I always knew I’d split my year between two countries — I never figured that one of them would be Australia. Born and raised in British Columbia, Canadian winters and I have always paired as pleasantly as a wingless pigeon in an off-leash dog park.
So, every year in November, I fled to warm water destinations in hopes of finding both sunshine and saltwater species.
In 2013, I’d been in the process of pricing out coastal homes in Roatan when I stumbled upon my (now) husband during a Norwegian fishing trip. His tan radiated beneath blue eyes, his Aussie accent lessening whatever appeal North American men may have ever had.
As quick as the local boys lost my attention, so too did the sketchy property deals in Honduras.
Romance aside, it was important that I explore Australia to see how it fared on a sport fishing scale. As a professional angler, the proximity to good fishing is as important to me as the proximity of high-rises to the ‘suits & ties’.
I knew Australia was surrounded by water, but I’d heard few raving reviews about its fishing.
Upon arriving in Sydney, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into: pretty people in coffee shops, hurried people in cars, wet people with surf boards… and vacant looks on every single one of their faces when I asked them about Australia’s fishing.
Surely if fishing here were half decent everybody would know about it? I chalked it up as a common big-city ailment and took to the waters to see what I might find.
I began my exploration in the Sydney harbour, where sunsets warmed the skies and racing sailboats warmed my blood.
“Catching anything?”, they’d holler smugly as they whizzed by.
Heads turned and whispers drifted to me as I balanced on the bow of the boat trying to focus on casting my heavy clouser — I could hear the murmurs and feel the stares. Naturally I assumed it was my womanly exterior that was to blame for the attention, but my vanity quickly diminished upon realizing that the stares came regardless of who was making the cast.
It seemed fishing, fly fishing in particular, was a sport with little familiarity amongst the majority of the NSW population. At my weekly casting sessions in the park, people were genuinely confused about what I was doing. To add to my bewilderment at their bewilderment, those who did know a thing or two about fly fishing merely assumed that I was a trout angler.
“No, no…”, I would start to explain. “You can fly fish for virtually any creature in the ocean!”
But too often I’d lost their attention before I could even begin to explain what species live in the deep blue — species at their finger tips, just waiting to be discovered.
It’s probably unfair to compare Australia’s angling participation to fishing in BC. In my town, fishing is a way of life — a culture, a lifestyle, a normality. Sure, perhaps downtown Vancouver may have just as many people unfamiliar with the great outdoors, but such folk are still aware of the fishing opportunities our waterways have to offer.
Fascinated by the lack of comprehension and awareness, I mentioned my confusion to several of my podcast guests (www.aprilvokey.com/podcasts) to hear their viewpoints on the matter. As none of them have ever lived in North America, it was impossible to agree upon the differences or similarities between the two continents.
Nonetheless, I held fast to my belief that fishing in Australia is underrated, with the potential to grow as one of the most sought out fishing destinations in the world.
New Zealand was on everyone’s bucket list, why wasn’t Australia?
The more I probed the topic, the more grey it seemed to turn. As I traveled the country, I realized that certain states have more participation than others — regardless of the fishery’s quality. How did some regions have such pride in the sport, whereas others (who often have even better fishing) seem so disinterested?
What’s more, when I spoke with avid anglers who I met in NSW, VIC and TAS, many of them had never ventured outside of their own state!
Canada is famous for its vast terrain, and domestic travel to reach remote fisheries isn’t uncommon. Why were so few people making the trek to explore the incredible places here?
It’s not an answer I plan to stumble upon anytime soon, but I’m working on it.
In NSW, the kingfish proceeded to toy with my sanity and it didn’t take long for tales of world famous marlin to ignite my determination.
From Sydney, to Port Stephens, to our place up the coast, we chased and pursued the renowned billfish.
A spurt of good weather and accommodating tides befriended us and it seemed like every spare moment I had was spent searching for marlin. As was to be expected, the conditions didn’t last and storms soon rolled in.
Just as I had begun to think that such weather dependency was the reason for the perceived shortage of anglers, bass fishing, rock fishing, river fishing and beach fishing revealed themselves to me as various alternatives.
There was almost always something in season to fish for! Maybe there were so many fisheries to choose from, that anglers were simply spread out and the concentration was diluted!? Then I looked at the license numbers…
I won’t pretend to know anything about Australian fisheries and I would be foolish to say that I have even partially grasped any sort of comprehension about the industry here.
Population, economy, government, history… all of these things make up what has been, and what will be, the future of Australia’s recreational sport-fishing.
What I am hoping for, however, is to meet as many of you as possible during my stay in Oz — and to learn that my observations are incorrect. Maybe the mindset here is still that fewer anglers equate to less pressure and that promoting the sport is a bad idea, or perhaps it’s that I’m just setting the bar too high.
I’ve always been a strong believer that there’s power in numbers, and that many of the current molestations of Mother Nature might be avoided if there were enough like-minded people to team up and take a stance.
Or perhaps there are more anglers out there than I think there are, but they’re all on some secret hot spot somewhere and I just haven’t had the good fortune to find them yet — I’m hoping that’s the case.
**Now that I’m “grounded” until May while waiting for my Visa, I plan to explore AUS even more. Stay tuned for an update on Exmouth, Frasier Island, Hitchinbrook, and more of Tassie!