In an upset win, the boaties competing in Warkworth Game Fishing Club’s Queen’s Birthday competition were beaten by a fisherman standing on a rock.
Club vice-president Tom Hatfull was named the 2019 Matakana Marine 10kg winner after catching a 75cm snapper in blustery conditions on a secret spot of rocks on Kawau Island.
“Rock fishermen are in the minority in the competition, but all boaties know they catch big fish. I’ve never owned a large boat, and I’ve always preferred using a small boat to get out on to the rocks,” Hatfull says.
The victory was particularly momentous for Hatfull because it was his first in seven years of fishing in the competition.
This was the first year the club moved to a system where the length of the fish was measured and photographed immediately after being caught, rather than being weighed at the end of the competition.
This allows fishers the choice to throw their catch back into the ocean if they don’t wish to keep and eat it, secretary Louise O’Sullivan says.
“Everyone appreciated that it was a fully measured competition this year. A lot of clubs are going down the conservation path now by measuring on board,” she says.
However, Hatfull’s snapper was deemed to have ‘swallowed the hook’ and could not be released, so it went on to provide 35 servings later in the evening.
Despite a foul forecast and a tempestuous tide, 49 competitors turned out for this year’s tournament.
“I think it remains popular because people like the fact that in the middle of winter there is still fishing activity, and the competition categories are for fish that can still be found around our shores,” he says.
The prize for longest snapper was an eight-horsepower Mercury engine provided by Matakana Marine, which was awarded to Hatfull for his fish.
The 10kg championship trophy goes to the single highest scoring fish, rather than the longest. Although the longest fish of the day was a 106.5cm kingfish, Hatfull’s snapper was considered larger for its species, so he was also awarded the trophy.
The breaking strain of a 10kg line requires smarter, more careful fishing, O’Sullivan says.
“You can’t just drag it in. This means going with the fish’s movement, not having your drag set tight so the fish can run when it wants to really put pressure on the line, and having a forgiving rod.”