Coromandel officials find fishers spoiled rotten by abundance

By Geoff Thomas

Some of those checked by fisheries officers showed almost unbelievable levels of greed. Photo / APN
Some of those checked by fisheries officers showed almost unbelievable levels of greed. Photo / APN

Sea temperatures are creeping up, which helps spark the snapper fishing, and it is nudging 17C in the Hauraki Gulf. As a result, snapper are being caught between the Noises and Tiritiri Matangi Island, and along the edges of the channels, as well as kahawai, trevally and john dory.

Some large kahawai are being hooked under the birds out in the gulf, continuing the pattern of last summer.

In Northland the best fishing is coming from the sand in shallow water in the evenings, such as off Tokerau Beach in Doubtless Bay. There are also good numbers of kingfish over deep reefs, and in the Bay of Plenty kingfish are "going ballistic" around offshore islands and reefs, according to one Tauranga charter operator. The new method of casting stick baits near the surface is producing a lot of action.

A snapper weighing 14.3kg was reportedly caught off Mokau in North Taranaki. This is a popular beach with fishermen using electrically powered torpedoes or kites to take long lines out off the beach. They can reach a kilometre offshore and regularly bring in large snapper on the 25 hooks.

This time of year is a prime time for targeting big snapper on west coast beaches from Taranaki to the far north.

Whitebait catches in the lower Waikato River have slowed but it has been one of the best seasons in many years, according to experienced whitebaiters.

At Taupo there has been little activity on the lake and rivers, but those anglers who are enjoying the isolation are catching trout. The Tongariro River is holding a lot of kelts, which are trout in poor condition after spawning, but there are also some nice fish being taken.

Visiting Australian fly fishers are catching juvenile trout on the dry fly in the afternoons with the occasional large, well-conditioned specimen among them.

Fishery officers have seized four boats worth more than $100,000 around Auckland in six days over the past two weeks. In one of the worst cases, two men stopped near Maraetai were found to have 119 snapper concealed on their 4.9m boat. The limit is nine each. At Kawakawa Bay another man was caught with 300 mussels, six times the daily limit of 50, and his boat was seized. Other offences involve some expensive boats, and at least six fishers are facing prosecution while dozens more will receive infringement notices.

The fine weather over Labour Weekend also brought out a lot of people to gather seafood around the Coromandel Peninsula, and while the majority respected the rules and kept to the size limits, some of those checked by fishery officers showed almost unbelievable levels of greed.

In one of the worst cases, a group of three pipi gatherers were caught at Tapu with 858 pipis. They were only entitled to take 50 each, so were more than 5 times over their combined legal limit, which means they will almost certainly be charged with serious fisheries offences.

Some paua gatherers at Fantail Bay, near the top of the peninsula, were just as bad and one group of three had 56 paua, all under the legal minimum size of 125mm, and 34 of those were gathered by just one fisher. Their individual daily limits were just 10 each.

As the local field operations manager, Brendon Mikkelsen, says: "There are virtually no legal-sized paua anywhere on the Coromandel. Therefore, those who go paua hunting are, in essence, setting out to break the law." He said the ministry had a very low tolerance for that sort of behaviour and would almost always prosecute those they caught.

Another man likely to face serious charges refused to stop at a Ministry of Fisheries checkpoint near Colville and drove straight through. He was stopped further down the road, by which time he didn't have any illegal seafood on board.

However, he did admit to having been spooked by the officers and to dumping a small quantity of shellfish. Failing to stop for a fishery officer carries a far greater penalty than simply possessing excess or undersized shellfish. The man's car was seized and he is likely to face a serious obstruction charge.

Two fishery officers and eight honorary officers were involved over the holiday weekend and they targeted both coasts of the Coromandel. They checked 234 people and detected 13 offences.

Reports from the public help the ministry detect offences and suspicious behaviour can be reported to the 0800 4POACHER number (0800 476 224).

More fishing action can be found on the new internet television channel www.FishnHunt.Tv.

- NZ Herald

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