The $5000 catch that almost got away
FISHING mates Lincoln Thornton and Bob Pirie were only moments away from throwing back a $5000 fish when they spent Friday cruising Gladstone Harbour.
Wetting a line near Turtle Island, they had no idea the Boyne Tannum HookUp's Q-Air Port of Gladstone bounty fish was lurking nearby.
The fish, a gold-spotted rock cod, was caught and released prior to HookUp and was worth $10,000 during the May 3-5 competition and $5000 afterwards.
The boys weren't having a productive day on the water and had caught very little until Lincoln latched onto the expensive fish.
"We were out off Turtle Island and I hooked it up on a lure and got it in," Lincoln said.
"I was a bit disappointed when I first saw it and then we saw it had been tagged.
"Bob does tagging and hadn't seen those type of tags before so we rung around and no one new anything about it.
"We thought 'oh well we'll just chuck it back in'. We measured it to give the details to Suntag but then thought we'd eat it because it's a nice size.
"About four hours later a mate from work rung me to see how we were going. We told him we've only got one cod and it was tagged.
"He said 'hang on a second', because he read The Observer at work which had the fish photo, which he texted to me. I texted him back a photo of the fish and he said 'that's it - five grand'."
Lincoln's mate, Bob was standing near the bow of the boat when the prized fish was hooked.
"I'm involved with the Gladstone Sportfishing Club and we do tagging at the HookUp," Bob said.
"I noticed it had a pink tag in it but all our tags are yellow. I had a look at it. It had 'BTHU' on it so I phoned Bill Sawynok from Suntag and told him.
"He said he'd thought all the HookUp tags were going in barra at Lake Awoonga. He said to keep the tag so we threw (the fish) in the esky.
"It was that close to going back over the side. Normally with tagged ones I just record the number, measure the fish and toss it. It was that close - if I hadn't called Bill to find out about it, it would have gone over.
"It was a pretty average day of fishing but this has turned something average into something pretty good."
Lincoln said he'd split the $5000 with Bob and planned to have "a few quiet ones" to celebrate.
HookUp vice president Andrew Davis, who was tasked with catching and tagging the fish, was surprised the fish wasn't caught sooner.
"I actually expected it to be caught on the HookUp weekend but because of the weather, being overcast and not so many people knowing about it... I still had people asking me what the bounty fish was all about on the last day of the competition," Mr Davis said.
"A lot of people were saying how you catch a fish like that in a harbour that is so big. It's because we told them where it was, it's a territorial fish and quite a catchable one.
"It's good to show the public that it is catchable and the kids can also catch it and that's why we chose this fish and it's not likely to wander off to another part of the harbour for a while."
Mr Davis said the HookUp committee was likely to use a gold-spotted rock cod as next year's Q-Air Port of Gladstone bounty fish and the prize money on offer would increase to $15,000.
"Q-Air Compressor Repairs have committed again for next year and I think we'll have a greater following next year especially with the bounty fish," he said.
"It was a great new category and it was caught so you can't ask for anything better than that."
There's still plenty of chances to catch more bounty fish with the Gladstone Area Water Board's nine pink-tagged HookUp barramundi released into Lake Awoonga over the past three years all worth $1000 each during the next 12 months and then $5000 across the three days of the 2020 HookUp.