A nervous wait for winner
ALMOST 200 anglers on 75 boats bashed the bottom of the deeps off Wooli in this year's Wooli Hotel Snapper Challenge.
At twice the size of last year's competition, the prize pool hit record heights and the fish answered the call, with winner Paul Wilson landing the biggest fish in the six-year history of the challenge.
Wilson, who pumped his monster off the bottom on Wednesday, endured a nervous wait until the close of fishing on Friday afternoon before accepting his $13,000 first prize.
With his fish weighing in at 8.93kg gilled and gutted, Wilson didn't have much to worry about. He bettered the second-placed fish by more than 800g.
Greg Barnes, of Glen Innes, took home $3400 for his 8.13kg snapper and early leader Wayne Oxenbridge's fish of 7.36kg was enough to net him $1700 for third.
"It was a great competition and a real boost to everyone in town," hotelier Ian Rees said.
"The winning fish was the biggest caught in the challenge so far and we were astounded by how many entrants we had this year.
"The competition is a great week, and of course I was devastated when the winds stopped the boats going out early in the week and people had to sit around in the pub all day."
The Wooli Snapper Challenge has evolved from a week away for some Central Coast mates into a full-scale fishing fest, with consultants from Fisheries NSW and various other authorities now part of the planning of the event.
A popular innovation in recent years has been the brag mat competition, which holds a prize of $400 per day for the biggest fish that is caught, measured on a standard rule, and then released back into the ocean.
"The boats could really only get across the bar on Tuesday through to Friday, so the early days' prizemoney was donated to the local Volunteer Marine Rescue," Rees said.
"A special mention also has to go to last year's defending champions Daniel Saye and Jay Cochrane - the worst defending champions in history.
"They had all the fancy gear on the new boat this year and didn't catch a fish all week."