I was twelve years old when I first started competition fishing as a junior in 1975 and the only resource sustainability was size limits.
There were no bag limits or possession limits on recreational fisher people. There were no Total Allowable Catch limits (T.A.C.) on commercial fishing and no green or yellow zones or Snapper and Pearl Perch breeding closures. It was a time when there were no public liability issues, duty of care and drink driving was a normal part of the journey home by the seniors.
“S.Q.A.F.C.A has done its part in resource sustainability over the years. The saying that 10% of recreational fisherpeople catch 90% of the fish is so true.”
As years went by, you could see that there was definitely a decline in the fish stocks in Moreton Bay. Then in the early 1990s, a deal was made for the Bribie Passage to become a net-free zone with the late deputy Premier Mr Tom Burns, who instigated the Burns Enquiry. A levy was put on boat registration, now called the Recreational Use Fee, to pay for this net-free zone. Today the annual return to Fisheries Queensland for this fee is over $5 million a year, so we are more than paying our way.
In 2008, the South Queensland Amateur Fishing Clubs Association (S.Q.A.F.C.A) also negotiated the green and yellow zones, followed by bag limits and possession limits some years later. At the time, it was decided to trust science and embrace the limits for the future.
S.Q.A.F.C.A had to adapt immediately- we halved the weight points from ten points per kilo to five points per kilo and doubled the fish points to two points per fish. This was to stop upgrading in weight and encourage competitors to chase other species such as Gar etc.
Most of the S.Q.A.F.C.A. clubs also decided to spread themselves out and chose to fish ‘go as you please’ trips from Double Island Point to the Nerang River regularly. We have also increased the size of our hooks to avoid gut-hooking undersized fish.
When Fisheries Queensland banned the fanning of the top tail on measuring, we had a large number of custom 120mm wide aluminium measuring sticks made for our members. We also release the fish if the fish is just legal on capture as the fish will shrink on ice which will incur a 50-point penalty on the first fish and disqualification on a second undersized fish.
S.Q.A.F.C.A has done its part in resource sustainability over the years. The saying that 10% of recreational fisherpeople catch 90% of the fish is so true. Our current data shows that the Moreton Bay fishery is quite healthy and that we can co-exist with commercial fishing.
Recently, Leanne and I went on a week’s holiday and drove up to the main creek at Yellow Patch, Moreton Island. There were four guys there who stated that there were no fish. We caught 60 Yellowfin Whiting and one Dart right beside them. The difference was we were using $50 worth of live worms with a 1.5m trace and a light one-ball sinker. The guys were using soft plastics with a heavy paternoster trace.
Leanne and I, both bagging out on Whiting, were at our possession limit, which meant we couldn’t catch another whiting unless we had a feed of them or gave some away. We decided to clean and freeze them to take home. So our seven day fishing trip was just three hours.