After a long weekend that saw close to 70 tuna caught and killed and innumerable stockfish caught and fried I wondered why our local Herald Newspaper would name the Rock and Surf Super Pro League (RASSPL) as the Hooligan of the Day, especially as RASSPL go to great lengths to catch, tag and release the fish that they catch.
The brouha was all over a reef ‘lawnmower’ known as the Bronze Bream. The main prize on offer at the recent RASSPL Nationals, held in Port Alfred over 26 to 28 April 2012, was a R350 000 Volkswagen Amarok Diesel bakkie with air-con and towbar for the biggest Bronze Bream caught over 4kgs (51,5cm). Apparently the concern was over the possibility of the RASSPL fisherman contributing to the decimation of the species in a ‘mad scramble’ to win the main prize on offer.
According to Abel Alexandre, writing for Outdoor Pages; “Bronze Bream are most prolific on the KZN Coastline after the sardine run from August through to December. Conditions for this species are most favourable usually when the sea is unfavourable for any other type of angling i.e. strong South Westerly winds that push up the surf. One would then set out in search of fishable water, usually found on the Northern side of rocky points offering protection from the elements. Bronze Bream will only feed in water that is extremely rocky with rock ledges and gullies. The second thing to look out for is green seaweed which grows on these rocks.”
The Bronze Bream diet is made up almost exclusively of the green seaweed to be found growing on rocks close inshore – hence the nickname “lawnmower”
Fishing Info says that Mature Specimens have been recorded at 40 – 45cm. The South African Bronze Bream Record is 5kg.
The Port Alfred Coastline offers few such areas that can be described as ideal for Bronze Bream.
The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) says; “Bronze bream is a Red-listed no-sale species, this means that it is illegal to sell or buy these species anywhere in South Africa. This species is specifically reserved for recreational fishers and may only be caught by fishers in possession of a recreational permit. These fishers must also abide by the recreational permit conditions which include daily bag limits and minimum size limits. Recreational fishers are not allowed to sell their catch as this would result in an unsustainable amount of effort being used in the fishery and undermines the livelihoods of legitimate commercial fishermen who rely on the resource for their income.”
The daily bag limit for recreational fisherman catching Bronze Bream is currently 2 per permit.
Okay – with the above in mind I was still in the dark as to why RASSPL would be named Hooligan of the Day so I spoke to RASSPL’s Dean Dickinson who confirmed that 104 anglers – 100 of whom traveled to Port Alfred to take part in the competition – caught and released alive 956 fish of which 30 were Bronze Bream.
All anglers taking part had to bring along weigh mats or fish with a partner that has one, as well as provide their own bait which had to be within Marine Coastal Management regulations.
Anglers were also advised to take a sheet of plastic along to make a pool to keep fish in while waiting for them to be measured and photographed before release. As Bronze Bream are especially frail and die very easily anglers were advised to keep them in a rock pool until they were measured.
Over on the Sealine Fishing Forum, Port Alfred fisherman, Speareye, started a forum thread – RASSPL Jealousy – in which a couple of contributors made their feelings known:
- speareye said; “There is clearly someone out there that isn’t happy with the whole idea of RASSPL (and its not the “scientists”). 1 dead fish between 100+ anglers over 3 days has to be better than anglers keeping their bag limit during “oldschool” leagues.”
- Trophy said; “Funny thing was that during the RASSPL there was a ski boat comp on the go…these guys proudly strung up all their catches to be weighed in. Talk about a killing field? What made it even better was that they then started selling the fish from the back of their bakkies to the highest bidder!”
- Mouldie said; “What pees me off is that this event could have showcased Port Alfred as a fishing destination, then this guy who is a P.A resident goes and turns it into a negative”
- kraken said; “”I think the press have perhaps blown this out of proportion. The usually make a hash of most of what they report anyway. On the other hand, RASPPL may well be ruffling a few feathers amongst other angling groups due to the success of their concept and their ability to give everyone an opportunity to compete for some awesome prizes, regardless of age, race, gender or what have you. Gotta say I’m really impressed by what Dean has achieved in growing this dream of his.”
- Marthin said; “The more I read the story the more it is apparent something else is afoot, but that no other paper found it interesting enough or a half decent editor could wade and see through the BS.”
vismal said; “This journo’s article clearly highlights how Professional, Organised and awesome Ambassadors of the sport the anglers at Rasspl Nationals were, because he could not dig up any thing else to find fault with.”
- RASSPL said; “Paul Cowly’s team tagged Kob in one of the first RASSPL competitions ever hosted at Sundays where they tagged 4 of the biggest Kob ever tagged in the country with transmitter tags. We took a roasting because the anglers didn’t know how to handle the fish properly. That is one of the reason we host these comps so guys like Paul can come to the comps and do talks to educate anglers about the importance of correctly handling fish and how to do so at the prize giving after the comps. Its a new area for many anglers as we have only just stopped gaffing fish in the past few years. It is important that we work together and not rip holes into each other for the good of angling in the country.”
So, at the end of the day we have three take away lessons:
- RASSPL have benefited from the publicity
- The Bronze Bream has benefited from more awareness to the general public and
- Next year the main prize should be awarded to the angler who catches a more ‘attainable’ fish.