The hundreds of visitors from across WA and Australia, who ventured to Denham for the week-long Shark Bay Fiesta to celebrate all things fishing swelled the population of the coastal town by half!
For around 850 people who call Denham home, the annual Shark Bay Fiesta community event plays a big part in the community’s cultural life and social calendar, as well as bringing a welcome annual boost to local businesses.
Since it started as a weekend fishing competition in 1996, the event has now blossomed into a week-long, program-packed community event with an array of social activities organised by local fundraising community groups.
With impressive prizes up for grabs for the best catches, more than 119 competitors on 42 boats ventured into Shark Bay to experience the safe, sustainable, enjoyable and accessible fishing on offer, with many punching out wide to renowned fishing spots such as Dirk Hartog Island and Steep Point to chase Spanish mackerel, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, red emperor, goldband snapper, pearl perch and many others.
Notable eyebrow-raising catches from the Fiesta, held between 19-26 May, included a 23.3kg Spanish mackerel, 7.54kg coral trout, 10.33kg red emperor and 92cm tailor.
While the fishing action was non-stop, so was the Fiesta entertainment in Denham, with a huge range of family-friendly activities including live music, local business stalls, daily catch weigh-ins, quiz and bingo nights, workshops, auctions, fireworks and much more.
Shark Bay Community Resource Centre Executive Officer Jamie Burton, who has helped coordinate the event for years, said the annual festivities never fail to create a great buzz around the town.
“The Shark Bay Fiesta is easily the biggest community tourism boost each year in the region celebrating the importance of fishing in Shark Bay to the community while showcasing local businesses and the pristine waters of the area,” she said.
“It’s high-class fishing to bingo, high teas, live music and fun competitions like a blindfolded pancake eating competition – there’s something for everyone of all ages.”
Another welcome addition to this year’s Fiesta was the introduction of the ‘catch and return’ category in the fishing competition – where demersal species are caught and weighed in catch bags to reduce direct handling and potential damage to the fish, before they are safely released. Being able to safely catch and release these demersal species while still having the chance to take out impressive prizes prompted a lot of positive feedback,” added Jamie.
A fun-packed Fiesta fishing clinic!
Recfishwest was also there to help teach the next generation of fishers how to catch, handle and release great species of fish in our SunSmart fishing clinic, with 38 kids from all around WA wetting a line for three hours and catching and releasing more than 100 fish including bluebone, black snapper, tarwhine and many other species.
“This was one of the most productive and energetic fishing clinics that Recfishwest has coordinated as all 38 kids and their parents were kept busy catching a wide variety of impressive species off the local Denham jetties. One kid even managed to pull in a 1.8kg bluebone,” said Recfishwest Senior Operations Officer Sam Russell.
“It was great to see visitors from inland regions experience the great coastal fishing on offer. We had several clinic attendees that had travelled from Alice Springs and they were blown away by the accessible and rewarding fishing on offer in Shark Bay. We’re sure they can’t wait to get back there and wet a line again.
“A big thanks to Jamie Burton and the Denham community for having us and hosting another awesome Shark Bay Fiesta, we’re looking forward to coming back between 17-24 May in 2024.”
Want to know more about the 2023 Shark Bay Fishing Fiesta? Check out their website here.