Game anglers take aim at big cash prizes

FEATURE EVENT: The Garmin Billfish Shootout is the most lucrative gamefishing tournament in the southern hemisphere. Pictures: Dave Finn
FEATURE EVENT: The Garmin Billfish Shootout is the most lucrative gamefishing tournament in the southern hemisphere. Pictures: Dave Finn

Gun gamefishos will converge on Port Stephens this weekend for the 2020 Garmin Billfish Shootout Tournament.

Hosted by Newcastle and Port Stephens Gamefishing club, the most lucrative gamefishing tournament in the southern hemisphere offers over $250,000 in prizes, including a massive $200,000 for the biggest blue marlin over 258kg.

The glamour prize has never gone off before although Adam Hoey came close in 2018 (when the weight limit was 236kg and prize $100,000), falling a mere 4.6kg off the cash with a 231.4kg blue.

"This year the prize money has doubled and the underwriters have tweaked the weight limit up slightly, but I reckon there's a good chance it could go," Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fishing Club president Troy Radford said.

"The current's looking really good. The recent southerly and low pressure system off the coast will bring the good water in and the fish will follow."

There is also a plethora of other cash and prizes in various division, including separate bounties of $12,500 each for heaviest marlin capture over 150kg, champion boat tag and release, and heaviest shark capture over 350kg respectively, as well as $5000 for champion boat tag and release under eight metres.

"We're regarded as the biggest game fishing tournament in the southern hemisphere and at this stage we're looking at between 150 and 170 boats and upwards of 850 anglers," Troy said.

"They're coming from as far south as Tassie, west from WA, north from as far away as Cairns and last year we had anglers from the US too.

"There will be boats as small as five metre tinnies right up to 78ft game fishing boats like Phil Webster's Little Audrey."

The event is structured to encourage tag and release fishing and is inspired to give club members the opportunity to get together and fish, and win really good prizes.

"There is a radio system in place that all vessels are tuned into which helps determine fish size," Troy said.

"Only exceptional fish are weighed, the rest are tagged and released. You have the big money prizes but there's also well over $50,000 in giveaway, lucky boat prizes and so which means everyone's in with a show, not just the top anglers."

Port Stephens is recognised as the home of game fishing in Australia and is where the first ever black marlin was caught.

"The tournament builds on that tradition," Troy said. "It brings the best fishos to the area and showcases to the world what a great place we have here and what a great club."

A briefing will be held on Friday, February 14 at Nelson Bay RSL before fishing gets underway from 8am on Saturday and Sunday.

"The weigh station will be open after 4pm each day and the public is welcome to come on down for a look," Troy said.

"The presentation will be held at Nelson Bay RSL club Sunday night starting around 7.30pm."

This year's event ties in with the Mark Hughes Foundation to raise money for brain cancer research in honour of Newcastle and Port Stephens Game fishing Club member Tony Conahan, who sadly passed away this year.

"Tony was a dearly loved member of the club and we're going to be selling Mark Hughes merchandise on the night," Troy said.

"We're also running a mega raffle to raise money for the foundation with roughly $10k worth of prizes

"We're also auctioning a days fishing on Little Audrey, which has been kindly donated by Phil Webster."

Entries to this year's Shootout are open up until briefing on Friday, although that will be dependent on numbers.