As of yesterday afternoon, with several hours fishing remaining before day two of the 2015 Snapper Bonanza was completed, no one had pulled in a snapper to better the 8.245kg specimen caught by Mike Dowden as New Zealand's - and possibly the world's biggest - surfcasting tournament got under way on Ninety Mile Beach on Tuesday.
The second fish pulled from the water on day one of the Bonanza earned a very happy Whakatane angler $2000 for heaviest catch of the day.
Just under 700 anglers caught 321 fish in an opening day rivalling even last year's superb conditions. Out-of-towners hooked most of the big fish on Tuesday with Mike Rameka of Waipapakauri Ramp and ex-pat Stu Murray representing the local fraternity on the podium with a 7.65kg and 7.14kg landing them third and fourth place respectively.
As the Age went to press last night, decent fish were reportedly being tagged but apparently nothing to compare with Dowden's opening-day winner. Competitors are angling for a first prize of $30,000, awarded for the heaviest fish weighed in by 4.30pm on Saturday, and lucky draws that include a ute worth $50,000. Co-organiser Dave Collard said the number of entrants, 685, including a good number of first timers, was down slightly on last year's 715. He had hoped for at least 800 given last year's outstanding fishing.
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Rough seas over past few days had "really stirred the water up" and brought big snapper close to shore "so the fishing has been excellent, just like last year", he said.
Day 1 results
Mike Dowden, (of) Whakatane 8.245kg 1, Rob Bos, Paraparaumu 7.99kg 2, Mike Rameka, Waipapakauri Ramp 7.65kg 3, Stu Murray, Gold Coast 7.14kg 4, Peter Earle, Rotorua 6.78kg 5; Closest to average weight: Jeremy Alai, Auckland (and who the overall prize in 2013) 2.79kg.
- Additional reporting by Peter de Graaf