It’s going to take an unbelievable event in 2019 to top the SCF Research & Sustainability Event for me. My first involvement with the event dates back 12 months and much of the past year has been spent running back and forth from the Sunshine Coast. To be fair when Dean Jackson first contacted me, he put up all the right numbers that suggested he knew what he was in for, but no new event is easy to get off the ground. Anything named “Research & Sustainability” is going to be hard to market to a region that has been dominated by traditional weigh-in events for decades.
I knew that there was a kind of underground movement of younger guys who love catch and release fishing, what I didn’t realize was how large that group was or that they would turn out in such numbers. What really took the event next level was the appearance of spearfishers, free divers, families, land-based, boat based, inshore, offshore, pelagics, bait, lures – basically every type of fisher you could imagine. This was a community wanting to make a statement, and as the local member popped in to see Dean at his café, I think that message was heard loud and clear.
On the briefing night I had the job of presenting the rules, and as there were sharks included on the list we had sharks, I laid down the law. Including sharks was about gathering data, all sharks had to be handled with care and released into the waters safely lest the green movement come down on the event. We also allowed Rays, I actually openly advocated for it on a hunch, and we discussed handling so that both fish and humans exited the encounter uninjured. Rays proved an unbelievably popular category, and it was evident on the final day from the exhausted, emotional, ecstatic winners that we made the right call.
All credit to Dean, getting any event off the ground is hard but to deliver a concept that should be unmarketable and pull together the community to achieve something special will be really hard to top. He put up his own money, and I felt we had to do the same – I stand by my core beliefs that fishing will be around forever if fishers help ensure there are more fish in the future. The good news is Dean isn’t done, he is already working on events in other locations. He has definitely found the right balance of fun, excitement for the followers, a format that is aimed at doing good things for the fish and fishers. My sports heart and stewardship mind found a balance for an extraordinary weekend. I was part of the start of something that was good in the old-fashioned sense of quality and morality, and I am so grateful to the community for making this work.
So how did the event do? The objective was to spread the effort across species – the event managed 70 species in total. We measured handling issues for the first time in any event with only 3.9% of fish having problems, none severe but we will be going back to competitors next year and making some recommendations to get even better results next year. All up 756 fish were caught at 2.9 mins per fish.
|No. Fishers Caught Fish||123|
|No. Fishers Didn’t Catch Fish||43|
|% Fishers Caught Fish||74.0|
|Most Fish||Trent Kiehne (30 Fish)|
|Overall Catch Rate (Fish/Fisher/Day)||2.3|
|Average No. Fish/Fisher||4.55|
|Total Trophy Fish||19|
|Total Legal Fish||442|
|Total Undersize Fish||295|