Scott’s Species – Bluefin Trevally, the electric blue adrenaline rush

Caranx melampyrgus

Eating: 3 star

ID–Blue fins, blue and black speckles on top half.

This smallish bluefin proved quite a challenge on light tackle at Kiritimati!

As someone who is extremely partial to catching various species of trevally, more for the sport they provide than what they offer on the table, I have a real soft spot for bluefin trevally.

Of the many trevally I encounter while casting lures around WA, bluefin are probably the one I have caught the least, but their stunning electric blue colourations means each one is a fantastic angling experience.

I guess it shows how shallow I am that looks are so important! Although bluefin have been reported south of Perth, they are usually found from Shark Bay north and are much more of a tropical fish. They generally grow to around a metre, although most that are caught in my experience at least, are much smaller than that.

I was lucky enough to catch a big bluefin trevally towards the upper end of their size range at the Rowley Shoals a couple of years ago. We were casting stick baits at a reef edge when I hooked up in a couple of metres of water. I really wasn’t expecting a big bluefin and was absolutely stoked when the unmistakable iridescent blue colours revealed themselves near the boat. The fish hit a Halco Slidog stickbait.

As far as the fight went, it certainly was every bit as strong as its various cousins. Another memorable bluefin capture for me was a 3-4kg fish at Kiritimati in the remote Pacific. I was using light gear and one of my favoured Rolling Baits to catch bonefish, when I hooked up to something much stronger. It was a real battle to subdue the bluefin on that tackle in shallow water. I had to set off after it on foot on several occasions as it simply wouldn’t give in.

Most of the times I have encountered bluefin they are in small groups that can prove frustratingly hard to catch, often buzzing around lures and catching the eye with their lit-up colouration, but failing to hook up. They seem more than willing to chase most lures and flies, it seems to be more about finding them, and then enticing them to commit to the strike.

I’ve never targeted them specifically, they have just been a bycatch when they are encountered, which is usually while casting lures in the shallows. This is because bluefin trevally are largely an inshore fish, found around coral reefs and islands. Bluefin are regarded as reasonable eating, but I’d find it hard to keep one of these great looking trevs.

What an amazing looking fish bluefin trevally are.

Canning Bridge closure – Recfishwest seeks answers from Main Roads WA

‘KEEP OUT – FISHING PLATFORM CLOSED’ – these are the stark words that have confronted disappointed Canning Bridge fishing regulars on arrival at their favourite fishing spot in the last couple of weeks.

The local land-based fishing platform at Canning Bridge is now off limits to the public.

The iconic fishing platform was suddenly closed to anglers in mid-July after an assessment by Main Roads WA of the bridge’s timber piles and steel bracings which support the fishing platform were deemed as unsafe.

The timber fishing platform under the heritage-listed bridge itself has long been a favourite spot for land-based anglers to drop a line in the Canning River, targeting bream, flathead, tailor, mulloway and other species.

“The lack of notice around this closure is disappointing, especially as this location has been a key fishing spot for generations,” said Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell.

“Popular land-based fishing platforms like this are hugely important for metro-based anglers, particularly for those who don’t own a boat.

“The fishing platform is listed on the state heritage register, confirming its importance not just for fishing but as part of our wider culture. It is important we see access restored to the Canning Bridge fishing platform as soon as possible.”

When can we fish again under Canning Bridge?

A major refurbishment of the platform is required as there are no strengthening options to maintain the platform. As a result, the platform itself could collapse, resulting in injuries to anyone accessing the platform.

Like any timber structure, the fishing platform requires maintenance. As the platform is underwater and exposed to the elements, this maintenance can be challenging as work crews are mostly underwater.

Main Roads advised the platform is starting to rot from the inside out, essentially becoming hollow while appearing structurally sound at first glance above the waterline.

The fishing platform has produced quality fish over the years, including this huge mulloway caught by Ashley Fitzgerald last year.

According to the Main Roads spokesperson, the maintenance work is expected to take between three to six months.

During that time, Main Roads will repair or replace the bridge’s timber piles as well as the timber and steel bracings which support the platform. This will involve temporary removal of the fishing platform along with inspections, repairs or replacement of defective components.

On completion of the substructure repairs, Main Roads will reinstate the timber deck of the fishing platform.

Recfishwest will be watching developments closely and be asking some serious questions of Main Roads if access is not restored to anglers to the fishing platform within an acceptable timeframe.

Leyland said, “Thanks very much to all of you who reached out to us about this issue – we will keep you updated as this situation develops. It’s important that fishers continue to be vigilant and speak up to protect not just our favourite fishing spots but also important parts of our fishing culture and heritage.”

In its 83-year history, the Canning Bridge has provided great fishing memories to many generations.

Hot tips for rigging anti-shark bite-off gear.

Sharks – ‘the tax man’, ‘men in grey suits’ or an expletive-riddled combination of both. Whatever you call them, they can ruin a day’s fishing.

Over the course of 400 million years – give or take a few – sharks have perfected hunting in oceans and rivers. Their powerful noses easily detect electrical signals from marine life, combine this with lightning speed and rows of sharp teeth and it peaks their odds on finding a meal.

Unfortunately, their meal can often be the prized fish on the end of a line. As the fish fights, it sends out distress impulses which can act as a dinner bell for nearby sharks.

In some cases, once one fish is attacked, multiple sharks will congregate in that area and commence a feeding frenzy on any hooked fish. Many WA anglers on boats who experience this are forced to pull in the lines and change location, meaning more time is spent finding shark-free spots instead of getting the most out of a day’s fishing.

For fishers who don’t move location and decide to battle it out against mother nature’s most ancient marine predator, it can see a high fish mortality rate and a burnt hole in the pocket from lost rigs.

In what could be a potential game changer to reduce fish mortality, fishers are reporting good results from the new shark repellent gear coming on the market like ‘Sharkbanz’ – one of the products tested as part of DPIRD’s recent shark bite-off study.

Essentially a powerful magnet, Sharkbanz is simply attached to the bottom of your fishing rig around one metre above your sinker. Its manufacturers claim it overwhelms a shark’s powerful nose sensors as it zones in on your catch.

At $100 a pop, they’re an expensive investment to lose if a shark tears through your rig. It’s a purchase you don’t want to make repetitively after each fishing trip.

With this in mind and given the Sharkbanz magnet needs a unique rig setup to work at peak efficiency, we asked Ashley Ramm, owner of Tackle World Miami in Mandurah, to explain the best rigging tips for using Sharkbanz to minimise the loss of your gear and fish.

Herring bag limit increasing from 12 to 20 in October

In a great outcome for WA anglers, Fisheries Minister Don Punch recently announced the herring bag limit is to be increased from 12 to 20 from 1 October.

One of the most easily accessible fish to catch off WA, herring are the most important fish species off our coast.

This is in line with advice provided by Recfishwest to the Minister in April calling for the increase.

The advice was based on DPIRD’s scientific assessment that showed herring have made a strong enough recovery to allow for an increase in the bag limit without slowing down the continued growth of the herring stock.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “We’re really pleased to see the Fisheries Minister has listened to fishers’ views and responded to the strong herring stock recovery with this positive outcome.

“Herring brings pleasure to a wide range of anglers including mums, dads and kids, with a wide range of fishing ability. It truly is the ‘people’s fish’ and we will continue to make sure there will be plenty of them around for people to enjoy forever.”

Thanks to more than 4,000 of you who responded to our survey, we were able to gauge community views on what the revised bag limit should be in light of the strong recovery of the stock.

It was great to see how many people care about the future of this hugely valued species.

As our survey results showed, a majority of 32 per cent of you who responded called for an increase in the bag limit to 20, while 27 per cent favoured the bag limit staying at 12. Only 11 per cent called for a return to the former bag limit of 30.

See a full summary of our recent herring bag limit survey here.

This response from the public built the foundations of this recent decision and it is a great result in prioritising herring for recreational enjoyment and human consumption.

Future management decisions on herring will be guided by future stock assessments, community sentiment and the outcomes of a herring working group.

See the media release from Fisheries Minister Don Punch here.

Nine years and 2,000km later – 12 breeding barra finally return to Kununurra

It’s a fish journey that gives Finding Nemo a run for its money.

One of the original captors from 2013, Ben Little, who previously worked at the hatchery.

Rewind to 2013 in the East Kimberley Ord River in Kununurra, where 12 barramundi were caught, placed in a specially adapted trailer and transported over 1,000km north-east to North Regional TAFE’s Aquaculture Centre in Broome.

Over the past nine years, they grew from around 50cm in length to about one metre, changed from male to female and spawned almost a quarter of a million baby barra between them.

Last Friday, those original 12 barramundi made the 1,000 km ‘return-journey’ and were released into Lake Kununurra, where they will see out the rest of their years.

“It was so good seeing these animals go full circle and return to where they’re from,” said Milton Williams, North Regional TAFE Senior Aquaculture Technician, who has worked at the centre for the last 15 years and oversaw the release operation of these magical fish.

“Having seen them grow and do their bit spawning, it was so rewarding watching them swim off into their wild habitat.”

It is a testament to the stocking program run by the North Regional TAFE in Broome and the local Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group, which has seen more than one million barramundi released into its waterways since 2013.

Find out more about the stocking program and fishery on Lake Kununurra here.

Breeding barra for a Kimberley “Barradise”

Lake Kununurra has since become a world-class hotspot for anglers chasing one-metre giants in ‘barra-dise’. According to a 2020 report conducted on the restocking program, the economic value of barramundi fishing to the region is already $7.6 million per year.

Milton Williams, Senior Aquaculture Technician at North Regional TAFE preparing a barra for the journey. His daughter, Ella, also helped out in a work experience capacity.

To ensure the fish are healthy in the centre and contribute to the growing species abundance, their diet includes fresh “human-grade” seafood including mullet, whiting, prawns, squid and pilchards.

As barramundi are protandrous hermaphrodites, they also change sex from male to female once reaching five to six-years-of-age at around the 90cm mark.

Milton said the female fish have produced eggs consistently well over the last few years, whereas the males might have been suffering from a little ‘performance anxiety.’

“The females have spawned consistently well, it’s the males we have trouble with,” said Milton. “They don’t always fire and we rarely have them all in spawning condition at once – usually it’s about half of them. Between these fish they have successfully contributed 214,000 barra fingerlings that have been transported and released in the lake.”

For their 12–14-hour journey back to Lake Kununurra, the fish were purged so none of their waste impacted on the pH of the water, which can be lethal to the fish. The ratio of fish to water in the oxygenated transportation tanks was 80kg of fish to 800L of water.

Once at the lakeside, water was slowly pumped through the tank to allow the fish to acclimatise and “osmoregulate” from the saline water in which they were kept in at the hatchery and in the transportation tanks to the freshwater environment of the lake, as well as adapting to temperature changes.

A special fishery being delivered by a strong partnership

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland commented, “It’s great to see these fish being treated with the respect they deserve being released back into their natural habitat after contributing to this great program.

“Thanks to fish like this and the fantastic efforts of North Regional TAFE, the local Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group and the support of the State Government, the lake has flourished into a special fishery in a beautiful part of the world. Where else do you get the chance to catch metre-long barra in such a safe and accessible setting?”

The team from North Regional TAFE and Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group members (left), and Brad Pasfield releasing a fish back into its native habitat.

 

Take our Marmion Marine Park and South Coast Marine Park online surveys!

If you fish between Trigg and Two Rocks in Perth’s north or between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border on our southern coast, Rercfishwest is strongly encouraing you to take our respective marine park surveys and get your voice heard in their planning processes.

The Marmion Marine Park is set to extend its northern boundary from its current base of Trigg to Burns Rocks up to Two Rocks.

Map of proposed extended boundary for Marmion Marine Park

Whether you fish from a boat or from the shore in this metro area, complete our online mapping survey – link below – to let us know where is important for your fishing in the proposed marine park extension.

Similarly, if you wet a line between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border, we recommend completing our south coast fishing online mapping survey – link below. This will help us ensure decision-makers understand how important fishing is to you along this stunning stretch of coastline.

Recfishwest Operations Lead, Matt Gillett said, “We understand why many fishers might have concerns over how these marine parks might impact their fishing, which is more reason to stand up and have your say in these surveys.

“The more you share your views and important fishing areas with us, the better we can advocate for getting the best result for you and the wider WA fishing community.”

As the State’s peak recreational fishing body, Recfishwest’s purpose is to ensure great fishing experiences for all in the WA community, forever.

Our commitment is to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community.

Recfishwest will advocate directly to decision-makers to ensure that recreational fishing values are understood throughout the planning process.

To find out more about a specific marine park planning process, check out the links below.

Proposed Marmion Marine Park Extension

Proposed South Coast Marine Park

Recfishwest calls for Traditional Owners to be given greater leadership roles in fisheries management

As part of NAIDOC week celebrations, Recfishwest recognises the strength, resilience, knowledge and capacity of Traditional Owners in managing and caring for the land and sea.

Recfishwest with members of the ETNTAC rangers at Nares Bay, east of Esperance.

This week’s NAIDOC theme is to “get up, stand up and show up” to support and secure institutional, structural, collaborative and cooperative reforms. 

“We recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a very strong connection to country that is central to their culture,” said CEO Dr Andrew Rowland, “and their knowledge of seasonal cycles of sea country and aquatic environments has been built up over thousands of years.  

“This places them in a strong position to be able to protect and manage sea country and healthy fish populations through management approaches that integrate this knowledge.  

“Traditional Owners must be given a greater opportunity to take a leadership role when it comes to the management of WA’s aquatic habitats and fisheries.   

“This means fisheries management systems and research frameworks must better incorporate the rights, interests, aspirations, and culture of traditional owners. 

“It means new structures and processes for better representation as well as pathways to deliver on-ground fisheries-related activities such as education, compliance, monitoring and research. 

“Fishers and Traditional Owners share many fishing and conservation values and we look forward to collaborating further around areas of mutual interest in the months and years ahead.”

Recfishwest particularly recognises the capability and achievements of ranger groups from the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (ETNTAC) and the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation in caring for important sea country areas.

Each of these groups is doing great work looking afters some of special places important to WA fishers.

Murujuga rangers assisting with artificial reef site surveying work off Dampier.

Find out more about the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation and what it does here and about the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation here.

For more information about NAIDOC week activities in WA, click here

Bigger trout in more numbers expected this freshwater fishing season!

There’s plenty of reasons to be excited for the future of freshwater fishing in WA’s beautiful South-West following the release of this year’s trout stocking numbers and locations.

Not only can you fish the dams, rivers and streams with postcard backdrops for big trout, but larger specimens in greater numbers are set to flourish through these areas and end up on the hooks of more keen freshwater anglers thanks to smarter and safer stocking.

Check out the stocking locations across the South-West here!

Trout are stocked each year in WA and vary in size, from smaller fry (5cm), to mid-sized ýearlings, right up to ex-broodstock fish (>40cm). These hatchery-reared trout are released and targeted by the growing number of Western Australian freshwater anglers – currently around 10,000.

Leading the charge behind the stocking efforts is the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre (PFRC). DPIRD maintains its close working relationship with Recfishwest. This year will also see the 50-year milestone of the hatchery being run and operated by the WA State Government.

Based on the recommendations of DPIRD and values from Recfishwest’s Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, this year’s rainbow and brown trout stocking ahead of the freshwater fishing season will see 153,500 rainbow fry, 31,500 rainbow yearlings and 2,700 ex-broodstock rainbows released in our South-West, while 12,000 brown yearlings and 650 ex-broodstock browns will also make a splash.

It brings the grand total to 200,350 rainbow and brown trout being released through various brooks, dams and rivers with tens of thousands more mid-sized yearlings stocked than previous years.

Matt Lilly with a nice small stream brown trout.

Stocking “smarter”

Releasing the smaller fry into our waterways means having to survive threats from redfin perch, water rats, droughts and more over the course of around 800 days before they reach ex-broodstock size.

While many fry do reach legal size, stocking more of the larger yearlings and broodstock trout through these waterways instead means an increased chance these fish will recruit to the fishery and be encountered by anglers.

DPIRD Freshwater R&D Senior Research Scientist Andrew Beer, says the improvements in stocking design and a focus on “right fish, right place, right time” for fish releases means improved outcomes and the odds of anglers landing bigger trout.

DPIRD will also boost capacity to transport large numbers of bigger trout through the South-West waterways next year, via a custom-made fish transport tanker truck capable of carrying five thousand litres of water.

The truck will be used to transport yearlings and ex-broodstock trout with lower risks of handling damage to the fish and off-road features that can allow easier access in and out of rough and boggy areas.

Key benefits to this include reducing the number of days the hatchery staff are on the road. This efficiency offers two positive outcomes – less risk of traevl and more days they can contribute to hatchery operations.

A $20 million catch

“We’re pleased to see the Government’s commitment to the future of this fantastic fishery and this dedication to advancements in stocking, which will ultimately result in better quality fishing for anglers,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.

“The flow on effects from anglers visiting South-West freshwater dams, streams and rivers helps inject more than $20 million annually into the regional economy thanks to keen anglers spinning lures, bait fishing and fly fishing for trout.

“We believe there is massive potential for expanding the trout stocking program and fishery and commend DPIRD’s Aquatic Freshwater Research and Development team for championing this cause from within the Department.”

If you’re keen to give freshwater fishing a crack, check out these great tips here and remember you will need a freshwater fishing licence.

Yearling trout being reared at the Pemberton hatchery.