If you want a perfect example of why land-based fishing access and experiences need to be protected on the south coast – then the recent Esperance Land Based Fishing Club‘s Open Classic competition rang the bell loud and clear.
With 130 avid fishers competing, their hopes of snagging some impressive competition prizes rested on their cherished land-based fishing spots producing the goods for solid catches of fish species that thrive along the south coast – and it was another cracking year.
The club offered fantastic cash rewards for the heaviest fish across 13 species, meaning all competitors had equal opportunities to bring the heaviest fish to the weigh-in and leave with heavier wallets.
With junior and senior divisions for each species, there was a great opportunity for fishers both experienced and emerging to wet a line along the pristine southern coastline to land the biggest catches of mulloway, salmon, gummy shark, tailor, skippy, herring, whiting and squid – just to name a few.
It wasn’t just prizes for the heaviest catches up for grabs – the club also had a best photo competition with the judging criteria based on showing off the beautiful Esperance coastline and the spectacular fish that flourishes along it, with Billy Vibart’s youngster Frankie taking out the honours with the cracking salmon/sunset combo pictured below!
Given many of the local community’s favourite fishing spots both on the shore and out on the ocean are in areas where the Government has flagged sanctuary zones in the proposed south coast marine park, Recfishwest also attended the event to ensure attendees understand what is at stake and encouraged them to comment on the plans once they are released.
Recfishwest’s Sam Bock – an Esperance local who spent his childhood fishing on the south coast – ventured down to enjoy the great fishing on offer and spoke directly to the bustling crowd to reiterate the importance of having their say when the marine park plans stretching over 1,000km between east of Bremer Bay and the South Australian border are released.
“It is very likely contestants were fishing in areas that could soon be sanctuary zones, meaning they would be locked out of wetting a line in that area,” said Sam. “That’s why it’s crucial we receive feedback from locals that live and breathe the unique coastal and fishing lifestyle down here and for them to speak out on what areas are important to them.”
“We’ve seen from other marine park processes that feedback gathered during the public consultation period can make a significant difference in final plans. The more people that have their say, the better the odds that their fishing access is retained, which would provide a better outcome for locals and safeguard the great fishing experiences generated by southern competitions like the Esperance Classic.”
We have written to the Premier and had discussions with Minister’s Whitby and Punch intending to get the consultation process back on track after locals expressed their deep concerns that their favourite freedoms such as four-wheel-driving on the beach and taking their dogs to their prized fishing spots could be quashed given the DBCA’s reputation in park management.
To read our concerns on the proposed south coast marine park and for a rundown on the DBCA’s track record on park management, click here.
President of Esperance Land Based Fishing Club, Mitch Waideman, said the 130 competitors this year was the biggest seen in the Classic’s history and that comes down to the current great access and options to choose from for fishing spots along the south coast.
“We had a lot of people from all over the south coast and Kalgoorlie come down because they have so many spots to choose from and people can spread out and fish the beaches they want completely on their own. That’s why people are worried about this marine park – they don’t know what’s coming and how access will be affected,” said Mitch.
“We are crossing our fingers that our access to our favourite fishing spots is unaffected by this proposed marine park. Our ability to be able to go down and throw a line in the water is what we enjoy – we don’t want to be bottled up into little areas.”
The south coast’s great fishing experiences on full display
As seen each year during the Open Classic competition, the catches came thick and fast which saw hundreds of locals gather round for a gander during the final weigh-in.
Steven Howe caught the heaviest gummy shark and heaviest fish for the Classic, closely followed by Billy Vibart with his 12.3kg catch (pictured below).
The consistent West Aussie salmon action continued to show off its might on the south coast as well, with Lachlan Warren catching the heaviest of the hard-fighting species with a 4.465kg whopper, while Paul Jameson finished runner up with a 3.953kg salmon.
Congratulations to all winners of the Esperance Classic and make sure you keep checking our channels to keep up to speed with developments and information on how to make a submission to DBCA through its public consultation portal.
For a full rundown of all category winners from the Esperance Classic, check out the Esperance Land Based Fishing Club Facebook page.