Record crowd flocks to Ballina's North Coast Fishing Bonanza
DESPITE terrible conditions the North Coast Fishing Bonanza in Ballina attracted a record number of entries and had plenty of big fish reeled in over the five-day event.
Days of rain, big swells and winds gusting to 35 knots shut down the option of open-water fishing for most of the competition, organiser Michael Starkey of Australian Fishing Tournaments said.
By Sunday, the last day of competition, a few boats were venturing offshore but it was the estuary, bar and river fishers who had been pulling in big fish, Mr Starkey said.
Bream, flathead and mulloway had all been in good supply he said.
The weather had cleared up by Sunday and people were still registering for the last day, with plenty of prizes still on offer, he said.
The tournament is in its sixth year and one of Australia's largest catch and photograph fishing tournaments, covering river systems from the Tweed in the north to the Clarence River in the south.
Mr Starkey said people were delivering photos of their best catches, photographed against a measuring chart of "brag mat" from right across the region.
As of yesterday morning, top catches included: a 127cm mulloway from Adam Thomas, a 105cm flathead from cadet (under 16 years) Sam Osborne and an 80.5cm flathead from junior Tahlia Robson.
Cadet Mat Lew had the best flathead with a 94cm catch ahead of Rob Lynn's 93cm effort.
Father and son team Billy and Johny Gibson from Wollongbar weren't on the leaders board with their 41cm bream but were still pleased with a good morning's fishing and were happy at clear weather after battling the elements earlier in the week.
The keen amateurs try to get out every weekend for a fish and were having a go in the North Coast Fishing Bonanza for the first time.
Preparation made all the difference to good fishing, Mr Gibson Sr said.
"You have to make sure you have nice fresh bait, and your tackle and gear is intact," he said.
Despite blue sky on Sunday the weather was still taking its toll as a flare-firing demonstration by marine safety officials had to be cancelled due to strong winds.
Roads and Maritime Services were promoting Boating Safety Day at the event and said 90% of people who drowned while boating weren't wearing life jackets.
Keeping mobile phones dry, being extra careful when towing people or other boats and being mindful of propellers were all must-do safety precautions, said Darren Watson, boating safety officer at Roads and Maritime Services.
To mark the beginning of the season next weekend RMS compliance officers would conduct a safety blitz, Mr Watson said.