A voluntary fishing code seems to be acceptable to much of our local recreational fishers. Doing things for the common good which includes:
- Bigger size limits on fish
- Only taking one trophy fish each time
- Throwing the big breeders back
- Spawning season closure for a month before Xmas
- Using larger sized hooks
The legal size limit for snapper of 27 cm is seen as too small, and the voluntary code sets a minimum size at 35 cm. Peter has a main target size of 2 to 3 kg (6 lb) which is about 45 cm.
If the fishing is lean then they may go down to 30 cm. Local fishermen say “If in doubt chuck it out”. Trying to fillet a 27 cm long fish is very tricky. There is a lot of wastage and you may as well let it grow bigger. Pan frying it like a flounder minimizes wastage, but how many people do this?
“Taking home a feed”, and this means about 3 fish each usually. Fishing rules allow one person to take 9 fish per day. The voluntary code says 5 or 6 is quite enough. This gives a good meal and some to put in the freezer or give away.
One trophy fish per person is also seen as enough. By trophy fish they mean either a big fish such as 20 lb or else a personal best fish which may be 10 lb.
Larger size fish hooks (over 4/0 size) are favoured as fish are less likely to swallow them and if you throw the fish back it has a better chance of survival. Bigger hooks especially recurve or circle hooks are easier to remove, and often catch only the lip which is less damaging to the fish.
Spawning seasons are seen as a time to leave off from fishing, so that the fish reproduce freely and help keep the fishery healthy and regenerating. Cultures around the world have respected this in the past.
The voluntary fishing code of practice suggests the fishery could be closed for a month. Spawning does not happen by the calendar. Seasons vary year to year, and snapper (also known as tamure) spawn anytime between late October through to March according to Peter, sometimes twice in the summer.
Perhaps the spawning closure could be a set time of 20 November – 20 December in order to not disrupt traditional summer holiday fishing from Christmas onwards?
Commercial fishing is not at all popular amongst local people. With significant recreational fishing pressure, local people see that they have priority. A total ban of long liners between Knuckle Point and Berghans Point/ Te Whatu has been suggested, and it seems 99% of local people would support this. Commercial trawlers are in the Bay all year, and the locals say “they don’t have to fish right in the Bay”.
Peter says many visitors ask about marine reserves. He feels reserves are a good idea and would help everybody. Valuable information could be gained from surveying reserves and he thinks the community would volunteer their time to help. With our Bay having so many visitors, good signage would be needed, with clear and distinct markers out in the water.
Living Sea Doubtless Bay commends Peter and his mates for doing the right thing. We need more folks like you! See www.fishingnz.net.nz