By Laurel Stowell

The most unusual catch at the weekend's sea fishing competition was a diver, Manawatu Wanganui Sea Fishing Club treasurer Dave Clutterbuck says.

The diver was on the hunt for crayfish at the North and South Traps, off Patea, when his wetsuit was hooked by someone fishing from a boat above. The unwieldy catch broke the fisher's rod.

But there were many much more welcome catches yesterday morning, the final day of fishing in the club's 24th annual three-day tournament. At the weigh-in counter in Wanganui's Wharf St, there were groper and gurnard and kingfish, some good-sized snapper, barracuda, kahawai, blue cod, terakihi and crayfish.

It was an extra exciting morning for the 244 fishers in 79 boats registered in the tournament. For the past two years the weather has been too bad for boats to get across the Whanganui River bar and fish on any one of the three days.

This year they got in just one morning - from 6am to 1pm yesterday.

"They had to really work fast to get the job done in that small bracket," Mr Clutterbuck said.

They appear to have taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Craig Gibbons and Simon Hughes, in an aluminium boat, went to "a secret spot" and caught enough fish for a meal for their families.

They also enjoyed their time at the Castlecliff Club while waiting for the wind and waves to die down.

Several groups camped out in Wharf St or at the Castlecliff Seaside Holiday Park for the weekend.

Mr Clutterbuck said competitors were from all over the lower and central North Island. Numbers were a bit down because no one had been able to get out and fish in the two previous years.

Fishers were allowed to take home their Monday catches.

Prizegiving was at the Castlecliff Club yesterday, with the biggest prizes being $550 for the heaviest of the main fish species.

Secretary Marion Deweyer said the fishing off parts of the South Taranaki coast was some of the best around.

She was horrified at the idea of sand being mined from the seabed there.

"It should be a world heritage site, something so precious that's a food source for everybody. Who needs another car?" she said.

She was grateful for the help of Coastguard Wanganui. Its members checked the sea each morning to see whether fishing was possible, and also monitored the boats as they came and went.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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