Dampier’s Mackerel 5000 sets new Fishing for Science record for most mackie samples donated in one day

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.  

It might look rather tedious, but the 65 Spanish mackerel samples taken during the Accenture Mackerel 5000 competition by our Fishing for Science team to be donated to DPIRD for analysis will play a big role in helping better understand the Pilbara mackerel stocks. Big kudos to Dampier’s future generation of fishers for showing a great interest in our mackie biology lesson!

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! 

The audience’s reaction says it all! Check out this massive 34.4kg Spanish mackerel landed by Casey Roskell which was well over six feet long and took out the Mackerel 5000 competition!

“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.  

Click here for more information about our Fishing for Science program 

A big Recfishwest thanks to the Dampier community for giving us such a warm welcome and for their tremendous support of our Fishing for Science program.

Fishing for Science and hard-fighting pelagics at the 2023 Dampier Classic!

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.  

The kids in Dampier absolutely loved learning about the gender and biology of many different species on our Fishing for Science filleting table from Recfishwest’s Levi De Boni, with a strong flow of captures keeping the next generation of fishers entertained for days.

READ MORE ABOUT OUR FISHING FOR SCIENCE PROGRAM HERE 

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.”  

The smiles tell the story! Here is some of many great catches from our packed-to-the-rafters SunSmart Fishing Clinic in Dampier, with more than 50 kids learning how to catch, handle and release fish.

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.”

A big Recfishwest thanks to the Dampier community and the King Bay Game Fishing Club for their warm hospitality during the 2023 Dampier Classic.

Exmouth’s King Reef – from barren seafloor to a world-class fishing hotspot

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.  

12-year-old Max Grasso’s line-class world record golden trevally weighing over 13kg and measuring 105cm, caught off King Reef. Give the Grasso family’s Instagram page a follow to keep up to date with the amazing fish they catch!

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.  

These stunning underwater snaps taken by professional photographer Violeta J. Brosig from Blue Media Exmouth show what is happening beneath the surface at King Reef, with the repurposed structures now teeming with fish, marine life, algae and coral.

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.

Max Grasso (pictured left) and Mia Grasso (pictured right) both cleaned up at the recent Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA) Awards, with many of their tagged and record catches from King Reef in Exmouth.

“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.  

The location of King Reef in Exmouth, make sure you pay this great fishing spot a visit!