The 2015-16 western rock lobster season drew to a close at the end of June. Good news for crayfish lovers is we are less than three months from the opening of the 2016-17 season, starting October 15. General consensus among lobster fishers was that the past season was another extremely productive one, highlighting just how well this fishery is managed.
There were plenty of good crays caught, with an excellent early season run of whites. This white migration phase is typically from November to late January where large numbers of pale pink (whites) lobsters, recently moulted from their deep red colour, migrate from inshore reefs to deep water. During this migration, the lobster are highly exposed to fishing and large catches are taken by fishers. Adult and non-migrating lobsters are known as ‘reds’ and form the catch between February through to June. Then again once the season starts in October until when the “whites” start again in November.
Two changes to rules this season also proved popular with recreational fishers. The first was the removal of a maximum size limit for female lobster. The size limit requirement on female lobster was an old management tool before it was managed as a ‘quota managed fishery’ (management that sets out a defined number of lobsters that can be removed from the water each year by rec fishers). It’s also important to note, any female in breeding condition such as in setose, tar spot (see above) or carrying eggs must be promptly returned to the water. The other change, which proved to be very well accepted by recreational fishers, was the ability for two licenced fishers to share a pot. This change to the rules enabled more people than ever to enjoy the experience of catching a feed of our fantastic crayfish.
There will be plenty of recreational fishers counting the days to a great 2016/17 fishing season, as an above average juvenile count forecasts healthy stocks and a great fishing season for all.