A 288.2kg blue marlin caught off the Bay of Islands coast on Friday has kicked off the Northland fishing season in style.
Competing in the annual Bay of Islands Swordfish Club Icebreaker tournament, Greg Haliday, 58, reeled in the marlin on board Defiance about 56km offshore within the first hour of fishing on Friday, the first of the two-day competition.
"It was a spectacular strike and fight," Haliday said.
"We'd put the gear out and got the bite within the first hour of our first day of our season, it was quite amazing."
Haliday, who was fishing alongside brother Leighton and son Cam, managed to pull in the marlin in about 15 minutes with help from skipper Guy Sutherland and deck hands Jesse Dixon and Brad Batterton.
Normally a believer in tag and release, Haliday said the decision was made to keep the marlin when the team saw the fish came up injured.
Haliday, who was based in Auckland but owned a property in Opua, hoped the sizable catch was a sign of more to come.
"It set the bar pretty high for the rest of the season for us, so we've got to try and think of a way to beat that."
Haliday was on board a Viking 64, a American sport fisher which would be used in its first full season in the coming months.
"Last season, it did two-thirds of a season, so this time we are looking forward to getting a full season with it, now that we are becoming familiar with it," Haliday said.
"You don't get a lot of those American sport fishers in New Zealand, they are built not specifically for fishing but they do it very well, particularly on backing up on fish and turning fast."
Haliday, a regular Bay of Islands fishing competitor, said it was third-heaviest marlin he'd caught, behind a 347kg blue marlin he caught in New Zealand and a suspected over-450kg black marlin he tagged and released in Australia.
Icebreaker tournament convenor and Bay of Islands Swordfish Club committee member Andrew Johnson said Haliday's catch, along with some decent mahi-mahi from the other 35 anglers, made the tournament a great start to the season.
"It sets the bar for the rest of the season, that's the one to beat now and I think the fact we've had some big fish and lots of mahi-mahi puts us in the running for a good season," he said.
The heaviest mahi-mahi caught over the tournament was 12.74kg. Linda Ash, on board Moet, caught the heaviest yellowfin tuna at 35kg.
With a small patch of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean currently off New Zealand's eastern coastline, Johnson said it could mean better game fishing for the many club tournaments to come.
Upcoming BOISC competitions:
• Juniors fishing Tournament (Jan 3-5)
• Eldorado International Billfish Tournament (Jan 29-Feb 1)
• Mainstream Reel Ladies (Feb 14-15)
• Small Boats Tournament (Feb 22-Feb 23)
• Zane Grey International Billfish Tournament (Mar 11-14)