Kicking Goals in Mackay’s Net Free Zone

Kicking Goals in Mackay’s Net Free Zone


Kicking Goals in Mackay’s Net Free Zone

By Luke Galea

By now I am sure many of you would have heard about the 3 Net Free Zones (NFZ) implemented in Queensland. It is a no-brainer really that there will be a massive improvement in recreational fish catches as a direct result of this initiative. 

Most people probably aren’t aware that I have been an avid member of Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance (MRFA) for the past 3 years. MRFA were the proponents behind the NFZ and you can thank a handful of dedicated volunteers who worked selflessly and amidst much adversity to get the NFZ delivered so that the community and their kids can enjoy the fishing and the positive flow-on economic effects these zones are bringing. 

Now the NFZ concept was roughly 15 years in the making and was carried through by a handful of passionate and dedicated volunteers. As I came in on the tail-end of this lobbying etc, I can’t really take the credit for the Mackay zone getting up. However, I am now responsible for coordinating data surveys within the NFZ to quantify these zones and prove that they are working. This is extremely important to justify their cause. This is being done via boat ramp surveys and getting fisherman to fill out a simple data sheet with their catches. Well surprise, surprise – people are catching a stack more fish, bigger fish and less time (effort) taken to catch them. Who would have thought… 😉 I have fished the NFZ many times since implementation and the whole place is alive. Bait everywhere and the average size of fish being caught is considerably larger on previous years.

So many people are catching large barramundi and even Threadfin Salmon which have been quite scarce in recent years. But above all that, mum and dad anglers with their kids are catching a feed and that’s what its all about for me. Good anglers will catch a fish anywhere, but for me this zone is about having a place where our kids can have a higher chance of catching a fish rather than sitting in a boat all day struggling to get a bite.


Sampling was done in October 2015 (pre NFZ implementation) and then again in February 2016. Any person with half a brain will see that this is not comparing apples with apples, but we only had one shot at getting some data before the NFZ was implemented. Sampling is again taking place in February 2017 to compare data with the same time of year each year so we can compare apples with apples. Sampling will occur each February for the next 5 or so years and a report compiled to show the positive trends in fish diversity and sizes that are being experienced.

Just quietly, the data coming in for February 2017 is looking very positive indeed. I’m excited!