Crustaceans the world over conjure up salivating mouths, for most the reality is that the only way they are going to get a feed of crustaceans is to go out and buy them. For the mighty West Australian iconic freshwater crayfish this is not as easy as you might expect!
The WA Marron is a unique critter, and not just because of its relatively small native distribution around the south western corner of WA. Marron are in fact unique in regard to the fact that it is actually a recreational only species. This means that there is no wild catch commercial fishing of Marron, and the only Marron that are taken out of the wild can only be caught through a licensed recreational fishery. All Marron that are traded for sale throughout Australia must all be bred in commercial aquaculture facilities, better known as Marron farms.
For many West Australians chasing Marron in the states south west waterways is a tradition, many families have their favourite spots to fish for Marron and many of these spots are guarded secrets adjacent to camping spots that have been only shared with families, relatives and very close friends. Many families in fact are fishing spots that are the same if not very close to where their grandparents fished for marron.
The distribution of Marron has been greatly increased from the small area of the southwest corner to most rivers and dams in between Geraldton all the way around to Esperance. The increase in distribution through translocation has increased the areas that people can go and chase Marron and has also in a way future proofed them from extremes in weather and water flows which in our current age is probably the biggest threat to Marron stocks.
Marron prefer fresh water streams and dams that remain relatively cold throughout the summer months, they also do best where there is less salt in the system. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything from animals to algae and everything in between. Being that they do best in low salt rivers, the best producing rivers are more often than not those that are in better native catchments rather than developed or farm catchments.
The more forest around the river and wood on the banks and in the river generally the better the river will be. However some of these rivers are so overgrown that they are very hard to get access to and are also very hard to fish. Which only adds to the experience and fun of chasing Marron in the forests of WA’s south west, add to that a night or so of camping and you have the recipe of a great family adventure.
So How Do You Catch Marron?
Well first of all and probably most importantly, you will need a marron license. Next you will need a copy of the rules that go along with catching marron or a “Recreational Fishing for Marron Guide” you will need to have a very good read of this one as the rules are not as straightforward as you would hope, however to protect this iconic fishery they are very important and should be followed very carefully as marron fines for doing the wrong thing are very significant. Fisheries also put a lot of effort into ensuring that everyone does the right thing during Marron season as well as out of season.
While speaking of seasons, the Marron season is a very short one and runs from midday on the 8th of January to midday the 5th of February, this can and does change from year to year. So while these dates are correct for the 2016 season, be sure to check every year that they have not changed.
Catching Marron can be done in a number of ways, probably the easiest and I would guess most popular is to use a specific Marron drop net, very similar to a crab net but with specially made mesh bases to allow small Marron to escape. Using yabby traps or anything other than these nets is illegal. Scoop nets may also be used but must also comply to regulations by having a specially sized mesh. Luckily here in WA most crab scoop manufacturers use the specified sizes so that many crab scoops will also be fine for using for Marron. However be sure to check the brochure and measure your scoop to be sure. A landing net or any fine mesh net is not suitable and care should be taken even having one with you while Marron fishing.
The next and in my book the only way to chase Marron is with a Marron snare, or Bushmans Pole snare. This method is truly the best and most exciting way to chase Marron, what is even better is that you cannot just go to the shop and buy a snare. Every snare has to be handmade, everyone has their own design and on the most part while they all do the same job they are as varied as the people that use them. Some of the best Marron waters are termed “Trophy waters” and can actually only be fished by using a snare. Even if you are not fishing in trophy waters, you should consider making a snare and giving it a go. Even better, show the kids how to make a snare out of a bit of gardening tie wire and a stick and let them have a go. They can practice on branches or by snaring some “wild stubbies” that always seem to accumulate around many popular marroning areas. These can be released into a bin at a later date.
Some Tips for Marroning with a Snare:
*Only shine your torch as far ahead of you as you can reach with your snare.
*Be quiet and ready at all times, big Marron will not give you much time to get onto them.
*Always try and get the snare loop behind the marron so that it moves its tail back into the loop.
*Once the Marron is over the loop, try not to move the loop, move the marron by shining the torch in front of it so that it moves backwards.
While many give up on snaring all too quickly, it is a great challenge and is well worth practicing as you will get relatively good with a small amount of practice.
However and wherever you choose to chase and catch your Marron it is a truly rewarding experience for all of the family and friends, if you can get two or even three generations out onto a river or dam chasing Marron you can be sure that it is an experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry and may well end up on the calendar as a yearly activity for evermore.
Marron Tips and Facts:
*Marron are the biggest freshwater crayfish in WA and the third biggest in the world.
*Marron are most active at night but can also be caught throughout the day.
*Set up a base camp and then do a survey of the areas you intend to Marron being sure to look very carefully for any broken bottles or glass. Remove them so that you do not walk or stumble onto it in the dark.
*Wear footwear that is up to the task of preventing stick puncture wounds and that you are prepared to get wet.
*You are not allowed to use a boat or kayak for any part of marroning this includes travelling to a spot to fish. There is an exemption for the Donnelly River. (see marron guide)
*Females with eggs are fully protected and should be returned to the water immediately.
*Fishing in rivers is more popular than fishing in dams.
*The Shannon River is a research area and is closed to all Marron fishing.
*Some waterways have different bag and size limits so be sure to check your Marron brochure for the details on the area you wish to fish.
*Consider other Marron fishers, taking up a massive area as “yours” will only lead to conflict, be reasonable with the amount of bank you wish to fish. In most cases you will catch enough in a relatively short time as will the other party fishing close by, when they leave you will then have access to their area anyway.
*Take all rubbish that you take in, out with you, even better take any that was left behind by un-thoughtful people before you.
*There is no need to catch a bag limit, catch enough for a feed and leave some for another time or other visitors to your area. Having fun should be the focus rather than a full bag.
Most importantly take it easy in the dark, stay safe and have fun.