Isisford builds third big yellowbelly statue to reel in tourists – Michmutters

Isisford builds third big yellowbelly statue to reel in tourists

Henry ‘Cocky’ Bignell has spent most of his 89 years in the small outback town of Isisford in central west Queensland.

“I was born and bred here, I put a lot of years away,” Mr Bignell said.

But 12 years ago, when he and his late wife Veronica planned to return home after a stint in Rockhampton, he could not shake the feeling that the town he loved was missing something.

“We were talking about coming back home and I just thought a little town wants something to put us back on the map,” he said.

Since then, his vision to have larger-than-life yellowbelly (golden perch) monuments on the banks of the Barcoo River has become reality, twice.

A giant metal fish made out of scrap and junk sits above bushes.
Scrap from windmills, old cars, and even a Cessna went into this sculpture.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

Mr Bignell’s biggest catch is a nine-metre whopper on the road in from Ilfracombe, built in late 2018.

“It was supposed to be 6 meters, but like all fish stories it finished up 9 meters,” he said.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn out like this.”

school of giant fish

Construction of Isisford’s third metal marine monument is underway on the opposite side of town.

A man in high-vis holds a document showing an image of the yellow fish statue.
Second-hand 2cm galvanized pipe, angle iron, and new windmill sails will be used in the town’s third big fish.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

“It won’t be anything like the other one, it’ll be flat, on a 90-degree angle to the road, [a] good view coming [from] both ways,” Mr Bignell said.

“A lot of the [windmill] sails I’m going to use have never been used, they’re still in the crates that I got them in, so they could be a bit shiny.

“It’ll stand out like nobody’s business.”

Three poles stand in the ground, early signs of construction.
Isisford’s third big fish is still under construction, and Mr Bignell already has ideas for another one down by Oma Waterhole.(ABC Western Qld: Carli Willis)

After years of fashioning fish sculptures for his hometown, Mr Bignell said it had all been worth it.

“I’m still getting messages from overseas people who have driven through and had a look at it and found out who I was,” he said.

“I’m so happy, so proud of it.”

A silver yellowbelly sculpture made out of horseshoes.
Mr Bignell helped a family friend finish building this fish out of horseshoes.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

Always a bigger fish

Whether it is oversized attractions or ancient fish fossils, the waterways of Isisford are one of the town’s main attractions.

During the cooler weather of the outback tourist season, residents say hundreds of caravans make themselves at home on the banks of the Barcoo River or at Oma Waterhole.

Such were the scenes at the weekend, when almost 750 people wet a line with the hopes of snagging the biggest yellowbelly at the Isisford Fishing Competition.

A man and a woman hold a damper trophy, beside another woman wearing blue.
Other events at the fishing competition included damper cook-offs, whip cracking, bale rolling.(Supplied: Dawn Bailey)

Isisford Fishing Club president Rob Anderson said the popular event, now in its 20th year, had come a long way.

“Twenty years ago, everyone just had old utes and tents, now there’s that many camper trailers and caravans,” Mr Anderson said.

“It’s a good drawcard, it’s a lot of money coming into the town, and a lot of people come and join it from everywhere around.

“It’s real good.”


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