TIME TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY – TOMORROW’S FISHING STARTS TODAY - Consider limiting your catch rather than catching your limit.
By Evan Needham, Recreational Fishing Education Officer
One thing that has really started to catch my attention, particularly on social media, is the number of fishing-related stories (posts) that equate to “bagging out” as a measure of how successful a fishing trip was. It needs to be made clear to everyone that our fisheries resources are finite and that, unless we all take responsibility, it is very likely that our grandkids, or even our kids, may not be able to experience that same quality of fishing we are so lucky to have. I have seen images from the 1960s of fishermen fishing the rock platforms of Sydney Harbour for luderick; they are literally standing on a pile of fish so numerous that you can’t count them. Now granted this was almost 60 years ago and the understanding of fisheries management was not the same as today; the belief was that the fish stocks were unlimited. We know now much more about our resource and, through the increased awareness and custodianship shown by anglers, thankfully today images such as these are frowned upon. Many factors are now placing additional pressure on the resource, not the least of which is population growth, and the fishing power of anglers (increases in efficiency). Boats are generally faster, bigger and more reliable. Better long range weather forecasting gives anglers the confidence to travel further and to target fish during short windows of good weather. Improvements in navigational electronics allow anglers to return to within metres of the same location time and time again. Sonar equipment assists anglers to even target individual fish. Electric motors enable greater stealth when approaching and targeting fish. Modern fishing tackle is more capable of landing larger, stronger fish. Braided lines, chemically-sharpened hooks and scented artificial baits and lures are all designed to increase catch rates. Technological advances are undoubtedly driving catch increases, possibly in the face of decreasing local fish populations. One of the biggest factors placing pressure on the fish resources is the use of social media; the ability to inform other anglers of fishing hotspots is just incredible. One of the biggest factors placing pressure on the fish resources is the use of social media; the ability to inform other anglers of fishing hotspots is just incredible. Previously, if you found a patch of fish, it was “radio silence”; nowadays people don’t think twice about posting fishing reports on social media. Sure it is great to be able to share a couple of pictures with your mates of fish you have caught, but inadvertently it is feeding information to other anglers, directing them to fish aggregations. Consider what we as recreational anglers want to be our legacy? Is it images of piles of dead fish, how we bagged out, filling our freezers only to realise that we can’t eat all the fish we took? I hear people talking about how they have to make their fishing trips worthwhile: they have spent X dollars on fuel, accommodation, tackle and have X number of people to share the cost, and need to take X kg of fish to get their money’s worth. Recreational fishing is not a cost recovery exercise. If your primary motivation when you go fishing is to make sure that you recover your costs, then sell your boat and fishing gear and use that money to buy fish from your local fish monger; it would be far cheaper. Recreational fishing is about many things: being with mates or being alone, enjoying the environment, having fun, catching a feed or just relaxing. Be responsible; don’t treat possession limits as a target to validate that you had a good day fishing. Only take what you need for a feed and consider limiting your catch rather than catching your limit.