From a featureless seafloor to a flourishing marine oasis where fishing world records are being broken – King Reef in Exmouth has become a fishing haven in less than four years.
Since six large, repurposed steel structures and almost 50 concrete modules were deployed across two acres of sandy seafloor to the north-east of Exmouth in 2018, the underwater desert has now become a fish city, teeming with large pelagic and demersal species prowling the artificial reef.
One family that has taken full advantage of the improved fishing action surrounding this artificial reef spanning an area roughly equivalent to five footy ovals is the Grasso’s, who are all King Bay Game Fishing Club members in Dampier.
Each member of the Grasso family – father Mick, his partner Channy and their two children Max and Mia – boasts impressive fishing accolades in their own rights, with each of them owning Australian or world fishing records, recognised by the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) and Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA).
The source of many of these world and Australian fishing records is King Reef – just 6.4km northeast of the Exmouth Town Boat Ramp.
King Reef shows how rapidly an artificial reef can help boost the marine life around the structure, with 100 fish species monitored around it, including prized demersal species such as red emperor and cod patrolling the depths, while pelagic species such as golden trevally and even sailfish have been spotted patrolling the topwater.
One of the line-class world records taken out on the reef included a 13.06kg whopper of a golden trevally measuring 1.05m, caught by talented young angler Max Grasso @junior_grassy on Platypus Pretest line. This impressive catch broke two world records at once – the 10kg line class male world record and the small fry male world record.
“Max’s world record line class golden trevally was taken at King Reef, on the maiden voyage of our new boat and only 20 minutes into running in the motor. It is amazing to now have a fishing location like this so close to home and so easily accessible for everyone,” said his father, Mick Grasso.
Both Max, 12 and his younger sister Mia, 8, cleaned up at the recent Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA) awards after numerous trips to King Reef.
Max set a target to tag 120 game fish for the 2021/22 season. Not only did King Reef play a key role in helping him pass this mark with three months to spare, but Max also had to buy an extra-large cricket bag to fit in all his trophies from the GFAA awards night!
Max took out the Junior Male Angler Capture, Junior Male Angler Release and Peter Bennett Trophy for most meritorious tag and release achievements by a junior angler, along with the Neil Patrick Trophy for most gamefish tagged in Australian waters.
Max’s younger sister Mia also sweeped multiple GFAA awards, taking out the WA small fry female capture and release divisions. She then went on to claim the national Small Fry Capture Award, winning the ‘big trophy’ she set her eyes on after her brother had won it previously.
“It is fantastic to see that artificial reef structures such as King Reef boost marine life and create fantastic fishing opportunities, whether it’s by trolling or bottom fishing” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.
“King Reef is a perfect example of how repurposed structures can create thriving new habitats and support a huge range of species that bring benefits to the local community, economy and environment.
“It’s why Recfishwest is targeting approvals and funding for new artificial reefs in various locations from Albany to Broome to add to the seven reefs currently flourishing in WA waters.”
The deployement of the King Reef structures came from a collaboration between Recfishwest and the Exmouth local community, BHP, NERA, DPIRD, Subcon and Curtin University.
Find out more about the State’s network of artificial reefs here.