A fish which won a Napier man $10,000 was almost thrown back into the sea because he didn't think it was big enough to win.
Roger Halliwell, who lives in Mahia during the "game" fishing season, landed the 16.6kg albacore tuna at the Your Solutions Megafish tournament on Friday, knowing it could among the be the best of the species, but never expecting it to win the main prize.
He and his mates aboard small-boat Rough Justice put to sea from Whangawehi (The Creek) and "just to get a feel for where the fish might be hiding" fished the first day on Waitangi Day, although competition was cancelled by hosts the Napier-based Hawke's Bay Sports Fishing Club because of 30-knot winds in parts of Hawke Bay.
The albacore was caught on Friday, but he wasn't too interested in the prize for best albacore, more interested in the big money for best catch across all species.
That was predicted to be marlin after the landing of at least seven in the Bay in the previous fortnight, including one over 130kg.
"Caught one north of Mahia about a month ago," said Halliwell. "We let it go."
The same could have been the destiny of Friday's catch until the crew decided on the chilly bin as a "back-up plan" as the fishermen kept their sights on the real object of the mission.
"We weren't going to weigh it," he said. "We had our sights on a marlin: Aim high right from the outset."
As it happened, it became a tough time for most of the 347 anglers, the heaviest catch being a 63.6kg striped marlin also caught on Friday, but well under the minimum qualifying marlin weight of 90kg.
The marlin would have had to weigh at least 100kg to have headed off the albacore, the weight of which attracted 99.6 on a weight to species scale used to decide the overall outcome.
It had taken almost seven hours to reach port and Halliwell said: "I almost didn't weigh it, until I heard the next-biggest (albacore) was only 8.5kg."
He was still wondering whether it had been worth it when the boat's navigational aids failed on the return to Mahia and the crew had to resort to compass, pen and paper, and navigate their way back to Napier for the night.
"There are no street lights out there," he said.
As for the prizemoney, he says it will be split between the crew and covering all the boat and competition expenses.
"There should be enough left over for some fish and chips and a big ice cream," he said.lol.