WATCH: The project to find Gladstone's fishing hot spots

ISN'T it nice to know when you choose to kiss a fish goodbye over throwing him in a fry pan that he could go on to live decades.

As Boyne Tannum HookUp contestants race to weigh in their fish, SunTag owners Bill Sawynok and son Stephen are busily tagging fish that fishers will be able to re-catch years down the track.

Each tag has a phone number that fishers call to report the fish, letting other fishers know how fast it's grown.

Tagged, weighed at the HookUp: A fish is tagged and weighed at the HookUp before it's released.
Tagged, weighed at the HookUp: A fish is tagged and weighed at the HookUp before it's released.

It's building a treasure trove of "fishing data" that shows where along the Boyne River certain fish species are thriving.

It means trends in the last few months or over years help predict what's in store for certain stocks, allowing fishers to decide if and where it's worth casting a line out.

While current data on the health of the Boyne River's stocks is a bit outdated, the HookUp is set to give Bill and Stephen a "better picture of where it's at".

The catch rate has been "pretty constant" since they began collecting data on the Boyne River in 2004, Stephen said.

“With the exception of Barra,” he said. “We had a big spike in Barra when 30,000 came over the Awoonga Dam wall, filled this thing up with big Barra and for a year of two it was absolute pandemonium.”


Because SunTag has been up since 1970s, it has a cache of data showing fishers the ebbs and flows of stocks for each part of the season across Queensland.

"Events like the HookUp allow us to see where the fish are at, because you've got so many people fishing in such a short period of time."

Gladstone Sportfishing Club is one of many clubs across Queensland whose 700-800 "hard core" fishers regularly tag fish before throwing them back.

Member Nate Harwood last night reeled in the same barramundi his dad Jason caught, weighed, measured, and tagged, a year ago.

The fish hadn't grown at all, which had the Harwoods believing it was a dam barramundi; "all of our tag data we have noticed the fish from the dam don't grow much".

It's just one of the many bemusing trends to come out of the SunTag fishing data.

Ethan helps his younger brother Nate hold up a barramundi caught in the Boyne River.
Ethan helps his younger brother Nate hold up a barramundi caught in the Boyne River.

Outsmarting a "smart fish" that's survived the river for decades is "always a point of pride" which draws in more taggers, Stephen said.

"Fishers always love to know that there fish has been out for a long time," he said. "They like to know that there fish do actually live for a long while."



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A photo of a fisher who caught an old Saratoga in Mackay that'd been on the loose for 22 years sent SunTag's Facebook page into meltdown.

"You put that stuff up on Facebook and it just goes wild. Every time we put a post like that up we get two or three people enquiring about how they can get involved."

The Saratoga grew from 620-630mm in 13.5 years.
The Saratoga grew from 620-630mm in 13.5 years.

While the tides or a glance at the colour of the water previously helped fishers grasp when the big fish will bite, SunTag's data is getting rid of the guess work, the pair say.

It's the "future of fishing". 

Mr Sawynok said while the data could zoom in on "1km blocks … that's actually less important than the whole river system" which is displayed on their website.

FISHING HOT SPOT SEARCH | Is your local fishing spot on the record?

"Our business isn't telling them where to fish; it's in telling them what they can expect when they get out there.

"People want to know if fish supplies are going up or going down. It's the only two things fishers really want to know, other than where they can catch them."

He said: "You know what will happen [if we show hotspots]? The next day there'll be a million boats sitting right there.