New scoring system makes Putt Bennett Family Fishing Festival more sustainable

For 25 years, the Putt Bennett Family Fishing Festival based at Mylestom has been a catalyst for holiday fun on local waterways, estuaries and beaches.

From Friday to Sunday, there were hundreds of adults and children dipping a line in the water from the Nambucca River up to south of Muttonbird Island, including on the banks of Deep Creek, Kalang River, Bellinger River, Bonville Creek and Boambee Creek.

The focus on a healthy family day outdoors was no different, but this year the festival introduced some changes to help its 'catch and release' sustainability ethos be more effective.

Instead of having to store their catch in a bucket and take them to a designated spot to be weighed at particular times during the day, participants were able to photograph them on a specially-issued measuring mat, text the details to the team at the North Beach Recreation & Bowling Club, then put the fish straight back into the water.

Some bream, flathead and whiting were still being brought in for bonus points, but they had to be live and healthy.

Spearheaded by former weighmaster Chris Garrett, who is now more of a 'lengthmaster' and 'health assessor', the switch from measuring weight on scales to measuring length on brag mats ensures fish return to their natural habitat faster.

"They can toss them straight back in the river," said organiser Kimber Young. "Before, we used to have about 80 per cent live and 20 per cent dead brought in for weighing.

"This year, under the new scoring system, we don't accept any dead fish.

"We'll accept live fish if they bring them in, and if they want to take some home and cook them up, that's fine. But if you fish for a day, you don't have to eat everything you catch."

Kimber said most people now use circle hooks, which have been shown to increase the survival of angler-released fish because they are unlikely to be swallowed.

The fishing festival ran from 0000 hours on Friday morning with anglers able to submit their catch up to 11am on Sunday morning, and was followed by a huge presentation event with many prizes awarded.

Some of the prizewinners

Blake Baker - Most species (River Estuary) Junior;

Robert McCue - Most Species (River Estuary) Master Male;

Kayla Brown - Champion Angler Adult Female;

Mark Kirkham - Champion Angler Master Male;

Max Hicks - Champion Angler Sub Junior Male;

Jack Nolan - Longest Dusky Flathead;

Luke Videan - Winner of Putt Bennett Raffle Boat, trailer and motor.