WHAT A CATCH: Steve Kutija and wife Jaclyn show five-year-old son Luca their massive catch.
WHAT A CATCH: Steve Kutija and wife Jaclyn show five-year-old son Luca their massive catch. Sarah Keayes

Awesome fish has hefty price tag

THE 130kg fish Steven Kutija and wife Jaclyn caught a fortnight ago will end up costing them $800 in fines.

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers were called in to investigate after Queensland Times and other media reported the catch, which was soon suspected to be a protected Queensland grouper.

It took the patrol until the weekend to confirm the 30-year-old, 160cm fish's species and interview Mr and Mrs Kutija, who were subsequently fined $400 each.

Mr Kutija is from Summerholm in the Lockyer Valley but landed the grouper while fishing 25km off the coast of Bundaberg. He maintained he had made an error in judging the species.

Relying on an on-board fish identification chart, he confused his catch with a large cod species.

“The fish I caught actually looked nothing like the image of a Queensland grouper provided in the Fisheries' guide,” Mr Kutija said.

“I thought it must have been either a bar cod or a really big Maori cod, neither of which have a size limit.”

Fisheries District Officer Steve Dunn said Mr Kutija had been using an outdated copy of the fishing rules.

"This case highlights that fishing isn't just about putting a line in the water. There's a lot more to it," Mr Mulherin said.

“If people are unsure about the identity of a fish, or the rulesrelating to a particular fish species, they should always return it tothe water,” Mr Dunn said.

"This fish was probably over 30 years old based on its size of approximately 1.8 m. It's a real shame to lose such an iconic species in this way."

Mr Kutija, 29, said he was an experienced offshore fisherman, who always did his best to abide by the rules.

“Everyone has been judging me as some kind of yobbo fisherman,” he said. “I would never risk losing my boat over one fish. That's why I double-checked before I took it.”

Information on protected species and size limits for all fish is available on the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries website at http://www.dpi.qld.gov.

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