Everything was looking good for the 2016 Houhora One Base game fishing tournament that started yesterday - until yesterday morning.
Thieves raided at least four boats, possibly five, on Tuesday night, stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear. One of the boats was reportedly put out of action, but other contestants rallied around and provided the rods and reels that the other victims needed to go fishing.
The thefts left the organisers struggling for words to express their disgust.
"Everything's been going so well. Everyone's been on a high," Debbie Bunn said.
"We've got 90 boats, 306 anglers - and now this happens."
At least one of the boats that were raided was from Kaitaia, while another had been towed north from Auckland on Tuesday by a group of young fellows, who Ms Bunn described as absolutely devastated. Initially it was thought that four boats had been targeted, two of them at the Houhora Heads camping ground, one at a motel and one on a private property.
"God help these (thieves) if they try again and someone catches them," she added, "but who will be prosecuted if that happens? And how stealthy were they? Some of these guys were sleeping right beside their boats and didn't hear a thing.
"This is not what we're about in the Far North," she said.
"These are the same (despicable people) who target camper vans. They see an event like this as an opportunity. I honestly don't know what's wrong with them."
Police were still gathering information yesterday, but a spokesman said property worth $20,000 had been taken from one of the boats alone. The haul included rods and reels, lures, other game fishing gear, GPS units and fish finders.
Meanwhile Ms Bunn believed that the incident should serve as a warning to the organisers of and participants in the Placemakers 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza surfcasting tournament that starts on Tuesday. Organisers of that event said yesterday that contestants should not leave valuables, including wallets, on display in their vehicles while they were fishing or at the weigh-in.