Anglers call for better fishing law enforcement
Kayak fishermen tend to live by the mantra "take what you need".
They say their pastime is more productive than fishing off a boat - but less monitored.
And while the number of paddling anglers is swelling, fisheries officers do not have plans to increase inspections of the hard-to-reach fleet.
Figures released to the East & Bays Courier under the Official Information Act show recreational fishing breaches in the Hauraki Gulf have been steadily decreasing after a peak in 2010. But the numbers are still higher than they were five years ago.
On April 1, snapper allowances will be reduced from nine to seven per angler and the minimum legal keep size increase from 27 to 30cm.
Kayak fishermen say the high catch rate, minimal costs and ease of the sport means they can go fishing more often and don't have to push the catch limits to get a regular feed.
St Heliers resident Steven Fox lives a stone's throw from Tamaki Drive and can be out on the water, rod-in-hand, within 15 minutes of looking out his window.
He never takes a snapper under 35cm because he doesn't need to, he says.
He goes out nearly 100 times a year and has never been inspected during his three years of fishing.
"I don't measure them - I just have to look. If I have to start getting out my measure it means it's too small. But for people who can only get out once or twice a year they might start pushing the limits."
Anglers casting off the rock wall around Tamaki Drive is also an area for concern, he says.
"I would like to see a lot more enforcement of the existing rules along there - you see all sorts of things. I've seen guys bringing in tiny fish and I have to tell them, ‘Mate, don't keep that'."
Kayak Fishing NZ owner Jason Walker says kayak fishing attracts responsible, self-regulating anglers.
Mr Walker will only keep a snapper longer than 40cm and has been inspected fewer than five times during the six years he has been kayak fishing. He started an online forum in 2008 because there was increasing demand for information about kayak fishing.
The lack of inspections could be attributed to the way kayaks are launched away from populated areas where fisheries officers patrol, he says.
"I don't think I've ever taken my limit. Very few of us do. It's more productive than boat fishing. You bring more fish in definitely but we don't tend to get as monitored."
District compliance officer Mike Greenstreet says keeping an eye on what kayak fishermen are catching is dealt with in the same way as most vessels.
Fisheries officers do inspections at boat ramps, beaches and on the water when they can, he says.
"It's a case by case basis. When we come across them we will do an inspection.
"We can't be everywhere at once."
Mr Greenstreet encourages all anglers to check out the snapper regulation changes before April 1.
Go to fish.govt.nz or call 0800 008 333 for more information.
East And Bays Courier