A new category in the Wanganui Manawatu Sea Fishing Club's annual contest is expected to be the most popular in this year's edition of the event.
The competition is introducing the "Big Three" category, where the combined weight of three fish - snapper, blue cod and kahawai - are measured, with the highest combined weight crowned the winner. The category features the most valuable single prize for the competition, with $1500 of products from Hunting and Fishing up for grabs.
Club committee member Ben Anderson expects it to be the biggest draw in the competition.
"Due to the large prize available, I can see many people gunning for that."
The two-day competition, to he held on January 18 and 19 over Wellington Anniversary weekend, is expecting similar numbers to last year.
The club has received 170 early bird entries and expects that to grow to 280 in about 80 boats.
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The two-day format adopted in 2018 has proved more popular than the previous three-day format, Anderson said.
"It allows more people from out of town to come and compete without much interference."
A prize pool of more than $34,000 is given out, even if the competition is cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
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Anderson doesn't see that being a problem this year.
"The tides are pretty perfect at the moment. Fingers crossed the wind dies downs a bit, but it should be an awesome couple of days."
Anderson said the recent weather had the fishery looking "plentiful" heading into the competition.
"We are at the mercy of the weather here. We have limited days to fish due to bad conditions, so we should see some pretty impressive fish over the weekend."
Another category that is expected to garner a large number of competitors is the snapper, with a $1000 prize on the line.
"It is the quintessential New Zealand fish. There are plenty around and it is always a popular category."
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will have a strong presence at the competition for enforcement purposes.
"They are at the ramp waiting for when boats come in as well as doing random checks to ensure everyone is co-operating. Thankfully we haven't had many issues in the past."
Coastguard Wanganui also plays a pivotal role.
"It's always busy for the Coastguard with that many boats on the water. We are very appreciative of them because they are made up of volunteers who have forgone the chance to compete in the competition to work and make sure everyone is safe.
"Just last week a boat flipped on a sand bar and a couple of people ended up in the drink.
"We are also thankful for the Castlecliff Club providing their facilities, where the briefing and both nights of social activity and prizegiving are held."
The competition starts at 5.30am on both days, subject to weather conditions, and 3pm is the cut-off tie for weigh-in, with most competitors returning between 1pm and 2pm.
People who want to take part in the competition can register at www.wanganuimanawatuseafishingclub.co.nz