Mangawhai’s Siren of the Seas

Freshly minted with a world record, Nicky Sinden has every reason to smile. There is a recent marriage proposal and a skipper’s qualification too. Last year was special. But when you hear the back story to this talented Mangawhai resident, you can’t help feeling she’s manifested the good stuff, and it’s a catchy way to be.


Fishing began as a headstrong toddler, but stardom followed much later. She was brought up spending summers on a family-owned island off the Bay of Plenty coast, fishing and boating at every chance. In 2010, she applied and won an apprentice role on Matt Watson’s ‘The ITM Fishing Show.’ Generating strong interest from women of all ages, Nicky took the plunge, ditching a well-paid marketing job to start her own show. Armed with a burning hunger to run her own business, along with selling every asset to kick it into gear, she now creates, produces and hosts ‘ADOS Addicted to Fishing’ on Prime TV. Nicky is well into her fifth season of filming and success is flowing. Each week a local fishing legend shares her boat, and filming captures very raw and real moments of life on the briny.


Funding is hard. NZ on Air has never supported fishing shows, so it’s entirely backed by generous sponsors and Nicky herself. But sheer passion, hard work, and that positive manifesting mentioned earlier have paid off. The numbers stack up; the formula works – social media alone shows a fierce following of about 100,000 people.


However, when the show started, Nicky captured attention for playing in a boy’s world. Publicity declared her a beautiful tomboy taking on a male-dominated sport. All that gender stereotyping nonsense has stopped now; it had to – there’s about 50 shows completed, a world-record broadbill, but more importantly – an undeniable obsession, respect and care for what she does. And yes, she’s unapologetically groomed with locks in place and manicured nails – but when that line goes tight, she fights hard.


The social pages and TV footage is just one part of Nicky’s career, something her father and number one mentor refers to as the ‘glitter and the glue.’ The glitter being flashy pictures, big fish and catchy posts. The glue is the true graft behind the scenes, “People don’t see the zero catch days or preparation. There’s a lot involved, it’s not just fishing 24/7.” She says.


However, 22 March 2017 was very much a glitter day. A date tattooed on Nicky’s heart. Setting her sights on a world record, she filled out the official papers and visualised the moment with utter faith. Most likely she got a ribbing from her colleagues for holding such a lofty dream. “At the last minute, we decided to simply tick off an episode and meet deadline. On our second drop, I hooked up! Because I’d planned for a record, everything was lined up to meet the requirements set by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). It couldn’t have rolled out more perfect. But you never say it till you weigh it.” As it erupted out of the water, she knew it was a monster, “People watching the show see us catching marlin and swordfish and I don’t think they realise just how hard it is until you’re fighting one. It’s a physical and mental challenge, but I love it.”


These species are not grandparents of the ocean; they have a short lifespan of about 18-20 years. It was at the end of its life – had it not been, Nicky would have let it go.


At 4.2m long, huge was an understatement, only the bill, head and shoulders could squeeze into Nicky’s 23-foot boat. Returning to port, the magic unravelled as the weigh master cried, “200, 250, 300, 350, 361 kilograms.” Nicky had just caught the largest all-tackle swordfish in the history of all females. Smashed it by 17kgs.


This gutsy piece of news went global and timed perfectly for her next episode. But Nicky wants it known, “You don’t catch a fish like that without teamwork. Skipper, Dave Woodman was amazing driving down on this fish. Mangawhai local, Matt Haliday was the deckhand with a daunting role of gaffing this beast. It’s not a one-person title in my opinion.”


Breaking a 65-year-long record has opened many pathways for Nicky, “I believe every fish chooses its line. When you focus on the good, you bring it back into your life.” From here, she was nominated for ‘The Old Man & The Sea’ Trophy – the most prestigious and meritorious award within the fishing industry. Around since 1958, this legacy piece of silverware gets awarded just once a season from the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council. Not many women have been on the cup before, and she feels grateful, honoured.


Nicky is living her passion from Mangawhai. She rolls out 13 episodes a year, writes fishing articles, hosts corporate charters in the Pacific, she’s on the speaking circuit and keeps fit. “It’s hard to catch broadbill if you’re not strong, you can be squatting for hours. A shout-out goes to Mangawhai’s Fit365 who give me specific training to suit my role.”


Summer has peaked and she’s preparing to say, ‘I do.’ It will be a beautiful coastal affair in the North. But can this year top the past? While she’s marinated in all things fishing, she genuinely believes that’s just a platform for her love of people. Encouraging kids to fish, building up the sisterhood and enjoying her Northland community ­­‑ why can’t this year exceed the last? Game on 2018. Finally, we asked Nicky for a sweet fishing spot to share with our Gatherers, “You can’t lose at the Hen & Chicken Islands. You can easily grab your live bait here and drift fish for snapper and kingfish.”


Words by Kirsty Millar | Photography by Jessica Whiting


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