Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Data to Get Fishers Hooked

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Data to Get Fishers Hooked

Article excerpt

Byline: Cas Garvey

IT'S the dream of many keen fishermen to join the 'metre club' - and with the continued success of Mackay's net-free zone, the odds of catching a barramundi over 100cm are in our favour.

A data collection report on the St Helens to Cape Hillsborough net-free zone, due out at the end of the month, is expected to show a big increase in the size of fish caught since the zone was declared last year.

Mackay Recreational Fishing Alliance members have been gathering catch data to gauge the improvement in fish stocks of the zone, with president John Bennett saying this year is looking the best yet.

"Before the net-free zone I labelled (the Mackay region) the Dead Sea," he said.

"As a pretty serious barra fisherman I was lucky to catch four or five in that area in a year. Recently, over three days, my family and I landed 23 barramundi in that area."

Mr Bennett says another angler in the region caught 48 barra over three weeks earlier this year, with 16 of them measuring over a metre.

"The barramundi is an iconic Queensland species," he said. "People spend thousands of dollars just to catch one; someone from Victoria for instance has to get to Queensland, pay for boat hire, fishing gear, travel, accommodation... people spend a lot of money to catch a fish like that.

"And the metre trophy fish that people are desperately chasing... once they catch their first one and get the bug you've got to catch that metre."

He said while fishing at Seaforth over the Easter break, there "wasn't a bit of grass that wasn't parked on" with cars everywhere and families throwing in a line.

"The Mackay area has the highest fishing participation rate in the whole of Queensland at 28%; so if politicians are thinking of removing the net-free zones come election time, it'd be verging on political suicide," Mr Bennett said.

Between February and April last year, the alliance collected 1500 hours of fishing data. This year, they're expecting 1700 hours.

What's collected?

Vice president Luke Galea is the man responsible for collating all that data, which includes information about the day's fishing trip - what was caught, a rough guide to where it was caught, the condition of the fish and details of the angler.

"Already we're seeing a steady increase in fish sizes; a little bit with numbers as well," Mr Galea said.

"The fish that were 60cm last year we're now seeing 70-75cm.

"The place is alive. There's that much bait too... mullet, prawns, we're catching species like threadfin salmon that we haven't seen in many years."

The keen fisherman - who says if he misses a weekend of wetting a line he gets "withdrawal symptoms" - has seen an increase in smaller fish since the introduction of net-free zones. …

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