The aggressive nature of the 131 tilapia reeled in at the Bundaberg tilapia fishing competition was evident as fishers said each catch put up a fight.
The event on Saturday was held to raise awareness about the devastating impact these pests have on the environment.
Terri Hanlon said she had a fight on her hands every time she reeled in one of the six tilapia she caught in the competition.
“I tell you what they are the best sports fish, we catch so many varieties of fish and these things are just amazing,” Terri said.
“I’ve caught one before and I do fish a lot.
“Today, the only other thing I caught was a turtle.”
Terri’s fishing partner Helen Johnson out-fished her, catching 33 tilapia, even though they were on the same boat.
“She does it to me every time, I can cast over the top of her and she will pull them in every time, it doesn’t matter, just every time it’s on her line,” Terri said.
“I have known about tilapia, but have never caught one before, Helen did at Mingo Crossing when we were there for a catfish comp, so coming along for this competition has been a lot of fun.”
Out of Helen’s catch of 33 tilapia the biggest was 44cm long and she was surprised by the number of fish caught during the five-hour timeframe.
“Everyone who fished around us was just hauling in tilapia, everyone got tilapia,” Helen said.
“The size of them! I mean we knew they were in here, but we don’t fish in here too beside from the catfish comp with the Bundy Sportsfishing Club.
“We were all amazed and glad we have been able to eradicate a few of them.
“They are mouth breeders, they are like the carp of down south, just prolific.”
Helen said she although she knew there were a lot of native fish species that lived in the area, during the competition she only caught catfish and tilapia.
She encouraged others to take part in future competition to help rid the waterways of the invasive pest.
“It’s great fun, especially for the kids as it’s a way they can learn how to fish and manage these pests,” Helen said.
“Once you find one, you will normally find the school and you can reel them in one after another.
“They travel in large schools, and they breed and are very aggressive and protective of their nests, so once you find one you will normally find more.
“They are mouth breeders so once they have their young, they carry them in mouth until they are able to care for themselves.”
Education key to stopping spread of tilapia
Freshwater Fishing and Stocking Association of Queensland president Charlie Ladd said educating the community on both the native and pest fish species in the local waterways was essential to the long-term survival of fish such as barramundi and Australian bass.
“A small Australian bass was caught here today, which is good news,” Charlie said.
“Tilapia are a very invasive species, very territorial and aggressive.
“Under the right circumstance they can breed up to six times a year where our natives are only once and that’s under the right circumstances.
“At the moment with drought conditions it’s not good for our natives, but the tilapia will keep breeding, they really are resilient and I tell people they would live in a septic tank if they had to, but this isn’t good for our native fish.”
Charlie said the tilapia fishing competition and awareness day was vital in understanding how to manage the waterways for future generations to enjoy.
“It’s very important, I attend between eight and 10 of these pest comps a year and it’s great to have the Bundaberg Council organising this,” he said.
“These fish comps have a multi-level benefit to the community. People are out in the parks, community is getting together for the event while most importantly people are doing something to control the pest fish in their areas.
“It would be nice for a good quantity of fish to be caught but the thing is for people just to have fun and enjoy it.
“One main reason why I come here to educate people and that is because I want my grandsons to be able to catch fish in the future.”
Brett Gamlin said it was a great morning to fish from the bank of Sandy Hook with his granddaughters Alice and Esther Smith.
“The girls love fishing and have been enjoying themselves,” Brett said.
“It’s great to have this as an awareness thing for the community.”
Taleah and Josh Pike said although they didn't catch any fish from the river bank they also enjoyed the morning out.
“We have been trying to catch the fish that aren't supposed to be in the river to get them out, and the fish that are throw them back in,” Taleah said.
“I looked up the tilapia fish on my phone last night to see what it is.”
First tilapia fishing competition deemed a success
Bundaberg Regional Council operational supervisor natural resource manager Greg O'Neill said given the response from the community to the first tilapia fishing competition he hoped it would develop into an annual or bi-annual event to raise awareness in a fun environment.
“We had about 70 registrations for this first event which is really good,” he said.
“We have trophy winners for each category and also prizes from Tackle World and BCF for each participant.
“For the first event we are really happy with the response, seeing grandparents with their kids fishing is really nice and the amount of fish caught has been terrific.”
Greg said the combined weight of the 131 tilapia caught on Saturday came to a total of 77.32kg.
Bundaberg Mary Regional Group’s Matthew Thomson said he grew up in Zimbabwe where tilapia originated, and it's a common fish in the waterways there.
His role at the tilapia fishing competition and awareness day was to help provide information on how destructive invasive species could be in Australia.
“I’ve been chatting with the community about the invasive fish and providing details, such as you can’t take these fish home if you catch them, it’s actually against the law,” Matthew said.
- Earlier report: Tilapia targeted in new fishing competition