Early season marlin madness

Looking at the numbers coming through the NZSFC’s affiliated clubs, you would think this update was from the middle of the season, not just the start.

The Sea Surface Temperature (SST) charts showed an early finger of warm blue water heading our way in late November and on cue the billfish were amongst it. In some other seasons anglers experience some bigger blue marlin leading the billfish charge down under, but the good news story has been all about the striped marlin making the headlines.

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With water temperatures reported as high as 24 degrees Celsius plus, the billfish action was just as hot for this time of the year. By the time Christmas had come a number of clubs and their anglers had some good runs on the board.

Initially the Bay of Islands and waters off Whangaroa were the place to be, and that is reflected in the numbers below. Whangarei DSA members caught 49, striped marlin, of which 25 were tagged.

Mercury Bay was a little slower off the mark, with the billfish making their way south, but they have produced some excellent numbers recently, including the only black marlin of the season to date.

What has been remarkable as well is the condition and size of the fish. Normally the first run of striped marlin are smaller and less well-conditioned, but that is far from the case. A number of fish exceeding 160kgs have been landed or tagged and released. The biggest stripey to be recorded by a NZSFC affiliated member so far was caught aboard the Pete McGregor skippered trailerboat Significant Other by first-time angler Graham Dewes. The fish was caught out from Tutukaka and weighed 179.6kgs. It took over four hours to get boat side, after it became tail wrapped and died in 300 metres of water, the angler doing the hard yards to raise it off the bottom.

There was another fish weighed at The Big Fish Fishing Club in east-Auckland which allegedly beat Graham’s fish, caught by another first-time angler who was not a member of an affiliated club. Weighmaster and former NZSFC president Phil Appleyard called the fish as a blue marlin, which caused considerable debate in social media with many saying it was a striped marlin.

The heaviest striped marlin of the season caught by an NZSFC affiliated club member earns them the Lord Norrie Cup, one of the most prestigious in the council’s trophy cabinet.

While the billfish have been around in good numbers on the east coast, they have yet to put up much of an appearance on the west coast in comparison. There have not been many yellowfin tuna or shortbill spearfish caught, the latter normally preceding the billfish on the journey south. Perhaps we will see a sailfish caught this season, a rare capture for this part of the world, but a possibility given the warm water temperature? – Grant Dixon

Skipper Pete McGregor (left) and angler Graham Dewes with the heaviest striped marlin of the season so far – 179.6kgs. The fish died after being tail-wrapped and had to be lifted off the bottom.


Billfish count (as supplied by NZSFC 17/01/22):

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Tauranga Sport Fishing Club -  7 s/m, 2 blue; Mount Maunganui Sport Fishing Club - 2 striped; Clevedon Game Fishing Club  - 16 s/m; Counties Sport Fishing Club -6 s/m; Muriwai Sports Fishing Club - 8 s/m; Mangawhai Boating & Fishing Club -1 s/m; Warkworth Gamefish Club - 14 s/m; Raglan Sport Fishing Club - 7 s/m; Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club - 45 s/m, 4 blues, 1 black; Tairua Pauanui Sports Fishing Club -6 s/m; New Plymouth Sport Fishing and Underwater Club - 2 s/m; Doubtless Bay Sports Fishing Club - 4 s/m, 1 blue; Whangaroa Sport Fishing Club (Inc) - 46 s/m, 4 blue; Bay of Islands Swordfish Club - 53 billfish; Whangamata Ocean Sports Club - 6 s/m; Houhora Big Game & Sports Fishing Club – 3 s/m, 1 blue; Whangarei Deep Sea Anglers Club – 49 s/m.

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