One of the first fishing boats to trawl Cook Strait for hoki this season dropped off 30 tonnes of the fresh fish at Picton, but it was just a small part of the $25 million market.
Austro Carina skipper Dale Robertson sailed the 26-metre stern trawler from Lyttelton last week and delivered 100 plastic bins full of hoki to a Pegasus fishing company truck at Waitohi wharf on Thursday.
The boat is expected to catch 1000 tonnes from Cook Strait during the season, which runs from the end of June to mid-September.
Primary Industries Ministry fisheries management director James Stevenson-Wallace said it was likely this year's total catch would be similar to last year's and could be up to $25 million, based on export statistics.
The ministry noted last year's take was lower than the 17,600 tonnes caught in the 2009 and 2008 seasons.
Austro Carina skipper Dale Robertson said hoki season was always a busy time and the boat had to keep to a strict schedule.
"We work six days per week all year round," Mr Robertson said.
"It's a 24-hour fishery and the guys sleep when the fish is being unloaded.
"There's got to be good harmony on the boat."
The crew of seven caught the fish the night before delivery and took enough ice on board to keep it fresh.
Mr Robertson had worked on the boat for the past 18 years and his sons, Jesse , 22, and Navarone, 17, had joined him on board.
"I'd like to get 15 more years out of it – I'm 48 now."
Jesse Robertson said he had been working on board for the past six months and was looking forward to life on the boat during the hoki season.
"I love it, I like the sea and fishing, it's so calm.
"It's good money and I want to keep it up for a while."
Picton resident Doug Bushby had organised the seasonal unloading of the hoki onto the trucks for the Sanford and Pegasus fishing companies for the past six years.
Mr Bushby said Cook Strait became so full of fishing boats it was "like a casino".
"It gets very busy out there, I used to unload it but I organise it these days."
- The Marlborough Express