Fish frenzy draws a crowd
A massive boil-up of kahawai close to the shoreline with thousands of feeding seabirds wheeling and diving created a traffic jam on Nelson's Wakefield Quay and Rocks Rd.
Fishermen flocked to catch the fish yesterday afternoon and drivers stopped to watch the excitement.
There were so many fish so close in that at least one person was seen catching some small ones by scooping them into the bottom of her shirt.
There were also big numbers on Sunday and it is possible that today will produce more of the same.
Beachville resident Nick Chave was one of scores of fishermen there yesterday and said the scene was "just insane - it was a frenzy".
A long-time recreational fisherman, Mr Chave said he'd been driving past, saw all the activity and went home to pick up his fishing gear.
His thought was to "just go and get a couple for the smoker" but within 10 minutes he had pulled in about a dozen kahawai of various sizes, including a number weighing over 2 kilograms.
Kahawai in large schools of various sizes were chasing a big gathering of smolt, he said. "You'd see a school of smaller fish and then the big boys would come through."
With all the activity on the water and birds wheeling around and landing among the schools of fish, "it was like something you'd see on one of those documentaries", Mr Chave said.
He said he had caught many kahawai over the years but never of that size inside the Boulder Bank. He planned to go out on a paddle board to fish from that today.
Another Nelson man, Paul Allen, also saw the action while driving past and went back with his daughter Xanthe, 5, and son Sol, 7. "Instead of PlayStation after school I took them fishing."
He said the children had been really excited while he was able to catch about 30 kahawai, keeping the five biggest and releasing the rest alive.
That was enough to feed his family, the neighbours, "and I brought some in for the boys at work".
There is a limit of 20 kahawai per person, with no size restrictions.
Ministry for Primary Industries field operations manager Ian Bright said some fisheries officers had been in the Wakefield Quay-Rocks Rd area yesterday afternoon when the fishing was at its peak, and had not found anyone breaking the rules.
"Twenty is a lot of fish," he said.
It was good that so many people were having such a great time fishing, Mr Bright said, and experienced fishers were saying they'd never seen so much activity.
Early this morning it seemed that the fish and bird activity was further out, between Haulashore Island and Tahunanui Beach, he said.
Dawnbreakers Fishing Club committee member Troy Dando said he expected the kahawai to remain so long as the warm conditions continue.
Big schools have come into the harbour in the past two years but yesterday's was the biggest he knew of, he said. "It was awesome, wasn't it."
Mr Dando said the kahawai had been coming in closer and closer as warm currents pushed the schools into Tasman Bay, feeding on small fish, possibly anchovies. "I've never seen anything like it. It was unbelievable - there were millions of them."
Kahawai had been decimated by commercial purse-seining in previous years but this was a sign of a strong recovery in the fishery, he said.
"That should flow on nicely for kingfish along the Boulder Bank, and there's a lot of snapper everywhere."
The Nelson Mail