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10th Anniversary Rocky Barra Bounty
  |  First Published: December 2008



The 10th Anniversary Rocky Barra Bounty was held on 24-25 October 2008 on the Fitzroy River in the heart of Rockhampton and for the first time the quota of 70 teams was met. Being such an important regional event, and with the added bonus of having the chance to go barra fishing for wild fish, Fishing Monthly had to be there – of course!

The Beginning

From somewhat humble beginnings back in 1999, the Rocky Barra Bounty ticked over 10 years in October this year. It started with a modest 32, two-person teams under canvas on the riverbank in 1999, to being fully subscribed a month out with 70 teams for the 10th event in 2008.

The Barra Bounty has again been awarded the highest 5 Star rating under the NEATfish tournament accreditation scheme. This is an important environmental impact rating for fishing tournaments with 5 Star being the highest rating a tournament can receive. This rating is primarily die to the way the tournament is run with catch and release the only option. While bait fishing is allowed in the tournament, competitors use circle hooks that lodge almost exclusively in the corner of the fish’s mouth. Research has shown that mouth hooked fish survive catch and release exceptionally well and the organisers are very keen to show recreational angling can not only co-exist with conservation, but do a great deal for the species through education, awareness and proper handling techniques.

Organisers were thrilled that four new Gold level sponsors saw fit to come on board for this auspicious occasion. BRP Evinrude joined forces with local dealer Terry's Marine to provide a boat, tailer and the brand new 25hp E-Tec package that was won by a very excited Adrian Forrester from Yeppoon. Barra Jacks Tackle World and Queensland soft plastic lure company BOZO Lures joined long time Gold sponsor Platypus Lines to support the event and provide great prizes and tackle for competitors. In fact Phil Alder from bozos ensured all those anglers who didn’t catch a barra went home with at least one packet of Bozos lures by shouting them all a packet at the presentation dinner on Saturday night!

Special celebrity guest Andrew Ettingshaussen from the television fishing program Escape with ET, attended the event and fished with local barra experts, Steve Farrell and Dale Sherrif during the event.

Day One

The weather on day one dawned unseasonably cool, with air temperatures of 10 degrees greeting the early risers. But things quickly warmed up to normal mid-spring Central Queensland day temperatures with a moderate south-westerly breeze ruffling the Fitzroy River.

It was soon evident by the lack of catches being phoned in to headquarters, that it was going to be pretty hard yakka to get on the scoreboard. The few fish that were being caught, were generally very small, being yearlings spawned only 12 months earlier. It wasn't until after lunch that the first decent barra was recorded – a very good 730mm barra.

When lures were pulled at 6pm on day one, only 50 barra had been tagged and released for the day. This was only half the number caught in the Bounty in 2007 on day one and the average size was way down. Live prawns were accounting for many of the small fish, with lure fishers doing really tough. Most fish reported were no longer than 400mm, so few bonus points for size were being handed out.

The water temperature was around 25-26 degrees, which is just fine for Fitzroy barra, and the low tide around midday should have been perfect. It left competitors scratching their collective heads about what to do on Day Two, but almost all competitors were unanimous in their surprise at seeing heavy commercial fishing occurring during the competition.

Competitors reported that there were 6 nets commercial fishing nets set in the kilometre of river immediately below the city reach, and during the week, reliable counts of up to 40 nets were reported from the river, not including those around Port Alma and the delta. Competitors and organisers were not surprisingly dismayed and angered by the excessive level of netting they were confronted with. Since the big flood in January this year, the netting pressure throughout the system has been relentless.

Queensland's fish management, if you can call it that, places no limit on inshore and estuarine commercial catches and no restrictions on numbers of operators fishing areas like the Fitzroy River. Is it any wonder stocks are desperately low at the moment and the recreational sector is relegated to catching only undersized fish that are able to swim through the nets?

Official statements from the DPI&F claim that the fishery is sustainable and that allocations among sectors are fair. Most recreational anglers and locals would wonder about this statement!

Day Two

Day two dawned slightly warmer and the day ended up with light winds, clear skies and 30 degrees on the water – perfect barra fishing conditions.

Small fish continued to be the order of the day until Kev Matheson phoned through an impressive 925mm barra mid morning. That sounded like the fish to beat for the biggest trophy, but amazingly, Brendan Warren fishing right up the top of one of the creeks in the Fitzroy delta, trolled up a 970mm beauty. Brendan's team hadn't troubled the scorer at all on the first day, but came roaring home with a wet sail by landing another ripper of 950mm not long after.

Another surprise was the lack of fish of other species being phoned in. Normally in Barra Bounty's, reasonable numbers of blue salmon and king threadfin salmon are taken throughout the event. This year, other species were way down in numbers and king salmon were in single figures for the first time. It would appear that the harvesting has been equally effective for threadfin as well.

Despite the numbers and size of fish being well down on last year and down on average over the previous 9 events, competitors still thoroughly enjoyed the event and were in good spirits at the grand presentation dinner on the Saturday evening.

The average length of the 1150 barra tagged and released over the preceding 9 Rocky Barra Bounty's, was 570mm, still under the minimum legal length of 580mm. The average for 2008 over the 118 barra caught, was a meagre 375mm – tiddlers. There were only 12 legal barra caught during the event out of the 118 total. This telling statistic should be ringing loud alarm bells in the halls of fish management and government – but will it?

Organisers are confident that the 2009 Rocky Barra Bounty set down for the last weekend of the open season (30/31 October), will see a reasonable return, as the little fish of this year will be one year older and still too small to be extracted by the nets, just..

How can we lure Northern Territory fisheries managers and members of government to relocate to Queensland and rescue our ailing inshore fishery? That seems to be our best hope.

Results

From the two days angling, competitors in the event landed, tagged, photographed and released 166 fish. Of this figure 118 were barramundi and the ever-present gold spot rock cod contributed another 20 to the total.

TOTAL SPECIES

SpeciesNumberTotal Length (mm)Total Points

Barramundi1184430050220
Gold spot rock cod2063906400
King threadfin1239404400
Blue threadfin418802060
Dusky flathead417051945
Golden snapper312351320
Barred javelin3575575
Mangrove jack2820890

TOP TEAMS USING LURES

TeamNumberTotal lengthTotal Points
CREEK 2 COAST (Craig Griffiths/Jason Bradford)735654510
TEAM EXTREME 2 (Brendan Warren/Peter O’Brien)219303040
QUIET ONES (Paul James/Cameron Huff)521352440

TOP TEAMS USING BAIT

TeamFishTotal lengthTotal Points
TICA STRIKE PRO (Mitch Lester/Lee Jackson)3091409200
BOOF BROTHERS (Daniel Powell/Stephen Lill)934854060
AQUABAT (Peter Kelly/Brendan Zerafa)414151515

TOP INDIVIDUAL BARRA FISHER - LURE AND BAIT COMBINED

AnglerFishTotal lengthTotal Points
Lee Jackson1546604700
Mitch Lester1544804500
Brendan Warren219303040

TOP INDIVIDUAL FISHER OTHER SPECIES

AnglerFishTotal lengthTotal Points
Steve Pill415701770
Dereck Sanderson616601665
John Boon415501635

LARGEST BARRAMUNDI

Brendan Warren – 970mm

Brendan Warren – 960mm

Kev Matheson - 925mm

Top 20 TEAM BARRA LURE

TeamFishTotal lengthTotal Points
CREEK 2 COAST735654510
TEAM EXTREME 2219303040
QUIET ONES521352440
FOAMING AGENTS620802090
CRAB BAIT211301510
RED EYE SPECIALS19251450
UNFINISHED BUSINESS312751450
BOZOS312551425
DRAG ONS514201420
BOOFHEADS413551395
BATTERED SAV29601290
BRICK AND TROWEL18201240
DAZE OFF29251050
TACKLEWORLD NOOSA3930930
BEER N BUNDY BOYS3810810
CLAYNETTA1570740
BUSH N BEACH 22590590
UP THE FRONT UP THE BACK1445490
REEL DEAL1380380
RUM AND OARS1310310

Top 6 TEAM BARRA BAIT

TeamFishTotal length Total Points
TICA STRIKE PRO3091409200
BOOF BROTHERS934854060
AQUABAT414151515
IPSWICH TRIERS312351470
TEAM KAHUNA310001080
REAL SCREAMERS1320320

Top 20 INDIVIDUAL BARRA LURE AND BAIT

AnglerFishTotal lengthTotal Points
Lee Jackson1546604700
Mitch Lester1544804500
Brendan Warren219303040
Craig Griffiths522802740
Stephen Lill519602330
Justin Bradford212851770
Daniel Powell415251730
Cameron Huff313851690
Daniel Muir211301510
Kev Matheson19251450
Guy Spittles18201240
Bob Pardon29751210
Dale Jackson310001080
Garry Heymer310351075
Rob Ferguson310601070
Mark Wilson17301060
Shorty Challacombe29251050
Stephen Wann410501050
Nathan Robson310201020
Brendan Zerafa2835935

Top 20 INDIVIDUAL OTHER SPECIES

AnglerFishTotal lengthTotal Points
Steve Pill415701770
Dereck Sanderson616601665
John Boo415501635
Adrian Moessinger17401080
Derek Lee310351035
Hudd Jaavuo3995995
Daniel Powell2790910
Bob Pardon3870870
John Gneck3820820
Stephen Lill2715740
Bruce Robinson1600700
Gerard Carr1490580
Peter Dean1470540
Michael Powell1410420
Ron Chapman1365365
David Heymer1350350
Gavin Pitts1350350
Mitch Lester1350350
Nathan Robson1345345
Matt Mulhall1340340
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