The caramel drummer is one of three fish considered endemic to the Kermadec Islands, the others being the Kermadec scalyfin (black angelfish are a species of scalyfin) and the Kermadec triplefin. The theory is that the prevailing currents at the Kermadecs run west to east so, theoretically, the larvae of Kermadec species cannot drift here. Unfortunatly for that theory, there have been a pair of Kermadec scalyfins resident at the Poor Knights for a number of years (they are white so very distinct from the black angelfish). Because they are in the reserve, they obviously cannot be killed, meaning that the nerds cannot be absolutely sure they are Kermadec scalyfins, the nerds needing what is termed a 'voucher' specimen that they can cite as evidence of a species presence in a given locality. (Te Papa's 115kg Queensland grouper from the same area as my Caramel Drummer is the voucher specimen for N.Z.) By a technicality, the Kermadec scalyfin remains 'endemic' to the Kermadecs.
So, about three years ago, Darren Shields took a photo of a fish at the Needles on Gt Barrier Is which was very obviously a caramel drummer. I believe that another diver had seen what he thought was a pair of them at nearby Arid Is some years previously. Again though , from a scientific perspective the lack of a specimen meant the species could not be considered as being present here. Then, while scouting Motiti Is for the Nationals in 2008, Andrew MacDonald found what he described to me as 'a green drummer' on a wash rock. We hopped back in and I filmed what again was very obviously a caramel drummer (pic attached). Still, no specimen meant no confirmation.
Then, on the first day of Nationals 2010 on the western end of Lady Alice Is at the Hen & Chicken Islands, I was stooging around for a snapper and spied another one. It didn't display the distinctive colours that they normally do but I knew the shape. And then it tried to get away, Bob. Which was a mistake. I dunno, Bob, I was in comp mode, killing mode and it tried to get away. I'm not proud of what I did, Bob....but it tried to escape me...so I shot it...RIGHT IN THE GUTS!!!!!!!!!
I froze it and after much fluffing about talking to skeptical nerds, trying to convince them that I wasn't a complete idiot and that what I had in my freezer wasn't a Parore and that, yes, I knew what a Bluefish looked like, Kendall Clements at Auckland Uni finally pulled it apart and with much excitement declared it to be a caramel drummer, previously thought endemic to the Kermadecs and now the voucher for mainland N.Z.
It has gone to Te Papa.
I tried to get the Spearfishing NZ Keeper of Records to award me the record for it, given that years ago we allowed Picot and Amberjack and Samsons and other subtropical stragglers but he wasn't buying it. He suggested I present my case to you so, er, please sir, how about it?