Metro abalone season dates announced

The four dates of the upcoming West Coast abalone season have been announced, so get ready to get geared up for abs!  

Over the upcoming summer season, recreational abalone fishing will take place over one-hour sessions on four Saturday mornings between December and February.  

The more than 17,000 licensed abalone fishers will be able to fish between 7am-8am on: 

  • Saturday 10 December 2022 
  • Saturday 14 January 2023 
  • Saturday 4 February 2023 
  • Saturday 18 February 2023 

Enjoy safe abalone fishing by being across safe gear and abalone fishing practices. 

Click here for great abalone fishing and safety tips from SLSWA 

Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) volunteers are on standby each year to provide condition forecasts for the abalone season and keep fishers safe.

 

Abalone fishers either dive or scan shallow reefs on foot searching for them. Rough conditions and wearing the wrong gear (pictured right) often not mixing well.

Assessing the risks to keep fishers safe

Investing in the right gear for abalone fishing is not only safer, but it also increases your odds of catching them while keeping your caught abalone fresh.

 

Make sure you keep an eye on the forecasts and check RLSWA’s tips for abalone fishing to ensure you come home safe with a full bag!

Images: Perth Fishing Safaris

Correct blowfish care – keep our marine ecosystems clean and pets safe

Abundant throughout estuaries and coastal waters across the South-West of WA, blowfish or “blowies” are often regarded by anglers as a menace, with schools of blowies making quick work of baits and decreasing a fishers’ chances of catching other species.  

We’ve all been there – the morse code taps on the line signaling the arrival of a school of these opportunistic feeders, quickly leading to a persistent feeding frenzy forcing anglers giving up on their fishing spots. 

Then there’s the effort to remove hooks from their small mouths and buck teeth, with hooks commonly being bent or snapped by their strong jaws.  

While blowies will never win a popularity contest, they play a crucial role as scavengers and keep marine and estuarine environments clean by eating up discarded scraps, burley and bait.  

If you catch them you should treat them like any other unwanted fish and return them to the water quickly.  

Leaving dead blowies lying around jetties, rock walls and river-banks is not only a bad look for our fishing community, they also pose a potential life-threatening hazard to people’s pet dogs if eaten.

While they are widely considered a nuisance to fishers across WA, blowfish play a crucial role in keeping our waterways clean and need to be returned to the water as quickly as possible. 

The toxic traits of our spikey mates

Blowies’ bodies contain the lethal toxin called tetrodotoxin. This is the same toxin that is found in blue-ringed octopus bites. While it is safe to handle blowfish, eating them causes paralysis and this can be fatal for dogs if blowfish wash up or are discarded on our shoreline.  

While fish such as tuna, tailor and mulloway can feed on blowfish without experiencing the ill-effects from their toxin, our furry companions are unable to do this.  

If a dog is off the lead, they can quickly ingest a blowfish that has washed up on the shore before their owner realises what has happened. So, if you find a blowfish washed up on our shore, it is important to put it in the bin to keep it out of the path of dogs.  

If your pooch does get one down, take the dog to a veterinarian immediately to induce vomiting and reduce the odds of the toxin being absorbed.   

Blowies are common along our South-West coastline and are frequently encountered when using smaller hooks to target smaller species such as whiting, bream and herring.

How to avoid blowies when fishing

Use bigger hooks and less burley. This decreases the chances of blowies being hooked due to their smaller mouths. If using burley, try using only a smaller amount as larger displacements mean more blowies will pick up the scent.  

Move spots frequently. Blowies will often gather around popular fishing spots such as marinas, jetties and rock walls due to the presence of baits and scraps. If they are becoming more prevalent in your fishing spot, try your luck at another location.  

Use lures, not bait. Blowies absolutely love chowing down on every kind of bait you can imagine. Anything from worms, prawns, mulies, and squid to real human food such as bread, corn and meats are on their menu. If you want to catch herring for example, try using small lures instead of bait.  

Discard unused bait into bins. A smart way of keeping blowfish numbers down around your favourite fishing spot is by taking your unused bait home instead of throwing it into the water or disposing of it in a bin before you leave. Throwing bait in the water will attract more blowies and result in them congregating around that area.   

If caught, blowfish need to be treated with care and returned to the water quickly. If you find a blowfish washed up on our shore, it is important to place it in the bin or release it back into the water if it is alive to keep it out of the path of dogs.

Recfishwest 2022 Annual General Meeting – celebrating the year’s triumphs in the face of challenges for WA fishing

We reflected on a successful but challenging 12 months at Recfishwest’s 2022 Annual General Meeting in protecting, promoting and creating better fishing experiences for the wider WA community.  

From 1.13 million fish and marron being stocked, to ensuring great sportfishing catches through the State-wide FADs program, to developing a comprehensive WA fishing development plan with Government and new state-of-the-art designs for cherished fishing platforms – plenty was accomplished in the past year. 

Read our 2021-22 Annual Report here

“It’s been a hectic year with a few big challenges, which has required us to be laser-focused on our purpose – great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever – and on our commitment to protect, promote and create sustainable, enjoyable and safe fishing. It is this that drives us on a daily basis,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“The past year has seen the recfishing community united to fight for protecting fishing sustainability while maximizing the social and economic opportunities the fishery provides – that’s what’s important to us as fishers.” 

The Recfishwest Board, members, supporters and directors at our 2022 Annual General Meeting, held in Burswood.

Stepping up to the challenge

Throughout the rollercoaster of a year, Recfishwest Chairman Liam Surridge said the organisation’s core focus been ensuring the rights and recommendations of recreational fishers across WA are heard.  

“We are in an era in which the increasing pressures of modern life underscores just how important the recreation and well-being that fishing provides is for hundreds of thousands of West Aussies,” said Liam. 

“The record response we had to our survey on the future of the west coast demersal scalefish fishery reflected this with nearly 6,000 West Aussie fishers providing their input for the consultation process and a WA record of more than 18,000 signatures on the petition against the Government’s proposed nine-month demersal fishing ban.  

“This shows just how much recreational fishers care about the future of the fish that underpins the recreational fishing experiences they deeply value. 

“Recfishwest will continue to fly the flag for fishing and more than 700,000 recreational fishers we represent by taking our responsibility at the seat of the table with the utmost seriousness and highest level of commitment. We remain passionately committed to ensure we can continue to do what we love today and into the future.” 

Board make-up

At the conclusion of the AGM, the three directors deemed to have been elected were incumbent directors Dean Thorburn, Simon McLernon and Ian Sampson, who will all hold office for a term of two years. Recfishwest congratulates all three directors and is looking forward to more productive years.  

Long-serving Board member Jeff Cooper has stood down. Liam thanked Jeff on behalf of the Board and members for his hard work and significant contribution to Recfishwest and WA fishing.

Recfishwest Chairman Liam Surridge has done a fantastic job throughout his first year and is proud to represent the rights of recreational fishers across WA in the role.

Our leadership

Andrew gave a summary of the year’s activities and achievements in the face of issues and challenges faced.  

In a WA first, Fisheries Minister Don Punch launched the Fishing Development Plan for Western Australia, creating a roadmap for delivering bold actions to enhance fishing. 

“We rely on Government to work alongside us and the Minister has been on record in Parliament stating this plan will set the agenda of this Government in relation to recreational fishing,” said Andrew. 

Recfishwest played a significant role in reining back original plans for the Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks following our close work with the Derby and Broome fishing communities and Traditional Owners. In October, 2021 following the community’s and Recfishwest’s submissions, a better outcome ensuring sustained fishing access to the regions was secured. 

Based on this accomplishment, we are pleased to see the consultation approach has changed for the better for marine park plans currently underway for the south coast and for the extension of the Marmion marine park.  

“Marine parks are one of the key focus areas is ensuring we maintain fishing access in the proposed south coast and Marmion marine parks,” said Andrew. “We’re up to our necks in the process.” It’s fair to say Government dropped the ball with the Buccaneer Marine Park planning process first released in 2020. There does appear to have been a slight resetting of the process since then – it’s far from perfect, but better than what it was.” 

In a great outcome for WA anglers, the Fisheries Minister followed Recfishwest’s recommendation and agreed to increasing the herring bag limit from 12 to 20 from 1 October, 2022. The foundations of this decision came from thousands of respondents to our herring bag limit survey and the strong recovery of the species.  

“We did a lot of work on the recovery of these fish – arguably WA’s most important recreational fish,” said Andrew. “We had 4,000 respondents to our herring bag limit survey and it’s good to see the community getting something back from for adhering to that bag limit of 12.”

A recfishing licence-funded project exploring shark deterrent technology to address the mounting shark issue in WA’s North delivered positive results.  

Andrew described the Westport project planned in the heart of one of the metro’s most important fish habitats and safe and accessible fishing areas as “a $4 billion behemoth that will span the lifetime of several governments.” 

Vital then that Recfishwest has had significant input into the science program in consultation with Mangles Bay and Cockburn Sound Power Boat clubs. This will be a key area of campaigning for Recfishwest in 2023 and beyond.  

The Fisheries Minister Don Punch followed Recfishwest’s recommendation and increased the herring bag limit for herring from 12 to 20. This fish species is one of the most important for recfishers across WA.

Creating better fishing opportunities

The past year saw Recfishwest support the stocking of more than 1.13 million fish and marron around Western Australia’s waterways 

Recfishwest also provided significant input to state-of-the-art plans for a new Ammo Jetty in Cockburn Sound, ensuring provision for recfishers was at the heart of its design. 

We and our partner organisation, Fishability, also saw the launch of the MV Fishability in Mandurah, a specially adapted boat to accommodate fishers in wheelchairs built by Bouvard Marine and funded with assistance of recreational fishing licence fees through RFIF.  

Our three-year pilot FADs program concluded in 2022 and was an overwhelming success, providing new opportunities for thousands of anglers from Albany to Broome to target exciting pelagic species.  

Recfishwest is currently awaiting future funding confirmation from the Government for this highly popular program to ensure FADs are deployed of our coastline throughout the upcoming summer months.  

The past 12 months also saw us hold another terrific Troutfest at Drakesbrook Weir and the inaugural edition of the Pemberton Trout Festival at Big Brook Dam. Both events saw combined crowds of more than 700 people hand-release hundreds of big brown and rainbow trout.  

Underwater snaps from Violeta J. Brosig proves Exmouth’s King Reef has flourished into a thriving marine oasis since its deployment less than four years ago and has helped anglers break line-class world fishing records. Recfishwest is targeting approvals and funding for new artificial reefs in Carnarvon, Albany, Broome, Onslow, Dampier and Kalbarri to add to the seven reefs currently flourishing in WA waters. 

“We’re moving ahead in the space, said Andrew, “breaking new ground and we’re looking forward to getting some of these structures on the seafloor.” 

King Reef in Exmouth has flourished into a healthy marine oasis since its deployment less than four years ago and has helped anglers break line-class world fishing records. Image: Violeta J. Brosig.

Looking forward for the next 12 months 

For the year ahead, Andrew said many more terrific projects were in the pipeline to help make WA fishing even better. 

“A big thanks to our members, business supporters and project partners for supporting Recfishwest and the work we do to make fishing better for all West Aussies. Your backing means a lot and drives our small team forward every day. We have big plans for the next 12 months and will continue to pursue new opportunities and represent the views, rights and interests of recreational fishers.” 

In 2022, Recfishwest welcomed our new and ongoing partners – all determined to stand with us for the common purpose of making fishing better across WA. 

For an in-depth look into what has taken place over the past 12 months, be sure to read our 2021-22 Annual Report

A big thanks to all our supporters who helped us achieve new heights over the past year, watch this space in 2023!

Scott’s Species – Long-nose emperor, the forearm burners

Long-nosed emperor

Lethrinus olivaceus

Eating: 3 stars

ID – Extended snout, mottled blue/grey colouration.

I will never forget my first long-nosed emperor. We were fishing off Ningaloo Reef in around 50m and I had put an unweighted bait out, with a whole mulie on ganged hooks.

I was expecting a Spaniard or other pelagic and instead caught a thumping long-nosed, the first I have ever seen. I took a picture of Andrew Pickard holding it and it became a cover shot for Western Angler. That was a remarkable day, as I subsequently caught a dolphinfish and sailfish on the same outfit, making it something special.

Steve Palumbo had a ball on long-nosed emperor on the Rowley Shoals flats.

It was a long time before I encountered this species again, but a trip to the Rowley Shoals showed just how much fun they can be. The bluewater fishing at the Rowley’s was slow, but we had incredible fun inside the lagoon, where we found big packs of long-nosed that were willing lure takers.

We could often see them in the shallows and they had no qualms chasing down our offerings. One day we were all standing on the gunwales of Steve Palumbo’s boat when we spotted a big school of them right up in the shallows, leading to some frenetic action for the next few minutes. It was some of the best flats fishing I have done.

Andrew Pickard with a good Ningaloo long-nosed emperor.

Like most emperor, long-nosed have brutish strength and fight hard for their size, with those typically dogged surges towards any nearby cover. They also used their broad sides well to make them tough to pull to the boat.

We found they were responsive to most types of lures in the shallows, with sinking stickbaits probably most effective. Soft plastics also worked well. They can also be caught on poppers at times. We didn’t need especially heavy gear for them, but there was lots of structure so we lost a few battles. There were often other bigger fish such as GTs and maori wrasse that would suddenly appear and do us over. A spinning outfit around 7-9kg with some heavier leader was our preferred approach.

Long-nosed would usually be an occasional catch offshore, as with my Ningaloo fish, and would hit baits such as squid and mulies aimed at other bottom fish, or jigs and soft plastics.

There seem to be one or two caught on our annual Mackerel Islands trip each year and often in good sizes. Found from Ningaloo north, long-nosed are known to grow to about 10 kilos, but the ones we caught at the Rowley’s were mainly 3-4kgfish. They are primarily an inshore fish, but do find their way out to 200m of water.

Scott Coghlan used a sinking stickbait to catch this long-nosed emperor at the Rowley Shoals.

Giving some mussel muscle to the Peel-Harvey inlet

Thanks to jetty owners throughout the Peel-Harvey estuary near Mandurah, shellfish numbers have taken a boost and are supporting native fish populations in the region.  

The reason behind the growing mussel abundance comes down to a clever initiative called ‘Pimp My Jetty’ – created by Ozfish, and supported by Recfishwest, which involved jetty owners agreeing to host a hanging shellfish habitat such as natural ropes under their private jetty.  

The fibres of the rope provide an ideal surface for mussel larvae and for maturing mussels to grow on. As more mussels create homes on the new hanging habitats, it leads to more mussel spat in the estuary and helps to revive the once thriving shellfish population. 

The mussels also improve water quality through filtering it and provide an increased high-quality food source and better habitats that supports black bream and other native fish species such as tailor, herring, whiting, flathead and others.  

More mussels mean more fish, which is a win-win for recreational fishers and the water quality of the estuary. 

The naturally occurring fibres from ropes (pictured left) create an ideal surface for mussels to latch on to, leading to an abundance of shellfish (pictured right) and fish species over time.

Steve Pursell, OzFish Program Manager for WA, believes the success of this year’s project underlines what can be achieved when recreational fishers, local communities, and scientists work together.  

“We have been pleased by the numbers of private jetty owners who came forward to be involved – it shows they understand the importance of healthy habitats in our waterways,” he said.  

“Not only do mussels play a key role in filtering and improving the water quality, research shows they once made up 64 per cent of black bream’s diet in the area but that is now as low as 19 per cent. By restoring habitat, our volunteers are helping to create better fishing,” said Steve.  

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell said, “Estuaries such as those located in the Peel-Harvey region are crucial for providing easy access to great fishing spots and as nursery habitats for key recreational species.  

“Thanks to initiatives like Pimp My Jetty, we not only help restore a valuable food source for fish like black bream, tailor and others, but it also helps improve the water quality and directly benefits the fishing action in the area. 

“The Mandurah estuary is an incredibly unique angling destination for crabbing and yellowfin whiting fishing on surface lures and poppers during the warmer months. Fishers can feel comfortable knowing these kinds of projects will improve these crucial fishing experiences over time.  

“Thanks to all the friendly Peel-Harvey locals who own a jetty and their collaboration with Ozfish, they are helping breathe more life into our estuaries.”  

The Harvey-Peel Estuary in Mandurah has been a much-loved fishing spot for generations and the Pimp My Jetty initiative from Ozfish will help anglers such as Harry Tropiano (pictured right) catch more black bream and other species.

The Pimp My Jetty project is funded by Recfishwest, Navico, the Western Australian Government’s Royalties for Regions program, and BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing. It is supported by Peel Harvey Catchment Council. 

Find out more about Ozfish’s ‘Pimp My Jetty’ initiative here 

Inaugural Pemberton Trout festival makes big stocking splash with locals

With stunning weather and a spectacular forest backdrop, the inaugural edition of the Pemberton Trout Festival proved to be a great hit with the sizeable crowd that turned out for this new fish stocking event. 

Around 400 people made the picturesque journey to Big Brook Dam, just outside of Pemberton, to line up and hand-release hundreds of rainbow and brown trout into the crystal-clear waters of this fantastic South-West freshwater fishery.  

To top it off, every trout making a splash was at least yearling size, with dozens of parents and kids able to experience the thrill of holding the larger ex-broodstock specimens, some over 50cm in length, before gently caressing them into the water and watching them kick away to freedom.  

With a greater number of the larger fish being released, it means a higher survival rate and a better workout for anglers and their rods when these bigger trout grab lures, flies and baits.  

The stocking event proudly celebrated 50 years of Fisheries Department (DPIRD) management of the Pemberton Hatchery, which underpins WA’s ever popular South-West trout fishery.  

Along with Recfishwest, this new event was initiated and supported by local fishing clubs including the Australian Trout Foundation (ATF), Southern Forests Freshwater Angling Club (SFFAC) and Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association (WATFAA).  

The festival would also not have been possible without the tremendous support from DPIRD, the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre, Daiwa, Healthway, Pemberton Visitor Centre, Shire of Manjimup and the Australian Trout Foundation Inc.  

There were plenty of larger ex-broodstock trout up for grabs for attendees to help hand-release at the festival! Here’s Recfishwest Communications Coordinator Jarrad Lawford helping a young tacker release a beautiful brown.

“It was a great sight to see dozens of families and kids getting hands on in releasing these fantastic fish. There couldn’t have been a more fitting way to celebrate the history of the hatchery and the fishery here in Pemberton – the ‘spiritual home’ of WA freshwater fishing,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“The Pemberton-based trout hatchery run by DPIRD supports a fantastic program that brings thousands of anglers to chase these fish through South-West freshwater dams, rivers and streams. These anglers in turn inject more than $20 million annually into the regional economy and we believe there is huge potential to grow the fishery even further along with the social and economic benefits it brings to the region.”  

Every year, trout are released into various popular freshwater fishing dams and rivers such as Drakesbrook Weir, Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam, the Collie River and the Brunswick. 

With such a big turn-out for the successful event, it is hoped more fish stocking events like this can be run in the area in the future – watch this space! 

Recfishwest will continue to work closely with Government in creating more places for people to fish for freshwater species in safe, accessible and family-oriented fishing locations.  

Recfishwest’s Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group will continue to provide advice to DPIRD on where to distribute each year’s trout stocks bred at the hatchery.  

A big Recfishwest thanks to all our supporters who made this event possible, along with all attendees young and old who took part and helped release the fish quickly and in good condition.  

A unique experience in a picturesque place, hopefully the Pemberton Trout Festival will become an annual event!

Scott’s Species – Goldspot trevally – a much-loved sportfish of the north

Carangoides fulvoguttatus

Eating: 3 stars

ID: Elongated shape, spots along sides.

I don’t rate goldspot trevally quite as highly as goldens, which are one of my favourite sportfish to catch. It’s hard to quantify why, given they fight pretty similarly and are usually caught using the same techniques.

Maybe it’s because goldens just look that little bit nicer, and are also often found cruising shallow flats, where goldspots are more of an offshore target. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy catching goldspots.

Goldspots absolutely love smashing jigs, as Michael Sammut found out up north.

While they are largely a northern species usually found from Kalbarri north, they are also a bit of a current wanderer, and every year a few big ones seem to show up in the waters around Rottnest Island.

Growing to 13kg, they really come into their own in Pilbara waters and our annual trips to the Mackerel Islands normally see us catching loads of goldspots, usually in depths of 10-20m.

We’ve generally encountered them in shallowish water out to around 50m. We have also caught them from the shore around Steep Point. I can’t say I’ve caught anything up around 13kg, but certainly fish to around 10kg aren’t hard to find.

A shallow water goldspot caught via the Halco Slidog for Glenn Edwards.

On our trip the Mackerel Islands this year goldspots were everywhere, hunting down balls of bait in the shallows. We had a ball casting at bust-ups and hooking big goldspots in a few metres of water. In that environment they fight very impressively and it was a heck of a lot of fun. We also found them with groups of golden trevally, hoovering through floating weed that contained smallfish, crabs and prawns.

I’ve never found them too fussy and most artificials and baits will work on goldspots when they are around. They seem particularly partial to shiny things and metal jigs are extremely effective in deepish water. Lead-head jigs are also very effective on them. These days we get most of ours on stickbaits cast in shallowish water, or on soft plastic vibes such as Zerek Fish Traps.

Goldspots love to hang around structure and can often be found in big numbers in these areas. They hit hard and fight strongly, but unless you are fishing in really gnarly territory or very close to structure they don’t usually fight too dirty. I like to catch them on 7-9kg spinning gear, which enables me to enjoy their fighting qualities.

When goldspot are bustling up on the surface, poppers make for some exciting fishing.

Ensuring West Aussie fishers harness the potential fishing benefits of offshore wind energy projects

Recfishwest remains vigilant in ensuring recfishers are consulted with and have their say on plans to develop, construct and operate large-scale offshore wind energy (OWE) projects in WA, both in state and commonwealth waters.  

There are currently several OWE project proposals in the pipeline off our WA coast, with our South-West, Metro and Mid-West regions the likely locations. The wind turbines that would make up these projects could potentially become a defacto new network of artificial reefs – with similar structures in other parts of the world effectively creating new fish habitats and fishing opportunities.  

For this to happen, recfishers would need to be allowed access to the structures – but with no overarching regulatory framework in place for OWEs, there are concerns exclusion zones might be implemented around the structures, preventing fishing access.  

One of the proposed WA projects – The Leeuwin Offshore Windfarm – would have up to 200 wind turbines operating 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, for up to 50 years. The proposed windfarm would be situated around 15km off the coast between Preston Beach and Binningup. 

The planned Leeuwin Offshore Windfarm location (left) and an idea of what we could potentially see of our South-West coastline (right) Image: Copenhagen Energy.

Recfishwest acknowledges and supports the need for renewable energy production. In pursuit of The Western Australian Government’s aspirations for net zero emissions by 2050, offshore wind energy (OWE) is becoming an attractive proposition.  

Our south-west coastline boasts high wind speeds, favourable water depths, low risk of cyclones and good access to existing port infrastructure – all positive attributes for WA’s growing demand for green energy.    

Winds at sea reach a higher speed and are more constant than wind on land because there are no barriers. To harness this energy, the wind turbines are seated on giant towers installed on the seabed in depths of up to 60 metres or on floating structures anchored to the bottom in deeper waters. 

While it has been proven overseas that recreational fishing can be largely compatible with offshore wind energy projects, it must be a recognised factor and key value when planning, designing, constructing and operating any offshore wind farm projects off the WA coastline.   

Recfishwest will only support OWE projects that improve recreational fishing experiences with no net loss of amenity. As a matter of priority, the decision-makers behind these OWE projects must provide clarity around maintaining fishing access and ensure recreational fishers are consulted in the planning and construction processes. 

From a fishing perspective, OWE projects can act as artificial reefs, potentially enhancing marine abundance in the area through the provision of increased habitat and structure availability.  

Over time, windfarm pylons can potentially lead to an improvement in marine abundance due to the structures acting as artificial reefs, although their construction can cause other issues. Image: Copenhagen Energy.

However, these projects also have the potential to adversely impact environmental and social values through habitat damage and implementation of exclusion zones, along with displacement and concentrations of commercial fishing efforts.  

West Aussie recfishers deserve to be able to fish these structures, without the construction potentially having negative impacts on the fishing spots they already cherish.   

“It is crucially important that any OWE projects should avoid important habitats such as spawning areas and nursery areas, as well as popular fishing locations,” said Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett.   

“While the possibility of having potentially hundreds of turbine structures in our waters acting as artificial reefs sounds great to keen fishers, this benefit is pointless if we don’t have close accessibility to fish them. We’ve seen this respect given to recfishers overseas and this is what we want locked in if these projects are to proceed.”  

Before development and planning is confirmed, Recfishwest will consult frequently with recreational and professional fishing groups to ensure boating and fishing activities are not negatively impacted.    

To find out more about Recfishwest’s stance on OWE, please click here 

Another great season expected for the upcoming crayfish craze!

Just like the final season of Game of Thrones, the march of the ‘whites’ is approaching.  

Unlike the final season of the universally acclaimed show though, we know this upcoming season of the crays run will have a greater reception!  

The march of Western rock lobster — more commonly referred to as ‘crays’ — is set to get underway slightly earlier than last year in early to mid-November, according to one of WA’s leading cray experts, DPIRD Principal Research Scientist Dr Simon de Lestang.  

It is welcome news for a growing number of more than 56,000 licensed cray fishers, who target this unique West Aussie species that are distributed from around Augusta up to Onslow and feature most prominently between Perth and Geraldton.  

Dr de Lestang said the sustained abundance of crayfish and slightly warmer waters than last year is set to fire up the nearshore fishing activity, as the crays begin their annual migration to deeper waters. 

“The water temperatures in August and September impact the moulting and start of the whites migration each year. In 2022, the average water temperature during these months was 17.6oC, which was warmer than 2021 when it was 17.1oC, so we can expect the whites to start a bit earlier than last year,” said Dr de Lestang.  

The inshore reefs in the Perth metro area will soon house plenty of crays, providing great opportunities for potters and divers. Image: Matt Barnes.

The crayfish crystal ball

Ever wondered how the experts predict the upcoming crayfish run?  

DPIRD collect the puerulus — a juvenile stage of a cray — with specialised buoys mimicking natural algae habitat where juvenile crayfish prefer to settle to forecast crayfish abundance each season. 

This method allows DPIRD researchers to determine the number of puerulus that have concentrated on these buoys for each new moon period. From these numbers, they can then forecast upcoming recruitment trends and patterns. 

The settlement information has a strong correlation with crayfish catches in about four years once the crays have matured to a legal size, so the puerulus numbers from 2018-19 are analysed to allow DPIRD to make an accurate seasonal forecast for 2022-23. 

“Based on the puerulus numbers in 2018/2019 we are expecting a similar year to last, so still good solid numbers. A lot of the catches, especially the whites, will be a bit larger than last year as they will not be dominated by a large recruitment,” said Dr de Lestang.  

The difference between the pre-moulted crays with a harder, dark red shell (pictured centre) and the freshly moulted ‘whites’ (pictured left and right).

The flight of the whites

The start of the whites run varies each year, although based on previous recordings, the whites usually begin their quest heading in a north-westerly direction around late November and early December. 

The reason it is dubbed the ‘whites run’ comes from the colloquial description of crayfish which have freshly moulted with their new soft, pale-coloured shell. Pre-moulted crays are easy to identify as they have a harder, dark red shell. 

Juvenile crays settle along inshore rocky habitats and seagrass beds. Once they reach sexual maturity — at about three to four years — they start their migration heading offshore. 

During the migration, crays set off towards deeper reef platforms in a north-westerly direction. This annual phenomenon is what has been dubbed by crayfish enthusiasts as the ‘whites run.’  

WA crayfishers choose to either drop pots filled with baits close to reef structures or prefer to jump in the drink and dive for them by looking under ledges. (Image right: Matt Barnes).

Get your cray pots and loops ready!

Once the crays are anticipated to start their march in around two weeks, potters and divers will venture to the ocean on the surface and below it with a buzz of excitement, hoping to catch a feed of these tasty critters. 

One of the benefits to the whites run is this red-hot action takes place relatively close to shore, with shallow reef ledges visible from our beautiful beaches frequently abundant with crays.  

“The whites run is an integral and much-loved part of WA’s fishing calendar. Once the word is out that they are being caught nearshore, a lot of keen crayfishers will queue up before sunrise at boat ramps or throw on the wetty and dive the reefs,” said Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett.  

“The nearshore crayfish abundance during the whites run is what underpins this awesome West Aussie fishing experience, it’s entirely unique and special to WA to pull in a pot full of crays or to dive under a rock ledge off our coastline and see dozens of antennules poking out.” 

Crays will usually seek shelter under reef ledges during the day and are mostly active at night when they come out into the open and feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

Tips for finding crays for days

For Perth-based fishers who are going for crays this summer, Dr de Lestang suggested good places to start targeting the shallow reef systems off our coastline are areas such as Two Rocks, Mindarie, Rockingham, Garden Island, Rottnest and Mandurah.  

The nearshore activity during the annual whites run over summer is why more than half of WA’s recreational cray catch takes place between December and February, which is a testament to great fisheries management helping maintain their sustainability and abundance.    

If potting, use a mixture of bait. Soft and oily bait will get the lobster into the pot, while longer lasting tougher bait will keep them there. Ensuring the pot is heavy also improves your odds as crays will be reluctant to get inside if it moves. Wood pots will start to fish better once they have been able to ‘soak’ for a day or two.   

If diving, the start of the whites run can be the most effective time to duck beneath the surface and use quick hands or cray loops for specimens that are holed up in shallow reefs closer to shore or around islands such as Rottnest, Garden and Carnac.  

Areas both north and south of Perth have already seen solid numbers of crays being caught over the past fortnight, with boats launching off Mandurah in particular coming home with brimming pots.  

Big thanks to Dr Simon de Lestang and DPIRD for their crayfishing tips! 

Good luck to all crayfishers this season and make sure you follow the Western rock lobster rules and guidelines.

Banner Image (left): Fishin Wishin Life 

Feature Image: Matt Barnes

Recfishwest receives great feedback from fishing communities on proposed marine parks

One of the fishing community’s greatest challenges is maintaining access to high-quality fishing experiences across Western Australia.  

Be it from industrial development, the deterioration and subsequent closing of jetties and platforms, or marine park zones that prohibit fishing, recreational fishers face a constant uphill battle in being able to access the experiences we all love and cherish. 

In the case of marine parks, Recfishwest has been at the coalface this year as we advocate strongly for a fair and reasonable outcome for fishers in two marine parks currently going through the consultation process.  

One of these parks – The Marmion Marine Park – is currently located between Trigg and Ocean Reef and has been in place since 1987. As part of a 2019 commitment, the State Government announced in February plans to extend the marine park further north from Trigg up to Two Rocks.   

Another new marine park is also being proposed on the south coast, between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border.  

In order to assist recfishers having their say, Recfishwest have directly engaged fishers along the south coast and metropolitan regions, as well as undertaking two online surveys, aimed at highlighting the most important areas for recreational fishing in both areas covered by the proposed parks.  

Recfishers were surveyed on numerous questions such as asking them to highlight specific fishing spots they enjoy in these areas, how often they fish, the species they target and what was most important to their fishing experiences, such as accessibility, health benefits and safety.  

Hundreds of thousands of people fish between Trigg and Two Rocks (left) and along our southern coast between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border (right).

Thanks to the great survey feedback provided from 761 fishers across both areas, Recfishwest has been advocating to decision-makers to ensure recfishing values are understood throughout the planning process.   

We are continuing to meet with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and traditional owners to discuss what can be achieved in these marine parks when recfishing values are applied. 

While marine parks are not a fisheries management tool, it is crucial that any zoning type that impacts on recreational fishing access must be justified by evidence, including how recreational fishing impacts upon the key values being protected.   

Our surveys and meetings conducted in these areas underline the importance of recreational fishers being provided with an understanding around the process and rationale used to develop different zone types.  

Extensive consultation processes are underway, in which Recfishwest is directly involved. Thanks to the feedback gathered below, Recfishwest will be in a stronger position to ensure recfishing values are well understood prior to draft marine park plans being released next year.   

The release of these plans will provide further opportunity for fishers to put forward their point of view when it will again be important for the fishing community to have its collective say. 

Marmion Marine Park Survey Findings

  • 334 respondents identified 459 specific fishing areas important to them. 
  • Combinations of fishing types were favoured by some, but the survey was dominated by solely dedicated shore or boat-based fishers. 
  • Most important shore-based locations were aligned with access points, such as marinas and carparks. 
  • Most important boat-based locations include Hillarys to Mindarie, capturing locations such as Three-Mile Reef and Staggie Reef.  
A heat map from our survey showing the most popular fishing spots within the proposed Marmion Marine Park extension.

South Coast Marine Park Survey Findings

  • 427 responses from mostly shore-based fishers only (169), closely followed by shore-based and boat-based fishers (147). 
  • 110 respondents fished at least 20 days per year or more.  
  • The majority of survey respondents fished between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid. 
  • Eastern sections of proposed marine parks were fished less due to limited boat launching opportunities but were still rated incredibly important for wilderness fishing experiences. 
A heat map from our South Coast Marine Park survey, showing the highest fishing activity between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid (top section), with less fishing occurring in the eastern region (bottom section).

Most important factors to fishers across both proposed areas 

  • Easy accessibility to their favourite fishing spots, including boat ramps, four-wheel-drive tracks and launching sites. 
  • Spending quality time with friends and family. 
  • Being able to combine camping opportunities with fishing experiences.  
  • The mental and physical health benefits that fishing provides.  
  • Fishing safety.

Thanks to everyone involved with the fantastic feedback gathered above.  

We will keep you updated on the planning processes for these marine parks and will ensure they are underpinned by peer-reviewed science and feedback from public consultation to improve recreational fishing experiences in these areas with no net loss of amenity.  

Click here to read our position on marine parks