Gladstone’s expert barra fisherman and guide Johnny Mitchell is still getting plenty of inquiries.
Gladstone’s expert barra fisherman and guide Johnny Mitchell is still getting plenty of inquiries. David Sparkes

Barra season gets mixed reception

THE barramundi season opened this week, coinciding with another spill at Awoonga Dam, but it might just be sport for recreational fishers. Last big wet thousands of barra went over the spillway and into the Boyne River, triggering a bonanza for fishers.

Awoonga barra were caught up and down the coast for months, but when sick and diseased fish started turning up in the Gladstone Harbour and surrounding waterways alarm bells started ringing.

Now very few will touch barra from the region, let alone eat them. So those taking advantage of the open season and the new flush of barra will mostly be fishing on a catch-and-release basis.

And they are great sport. But to many it is also about getting a good feed of one of Australia's best fish.

Simon Whittingham, of the Gladstone Seafood Market, said he would not touch any barra caught in the Gladstone region.

Mr Whittingham and others in the fishing industry have blamed the diseased fish on development and dredging in Gladstone Harbour, and launched legal action. Meanwhile, Gladstone Area Water Board chief executive Jim Grayson said it was likely some barra would cross the spillway as they did in December 2010 and January 2011.

"We don't know what

number of barramundi will traverse the spillway towards the ocean, but indications are that it will be less than last year," he said.

"Last year was the first spill event since 1996. The fish were lined up before the dam actually spilled, with the fish seemingly keen to commence their ocean-bound journey.

"This time we have not seen the fish lining up, which may be because the spilling event is happening later in their breeding season or for other reasons."

This year annual barramundi closures were enforced in the Gulf of Carpentaria from noon October 7 to noon Wednesday. Queensland Fisheries' spokesman Tony Ham said the closure periods in the Gulf and

Gladstone were more similar.

"In the past, annual closures for barramundi have aligned only with moon phases when fish spawn, but the change makes it easier for recreational fishers to remember a single date," he said.

"Fishers are reminded that size limits for barramundi apply, where only fish between a minimum of 58cm and a maximum of 120cm can be taken."

A bag limit of five per person also applies.

"It's important that fishers refresh their knowledge of the rules, which are in place to protect barramundi, to avoid on-the-spot fines," Mr Ham said.

"There are also variations to the regulations for barramundi in dams and lakes."