In the nearly 30 years I have been with the magazine, I have seen a quantum leap in the attitude of our readership and the public towards the need to kill numbers of big fish to win and run successful tournaments.
I recall the long-gone days of the likes of the Coruba Shark contest where the fish were weighed and then trucked off to the dump. The way the old Furuno Snapper World Cup contests were structured encouraged anglers to take their then nine snapper bag limit with as many kahawai, kingfish, trevally and gurnard as you could catch within the regs thrown in.
One year the team of six I fished with regularly caught our limit of snapper every day, including a number of prizewinners. We weighed in over 600kg of fish for that event which was just under 10% of the total catch. We thought we were just the ducks nuts as we headed repeatedly to the stage collecting prize after prize but it’s not something today I am particularly proud to admit to – but that was what we were encouraged to do with the fish taken away by one of the big commercial fishing companies under their quota allocation, the proceeds going to Coastguard and other charities.
The latter contributions somehow were the means to justify the end result. Turn the clock forward 15 years and you started to see the first of the measure competitions emerging. The first I ever attended was one run out of sandspit by Malcolm Dawson, the then Pure Fishing’s NZ manager. It was a lures-only event (Pure Fishing were leading the soft-baiting/lure fishing charge back then) and it gained a bit of a cult following among the region’s angling ‘elite’. Today, the popular Lure Masters is run along the same lines. In the game-fishing tournament scene, tag and release had been around since the 1980’s, the result of an accord between recreational fishers, industry and Government that saw industry unable to catch and land billfish in our territorial waters, while recreational fishers were committed to tagging at least 50 percent of the marlin caught.
Some seven years ago, NZ Fishing Media managing director Grant Blair, founder of www. fishing.net.nz, started up an online, nationwide tournament where anglers measured their catch against an approved ‘brag mat’, took a photograph and then submitted the image. The contest, known today as the Export Fishing Competition, covers 10 species (including trout), with anglers competing against one another for prizes. And the good thing – not one fish need die while the anglers collect some magnificent prizes and trophies. Grant estimates the contest since its inception has had the potential to save many tonnes of fish. And it is not just the big fish that are eligible to earn rewards.
To encourage participation, anglers are encouraged to measure and photograph any one of the species to be in for the monthly drawn prizes. In fact, the ‘big one’ – a charter trip for two with one of the country’s top operators – is drawn from among all the fish entered in the tournament year – April 1-March 31. All of a sudden, organisations such as Placemakers, Hirepool, Extreme Boats, Variety, Auckland’s Outboard Boating Club, as well as privately hosted events such as the forthcoming Reel Legends Contest based out of Marsden Cove, are using the Export Fishing Competition’s tried and tested structure to run their own events, lessening the impact on the fishery while still hosting a competition enjoyed by all thanks to modern technology. This is aided by some great sponsorship by like-minded companies including DB, Gourmet Innovations, CRC, Rheem and Shimano that recognise the need to lessen the impact of fishing on local stocks, while still enjoying the sport alongside their friends and clients.
Measure events are the way of the future – it is all about making good choices. - Grant Dixon