For the one-pub town of Baralaba, the annual fishing competition is the highlight of the year both socially and financially. And as the word gets out of the quality of this competition as well as the comradeship of the town's populous, the fishing classic is fast becoming a major event on the Central Queensland calendar.
This year the Baralaba Saratoga Fishing Classic played host to 318 competitors, the largest field of contestants in its 10-year history.
Baralaba is situated smack on the banks of the Dawson River, a major tributary of the mighty Fitzroy, which meanders its way 400km across Central Queensland finally draining itself into the waters of Keppel Bay.
The town is about 100km west of Rockhampton and, until recently, based its economy on beef and grain production, but now it is one of the numerous small centres playing a major role in coal mining.
Baralaba is the type of rural town where families get together on weekends on the banks of the Dawson skiing and fishing in the fresh waters created by the Neville Hewitt Weir.
The kids of the town revere the waterway as their place of entertainment and relaxation during school holidays. Armed with a dilly or two and their trusty fishing rods they try to catch a sleepy cod, yellow belly or a barramundi for the dinner table.
But the fish for which the town is renowned is the saratoga. Also know as the Dawson River barramundi, it is a fish that is reputed to be virtually unchanged for 40 million years and is one of this nation's oldest surviving species.
The saratoga is a handsome but thinly-shaped fish with large scales and an upward protruding mouth obviously evolved to capture its prey while lurking below.
It is an excellent fighter and will readily take a popper or other artificial lures to compliment its diet of frogs, boney bream, crayfish and prawns. It is not highly regarded as a table fish because of its bone structure.
Baralaba Classic co-organiser Robbie Price says the townsfolk take pride in their river system and especially their saratoga. All of the money raised at the fishing classic is returned to the river in the form of sleepy cod, yellow belly and grunter fingerlings.
The classic is held over two days and as most of the competitors hail from nearby properties the evening entertainment includes the typical barbecue and of course country and western music.
This year however the absence of yellow belly or silver and banded grunter was well covered by the numerous saratoga while sleepy cod, eel-tailed catfish, spangled perch, black bream, and catfish made up the total catch.
Local Mark Hetherington took out hero status during the weekend after weighing in a 2.96kg saratoga and collecting the $1000 prize money for first place.
Another local, Tony Price, scored $500 for second place with his 2.88kg fish while Jeff Maslen took out third with a 2.87kg fish.
Flora Herrman weighed in a 1.020kg sleepy cod while Barry Phipps caught a 980g jew fish. Tony Price scored an electric boat motor for the heaviest fish of the classic, a 5.130kg catfish. Sam Boal weighed in a 221g butter jew while Matthew Kummerfield landed a spangled perch weighing 37g. Rod Wardle caught a 900g black bream and Viv Oldfield took a special prize for a 3.830kg eel.
Most species award went to Mitchell Collocot and the junior angler winner in this section was Luke Rumpf.Alana Powel took out the best female award while Taos Brennan, Matthew Kummerfield and Brianna Walton scored junior titles.Reads: 5036