old enough to start going out in the boat by myself, I began to see kahawai in a different way and form my own feelings and opinions about them. Over time, I began to realise why kahawai earns its taonga status.

To show my respect for the kahawai, I had a friend paint me a picture of one that I took a photo of. Still today it serves to remind me of the great fish kahawai is, and why we all need to show it some respect.”

Andrew’s kahawai painting


Kahawai canoe memories – Andrew Smith

“It was our first family fishing trip out after the first lockdown of 2020, with our eldest boy Wren using a new reel that he’d got as a very late birthday present (thanks Big Blue). The destination was Cable Bay, just out of our hometown Nelson, and it was all made possible by Mike our next-door neighbour, and his old fiberglass Canadian canoe that had already introduced his kids to the joys of the ocean several decades ago.

 We were making our way out round Pepin Island with the kids trolling small lures – when one reel, then the other, started screaming, with both boys (7 and 8 years old) hanging on tight, shouting and yelling. We’d ended up right in the middle of a massive (and the boys first) kahawai school.

Fishing out of a Canadian Canoe is a balancing act at the best of times, but when both adults and both children aboard all have large Kahawai hooked up and pulling line at the same time, things can get really, really exciting.

The fish were big and in great condition, with each one was putting up a fine fight. It’s no exaggeration to call it big game fishing for kids.

We stopped keeping fish well before our limit, and what we did keep got shared out between half a dozen households in our village, and the frames and heads were well appreciated by the communal pigs in the bottom paddock. 

The kids have been in other memorable kahawai work ups since – the schools chasing the squat lobster in Admiralty Bay were amazing. Our youngest Fionn has since snorkelled in the shallows with clouds of young kahawai swirling round him, but I reckon the memories of that first time in Cable Bay will be something they tell their kids about.”

Andrew’s kids, kahawai and Canadian canoe


Fish of his lifetime – Jordan Highland

“One day we were fishing at smugglers cove, I must have been 11 years old and I had a classic sprat hook on to catch some bait fish that were hanging out just off the rocks to the left.

All of a sudden a huge flash showed up and the baitfish darted off in all directions. I quickly looped on a snapper hook and put a hole baby pilchard on it, still having the sprat hook hanging behind it..

..Well, one cast and 5 seconds later I was fighting the fish of my lifetime. It was a great fight and I had siblings and my parents yelling in excitement. I managed to beach the fish and proceeded to get the hook out – all we found was a little sprat hook stuck in his bottom lip. Was a great feed that night and a unforgettable experience with my favorite fish, the kahawai.”


Pregnant kahawai – Davo Callender

“I was on a commercial fishing trip and we were fishing southwest of a line between Little and Great Barrier Islands and were having a last fish of the day in 40 metres of water when I hooked a big fish. 

It was putting up quite a fight which was hurting my back as I tried to haul it in, but after 15 minutes I had it at the surface. The skipper netted it, and I was facing my catch – a 60cm heavily pregnant kahawai. 

The skipper said “you don’t need to keep that as we have plenty.”

I replied, “You sure?”,  he said “Yep.”

I looked at the beautiful fish, thanked the Taniwha for allowing me to catch her, and returned her to the water so she could go and lay her eggs.

Afterwards, I had a very sore back, but was elated with my catch, and the fact that I had been able to return her so she could produce for others.”

Kahawai eating snapper, by Russ Penwarden