Waihau Bay on the East Cape is making waves in the fishing world, with a "tuna rush" and interest from a TV show and Australian fishing publications.

Winter fishing at Waihau Bay is in the spotlight in the final episode of the latest series of ADOS Addicted to Fishing on the Prime channel this Saturday.

Host Nicky Sinden said she felt blessed to catch a 99.1kg bluefin tuna with friend Helen Horrocks in June.

"It's a bucket list species and because of this has the potential to attract international game fishermen and women to the area.

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"We set off early at about 4am and caught the fish as the sun was coming up," Nicky said. "It was a magic day."

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Helen describes herself as a mad, keen angler and was thrilled to catch the southern bluefin tuna.

"We kept it and turned it into sashimi and shared it with friends and family," she said.

"We also ate tuna steaks for weeks", said Nicky, "and I gave 15 kilos of fish to a Japanese restaurant and they prepared it in lots of different ways. It's one of the best fish to eat."

This impressive catch is featured on the series-ending show this Saturday. Photo / Supplied
This impressive catch is featured on the series-ending show this Saturday. Photo / Supplied

The tuna follow the deep water from the southern ocean to the Tropics. This water runs close to Waihau Bay, which makes it more accessible to recreational fishermen.

There were about 100 boats out on the day they caught the big tuna and eight fish were caught that day, said Helen.

There were double the number of boats out the following day, she said.

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"Word spreads quickly on social media."

The annual run of southern bluefin tuna is rapidly growing in popularity as a sport fishery, resulting in a mid-winter tourism boost for Waihau Bay, with anglers coming in their hundreds from around New Zealand.

The remote region is set to get an even bigger boost as Addicted to Fishing shines its spotlight on this emerging recreational fishery.

Most game fishermen in New Zealand are used to putting their gear away for winter, only to bring it out again in time for the summer run of marlin.

But this little-known winter sport fishery is quickly developing into a major attraction, bringing in hundreds of keen fishermen and women in June and July each year.

On the days the episode was filmed, as many as 200 boats used the Waihau Bay Sports Fishing Club ramp to launch.

Club committee member Scott McNulty said the number had been unheard of for the middle of winter until just two years ago.

The "tuna rush" provided a boost to the region at a time when visitor numbers would otherwise be low.

"Normally we wouldn't have many bookings in June or July but for the last couple of years the town has filled up completely.

"There's literally no beds left on weekends when the weather is good. It's great for the local store and lodge."

Although the tuna had always been there, Scott said a combination of events caused a "tuna rush" in 2017.

"Commercial fishermen shared coordinates on social media and the tuna were closer to shore than usual."

"The weather was favourable, too, and it's normally a hostile ocean environment. This year was completely different, and there was only a short run, so we'll wait and see what happens next year".

Waihau Bay has also made headlines in Australian fishing publications, making it likely it will soon become an international tourism attraction.

Southern bluefin tuna are highly prized for their sashimi-grade flesh and can grow to 150kg or more, making them a sought-after sport fish as well.

ADOS Addicted to Fishing airs on Saturday at 5pm on Prime.