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The plot thickens
  |  First Published: October 2004




I’VE JUST returned from the Gold Coast Fishing Tackle Trade Show and Brisbane Boat Show, and the overwhelming topic of conversation, apart from the tackle/boating banter, was the loss of recreational fishing areas Australia-wide. Just about everybody wanted to express their concerns and know more about The Fishing Party and its objectives and, as one of the executive members, I was happy to oblige.

Interestingly, I didn’t hear a single negative comment about what The Fishing Party is trying to achieve. On several occasions I was actually approached by high-profile anglers and industry members intent on letting me know that the Party definitely had their support.

Fishing tackle retailers openly volunteered to distribute literature and sign up members. Some were already experiencing a decline in business, particularly those in the northern half of our state.

The Tackle Show was also visited by Darryl Whitford, a Townsville marine electronics businessman and Fishing Party senate candidate. Darryl has been an astute observer of GBRMPA and the evolution of the RAP process, recently publishing a paper containing a number of startling findings clearly implicating that the RAP program resulted from a political deal done between the Howard government and the Australian Democrats in return for the Democrats’ support of the GST package in 1999/2000.

The Paper also identifies an internal review conducted in 1998 by the Commonwealth Government Auditor General concerning the GBRMPA’s performance. This was a scathing report showing that the GBRMPA was severely lacking in management skills, and its internal reporting of any reef research was very poor.

In contrast to its post GST deal stance, GBRMPA stated in 1998 that there was “no decline in fish stocks on the GBR due to human activity” yet just over a year later GBRMPA had adopted the Democrats’ ‘suggestion’ that reef fish stocks were massively depleted. How did such a poorly performing government agency acquire the necessary management skills and acquire and coordinate the necessary scientific research data in what is considered a ‘blink of an eye’ in public service timeframes?

What it boils down to is that recreational fishers have been ‘sold out’ to enhance a shaky political liaison. The evidence is there in black and white if you take the time to look! How such information has eluded recreational fishing politics for so long is testament to just how ineffectual our representatives have been.

The public exposure of the Democrats’ interference in the RAP process by The Fishing Party has already created significant fallout in the political arena with the removal of the relevant document from that party’s website. Trying to deny and discredit the obvious, rather than acknowledge the truth, is almost a daily ritual in modern politics it seems.

Those recreational fishers and industry personnel who have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude towards The Fishing Party need to be aware of two significant issues that have already been influenced by the growth in Party strength. Firstly, the compensation package for persons affected by the GBRMPA RAP closures has now been extended to include any businesses which can demonstrate economic loss, not only commercial fishers as first specified.

This change of heart came about directly as a result of intense lobbying and media exposure by The Fishing Party and is set to cost the Federal Government a massive amount in compensation. Clearly, the Howard government, in its urgency to get the GST through the Senate, did not do its homework on the cost to Australian taxpayers of the Democrats mooted reef closures.

The other interesting development shows just how influential a ‘one issue’ party can be in what looks set to be a very close election. The Fishing Party has already been approached by at least one major party keen to negotiate preference deals, a sure sign that there are significant numbers of voters out there who are ready to put their vote in the Fishing Party box.

With the political wrangling set to reach its zenith when this magazine hits the stands, the message for recreational fishers is clear. If you care about the freedom of you and your children to go fishing in this country, place your vote for The Fishing Party in the senate.

THE OCTOBER PEAK

The premier month in the second half of the tropical fishing year just has to be October! Sure – the weather can get very hot but if you prepare carefully, this should not hinder your fishing activities.

Commonly called the ‘build-up’ time, October can sometimes host the first storms of wet season late in the month, although it is more usual on Cape York Peninsula for these storms to arrive in late November. The Gulf’s unique tides also experience a changeover from the daytime low tide of winter to a low only at night in summer, choosing October as the month to make the transition.

Consequently, the spring tides of this month are not as large as usual and the neap tides have a bit more run in them. This means that water clarity in both the rivers and offshore is very good, making October one of the best months for lure- and flyfishing, and excellent for sightfishing.

The southeast trade winds that have blown through winter usually back off as well, further enhancing an already potent fishing situation. The afternoon westerly sea breezes, which can sometimes start around midday and blow to 25 knots, are the only fly in the ointment, but the way to beat them is to get on the water early.

Beach fishing at this time of year can be sensational with barra, queenfish, golden trevally, salmon and permit feeding on the prolific bait schools that gather in the shallows. Offshore, the bait schools gather, sometimes in huge numbers attracting mackerel, tuna, queenfish, trevally, giant herring and cobia.

Up the rivers, barramundi, jacks, cod and fingermark haunt the snags and gutters, moving up into the warm shallows on the higher parts of the tides. King threadfin and queenfish can be found in the skinny water at the top of the tidal flats chasing baitfish and prawns.

When fishing the tropics in October, be sure to cover up well with a combination of light clothing, hat and sunscreen. Drink plenty of water, rather than soft drinks or beer, as dehydration can be debilitating and ruin a great fishing trip.

[CAPTIONS]

1) At 7kg, this hooter is the largest blue salmon the author has ever seen in Weipa’s waters.

2) Young Andrew pulled this big northern bluefin on a 50g Javelin during a hectic session in Weipa recently.

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