The 32nd annual Coruba fishing tournament got a boom start when a near-record 384.2kg monster from the deep was landed after a three-hour struggle by a host-club stalwart off the Central Hawke's Bay coast yesterday.
The mako was too big for the 5.5m boat Rampant from which long-time Hawke's Bay Sports Fishing Club member Graeme Bee first hooked about 10.50am, at Post Office Rock, north of Bare Island and off Ocean Beach.
He battled for the first hour awaiting the arrival of the nearest help, the fellow Napier boat Donna 2, and as a safety measure was allowed to transfer boats to continue the fight.
As word of mouth spread among other boats scattered as far north as Mahia Peninsula on the first day of the tournament, the mako leapt completely out of the sea several times.
It was seen biting in half one of about 20 blue shark following the ordeal and once it broke free.
"But it came back for more," said Mr Bee, who with skippers Paul Galbraith (Rampant) and Carson Green (Donna 2) was able to announce about 2.30pm the battle was over and they were on their way home.
Well, not quite, for it was still alive in the water, lashed almost the full length of the Rampant when it arrived at the HBSFC at Ahuriri about 6.30pm.
A welcoming party of more than 300 greeted the catch, which was a few centimetres too long to be hoisted clear of the ground to complete the weigh-in.
"She's not over yet," said Mr Bee, as everyone pondered what to do in what stretched to almost an hour before it was finally strung up and officials could announce the weight of the only shark recorded during the day.
Mr Bee has fished almost every Coruba, saying: "I'm 47 now, and I first competed with the family when I was about 16".
Landed with a 37kg tackle, it was his biggest catch, but it wasn't going anywhere near the New Zealand record 17kg tackle mako landed by Graeme Flett in 1985, on the wall above the club bar.
Mr Bee wanted only the jaw, and today - as he was back out at sea with Mr Galbraith and crewmates Ethan Mills, son of partner Danny Mills, and Mr Galbraith's son, 10-year-old Liam - a Niwa scientist was on the way from Wellington to dissect the mako in public starting at the HBSFC at 3pm.
The mako's landing came just after the landing of the next biggest fish of the day, the only marlin (101.4kg), caught by clubmate Rob Schicker, aboard Anthony Bath's boat, The Boy's Club, under tow by the Maggie May after damaging a throttle cable during the battle. The host club took the first day prizes in a tournament which had almost 500 entries and about 130 boats.
Joe Bicknell's 17.8kg kingfish was the biggest of three weighed in the species, the 72 albacore tuna were headed by David Rouse's catch of 15.625kg, Trevor Brinson landed the biggest of 32 skipjack at 4.565kg, and the biggest of 19 snapper was Shannon Jordan's catch of 9.535kg.
There were no yellowfin, a species which carries the biggest prize at $4000.