DESPITE THE PERCEPTION among the green movement that all fishermen fall into the ‘catch and kill’ category, there are now a number of tournaments around the country that destroy the myth and encourage competitors to consider the environment they fish in and the fish they bring aboard. With the advent of mobile phone cameras and cost-effective digital cameras, catch-and-release competitions are possible and becoming very successful.
These competitions are a great way to encourage a shift in the mind-sets of many and can be a perfect way for family and friends to enjoy fishing while on holiday.
The North Coast Fishing Bonanza, organised and run by Australian Fishing Tournaments, is the latest of this new generation of competitions that encourages a catch-and-release entry mechanism. Supported by two large forward-thinking fishing companies, Gamakatsu and Evinrude, the competition took place in Ballina in October 2010 and despite the very wet conditions, attracted quite a crowd.
Processes for operating catch-and-release tournaments effectively, fairly and with minimum stress to the fish (and organisers!) vary from comp to comp. The Dave Irvine Snapper Memorial is an example of one that has found the right balance after a few years of tinkering. The various televised bream, bass and barra tournaments have different approaches – with the need for live weigh-ins for the camera and other complications all needing to be taken into account.
In the North Coast Fishing Bonanza, competitors register and are given an identification card which features their photo and details, which must be carried at all times. Brag mats are the standard measuring device and can be any type, as long as the fish fits on it. Once a fish is caught, the competitor places it on a brag mat with an identification card and takes a photo.
They must also fill in a catch report sheet, which is handed in to the main tent, logged and cross-checked against the photo provided. To get around multiple shots of the same fish being entered each day, a token is also handed to competitors each afternoon for the next day and must be included with the identification card and fish. A similar process has also been utilised effectively with the Dave Irvine competition.
There were a number of competitors who brought their fish to the two tanks stationed at the main base of the event, and watching some of the species swim around is a great way to learn a little about their behaviour. Kids clamoured to get a glimpse of one of the 10 jewfish on display and were awed by their size.
These are the memories young anglers will take with them for life – and the lessons regarding sustainability and catch-and-release are invaluable to emerging anglers.
Modern Fishing is pleased to encourage any tournaments that ditch the iceboxes in favour of the live-wells, ditch the knives for the cameras, and teach kids and anglers everywhere about fishing. We’ll see you back in Ballina next October!
By Jack Scrine