Greed on the Tweed
  |  First Published: September 2003

MY HIGH anticipation leading into this new season was severely soured by recent events at the Tweed. Regular readers will be aware that there has been no shortage of water in the catchment, with a good flow over the Clarrie Hall Dam spillway for most of the winter and many impoundment bass finding their way into Doon Doon Creek and on into the Tweed.

Prospects of a great bass season were rife, with the grapevine working overtime about big numbers of bass were holed up in the pools just below the dam. I had just returned from a dam charter which had produced some of the fattest, roed-up fish I have caught there in years. Unweighted soft plastics worked through the weed-entangled shallows made for some exciting fishing.

I had a phone call that night from a bloke in Newcastle who had just spent a week at the dam. He loved the place and vowed to return. Word had reached him about the two pools in question and he had caught and released 90 bass one day.

Here’s where things turned sour. On arriving at the pools one morning, he was greeted by a number of locals who had obviously different intentions for the fish. One very large esky was already full of breeding-sized bass, with estimates of between 50 and 100 fish. The question of bag limits and ethics was raised by our young visitor, who was quickly met with threats of violence.

I won’t go into the details but I’m sure you get the picture. These guys were spotted there a number of times over previous weeks and it didn’t take long to work out where they were from. I visited the pools to get some photos a couple of times over the following week.

On one visit, I had both of my children with me, relishing the opportunity to wander around the creek. Empty stubbies, discarded line and rubbish were obviously new to the area.

The first fish I witnessed getting caught was attached to a mass of line that the angler had hooked. The fish could be seen trying to escape with line running in every direction. The tangle and weight of the line were so great that the lure eventually broke off and the whole mess descended back into the pool, the fish still attached.

I headed downstream with the kids. There are some pretty pools downstream that I thought might be worth looking at, if only to be rid of the mess. We were greeted with a couple of cleaning stations where masses of scales indicated a large-scale kill. Human excrement topped it off for me.

I never expected to find so much discarded fishing line – heavy-duty snares for ground-dwellers. We did a major clean-up that morning before leaving, but evidence of people having fires was everywhere. One picnic table and benches were ripped from their mounts and had been partially burnt.

The local Fisheries office and the National Parks and Wildlife Service received a number of calls about the situation. Undermanned and under-financed, they were unable to mount any real operation while the carnage was occurring – a situation I find disgraceful.

Fish Care volunteers were on the job very quickly but they have no prosecuting powers, but they were able to pass on relevant fisheries literature. Many people who fished the area with young children didn’t know anything about bag or size limits, highlighting the lack of signage in the area.

The result is that if it can’t be policed, it could more than likely be closed to the public. The council is fed up with the vandalism, there are issues for native animals and Fisheries regulations are being blatantly abused.

The only losers will be those who love to fish and visit the area. To take a child and catch a few bass easily makes for a great family adventure, even if you take your bag limit home – after all, it is a put-and-take fishery.

The question is, will it stop those with the mindset to take as many fish as they can, leave their rubbish behind and vandalise public property? If differences in opinion lead to violent responses, it is only a matter of time before there is a risk to the public. There is nothing worse than listening to foul-mouthed drunks in a public area.

The council, the Australian Bass Association and the local community worked hard for a long time to allow access to fish the waterway, stocked with fish by local fundraising. It is a great resource that deserves at the very least that it is shared within the regulations.

1) Many Clarrie Hall bass have found their way into Doon Doon Creek and on into the Tweed.

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