As the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club closed its doors, the fate of the Dave Irvine Memorial Snapper Classic for 2015 became uncertain and the tournament was postponed from its regular June long weekend date.
The fishing community waited to see how many people would follow the comp as the location changed to the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club in August. Questions were raised – how would the event run at a new venue? What mood were the snapper going to be in late winter? As the date got closer, one thing grew completely certain, unlike previous years, the weather forecast looked good and the competition would certainly be run on both days. But we learned - never count your snapper before you’ve caught them!
Dave Irvine was a Northern NSW local, a big supporter of sustainable fishing - in particular catch and release fishing -and was the inventor of the ‘Enviro Nets’ which improve survival rates for fish after being released. Unfortunately Dave passed away in 2007 at the young age of 44. The Dave Irvine Memorial Snapper Classic was created as a tribute to his contribution to sustainable fishing practices. The Irvine Classic is a unique competition. The rules follow a ‘Catch, Photo and Release’ tournament style. No fish are kept during the competition, all are released after being measured and photographed on a ‘bragmat’ (another of Dave’s inventions). Fishing is with lures only, and strictly cast and retrieve, which almost always results in mouth hook ups - another contributor to healthy catch and release fishing. Prizes for the tournament are drawn out of a barrel, so everyone’s in with a chance no matter how well they performed fishing. Respect for the fish, a fun atmosphere, and great prizes for all has made the Irvine Classic one of the most popular and enjoyable fishing events for offshore anglers in Australia.
The Friday briefing cleared up a few of the uncertainties anglers were worried about. There were 173 anglers signed up and 69 teams that made for a good turn out at late notice. The facilities set up at the new venue were excellent, as was the service. After a run down of all the rules and the distribution of gear packs we were ready to find some snapper.
In the days leading up to the classic the weather forecast had deteriorated with a moderate sea breeze predicted, so competitors knew they were in for a bit of a slog in the afternoon. With that in mind, most teams got out on the water early to find light winds, clear skies and very clear water inshore. Those trying to hide from the wind in the shallows mostly found smaller fish, if they found any at all. By mid morning the wind had already exceeded predicted strengths and continued to build into the afternoon. Those that were stubborn enough to stay out in deeper water, and had packed a drogue, or seven, were able to get some good fish on the bragmat even in the face of 25kts of Nor’easter. The wind had pushed much of the field off the water by mid afternoon with only a few hardy snapper anglers pushing on for the day.
At the weigh in there were rumours of good fish amongst the submitted photos, but as always, the teams were quiet as they anxiously tried to keep their cards close to their chest, or busily avoided eye contact to keep others from noticing their lack of photos.
The forecast for the second day predicted strong winds in the afternoon but better conditions for the morning so most teams planned an early trip to the boat ramp to get the jump on the conditions. It was not until logging on with marine rescue that most found out that the Bureau of Meteorology had called a strong wind warning for the area which unfortunately signalled the cancelation of any competition for the day. Some who had already launched decided to head out anyway to take advantage of the early conditions that teased competitors with much calmer winds and seas than the previous morning. Murphy’s Law ensured that the many teams who scored donuts on the first day had no trouble finding the fish they had searched so hard for the previous day. The cancelling of day two however, meant that the trophies would be decided on the results of day one alone, but what a day of snapper fishing to decide the winners.
The end result of the Saturday was 450 snapper entered in total, at an average of 48.48cm. Last year’s Snapper Classic only resulted in 122 fish caught in total. The presentation saw every junior entrant walk away with a $50 Fishing Tackle Australia voucher and a Shimano Junior fishing pack. Over $30 000 worth of prizes were drawn including the major prize of a Bluefin boat and Evinrude motor package. The four biggest snapper were announced and had to be separated by millimeters with Christopher Smith taking out largest snapper with a 91.3cm fish. Dominic Thornley defended his title as top male angler with 1790 points but was unable to hold onto the overall Champion Angler title as this year the major trophy was taken out by Chloe Taylor, the top female angler for the tournament on 1835 points.
Congratulations to Chloe on a dominant angling effort and to all those involved in the competition whether it be competing or organisation of the event. Overall the 2015 Snapper Classic put to bed any uncertainty about the tournament being anything other than a ‘must attend’ event for any self respecting snapper angler. We look forward to another great year in 2016.
|3rd||BY THE GILLS||2312|
|2ndRYAN COLIN THOMPSON||148|