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Warm summer weather brings a fish-for-all

Friday 9 February 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Adern introduced her partner Clarke Gayford this week as a fisherman.

“I’m his biggest catch,” she told a class at Paihia Primary School on Monday.

Gayford, labelled our first man of fishing, would no doubt agree but he has been enthusiastically detailing catches of the marine variety in the marvellous summer we have all been enjoying.

On Jan 27 he tweeted: I wish more people could see whats in our local ocean. Left from Auckland and in one day have seen huge schools of fish including: 2 manta rays 1 spine tailed devil ray 50+ sunfish 1 pod of whales dolphins mahi mahi 2 marlin and a short billed spearfish. In stunning blue water. Magic.

Pre-Christmas The Big Fish, Bait and Tackle Co, based in Auckland, reported:  “Snapper are being caught in large numbers, with our waters also loaded with kingfish and it looks like game season has come early. This glorious weather is going to continue and long live this plentiful snapper fishery.”

In January its fishing report said “our Hauraki Gulf is full of brilliant fish life. Big snapper, kingfish and kahawai are being caught in close… you don’t even have to go that far to catch a feed, surfcasting anglers have been landing 35-45cm snapper all the way along Bucklands Beach”.

They have been catching kingfish in Wellington Harbour too, with the Oriental Bay seawall a popular spot.

In late autumn a Stuff report from the Manukau said “the harbour has loads of trevally, a few gurnard and a billion little snapper”. Further out “on a good day out there you can easily catch your limit of 10 snapper in an hour”.

Reports from throughout the country confirm a bonanza fishing season.

In Taranaki a monster 14.2kg (31.4lb) snapper was caught from the Oakura shore.

Egmont Seafoods managing director Keith Mawson said people could expect to see an increase in the number of snapper that size.

“The Taranaki fishery is in really good health,” he said.

He believed catch limits under the Quota Management System for both commercial and recreational fishers were benefiting Taranaki waters.

Perhaps the most dramatic fishing change is the appearance of highly prized kingfish in Otago Harbour and along the southeast coast of the South Island.

A decade ago, a single catch was rare.

This summer the mighty gamefish, predominantly a recreational catch, that can grow to more than 30kg have become common.

Spear fishers landed two kingies in Bluff Harbour last month, believed to be a first for Southland, and snapper have been recorded in Fiordland.

Whether this is a one-off event thanks to the La Nina weather pattern that brings warm, sunny weather and tranquil seas remains to be seen but the trend is undeniable.

While there are yearly fluctuations, overall sea temperatures are increasing.

Coastal water temperatures are between 2-6 degrees C above average at present, according to University of Otago marine ecologist Prof Steve Wing.

That may see winners and losers – potentially stressful for paua and some salmon farming – but a boon for warmer water species and those who pursue them.

Climate change is not all bad and the evidence is there are plenty of fish for all.

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