RIVER EXPERT: Bill Sawynok had some good news to share with the Rockhampton fishing forum.
RIVER EXPERT: Bill Sawynok had some good news to share with the Rockhampton fishing forum. Leighton Smith

Expert says CQ fishos have never had it so good

IN THE 30 years that Bill Sawynok has kept an eye on fish numbers in the Fitzroy River, he says the fish are now bigger and more plentiful than he's ever seen before.

InfoFish Australia Rockhampton manager Mr Sawynok spoke at a fishing forum in Rockhampton yesterday updating 45 community stakeholders about the fish stocks of the Fitzroy river since net free zones (NFZ) were introduced 18 months ago.

"What we're doing is looking at the progress that's occurred not only with relation to fish stocks but also with relation to business development, tourism, those things associated with net free zones," he said.

Mr Sawynok runs a monitoring program called 'Crystal Bowl' on behalf of the Rockhampton Regional Council which has a finger on the pulse of the river providing him with daily updates on fish catches.

"We monitor on a daily basis getting information coming in from the fishers who tell us what's happening on the water through telephone or email" he said.


Fishing Forum
Cr Tony Williams with Bill Sawynok. Leighton Smith

"For the first time in over 20 years, the catch rate for legal sized barra is exceeding 1.2 fish per person per day," he said.

"It's all to do with the fact the net-free area has reduced the volume of fish being taken out of the river."

Mr Sawynok said fish stocks had also been improved by the introduction of a voluntary code of practice whereby recreational fishers voluntarily limited the number of fish they took.

He said these increased fish stocks were proving to be a boon for the region luring in keen anglers for fishing competitions with word spreading like wildfire through social media.

"B.A.S.S. Nation's competition is on at the moment and the Barra Bounty is at the end of October and there's plenty of barra being caught which is most unusual for wintertime when it's a fairly quiet period," Mr Sawynok said.


Fishing Forum
Plenty of interested stakeholders attended the Fishing Forum. Leighton Smith

"Just get out there with social media, Facebook, Twitter, those sorts of platforms, the word spreads very, very quickly, you don't have to do much, just put up a photo of a 1.2m barra and it'll go."

He said a series of infrastructure works were in the pipeline to support the recreational fishing industry

"There's a new boat ramp going in on the north side of the river, a range of new fishing platforms proposed and a new boat ramp at the mouth of the river to replace the Port Alma ramp," Mr Sawynok said.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne opened the forum providing an update on the NFZ in other regions as well as updates on improvements in the region's infrastructure.

Infrastructure Committee Chair Councillor Tony Williams said the forum targeted existing and prospective businesses in the recreational fishing industry as well as accommodation providers and restaurateurs who can benefit from recreational fishing.

"To capitalise on the Net Free Zones, last year Council adopted a Recreational Fishing Strategy that outlines ways in which we can improve our facilities and promote our Region as a recreational fishing hub and tourism destination," Cr Williams said.

Mr William said all the comments coming from Mackay, Townsville, Cairns were saying that Rockhampton was the leading light in NFZ.