The Northern Territory wet season was the driest since 1992, and the hottest wet season on record while, Territory-wide, the rainfall total was 34 per cent below the long-term wet season average, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Despite this, Fishing and Outdoor World boss Ronald Voukolos remains positive, and said good things were happening for recreational fishing. While admitting it has been a challenging year so far, Ronald said all the signs indicate better times for anglers, shooters and people who just want to enjoy an outdoors lifestyle. “The Daly River barely touched five metres, and that’s the lowest I know of in a wet season,” he said. “We were lucky we still had plenty of customers, although they weren’t spending as much. It’s no different to farming in that respect; you have to go with the crop you get.
“We were selling some amazing product this season, particularly the Yeti products. The company puts performance and quality ahead of price, and this is reflected in sales.” And Ronald was full of praise for some of the Government initiatives, which he said meant there were good things to look forward to. “Last year the Government lifted the bag limits for geese and ducks in the waterfowl season,” Ronald said, “and we are hoping for another strong shooting season.
“In the early 1990s the limit was 14 birds, and I am hopeful we will be able to harvest more this season.”
On the recreational fishing front Ronald said construction of artificial reefs, funded by Government, is another highlight. The Government knows that shooting and fishing are major tourism drawcards, and it is showing support through investment. “There are four reefs, each the size of the Marrara football stadium being constructed,” Ronald explained. It is an $8m project and will foster pelagic and demersal fish aggregations so anglers will find it easier to locate reef spots. As well there is the FAD program so, it’s all about improving offshore fishing opportunities by giving anglers reference points on where to fish.
Despite the poor Wet, the fishing hasn’t been all bad. Ronald said the jewie population numbers were sensational, something he described as “strange” given the poor Wet, and added he wasn’t sure whether the closed fishing areas had helped. Offshore there has been good numbers of mackerel and longtail tuna. Anglers are travelling more to try new areas, which has the benefit of diluting the fishing pressure in popular areas like Dundee.
In the industry, June was busier than April and May and we have to make sure we are keeping up with new product because people are always looking for new product that might give them an edge, he said. Ronald said the days when fishing and shooting shops were a bastion of male dominance are over: “In February we held a pre-runoff night for ladies and more than 120 attended. The ladies are switched on and supportive; it’s a whole other market.”
FOW is a big shop. There are seven full time and five casual staff who are all on top of their chosen sport, be it chasing barra, hunting geese or reloading. It is a one stop shop for shooters, anglers, and anyone with a bent toward outdoors pursuits. Ronald said Fishing and Outdoor World was not all about “take, take, take.” A father of two young children, Ronald recognises that he has a community commitment, a duty of care if you like, and is keen for his family to be able to experience the outdoors the way he did. “Darwin is a great place to grow up and experience the Outdoors, and I want my family to experience what I experienced.” he said, by way of explaining why he joined the recreational fishing advisory committee, which he said acted as a sounding board; a conduit between the Territory Government, AFANT and the man on the street. The fishing market is in a state of constant change.
FOW has many customers from down south who visit every year and along with the Darwin locals, interstate visitors go to FOW in Darwin because they know they will get the right gear, and to find out local information, which can be anything from a hot barra bite, lure or lure colour.