Fitzroy River barra fishing films highlight concerns over water extraction proposals

“The Fitzroy River is our lifestyle, it’s our mental health, it connects the community – in a small town like Derby where there’s not a lot to do, everyone loves coming to the river,” says Mary Island Fishing Club’s Sara Hennessy in one of two cracking little films about barra fishing and the Fitzroy put together by the ‘Kimberley – Like Nowhere Else‘ group.

In the other film, Kimberley Fishing guide Robert ‘Bluey’ Vaughan explains just why barra fishing on the Fitzroy is one of the greatest fishing experiences to be had in Australia, if not the world.

CHECK THIS: One of Kimberley – Like Nowhere Else‘s great Fitzroy River films

“They rightfully own the title ‘Australia’s premier sportfish’,” he says. “Barra can grow to nearly a hundred pounds, they hit hard, take lures and bait with gusto, they’re inshore, riverine as well as estuarine – so they’re available to everyone. They’re Australia’s premier sportfish and I reckon they’re Australia’s favourite fish too.”

As for catching them on the Fitzroy, he’s convinced it’s one of the best rivers there is.

“It’s pristine from its mouth to the end of its catchment – there’s no impediment to a barra to travel the length of the Fitzroy to be able to go down to the saltwater to breed. If you were to design the perfect barra river – it’s the Fitzroy,” says Bluey in the film.

WATCH: Kimberley – Like Nowhere Else‘s great film about protecting the Fitzroy

They’re fantastic short films sure to have any angler salivating at the prospect of doing battle with a chrome slab of prime Kimberley barra.

But the films have also been made to highlight serious concerns around proposals to potentially draw off around 500GL of water annually from the mighty Fitzroy as part of ambitious agriculture irrigation plans for the region. To put that into context, Perth and the South West uses just over 200GL every year.

A potential drain on the river’s lifeblood

The Kimberley fishers’ concern is such a drain on the river’s lifeblood could have serious impacts on its flow during the critical wet season.

Recfishwest shares concerns about the potential impact of the proposed irrigation scheme on the Fitzroy and the world-class sportfishing experiences it offers.

“The Fitzroy doesn’t flow all the way from the freshwater to the saltwater,” explains Sarah Hennessy. “It’s cut off in the dry season when it dries out. In the wet season, when we have the big rains, that’s when it connects and that’s really important for breeding and the different species in the river.

“Without that flooding and the breeding doesn’t happen – you need the salt and freshwater connection to get the regeneration of the species.”

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland commented: “Clearly this waterway is of critical importance to the Kimberley fishing community and we share their concerns about the potential impact of the proposed irrigation scheme on the river system and the world-class sportfishing experiences it supports.

“Recfishwest is not anti-development, including agricultural development, but of course we don’t want to see what happened in the Murray-Darling – where tens of thousands of fish were killed in 2019 as result of low water flow – happen in the Fitzroy.

“The proposed irrigation plans are currently open for public comment and we’d urge anyone with an interest in the future of fishing in the Fitzroy to take the time to read through the proposals and make their views known to Government.

“Recfishwest is currently developing its response to the proposals and will, as always, keep the recfishing community up to date on developments as they happen.”

The Fitzroy River is an incredibly important asset, especially for Kimberley fishers like Tom White who chase 1m barra in the waterway.