IT’S usually a waiting game, but with 20,000 mature kingfish let free from a fish farm off Port Stephens, there was no waiting.
An amateur video filmed by a group of recreational fishers off the coast of Hawks Nest last month has captured the mayhem that saw them catch 25 kingfish in less than five minutes with bare hooks.
News of the damaged farm made it around fishing circles at lightning speed.
One of fishermen who made the video and asked to be named as Giddsy, said there were “literally so many fish out there”.
The video, posted by Bagged Out on Facebook, shows the men using handlines and bare hooks hauling in kingfish after kingfish.
“There is literally kingy just floating everywhere,” the narrator said. “No bait, just a hook. It’s not even fishing really.”
An esky on the boat can be seen filled with yellowtail kingfish, which Japanese sushi masters believe is the best fish in the world for sashimi.
“There was about five boats when we got there and by the time we left there would have been 20 or more,” Giddsy said.
“All pulling up these fish with ease. People were literally going on a daily basis, getting their bag limit and going home. We only went the one day.”
The group respected the bag limit of five and the fish they caught were all legal size, between 70 and 80 centimetres.
“I’m actually disappointed that the fisheries have now put a no-fishing zone near the pens,” Giddsy said.
“The potential damage 20,000 predatory fish can have on local fish could be irreversible.”
The predatory kingfish, used to being fed pellets twice a day, escaped into the marine park waters when a fish-farm sea cage, promoted as a “fortress pen”, was damaged in rough seas on January 19.
The future of the controversial joint NSW government and Tasmania-based Huon Aquaculture project, which is 18 months into a five-year research trial, is under a cloud following the loss of a third of its stock with a retail value of more than $2 million.
Huon has blamed the failure on barnacle build-up on the sea cage nets. The trial still has two pens stocked with 40,000 kingfish, some due for harvest this month.
Vocal critics have long held the view that the farm should not have been approved in the marine park, which is a main thoroughfare for migrating humpback whales.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair has been urged by Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, tour operators and conservationists to relocate the trial farm.
A fishing ban in the area is expected to be lifted on Thursday.