Hanging tough at Port Stephens Interclub

TIME-HONOURED: Interclub combines decades of tradition and rivalry as clubs from across NSW converge on Port Stephens to fight for the mantle 'best of the best'. Picture: Dave Finn
TIME-HONOURED: Interclub combines decades of tradition and rivalry as clubs from across NSW converge on Port Stephens to fight for the mantle 'best of the best'. Picture: Dave Finn
HIGH HOPES: Organisers are hoping for favourable weather conditions and a strong marlin bite. Picture: DAVE FINN.

HIGH HOPES: Organisers are hoping for favourable weather conditions and a strong marlin bite. Picture: DAVE FINN.

The NSW Game Fishing Association's State Championships, better known as Interclub, has long brought people together and this year perhaps more than others.

Member clubs on the south coast have done it tough through the bushfires over New Year and some individuals who normally fish Interclub won't contest 2020 because they are rebuilding their lives.

In a show of solidarity, the NSWGFA has donated $16,000 to help those in need, while individual clubs like Uludulla have held events in the wake of the destruction to raise money.

"Those members who can't make Interclub this year are resilient, and we hope that with help they will be back next year," NSW Game Fishing Association president Gary Chenoworth said.

"The gamefishing community stick together, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going - that's why NSWGFA donated money and why Ulluldulla raised over $30k through a promotional event recently."

A similar story of resilence applies to Interclub, which for the very first year in its history was cancelled last year due to poor weather.

"Safety of competitors was, and will always be, paramount, but we're back this year and have our fingers crossed the weather gods smile favourably," Gary said.

"We're expecting over 100 boats and upwards of 550 anglers to contest the event, which runs over three days from Friday, February 21 to Sunday February 23.

"We've seen a good early-season run of black marlin and excitement is building about what's in store."

Interclub is traditionally a battle for prestige with clubs throughout NSW competing across a range of divisions for the mantle "best of the best".

Port Stephens is the home of gamefishing in Australia, with the first ever black marlin caught in Australian waters landed by Dr Mark Lidwell back in 1913.

That fish remains on display in Sydney's Maritime Museum to this day, testament to the gamefishing history of the bay.

Adding to the pedigree, Newcastle and Port Stephens GFC celebrated its 90h anniversary last year.

On top of that, there will be a certain degree of cabin fever amongst member clubs, particularly from the south, eager to get on the water and get it on.

Briefing for this year's event will be held Thursday, February 20, the same day the Ladies event, the Lyndy Grieves Memorial is run.

The Lyndy Grieves Memorial honours the tireless contributions Lyndy and her husband Neil made to gamefishing over many years providing radio support to numerous tournaments in the local area and further afield.

Interclub fishing gets underway, Friday morning following the traditional sail past, followed by three frenetic days of fishing.

As always the focus will be on tag and release, with members of the scientific community on hand to make the most of the few fish that are weighed.

"Those scientists will include Dr Julian Pepperell, a renowned marlin research specialist who was recently inducted into the International Game Fishing Assocation Hall of Fame," NSWGFA secretary Nigel Rushworth said.

"Shark Researcher Nick Ottway, from DPI, will also attend, as he has for the last decade and a half.

"Tahlee Bible College Church will use those fish that are weighed to feed the local church community, while Leanne Grieves and her daughter Caitlin will continue the tradition established by parents Neil and Lyndy by manning the radio skeds over the event."

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