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Size and Condition of Snapper Caught by Amatuer Fisheries in SNA1

Recreational snapper length and other data were collected from the boat-based hook and line fishery by observers on recreational charter vessels and by recruiting recreational fishers leaving boat ramps in East Northland, Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Plenty to measure their own catch. More than 19,000 recreationally caught snapper were measured at sea throughout SNA1 in 2004–05 and 2005–06. This included data on the size of all fish caught and the condition of snapper returned to the sea.

Funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries
Researchers Blue Water Marine Research
Boyd Fisheries Consultants

Released snapper comprised 58% of the total snapper catch sampled in 2004–05 and 59% in 2005–06. Most of the released snapper were smaller than the minimum legal size of 27 cm. The high proportion of small snapper in the recreational catch probably reflects the large number young fish currently in the SNA1 snapper population. Data from other projects show that the 1999 and 2001 snapper spawning were very successful.

The length distribution collected by trained observers on charter boats was very similar to  the lengths collected by recreational fishers themselves.  Almost all fish over 32 cm were kept in 2004–05 and 2005–06.




Data on fish condition, hook type, hook size, where the fish was hooked, and water depth were also collected. Of the nearly 10,000 released snapper where comments on condition were recorded, 95% were reported as swimming away with 5% recorded as either floating (3%) or dying (2%). Some of the fish that swam away had visible injuries. About 20% showed signs of damage caused by air from a burst swim bladder (barotrauma) or bleeding and 6% were gut hooked or foul hooked.   J hooks and Kahle hooks gut hook a higher proportion of released fish than circle hooks. 

Numerous studies around the world show that fish that are hooked deep (in the throat or gut) are much less likely to survive than lip hooked fish following release. If there are a lot of small fish around fishers should change to circle hooks and use bigger baits to avoid killing small fish.

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