Tracking technology to improve fishing
IMAGINE the day you can catch a terrific fish, photograph it and easily load the details to a central location to help improve Queensland's fishery.
Imagine how useful that would be out on the water when all you need is a smartphone.
Imagine the exciting possibilities for anglers with more accurate data showing when the fish respond best and where.
That time is here through an innovative new app called Track My Fish.
The app will soon be available to more anglers, especially those in fishing clubs and research organisations, after a successful trial at the recent Rocky Barra Bounty in Central Queensland.
A major attraction is fish captures can be recorded in real time.
Another vital advantage is how the app will help improve fisheries.
As inventor Stefan Sawynok confidently predicts, using the app "is the fishing of the future''.
"This is essentially to replace the tagging program in the long term,'' he said.
"It works with the tags but ultimately it will mean that people can carry their entire fishery around with them on their phone.
"What we will be doing over time is we will be increasing the number of analysis tools that they (anglers) can have in their personal data and other tools they can have on the community data so that fishers are more individually empowered with data.''
Stefan is part of the knowledgeable Sawynok family, including father Bill who is regarded as one of Australia's leading fish researchers and tagging pioneers.
As a former surveyor, Bill has spent the past 40 years overseeing major tag and release monitoring programs, heavily involved with such groups as Infofish.
Stefan took the family's years of dedicated research a step further by developing the Track My Fish app.
The practical concept was showcased for the first time at last month's Rocky Barra Bounty on the Fitzroy River.
The competition is important in its own right because of the conservation practices it applies.
A capped number of 60 two-competitor teams measure and photograph their catches, before tagging and releasing them.
Images of the fish - on the measuring stick and held by the angler - were this year immediately added to the Track My Fish app.
Event organisers can see what is being caught, gathering the data efficiently without copious amounts of paperwork and hand written recording.
Sawynok hoped the new technology would be available to the public early in the new year.
"One of the biggest upgrades with the app is that up until now within the barra bounty, we've never actually known when the fish are caught,'' he said.
"So this is the first year where we actually have a set of the data that says 'these are the times'. And when I'm done, I'll line up the Track My Fish data with the tide times.
"We have got lots of theories out there on how the tides work but there's never been really proper empirical data that says 'look this is how it works'.
"And it wouldn't be the first time that we find out that 'hey that's not quite how it works'.
"The other thing about the app, which has been a revelation and really, really good, is where the fishers say they are fishing and where they are actually fishing can be a little bit different.
"It uses a GPS but what we do is we've got a grid system that links that up to a square kilometre.
"At least then, we know where that fish is caught.''
The fish researcher said the app wasn't designed to collect secret spots, instead set up to compile holistic scientific data.
"For us, we are trying to track movement, we're trying to see where fish are aggregating in the system,'' he said. "We did not spend nine months working and everything that's gone into building this to harvest people's fishing spots. It's to help the fishery and help them.''
Sawynok said the valuable information would assist in where to top up species to bolster future stocks.
He said being able to load and process information easily on a phone encouraged more people to contribute to research.
"That's really the purpose - to provide the community and the general fishing community with much much better data and much better ability to load that data,'' he said. "What I hope is the general community will get much more accurate with it.''
At the latest Rocky Barra Bounty competition, the app kept the information flowing smoothly rather than requiring extra phone calls to enter data.
"From an event management point of view, it's just amazing because we've managed to reduce the team workload,'' he said.
Regional anglers who remember the former Kirkleagh Klassic freshwater competition at Somerset Dam will recall the hours of effort needed to register the hundreds of fish weighed in.
It also took considerable time to match the catches in each category with the secret weight formula.
Using the Track My Fish app would have massively reduced the workload and started a new database of valuable information to help with future restocking programs.
The new app is sure to have widespread future applications for regular anglers, research groups and those involved in annual tournaments like bass competitions held on the Somerset and Wivenhoe lakes.
The app will link into more than 40 years of tagging and recapture research done by the Sawynok family and groups like Infofish.
David Lems was a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland at the Rocky Barra Bounty.