Fun with fishing comps
  |  First Published: December 2013

Anglers are a funny lot. Mostly they seek seclusion and privacy when they are fishing. They like to keep their special spots , flies, lures, baits and techniques to themselves; they don’t like fishing in a crowd. Mention a fishing competition, though, and all the rules change!

A fishing competition is a challenge to one’s ability; a chance to pit your skills and ability against those of your fellow angler. The chance of catching the most or the biggest fish is irresistible.

Canberra’s 5 urban lakes and the surrounding waterways in NSW provide ideal locations for fishing competitions. The philosophy underlying each event varies. Sometimes they are just for fun. Others raise funds for fish stocking or for charity. Some are used to gauge fish numbers and the health and wellbeing of a specific fishery. Carp competitions raise awareness of a problem species and help garner support for research into control programs. All have a secondary importance of providing information to fisheries biologists responsible for management of particular fisheries.

Some competitions are more successful than others in generating information about the fishery. One redfin competition we had in the urban lakes Tuggeranong and Ginninderra in late winter was a fizzer – only 13 tiny redfin to 27cm were caught in two days of concentrated fishing with fly, lure and bait. It was simply the wrong time of the year to catch them.

A native fish and redfin competition held in Lake Burley Griffin several months later was more successful. Water temperatures were up, the weather kind and the fish bit well. The best golden perch was 47cm and the best redfin was 36cm. The winner took home a cash prize of $1000 and we got a good appreciation of the fish populations in the lake.

Special techniques often are employed to win a competition. One event was run in Lake Ginninderra for 4 hours each Thursday night for 8 weeks. It was won by an angler who caught redfin, carp, golden perch and Murray cod on every competition night. He used yabbies and scrub worms for bait and his special technique was to fish close in to the shoreline – he never fished more than 7m out from the bank. It proved that that was where the fish feed at night. It’s valuable information for all fishers to note.

The Scouting movement also benefits from an annual fishing competition in Lake Ginninderra. Girl and boy Scouts of all ages gather at the lake to learn about basic fishing techniques and compete to see who can catch the best fish. It’s a valuable addition to the outdoor skills practised and refined by the Scouting movement.

Some competitions are useful social equalisers. Canberra, for example, has a large diplomatic community, not all of whom get along together because of differing social and political attitudes. Once a year, though, they meet on neutral ground at Lake Eucumbene for the two-day Diplomatic Fishing Tournament. On this weekend all rivalries except the quest for the biggest and most fish are forgotten. Your politics don’t matter, just your fishing skills.

Some competitions are bigger than others. The Snowy Mountains Trout Festival fished each year in Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara attracts large numbers of anglers from all over Australia in the quest for the largest rainbow or brown trout and Atlantic salmon. These anglers act as a large survey group, providing valuable data on the health, population structure and wellbeing of each of the fisheries involved and helps guide fisheries managers in decision-making about each of the waterways.

The Brogo Bass Bash is another form of competition solely aimed at fundraising. It’s held at Brogo Reservoir on the south coast of NSW each year and the money raised is used directly in purchasing more bass fingerlings for the reservoir. It’s a good example of anglers supporting and paying for their future fishing. 

Carp feature heavily in competitions. The Great Carp Catch is held at Lake Tuggeranong each year. This is promoted as a great family fishing day and, because all trophies and prizes are awarded for Mystery Weights in each category and angler age groups, every carp or redfin caught has an equal chance of winning. It’s a great way to run a competition.

Yass township also stages a Carp Catch. Anglers are invited to catch and remove as many carp as possible from the newly-enlarged Yass Weir prior to stocking with native fish. It’s an excellent low-cost culling operation with a great chance of success.

Coarse fishers also have their own fun. Once a year coarse fishers from all over Australia and sometimes New Zealand gather at Lake Burley Griffin for the Canberra Classic. This 3-day event gives the public a chance to see some of the best light tackle anglers in Australia catching carp in the classic European tradition, and it’s a delight o watch.

Finally there is the big one, the Yamaha Cod Classic, staged at Lake Mulwala each year just as the Murray cod season opens in the ACT and NSW. Thousands of anglers head for this one, for the chance of meeting other anglers, to learn new techniques, to compete for big prizes and generally have fun. It highlights the importance to the community of native fish generally and Murray cod specifically, and illustrates just how far we have come in our appreciation of native and other fish. That’s what competitions are all about.

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