Catfish Cull

3rd annual Lake Taupo Catfish Cull

By Pat Swanson

New Zealand’s Lake Taupo Catfish Cull is now a firm fixture on the annual diving calendar. Coming a week after the National Spearfishing Championships, on the last weekend of January, it is a great opportunity for serious, and many not so serious spearos to get together for the novelty of spearing fish in fresh water, and along the way having a positive impact on the lake’s ecosystem.

American brown bullhead catfish are now widespread in the lake. They are a small species – averaging less than 300 grams in weight, and possibly growing to about a kilo in New Zealand. They compete with native species and trout for food, and are also capable of modifying habitat with their feeding habits.

This year nearly 60 divers assembled at Motuoapa, ready to head out onto the southern end of the lake to spear catfish. The competition stipulated hand spears only, and only catfish to be speared!

Conditions were ideal with light winds, and despite poor weather leading up the event, visibility was not too bad. Most divers found catfish in the shallow weedbeds around the lake fringes, but at the end of the day it was two divers who thought a little outside the square that prevailed.


They found most of their fish in 12-15 metres of water. Crucially national champion John Anderson, and pole spear guru Reid Quinlan’s fish were on average bigger.

They weighed in an incredible 150 fish, with an aggregate weight of 44.8 kg. Unbelievably, second placed Blair Herbert and Pat Swanson also weighed in exactly 150 fish, but their weight was some six kilograms less.

In third place was veteran diver Darren Shields, and his partner Paul Best, who is also heading to Hawaii later this year to represent New Zealand at the Interpacific Championships.

Rounding out the top four were Wellingtonians Chris Phillips and Chris Mackie, who, in their first effort at catfishing, speared an impressive 106 fish.

Largest fish was 525 grams, speared by Paul Best, smallest was a mere 33 grams speared by Ton Kuypers.

Judy Johnston was top woman, with eight fish, and top junior, winning a speargun donated by Wild Blue was Sam Smith with 10 fish.


Aaron Dowman and Pat Swanson with the help of other locals, friends and family did an outstanding job in organizing the competition, and next year will hopefully see an even bigger field!

A huge thank you to the sponsors – especially principal sponsor Matt Lind from Wild Blue, Dive New Zealand Magazine, Oceanhunter, Wettie, Department of Conservation, and Artre B&B.

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