The Accenture Mackerel 5000 held in Dampier by the Nickol Bay Sportsfishing Club in mid-October needs to take a bow, it just produced some of the most jaw-droppingly big Spanish mackerel ever seen in a West Aussie fishing comp!
Recfishwest’s Fishing for Science team ventured up to the sun-kissed Pilbara town for the competition on October 15, backed with the support of Woodside North West to collect more Spanish mackerel samples to be used by DPIRD to inform the future Pilbara’s Spanish mackerel stock assessment.
It resulted in a mighty 65 narrow-barred Spanish mackerel heads being kindly donated by many of the 153 competitors in what was one of the most red-hot mackie sessions witnessed in WA, which ultimately set a new Fishing for Science PB for the most mackerel samples collected in one day.
In a great show of support from the Dampier community, more than 80 per cent of Spanish mackerel brought to the competition’s weigh-in were happily handed over for sampling.
The samples collected included the gonads and ovaries for a sexual maturity analysis and the removal of the fish’s heads to collect otoliths for aging purposes back in Perth. In addition to this, our Fishing for Science team recorded the length and weight of each fish.
The data collected during this competition will be vital to inform the current Pilbara mackerel stock assessment being put together by DPIRD.
While the biggest Spanish mackerel donated topped out at just over the impressive 30-kilogram mark, it was another gargantuan monster of a Spanish mackerel that nearly joined the audience’s jaws on the floor from the scales.
The 34.4kg beast landed by Casey Roskell scored him a big cheer from the crowd and $5,000 as the biggest specimen landed during the one-day-long competition, which maxed out the first scale brought out by the King Bay Game Fishing Club before a heavier scale was required!
“We were quite stunned at not only the sheer number of Spanish mackerel being caught and kindly donated to our team, but also some of the sizes of the fish as well. They were easily some of the biggest Spanish mackerel we’ve seen in recent memory,” said Recfishwest’s Senior Operations Officer Sam Russell.
“It just highlights how productive the pristine Pilbara waters are along with the importance of fishing competitions to regional communities like Dampier. We had a great yarn with all attendees and the competitors made a great contribution to our Fishing for Science program, 65 mackies in one day is now the number to beat! I’d also like to give a massive shout out to the Nickol Bay Sportsfishing for running an amazing comp and being so accommodating for our Fishing for Science program.”
In a partnership between Recfishwest and Woodside North West, this new event on the Pilbara fishing calendar is expected to grow over the next three years, based on the enthusiastic response to the Accenture Mackerel 5000 competition with the 50-boat capacity rapidly filling up.
Recfishwest also had the pleasure to have a friendly yarn with key stakeholders in the Pilbara region, including the Nickol Bay Sportfishing Club, King Bay Game Fishing Club and Karratha Adventure Sports, with valuable insights on addressing issues such as shark bite-off and how recreational fishing can be improved in the area.
With 78 boats brimming with 266 competitors all hoping to catch the biggest Spanish mackerel at the recent MACK10K competition in Onslow – our Fishing for Science table was jam-packed with macks!
The annual competition, hosted by the Ashburton Anglers Fishing Club, attracts scores of avid fishers who travel from far and wide across WA to the coastal Pilbara town, with its pristine waters providing the perfect playground for competitors and for various mackerel and billfish species to thrive.
With impressive prizes up for grabs across more than 17 categories and with Recfishwest once again working in collaboration with DPIRD Research Scientist Paul Lewis, our crew collected scientific data from dozens of Spanish mackerel that were brought to the weigh-in station.
Thanks to the contribution of the friendly and helpful competitors, our Fishing for Science program, supported by Woodside North West, collected data from a whopping 76 Spanish mackerel, including their weight, length, condition, sex and maturity stage.
“The number of Spanish mackerel samples collected for Fishing for Science at this year’s MACK10K is the most fish donated since the Fishing for Science program was initiated, so a huge kudos to the Onslow locals who are clearly passionate about helping us better understand this species,” said Recfishwest Senior Operations Officer Sam Russell.
In addition to our Fishing for Science program, DPIRD’s Paul Lewis took the otoliths from the 76 sampled fish on the filleting table for further scientific analysis. The finalised data will then be used in conjunction with commercial catch data to provide a clearer assessment of the Spanish mackerel stocks in the Pilbara Management Area.
“The biggest mackerel caught this year at the MACK10K (23.90kg landed by John Higgens) would be around 14 years old and that is normally the maximum age we see from Spanish mackerel each year at this competition from analysis of the otolith bones,” said Paul.
“We consistently see a strong class of fish every third year and Spanish mackerel reach legal size within about two years. 2019 was a particularly strong recruitment year for Spanish mackerel to thrive off the Pilbara coast and we thankfully saw that flow through to 2022 and 2023.”
A big Recfishwest thanks to the Onslow fishing community and Woodside North West who strongly support our Fishing for Science program, Paul Lewis who worked tirelessly to collect the data and the Ashburton Anglers for their hospitality during this great annual competition.
With scores of spectacular catches rolling through at the recent Dampier Classic last weekend, the weigh-in scales and our Fishing for Science team at the filleting table were certainly kept busy!
And with our latest SunSmart Fishing Clinic allowing kids to learn how to catch, handle and release a range of great species in the pristine Pilbara waters – our Dampier fishing clinic was booked out in a matter of days.
With a fantastic community response to our Fishing for Science fish program, supported by Woodside North West at King Bay Game Fishing Club’s (KBGFC) 47th annual Dampier Classic, scores of comp entrants provided the Recfishwest team with plenty of samples of commonly captured Pilbara species such as wahoo, mackerel and tuna.
Fishing for Science is a community engagement program that enables local communities to better understand scientifically the fish species that underpin prized fishing experiences. With each day’s weigh-in showcasing many impressive captures, competitors were happy to assist Recfishwest in taking 63 belly samples from a range of fish species.
Other data gathered for our Fishing for Science program across the competition included the weight, condition, sex, parasites and maturity stage of each fish, providing some interesting insights for locals while allowing them to give something back to fishing.
It wasn’t just 70-plus Dampier Classic competitors aboard 19 boats who enjoyed some great fishing action. Our SunSmart Fishing Clinic in Dampier drew in 50 local kids eager to wet a line off the shore, with plenty of great catches ranging from 10cm Moses perch to 30cm tuskfish.
This fishing clinic introduced future fishing generations to the great species on offer in the pristine Pilbara waters and also provided Sam Russell and Levi De Boni from Recfishwest the opportunity to educate kids on how to be SunSmart under the new KBGFC gazebo – funded through a Recfishwest Community Grant – while also teaching them how to catch, handle and release fish correctly.
“This was Recfishwest’s biggest attended SunSmart Fishing Clinic to date with plenty of fish caught throughout the whole three-hour clinic. It clearly outlines how important fishing is to the Pilbara community when our clinics rapidly book out with dozens of kids all buzzing to wet a line,” said Recfishwest Senior Operations Officer Sam Russell.
“A big thanks to the Dampier fishing communities, King Bay Game Fishing Club and SunSmart for allowing us to run these clinics and actively engage with hundreds of Dampier and Karratha locals again for 2023 – and a big kudos to our Fishing for Science partners Woodside Energy for supporting this great community program that continues to expand across northern WA.”
President of KBGFC Leon Brislane has helped coordinate the Dampier Classic for the last three years and has seen first-hand the importance and growth of this renowned fishing competition and Recfishwest’s Fishing for Science program throughout our northern communities.
“This annual competition always brings loads of families and friends together to share a beer, have a laugh and catch some top-quality fish in one of the best fishing locations in WA,” said Leon.
“The kids can’t get enough of the Fishing for Science program and they are always super-excited to become engaged with the Recfishwest crew taking fish samples. It always leads to fun ‘guess the fish gender’ games and they also receive an invaluable biology lesson to better understand these great species of fish.
“A big thanks to all of our sponsors for their generosity in helping support the King Bay Game Fishing Club and this great annual event.”
Outside of our core funding contribution from recreational fishing licence fees via DPIRD, a growing range of valued partners are helping us do more for West Aussie fishers in 2023. Without additional support for projects that make fishing better, we couldn’t do as much as we do in Australia’s largest state making fishing better for 700,000 fishers each year.
We would also like to thank our 2022/23 Business Supporters, who contribute to our organisation and the work we do on the ground in WA – a massive thank you to those businesses. You can check out our Business Supporters here. If you would like to be a 2023/34 Business Supporter, please contact email@example.com.
Here’s a look at our 2023 Supporting Partners and the programs they are supporting to make fishing better in WA:
Shimano – community and sustainability
Shimano is supporting sustainable fishing practices in WA, through its backing of the Recfishwest fishing rules app with near to 90,000 users of the latest version! Shimano’s support helps ensure the app remains free for everyone and plays a vital role in the sustainability of our fish stocks.
Our SunSmart Fishing Clinics are also proudly supported by Shimano, seeing a need to support grassroots fishing and get WA kids in the outdoors wetting a line. Recfishwest SunSmart Fishing Clinics introduces children and families to fishing, getting people outdoors, promoting sustainable, safe fishing practices and connecting families to the fish they catch.
The partnership with Shimano also extends to helping us run and promote our Salmon Slam competition – the biggest land-based fishing comp in Australia! The comp taps into the mighty salmon run up the WA coast, helping fishers get onto one of the world’s best land-based sportfish on some of the world’s best beaches.
Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries – industry investment
The State Government, through the Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries, is a major supporter of Recfishwestand our aspirations of achieving top shelf governance and representing fishing communities through greater participation and providing enhanced opportunities and experiences for all West Aussies.
Fisheries Research Development Corporation (FRDC) – research and development
FRDC supports Recfishwest’s quest to better understand how we can enhance marine habitats through repurposing alternative and recycled materials to form productive artificial reefs in local WA waters. Man-made structures in the marine environment are scientifically proven to create fantastic fish habitats which can as a result play an important role in providing fishing communities access to abundant fish stocks and great fishing.
Traditionally, reef projects around Australia have been funded by public money through government agencies, in particular regional development, research or fisheries grants. More recently in WA, new reefs such as Exmouth’s King Reef (pictured above), have been brought to life through funding partnerships between government, not-for-profit and other private/industry sectors. Finding ways and protocols to source alternative materials to create habitat enhancement structures is critical in maximising the benefits artificial reefs can create for our oceans and communities.
FRDC funding is helping us to investigate how we can do this more effectively through our research project Artificial Reefs: Suitability of recycled materials for integration into purpose built artificial reefs for enhancing marine productivity, biodiversity and social outcomes.
Woodside –community and sustainability
Woodside is supporting Recfishwest’s activities in North-West WA through a number of community programs, which are outlined below.
Fishing for Science (Dampier, Onslow and Exmouth)
Fishing for Science is a community–focused program giving regional fishers a better understanding of the fish species that underpin their prized fishing experiences. Operating mainly through fishing tournaments, this kind of engagement program promotes greater community stewardship of the ocean and its resources. It also empowers fishers to play a more informed role in the management of our fisheries.
Community fishing clinics (Dampier and Cossack):
Recfishwest fishing clinics introduce children and families to fishing, getting people outdoors, promoting sustainable, safe fishing practices and connecting families to the fish they catch – nurturing great stewards of the marine environment for now and the future.
Recfishwest connecting with Aboriginal groups and communities in the North-West (Dampier, Onslow, Exmouth) through fishing:
Recfishwest is building our capacity to better understand local Aboriginal people’s culture in WA and bring theirs and the fishing communities together around common interests and values. Connection between cultures is best fostered through shared values, such as a love for fishing as a way of life, access to fishing areas and the sustainability of fishing environments.
Healthway – community SunSmart fishing clinics
Recfishwest SunSmart fishing clinics are proudly funded by Healthway promoting the SunSmart message under a long-running partnership. These clinics have been running successfully for more than 20 years. The primary purpose of Recfishwest SunSmart Fishing Clinics is to introduce children and families to fishing, getting people outdoors, promoting sustainable, safe fishing practices and connecting families to the fish they catch – helping them become better stewards of the marine environment.
BHP – community
BHP has partnered with Recfishwest by providing funding for the future deployment of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in local Port Hedland waters. FADs are a great type of fishing experience designed to attract larger pelagic species such as dolphinfish and tuna. These species are fast–growing, abundant and a great source of protein for the tables of WA fishing families.
DAIWA – community
Daiwa is again supportingRecfishwest’sStatewide community fish stocking program. Well-planned, practical, science-backed fish stocking and stock enhancement activities can support great fishing for the Western Australian community and Daiwa is helping us achieve this vision.
Santos – Community and Capacity Building
Santos is supporting the expansion of Recfishwest and its capacity in the Pilbara through an on-the-ground representative based in the Karratha/Dampier community. This will help foster more engaged and better represented fishing communities in WA’s North-West. Recfishwest’s move into the Pilbara was discussed and supported as a positive development with local stakeholders.
We are always open to welcoming new partners on board to help us enhance fishing in WA while helping achieve their objectives through a strong working collaboration with Recfishwest and fishing communities. We have an array of programs that need support right across WA so if you’d like to help make fishing better, get in touch.
With 237 tag-and-released billfish, including 161 black marlin, 68 sailfish and two pending State and national queenfish and spangled emperor records — the 55th GAMEX fishing tournament once again lived up to its reputation as one of the premier fishing competitions in Australia!
A healthy contingent of 245 avid competitors on 58 boats flocked to Exmouth from across the State between 17-25 March, with Recfishwest researchers also in attendance to collect vital species data for our Fishing for Science program and to coordinate a fishing clinic for dozens of excited kids.
A smorgasbord of point-scoring species were weighed in across the comp, including Spanish mackerel, shark mackerel, school mackerel, queenfish, golden trevally, cobia, dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, striped tuna, wahoo, barracuda and spangled emperor.
From these captures are two pending records, both from the same angler in Luke Mounsey, who landed a 5.16kg queenfish on 4kg line — a pending Western Australian Male Small Fry record — and a 2.24kg spangled emperor on 1kg line — a pending National Male Small Fry record.
Not only does GAMEX produce some of the best catches of any fishing tournament in the land— but it also had the most impressive booty of prizes up for grabs which included a $50,000 Northbank trailerboat package draw for one lucky competitor, fuelling fantastic fishing and fierce competition across the tournament.
The team aboard Fatal Attraction enjoyed a fantastic tournament, winning a range of categories including the Overall Capture/Tag & Release category with 11 species across 11 line classes landed, Matt Gates winning Champion Male Angler with nine species across 10 line classes, along with their crew member Dean Gates winning Champion Small Fry Angler.
Bri Bollard aboard Dickens Cider claimed the Champion Female Angler title for five species across eight line classes, with Jessica Hournhardt winning Champion Junior Angler (16yrs/U) of five species across eight line classes and Luke Mounsey winning Champion Small Fry Angler (11yrs/U) with three species across four line classes.
With over $1 million pumped into the Exmouth regional economy each year from GAMEX visitors thanks to the hard-fighting and abundant fish species on offer, it’s clear how important fishing tournaments like GAMEX are to regional towns across Western Australia.
Ben Knaggs, Club Manager of the Exmouth Game Fishing Club (EGFC), said it is the most highly anticipated fishing event on the calendar each year for Exmouth and it has been part of the fabric of the town for over half a century.
“GAMEX is a highly important milestone on the social calendar each year, particularly for mad-keen fishers. Economically, it has a huge part to play each year and it marks the start of the tourist season around Exmouth, which forms the foundations of the livelihoods of many businesses in the region,” said Ben.
“There is such a wide variety of species on offer during the competition and it showcases the fishing in Exmouth on a national and international perspective. It puts the spotlight on Exmouth as the world-class sportfishing destination it is.”
Thanks to the kind fishers who let Recfishwest Operations Officers Sam Russell and Levi De Boni sample their catches, they were able to collect data from loads of fish during the Exmouth Game Fishing Club-held (EGFC) comp.
Data collected included weight, length, condition, sex and maturity stage, while tissue samples from each fish’s belly were also taken for future research.
“Thanks again to the EGFC and its weigh-in committee for the help throughout this year’s GAMEX and for supporting Fishing for Science, along with all fishers who let us sample the fish that they caught – you’ve helped collect valuable data regarding important recreational species,” said Sam.
“Our fishing clinic was also a great success for the youngsters, we had dozens of kids landing some impressive catches that are highly abundant and easily accessible year-round from the Exmouth marina. This region is always rewarding when it comes to teaching kids about sustainability and catching fish.”
Recfishwest recently had the pleasure to attend the 2022 Munro’s MACK10K competition in Onslow to run our Fishing for Science program – and the mackies came thick and fast for our sampling table!
The annual competition, hosted by the Ashburton Anglers Fishing Club, pulls in hundreds of passionate fishers from across the state, with impressive prizes on offer across more than a dozen challenge categories.
Working in collaboration with Paul Lewis from DPIRD, our Recfishwest staff were directly involved in gathering data from Spanish mackerel brought into the weigh-in station from 233 competitors across 69 boats.
Thanks to the contribution of the friendly local anglers, our Fishing for Science program collected data from more than 60 mackerel. This included their weight, length, condition, sex and maturity stage.
Not only did our Recfishwest Operations Officer Sam Russell also take belly samples from each fish for future research, but he was also elected as “resident fish filleter” for the competition! Sam sliced and diced his way through plenty of mackerel for several hours straight each night, before handing fillets out to grateful members of the community from anglers kindly donating their impressive catches.
In addition, Paul from DPIRD took the otoliths from the 61 sampled fish donated by the competitors to determine their age, with the finalised data to be used in conjunction with commercial catch data to provide clear assessments of the Spanish mackerel stock in the Pilbara Management Area – so a win-win for the local community, DPIRD and the future of these spectacular pelagic powerhouses.
“Thanks to the fantastic response and keen interest of the Onslow fishing community who are just as passionate as we are about fish sustainability and research, Fishing for Science is a great way for fishers to learn more about the fish they love to catch while contributing toward the collection of data that will benefit the fishery in the future,” said Recfishwest Operations Officer Sam Russell.
“We need to say a huge thanks to Paul from DPIRD for his tireless sampling efforts and the crew at Ashburton Anglers for their hospitality during this great annual competition. Having a yarn with the locals and participants shows how much they care about the fish being caught.”
Congratulations to all 15 category winners from the Munro’s MACK10K competition and watch this space for future Fishing for Science initiatives.