The Ngai Takoto Snapper Bonanza got off to a cracking start this year with 178 fish caught on opening day and the day's winner coming in at just under 8kg.
Far North-born Dave Rameka claimed first place prize of $2000 with his 7.905kg specimen to leave a respectable target on the leaderboard for the rest of the sold-out field to chase.
Rameka said he had caught "this baby" around 7.15am up by Ngataki on his second cast of the day, shortly after the first netted him a kahawai.
It was the Auckland-based production supervisor's first time on the stage despite having fished "every" Snapper Bonanza (including in its previous incarnation as the Lion Red Snapper Classic), which means he's been coming home to fish the event for well over 30 years.
Rameka (Te Aupouri) said he loves fishing in the contest every year as it allows him to have an annual reunion with his three brothers, who all hail from the area but for the most part, live in different areas of New Zealand.
Rameka described conditions on opening day as "beautiful" and expected them to continue at least until the latter period of the five-day tournament, when the weather is expected to close in.
The other four placegetters on day one of the 9th Snapper Bonanza, along with their comments, are as follows.
Vaughan Craven claimed runner-up spot ($1000) with a 7.436kg fish, the former winner noting he caught it on his first cast of the day.
Brendon Wallbank's 6.920kg fish netted him third place ($500): "Awesome," he said, adding, upon being asked by MC James Tattersall at what point he had known he'd hooked a snapper, "When I saw that golden colour ... "
Next was Rio Martin, whose 6.88kg snapper took the fourth-place prize ($300): "It was good! Wriggled around a bit like a 'ray ... "; while Cody Lloyd reeled in the fifth-place prize ($200) with a 6.71kg specimen, and remarked how he was rapt to make the first day's top five — this being his first time fishing the event — albeit noting that overall, "Fishing was pretty slow."
Other major prizewinners on Tuesday included Grant Foster whose 2.415kg fish ended up being closest to the set weight of 2.397 to earn the Kaitaia angler a cool $1000 for the day's average weight prize; Vaughan Craven's Tauranga team picked up the team award ($400) for weighing in a total of 18.083kg; and a second pair of names went in the draw for the Mitsubishi Triton truck.
The standout catch on day two before fishing closed at edition time was Tony Richards with 7.540kg; not enough to knock Rameka off top spot.
Today is the 'stay-away-day' with fishing open to both coasts, although the heaviest snapper caught will not be eligible for the main $30,000 prize.
Tomorrow and Saturday offer the rest of the field a chance to take top spot before the final prizegiving gets under way shortly after close of fishing at 4.30pm on Saturday.
* All fish caught today and tomorrow will be auctioned at the Kaitaia farmers market from 8.30am, with proceeds going to the town fire brigade.