THE 6th Narooma Flathead Challenge saw more than 200 anglers take to Wagonga Inlet to catch and release as many dusky flathead as possible.
By the end of the weekend, the 63 teams fishing had used lures to catch around 450 flathead, measuring, photographing and releasing them unharmed to the water.
The winning team was Team Bunnies from Junee consisting of Brodie Guthrie, Terry Douglas, Barry Jones and Mick Guthrie, who scored a total of 1061 points.
The team got an amazing 17 fish on the first day, 14 of which came in the morning without them even leaving Forsters Bay where the competition begins. Their biggest fish went 65cm.
Team captain Mick Guthrie said his boys were pretty much locals as they had on-site caravans in the Narooma Flat caravan park that they visited as many as five times a year and had fished in the challenge every year.
His only disappointment was that he had always wanted to win an electric trolling motor, but this year the top prizes were changed to fishing sounders.
The biggest fish award went to angler Paul Mayer from Team Jigman for his 89cm flathead caught on Day 1 up the top of the estuary.
Team Jigman, last year’s winners, did well again finishing third.
The best bycatch prize was awarded to Ciaran Doolan from Team Nek Mullet for his 60cm cobia, which was caught all the way at the very top of the inlet past all the oyster leases in only a couple foot of water.
Cobia while not unheard of in Far South Coast estuaries are quite rare this far south, although competition judge and local fishing guide Stuart Hindson had caught one several years ago.
Coincidentally, it was Team Nek Mullet that won last year’s best bycatch award with an amberjack, also a relatively rare visitor from the north.
Judge Stuart Hindson greeted the team at the end of Day 1 saying “What did you catch today boys – a sailfish?” only to be surprised with the answer of “No but we got a cobia!”
The locals were well represented with several home town teams.
The top local team was Team Sika consisting of Johnny Rozs, Riley and Darren “Dash” Bowater and Hippy Carradus, who finished fifth overall.
Finishing ninth with a home lake advantage was Team Black Bream Cabins consisting of Steve Paul, Matt Davey, Graeme Cowley and Mick Hooper. They caught 25 flathead and the biggest was 61 cm.
“In order to win, you’ve got to have at least big one,” team captain Matt said.
The youngest team was Team Minnows consisting of local youngsters Digger Cowie, Abby Dawson and Baillie O’Brien.
Digger led the team as he recently obtained his boat licence and it was mentioned at presentation that he had actually out fished both his father and grandfather who also fished in the competition.
The Narooma Flathead Challenge was started six years ago by publican Paul O’Brien as a way of attracting visitors to town at the typically slow post-Christmas time.
But the competition was also a chance to donate funds to the Starlight Foundation and thanks to various fines and donations, the event raised more than $3500 for the children’s charity.
Paul thanked all the visiting anglers, including one from Team Softy who apparently left his wife in hospital to come fishing, for attending and also all the sponsors who made the event possible.
Cristian Valenzuela who lives in Canada but who originally came from Canberra and is of Chilean descent was awarded for travelling the furthest - and had the nickname "The Chilean Thunder from Down Under".