800 to fish for big one

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WHOPPER: Kamo man Troy Notton with the snapper that earned him more than $30,000 in last year's Ninety Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza. PHOTO/PETER DE GRAAF
WHOPPER: Kamo man Troy Notton with the snapper that earned him more than $30,000 in last year's Ninety Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza. PHOTO/PETER DE GRAAF

Up to 800 anglers from as far away as Italy are preparing for one of the world's biggest surfcasting contests which gets under way on Ninety Mile Beach next week.

The five-day Snapper Bonanza features a top prize for the heaviest snapper of $30,000 - won last year by Troy Notton of Kamo - and spot prizes worth $105,000 including a $50,000 Mitsubishi Triton ute.

Organisers John Stewart and Dave Collard, of Kaitaia, said ticket sales were up on the same time last year, suggesting a likely field of 800 competitors.

While Northlanders have been well represented among the big winners in recent years, tickets had been sold around New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. Two regulars from Italy - a keen young fisher and his octogenarian grandfather - were expected to return.

Mr Collard said the weather was looking good for the contest, which would start with a briefing on Monday evening and fishing from 7am on Tuesday.

Registrations would open from 10am on Sunday at the competition's Waipapakauri Ramp headquarters for those keen to avoid the rush.

Prize-giving would start each day at 5pm but fish had to be in the weighing queue by 4.30pm.

As in previous years the biggest snapper each day would be worth $2000, with $30,000 for the biggest overall and $10,000 for closest to the average weight for the tournament.

Supporters of the tournament include Far North Mayor John Carter, who said it was one of the biggest events of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, and a big deal for the Te Hiku area.

"It's huge. It means business for accommodation providers, fuel retailers, cafes, bars, restaurants, sellers of fishing gear and rental car companies. There's nobody who doesn't get some benefit," he said.

The council estimated the event produced an economic turnover of $3.8 million in the Far North district.

The Snapper Classic was founded by the Brjlevich family in 1982. It fell over in 2010 when the new owner ran into financial difficulties but was revived, under a new name, by Mr Stewart, a printer, and Mr Collard, a publican and Far North District councillor.

Mr Stewart said they were grateful to Kaitaia's business community whose sponsorship made the event possible. The final weigh-in is at 5pm, March 19.

- Northern Advocate

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