Matador, skippered by Hayden Wright, is having a blinder of a season to date, winning back-to-back WDSAC contests with 17 striped marlin and a blue to their credit across the two events.
Water temperatures off the east coast sitting at 22°C and above, and plenty of feed about, have resulted in one of the best starts to the Kiwi gamefish season on record.
The shining light is the Whangarei Deep Sea Anglers Club, based at Tutukaka, whose members are having a blinder with more than 300 striped marlin tagged and 32 landed to date.
Two recent tournaments produced some outstanding results. The Cedex Steel Combined Trades tournament was contested by 49 teams with the Hayden Wright skippered Matador the outstanding boat, tagging 12 fish and weighing two – they had run out of tags for the last fish so it came home with them.
The Matador team backed this up the following week with another win, this time in the NZ Luxe and Bucket List Charters Nautigals tournament where they tagged four striped marlin, landed one, and capped it off on the last day with a 178.2kg blue for angler Anna Findlay, caught in the last 30 minutes of the event to secure the win. They went fish for fish with the crew aboard Black Jack with a fifth striped marlin tagged and released, putting them in the lead by one fish before Matador landed their blue.
The Matador team included anglers Anna Findlay, Nicky Burgess, Jess Claris, Holly Frood, Bronnie Burgess, Laura O’Hagen and Katelyn Dowling, supported by skipper Hayden Wright and crew James Laurie, Ben Harrison and Sam Yendell.
The crew and anglers aboard Matador – winners of the WDSAC Nautigals contest with their tournament-clinching, last-minute blue marlin.
The 144 gals, fishing in 55 teams, achieved an overall twoday billfish tally of 62 marlin including 57 tagged striped marlin, three landed striped marlin, and two landed blue marlin – the most fish ever caught for this popular club event.
The club says the Matador team “live and breathe fishing” and have worked hard for their success.
“The combined hours they would spend fishing, talking about fishing, working out new tactics, and trying new things would be in the thousands. Along with helping other crews out where possible, the team on Matador is outstanding, we are proud to have them as part of the Whangarei Deep Sea Anglers Club.”
Matador have not had it all their own way. Along with the tight tussle with Black Jack in the Nautigals event, top performers for the Combined Trades contest include second-placed GPS skippered by Matt McKenzie, recording seven tagged and released stripies over the two days, followed by the Chris Budgen helmed Chopper with six billfish tag and releases.
Preceding these two events was the Arthur’s Emporium Juniors Contest which produced 14 tagged marlin and a further four landed. Siena Learmond and Thomas Taylor shared the honours with two tagged marlin apiece. In late December, Alistair Milne landed a 288.6kg broadbill swordfish aboard the Russel Dyer skippered Miss Magic.
While broadbill are a much more common capture than in the past with the advent of deepdropping daytime techniques, few are caught on the surface.
On this occasion, the crew came across a broadbill sunning itself and pitched it a kahawai, which it readily took and paid the ultimate price for!
This 20.5kg wahoo caught off Cape Brett by Susan Williams-Shortland is just one of six recorded wahoo captures around the country this season.
The club weighed its second wahoo (20.5kg) on February 10, caught on 15kg tackle by Susan Williams-Shortland aboard the Warren Hay skippered R&B – an NZ women’s record claim. It is the sixth recorded wahoo capture nationwide, a testament to the warm waters streaming down from the Pacific – a sailfish can’t be too far away?
The following is a roundup from clubs around the country.


Houhora SFC’s Debbie Bunn says the club’s weigh station has been quiet so far this season. Most of the gamefish were caught at the Three Kings, Garden Patch and 160-180m depth off the middle of Doubtless Bay. Most have been weighed at Reel Rods on the Karikari Peninsula, Taipa or Whangaroa.
“Traditionally our fish turn up in March – April which is when our One Base used to be held. Given this is an exceptional year, who knows what might happen? Our One Base has been brought forward to coincide with the Nationals so it will be interesting to see what happens and where the fish are.”
The best marlin weighed so far has been a blue of 185.5kg, with three striped marlin over the weigh station with a further one tagged. The tuna stakes are headed by a 73.4kg bigeye along with two yellowfin, the best at 49.2kg.


The best striped marlin of the season so far came from a courtesy weigh for Brownie Pukeroa aboard the Nathan Taraurua skippered Kai Machine, while club member Tony Noble aboard his vessel Wested As managed a nice 158.8kg catch, just 200g ahead of Floyd Rogerson’s 158.6 caught aboard Ozark Mule.
Wested As has three striped marlin to its credit and also set a hot pace in the tuna department. The skipper produced a new club 24kg bigeye tuna record of 72.2kg while crewman Leighton Mathews boated a 58.2kg bigeye to claim the club’s 37kg honours. Noble also landed the leading yellowfin at 53.0kg.
Club recorder Helen Horrocks says one of the more notable catches was produced by ex-Wellingtonians – now Ahiparians – Mark and Gerry Webber, who landed their first marlin (108.6kg) on their first attempt aboard their 15ft tinny 4Sanity. They trolled down from Ahipara to Hokianga, stayed in the harbour overnight sleeping on their caravan squabs, and caught their fish the next day on their return leg to Ahipara. The video of the action Helen uploaded to Instagram has so far had 1.7 million views.
Brothers Mark and Gerry Webber put their first marlin aboard 4Sanity on their first trip out.

West Coast/ Manukau

Veteran west coast angler and skipper Pete Jackson fishing out of the Manukau says the gamefishing has not been quite as good so far as in previous seasons. Having said that, Pete has had a good start, having tagged and released a striped marlin, landed a 50kg yellowfin tuna and most recently weighed in a 183kg blue marlin for angler Jesse Drake. There was a bit of drama surrounding its capture.
A beer well earned – Jesse with his west coast blue marlin ‘raised from the dead’ on vessel C Crazy.
Pete tells the story…
“The fish came into the spread and then I lost sight of it, pitching a bait near the lure it had been interested in. The blue came back and hit the lure, leaving the pitch bait alone, pulled some string then dropped it (the lure).
“In the process of winding in and resetting the lure, I snapped the top of the 24kg outfit, replacing it with a 37kg rod which was bitten by the blue which didn’t show itself, heading off deep for the first 15-20 minutes.
“I thought it was tail-wrapped, and with 500 metres of line out I couldn’t see any movement from the fish, confirming my fears. The fish was in 125 metres of water and was initially stuck in the mud, taking a fair bit of effort to shift. We finally got it to the boat in one hour and 35 minutes of hard labour with the reel on sunset. As we were using light gauge hooks, I was concerned we would bend them out under all that pressure, but it was only when we had the fish secured that the hook broke just behind the point. The fish’s head was covered in mud and its mouth had been open, making it all that much harder to raise.
“I think the Counties club weighed a blue the same day.”
At the time of writing, the blue water is in around the 115-metre mark and Pete says there are some big pilchard schools about. The blue had a big skipjack tuna in its gut.


A little further south, the Kawhia Boating and Angling Club just hosted its One Base where 36 striped marlin were tagged and released, with eight weighed among a fleet of 70 boats over three days of fishing.
One of the tournament organisers, Doug Taucher, said the fish came into their area the week of the event and could be found around the 50-60 metre mark.
Top boat was the Wayne Korkie skippered Maholo which accounted for five striped marlin, all tagged and released. Another significant catch was an 18.17kg albacore landed aboard Saratoga.


Just prior to its One Base tournament, the Whangaroa club had made a good start in the billfish stakes, with members accounting for 132 striped marlin – 68 weighed and 64 tagged and released – with 17 yellowfin coming across the weigh station.
Five blue marlin have been weighed with one tagged. One of the weighed fish (130.5kg) is a pending NZ record for 15-yearold Lola Scott, who landed it on 10kg tackle. It was something of a family affair with brother Hunter on the leader and dad Adam in the skipper’s chair.
Lola is ‘owning’ the 10kg line class at the moment. In January she tagged a striped marlin estimated at 100kg and on January 26 she tagged and released four stripeys – estimated at 85, 90, 90 and 110kg respectively – while fishing aboard Excalibur, all on 10kg line.
Lola Scott with her 130.5kg blue marlin, a pending NZ junior record on 10kg tackle.

Bay of Islands

Another club to make the most of the striped marlin run down the east coast is the Bay of Island Swordfish Club. Manager Ross Brljevich reports members have to date tagged and released 134 billfish, weighing 23.
There have been a further 34 gamefish caught, along with 31 being tagged and released for a total of 242 fish of all species being accounted for so far this season.

Mercury Bay

Fishing out of Whitianga has been steady numbers-wise, reflecting the trends further north. The Mercury Bay Gamefishing Club’s female anglers have also been setting a hot pace.
Members have been making their mark with mahimahi, setting three new club records. So far 10 have been weighed. Kathy McDowell landed an 18.24kg specimen to set a new 37kg and all-tackle record fishing aboard Catalina, while Kathy Sieling put a club ladies’ and pending NZ record of 16.08kgs on board Sambuca, skippered by husband Dirk. Fishing aboard Silver Lining, junior angler Nick Walters set a new junior mark.
Mahimahi are making a welcome visit to our waters and dining tables – this one caught by Kathy Sieling to set a new club record at 16.08kg.
Two ladies who have been fishing well are Nicola Candy on Mile Zero and Alana Baker aboard the Tom Maxwell skippered Mad Max. Nicola has tagged five striped marlin so far along with a bluefin tuna, putting her at the top spot on the Top 10 Angler Leaderboard. Not far behind is Alana with four tagged stripies to her credit along with a bluefin which sees her in second spot on the leaderboard.
The billfish stats are as follows: blue marlin – two weighed and three tagged; striped marlin – 14 weighed and 53 tagged; shortbill spearfish – two weighed; broadbill – four weighed and two tagged; albacore – 34 weighed; and bigeye tuna – one weighed.
The latter was caught by Tanya Patterson aboard Maximus and is a new club mark (45.36kg) on 24kg line. Tanya also has the striped marlin pinfish with a 122.8kg.
Junior member Koby Maxwell has been doing his crewman’s apprenticeship aboard his dad Tom’s gameboat Mad Max. Koby has been involved in the capture of many of the 30 marlin for the boat so far, and quite often it has been just him and his dad aboard. The last fish, he drove the boat from the flybridge for the whole fight with Dad in the chair. He is quite the dab hand on the rod also, landing a 44kg southern bluefin tuna on 60kg tackle earlier in the season.
Koby Maxwell did the skippering duties for this fish, tagged and released by dad Tom aboard Mad Max.
Clubmate James Davies produced a northern bluefin tuna to win the Top 10 Tuna contest by a country mile with a 98.2kg fish on 37kg tackle, caught aboard Asylum skippered by his dad Mike. It is a pending club junior and NZ record. The boat and crew are having a cracker season, putting
T&R billfish on the scoreboard at the recent Kawhia One Base.
James Davies cleaned up the MBGFC’s Top 10 Tuna contest with this 98.2kg northern bluefin tuna, caught aboard the family boat Asylum.


The Tauranga Sportfishing Club is having a good season, too. The heaviest of the four marlin weighed pulled the scales to 132.8kg and was caught by Tony Brown aboard In Pursuit. Club members have tagged and released 40 striped marlin to date.
There have been four yellowfin weighed, the heaviest a respectable 71.65kg landed by Kyle Smith fishing from Ocean Monarch.


An indication of just how good this season is comes from the Wairarapa SFC, based out at Castlepoint.
On January 21, the Meredith family aboard Blood Knot hooked and landed an 84.14kg striped marlin. The angler was Mike Meredith with Max Meredith on the wheel. There were three generations of the family on board to witness what is only the second-ever marlin to be caught out of Castlepoint.
This effort was followed up by Nick Loader five days later. Fishing aboard the Wayne Loader skippered Taniwha, Nick put a 28.15kg shortbill spearfish on the deck.
-Compiled by Grant Dixon