Pilbara fishing community flex fishing and science muscles at the 2021 Dampier Classic

A bonanza of fishing, science and kids activities was a great showcase for the strength and pride of the Dampier fishing community at last weekend’s Dampier Classic.

A strong field of 22 vessels took part in the comp, a Recfishwest team collected scientific data from 56 caught fish for their exciting, new Fishing for Science program and a cast of mad-keen budding fishos took part in the SunSmart fishing clinic held on Sunday.

Five cobia were sampled at the Classic, four of which were male, with the oldest 1.2m in length and an estimated six years of age. Picture: Western Angler

Although the first day of the Dampier Classic was called off due to bad weather, it did not dampen the spirits of competing fishers who were eager to catch billfish and pelagics during the 45th edition of King Bay Game Fishing Club’s (KBGFC) event from 6 August to 9 August.

Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett attended this year’s competition and said it was a huge success.

“The KBGFC put on such a well-run event each year – it’s a real testament to the club’s selfless volunteers and members,” he said.

“It was also great to see the club’s next generation of fishers reeling in bluebone and rock cod during Sunday’s fishing clinic, with the 22 kids who took part having a great time.”

The next generation of Dampier fishers enjoyed catching plenty of fish during the SunSmart clinic.

Hooked on science

It wasn’t just awesome fishing on display at the Dampier Classic, fishers were also contributing to a program focused on better understanding valued recfishing species – Fishing for Science.

Matt, Mike Minutillo and fellow Operations Officer Sam Russell collected data from 56 fish across 15 species that were put across the weigh station for the program at this year’s Dampier Classic.

Data gathered included weight, length, condition, parasites, sex and maturity stage, while tissue samples from each fish’s belly were also taken for future research.

“Science plays a vital role in managing fisheries and ensuring there will be abundant fish for the future,” Mike said.

“Fishing for Science is a tournament fish monitoring and community engagement program that Recfishwest runs in partnership with Woodside.

Fishers at the Dampier Classic were keen to find out more about their catch.

“It enables local communities to learn more about the biology of the fish species that provide them with such great experiences.

“Fishers at the Classic were really interested in discovering the age of the fish they caught and how to distinguish the sex of the fish and how science can protect fishing and make it even better.

“The samples will contribute to developing a better knowledge base of recreational fishing species highly valued by WA recfishers, but for which we don’t yet have much scientific data gathered.”

Recfishwest’s partner Woodside sponsored the Fishing for Science program to attend the Dampier Classic.

Mike said many fantastic fish were sampled, including a 17.5kg cobia estimated to be six years old and a 128cm Spanish mackerel, weighing 16.8kg and estimated to be seven years old.

“Fishing for Science is a great way to share and talk about fish research results with fishers in regional communities and hopefully further build fishers’ stewardship of the ocean and its resources,” Mike said.

“We’d like to give a massive shoutout to the KBFC for hosting another great fishing comp and also thank everyone who submitted fish to be sampled for Fishing for Science.”

Find out more about the Fishing for Science program here

If you’re interested in the data collected from the Dampier Classic keep an eye out on the Otlet website here, where it will be featuring soon.

Sam and Mike at the research table, collecting samples from two mackerel caught during the Classic.