Big game fishing in Tauranga

By: Blogger

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

In past decades, Mayor Island was synonymous with big game fishing.

Up to the 1970's, the catch of a big Marlin or Swordfish was enough to solicit a photograph and story and attract an audience to the Tauranga weigh-in station.

A century past, fishing, especially big game fishing, was considered a sport worthy of regular newspaper coverage, rather than being seen as a recreation today.

One hundred years ago, fish in the ocean were a plentiful bounty to be taken, as recorded in the New Zealand Herald on the 2nd July 1921.

Under a headline Sport Near Tauranga, the report stated "Local fishing enthusiasts continue to report good sport in the waters around Tauranga. Yesterday, a launch party visited Penguin Shoal about midway between Tauranga and Mayor Island. They secured 110 Hapuka and a large number of schnapper".

A further Herald piece in July 1921 stated “A party aboard a launch secured 11 kingfish in the Harbour with the largest weighting around 400lbs. A further 24 dozen (288) schnapper was secured by the same party".

Mayor Island (Tuhua) is a dormant volcano 35km north of Tauranga.

Captain Cook called it Mayor Island, when he sighted it on the 3rd November 1769, in recognition of the Lord Mayors Day held in London around the same time.

Mayor Island is renowned for its deep water game fishing, with the nearby continental shelf an underwater highway for deep water predators that swim deep down on the ocean floor.

The current Tauranga Sport Fishing Club situated at Sulphur Point, can trace its origins back to the early 1920's.

The club website tells us that the first record of game fish being caught was in 1929, where 85 Marlin and 37 Mako Sharks were landed, in which time only five launches were operating.

The club operated as an informal society of members, until 1937, when the club became incorporated and was officially known as the Tauranga Big Game Fishing Club.

Some remarkable numbers were recorded in the early days after WW2, with some 574 marlin and 10 sharks in the 1946/47 season only to be surpassed with 749 Marlin and 39 sharks being boated two years later.

December 1952, negotiations commenced with the Mayor Island trustees with a view to a lease of land at Southeast Bay, for a big game fishing club base.

A lease was finally signed two years later where a club house was constructed. Operation headquarters were established on Coronation Pier in Tauranga.

A decision was reached 1984 to relinquish the Mayor Island lease and close down the base.

So ended the colourful history of the many late-night antics and tall tales that took place on the "Mayor" over nearly thirty years.

The Tauranga Sport Fishing Club, now located at Sulphur Point in well-appointed headquarters, is surrounded by memorabilia, big fish mounts and the history that the club members have left for future generations.