LOWER FITZROY RIVERRockhampton QLD
Recreational catch rates for barramundi and threadfin salmon in the mighty Fitzroy River near Rockhampton have soared since the introduction of a vast net-free zone along the Capricorn Coast and in the Fitzroy estuary itself. This is wonderful news for locals and visitors alike (not to mention the economy). It also provides a valuable model for the rest of Queensland — and, in fact, all of Australia!
The quality and consistency of this unique urban fishery has gained significant prominence since the establishment of an extensive net-free zone (NFZ) along the adjacent Capricorn Coast less than three years ago. Fish numbers (and average sizes) have rebounded spectacularly since commercial netting activities finally ceased within this zone late in 2015. Anglers and local businesses are now reaping the benefits of that rebound in fortunes.
“Barra numbers and sizes began to climb, and the capture of metre-plus ‘trophy’ barra slowly went from being a rarity to something much closer to commonplace. ”
The first significant impact noted by keen anglers in the months following the netting ban was a dramatic increase in numbers of threadfin or king salmon in the lower Fitzroy, followed by a gradual increase in the average size of these popular fish. Then, as time passed, barra numbers and sizes also began to climb, and the capture of metre-plus “trophy” barra slowly went from being a rarity to something much closer to commonplace. All this has happened in less than three years, with a commensurate increase in recreational fishing effort and tourist visitation levels, so one can only wonder how things will pan out in another three years… Suffice to say that there’s room for considerable optimism.
Fortunately, Rockhampton Regional Council is extremely progressive and proactive when it comes to recognising the opportunities presented by improving fishing fortunes along the Fitzroy River and its tributaries. Rocky Council is actively promoting recreational angling in their district, and working on several major infrastructure programs, including new boat ramps, increased trailer parking and the construction of land-based fishing platforms.
Inland, throughout the massive Fitzroy/Dawson Basin (a catchment that’s over half the size of Victoria!) there are more barra, southern saratoga and sooty grunter than you can shake a rod at. Meanwhile, out on the coast and well within an hour or two’s drive of Rockhampton, lie extensive tidal flats bathed in clear, warm water and loaded with trevally, permit and other sport fishing goodies, as well as ruggedly spectacular headlands and inshore reefs where over-sized mackerel and GTs mass at times, while fingermark (golden snapper), black jewfish and grunter or javelin fish swarm in the deeper drops. Should all that still not be enough to slake your thirst for piscatorial action, Lake Awoonga and its fast-recovering impoundment barra stocks lies within easy day-tripping distance of Rocky’s modern, jet-serviced airport.
- Regarded as the capital of Central Queensland, Rockhampton lies smack on the Tropic of Capricorn, 640 km north of Brisbane and 40 km upstream from the mouth of the Fitzroy River.
- Rocky has a humid sub-tropical climate with mid-summer temperatures ranging from lows of 22 to highs of 35 and winter temperatures from as cool as single digits up to 23 or 24 degrees most days. Heaviest rainfalls are typically experienced from December until March.
- The city’s population is around 85,000 people. Rocky offers an extensive range of shopping and dining opportunities, entertainment, cultural attractions and medical services, as well as all manner of accommodation, from budget to five-star.
- Rocky is a major service centre for the mining and beef industries and hosts the tri-annual Beef Australia expo, attracting visitors and exhibitors from around the globe.
- Several airlines fly multiple daily services into and out of Rockhampton’s modern airport, which lies less than 15 minutes drive from the centre of the city and the Fitzroy River… So it’s literally possible to be fishing within an hour of landing!