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.