Fish ready to fire
  |  First Published: August 2012

Cabin fever. I’ve got it bad. So have most of my mates who fish offshore. As I write this, the rain is still coming down and there is (another!) gale warning issued. There is a limit to how many rigs you can tie, tackle trays to restock, reels to re-spool and GPS points to pore over in your secret little GPS black book. I’VE GOTTA GO FISHING!

From a fish perspective, the fish have had a few months of peace and quiet to regroup, grow bigger and hopefully make lots of little fish, which will benefit all us fishers in the longer run. But fishers will look back at 2011 and 2012 as two of the worst years for accessing our offshore grounds east of Bribie and Moreton islands.

Snapper have returned in droves with some of the best numbers and quality of snapper for years. South of Cape Moreton there have been a number of reports of charter vessels bagging out on snapper for all their clients.

Because of the heavy weather conditions, a number of us have been fishing the shallows out from Caloundra Head with good results on small snapper, cod and small cobia to 12kg. The combination of strong southwesters and big easterly swells has made fishing wide a very occasional outing for the past few months and have limited access to the wider grounds.

When the weather has allowed, pearlies in the truly stupendous range have turned up on the deeper ledges wide of Wide Caloundra and Deep Tempest. Like the snapper, they are only on the chew near the prime bite times. Buying and studying the little yellow Angler’s Almanac will improve your catch rates at the moment.

The middle grounds of Wide Caloundra are frustratingly infested with small pearlies at the moment, with 10 throw backs for each keeper. I’d probably be heading south of the Cape for August, if the weather allows, or fishing from the shadow of Caloundra Head up to Murphys if the swell is up and the westerlies are blowing. Maybe there is a cure for cabin fever somewhere there!

The Valhalla is now fully operational, with only a couple of internal cosmetic touches in the cabin to be completed. cobia, cod and XOS pearlies have graced its decks with the biggest pearly measuring 70cm and 6kg. Now that’s a whopper!

Next month we will hopefully see more consistent better weather and I am planning to be out amongst the fish.

Slow down on snapper

I’m glad the snapper numbers are back in action this season but given that some charter vessels have up to 20 clients fishing at one time, one would think that Fisheries would have examined capping the number of Queensland charter licences to minimise local depletion of fish stocks.

There is no management plan by Queensland Fisheries to limit another 100 such charter fishing boats each with 20 punters on their rear deck heading out to join the carnage at Deep Tempest. This should be of concern to fishers and managers alike. Hopefully the Newman Government and new Fisheries Minister John McVeigh will attempt to address this issue in their Government’s first term.

Currently there are over 400 active charter licences in Queensland with no cap on issuing another 400 (or 4000!) into our fisheries.

I am sure all charter and rec fishers fishing for snapper would prefer a considered approach to issuing charter licences rather than being faced with the spectre of more snapper closed seasons (up to four months under the recent Snapper RIS) because of unmanaged charter fishing effort.

As a point of comparison, over 1,000, that’s right 1,000 L1 licences to take snapper were taken off the commercial fishing sector in 2009 to remove latent effort. I am sure all those 1,000 commercial fishers did not approve of losing their valuable L1 symbol. But let’s keep handing out charter licences until there are more snapper sustainability issues, then wipe out the finances of the whole industry with extended closures. Doing nothing in regard to potential increased charter effort is NOT the right thing to do.

Because of the history of draconian management options proposed in the last Snapper RIS, it would be reasonable to expect that the Fisheries Economic Development section would be proactively consulting with charter stakeholders to seek a solution to potential charter overfishing now. Why wait until charter activity in places like the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay and Weipa explodes before taking belated action?

It appears that the Newman Government is slashing funding to Fisheries and considering ceasing stakeholder funding to QSIA and Sunfish. A potential positive of this situation should be the development of a more substantive co-management model, with good fisheries managers working closer to actual fishers and providing communication through funded departmental channels. The peak body process produced a cosy, unrepresentative and inefficient layer of fishocrats who in some instances pushed real fishers even further from consultation and decision making processes.

Hopefully when funding to stakeholders appears again it will be allocated to support a streamlined co-management style where fisheries managers and scientists are actually out of their offices and meeting with fishers in ports up and down the Queensland coast before the expediency of hand-picked, unrepresentative stakeholder working groups and unpalatable RIS documents are released in the upcoming crab and coral reef fin fish reviews.

Enough of the angst. I blame the cabin fever …

• INCREDIBLE CHARTERS is now in the safe hands of Brendon Watson. If you would like to fish Wide Caloundra or other offshore destinations with INCREDIBLE CHARTERS, please call Brendon on 3203 8188 or 0427 038 188 or email: --e-mail address hidden--

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