Creating seagrass pastures anew for Cockburn Sound

Last weekend recfishing families joined Ozfish unlimited – Perth Chapter – at the Cockburn Power Boats Association to take part in an exciting seagrass restoration project called ‘Seeds for Snapper.’

The project aims to reseed Cockburn Sounds Seagrass meadows which support a wide variety of important fish species including whiting, pink snapper, garfish, calamari and blue swimmer crabs.

Cockburn Sound hosts the largest pink snapper spawning aggregations in the west coast bioregion.

Fishers and divers helped with all elements of the project from the seagrass ‘fruit’ (seeds) collection, placing seeds in tanks with circulating seawater to separate the seed and dispersing of the seed in predetermined locations within Cockburn Sound. It is hoped that one million seeds can be processed, potentially restoring 10,000 m2 (1 Ha) of lost seagrass habitat per annum for the next three years.

The Seeds for Snapper Family Seeding Day builds on last year’s Seeds for Snapper project which saw approximately 200,000 Posidonia australis seeds collected and dispersed over three trial-seeding sites. Three months after last year’s seeding activities, establishment and survival of the seagrass seedlings ranged between 6.5 -20 per cent, which is far better than what has been achieved in the past in attempting to establish new Posidonia australis seagrass meadows.

Below you can see the comparison on two dispersal sites.

Recent research has demonstrated that direct seeding into areas of lost seagrass is likely to be the most cost effective method that may one day be scaled-up to make the biggest long-term difference. Read about it here.

The WA community have a close affiliation with Cockburn Sound, with plenty of good work done previously to protect pink snapper stocks, including pushing for an extension to the annual pink snapper seasonal closure in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and our famous Snapper Guardians initiative. The recfishing community greatly values the Cockburn Sound fishery and it’s great to see recfishers once again stepping up to look after the fish habitats that underpin our great fishing experiences.

Cockburn Sounds Seagrass meadows which support a wide variety of important fish species including whiting, pink snapper, garfish, calamari and blue swimmer crabs.

Cockburn Sound pink snapper and seagrass fact file

Cockburn Sound hosts the largest pink snapper spawning aggregations in the west coast bioregion.

The seagrass meadows of Cockburn Sound are well recognised as critical foraging and nursery grounds for pink snapper and other fish, mollusc and crustacean species.

Cockburn Sound’s seagrass meadows have declined by nearly 80 per cent from 4000ha in the 1960’s to less than 1,000ha today. That’s an area equivalent to 1,840 Optus Stadium football fields of seagrass habitat that has been lost in only a few decades. Important species affected by the seagrass loss include not only pink snapper, but others such as squid, garfish and blue swimmer crabs.

Appreciation of the role seagrass meadows play in providing great fishing opportunities is growing in WA due to increased understanding of the critical link between our seagrass habitats and coastal fisheries.

 

No need to pray for a cray, just drop your pot in the right spot

No need to pray for a cray, just drop your pot in the right spot!

Not many things excite fishers like the annual rock lobster ‘whites run’. It’s a time when metro cray fishing fires up to an outstanding level and dropping pots truly comes into its own! Pulling in a heavy pot loaded with a feed of crays is the ultimate goal for many cray fishers and the whites run is your best opportunity to experience this. The annual whites run is the main reason 80% of all recreationally crays are caught using pots.

The whites run often occurs around late November and early December each year. As the crays begin their annual migration to offshore waters, they provide unmatched fishing opportunities for potters. The proximity to shore means people can head out early bag themselves some crays and be back in time for work. The summer months are where more than half of the total recreational crays are caught! In this article, we will provide you with a forecast ahead of the season from the puerulus settlement index the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) collects, provide answers to commonly asked questions and point you in the right direction to catching some of these super-tasty crustaceans in time for Christmas.

What is the 2019/20 season forecast looking like and what is the puerulus settlement index?

It appears a great season is ahead of us, the puerulus settlement for the 2015 and 2016 season is well above average. Now what’s this puerulus settlement have to do with the cray season four years on? Well, DPIRD developed a method to collect the puerulus which is a juvenile stage of a cray by using a specialised buoy that mimics natural algae habitat on which the juvenile crayfish like to settle. DPIRD scientists work out the concentration for each new moon period of these settled puerulus and can then work out trends and patterns in recruitment. This settlement information has a strong correlation with catches of crays in three to four years, once the crays have matured to a legal size. You can read more about the puerulus settlement index here.

Why are they called ‘whites’ and where are they ‘running’ to?

Check out the distance’s crayfish can cover. These crays were tagged at the yellow marks and recaptured at the red dots some 450 – 550km’s away!

Good questions! A ‘white’ cray is a colloquial term applied to crays that are freshly moulted with their new soft, pale shell showing. This is in comparison to pre-moulted crays which have a hard, dark red shell. Juvenile crays settle along seagrass beds and rocky habitat close to shore. Once they reach sexual maturity at about three to four years, they migrate en masse from this inshore habitat to the deeper offshore reef platforms in a north-westerly direction. DPIRD research shows that crays can walk up to 5km a day with crays tagged at Rottnest showing up recaptured later at the Abrolhos! That would definitely have the researchers double-checking the tag numbers! Check out the fascinating migration maps provided by DPIRD Offshore Crustacean Principal Research Scientist Simon de Lestang showing huge distances the tagged cray cover.

Averaging 5km a day these offshore crays sure do move around!

OK, so it’s forecast to be a great season but the six million dollar question: when will the run actually happen?

Whilst there are multiple factors that influence exactly when the migration begins, it is generally understood that the migration will start towards the end of November and will reach full swing by the beginning of December. The run is believed to be triggered by warming water temperatures and good catches usually continue until about Christmas time. Cooler water temps tend to delay the start of the migration. Though this year, unlike the last, the warm water seems to have come early and crays were moulting as early as the first week of November.

How do I go about catching them?

The whites run is when potters do best. Divers tend to be more consistent than those dropping pots across the year, but the period from late November to Christmas is when dropping pots come into its own. As crays are on the move from under their usual nearshore reef ledges, they will seek food and shelter along their migration path. A well-set cray pot provides both of these needs. Keep dropping pots further out to sea as the migration continues, and check your pots every day during this period. Crays can travel many kilometres a day so don’t be afraid to spread your pots out to get an idea of where good numbers of crays are each day. Even though potters do best during the whites run there are also still plenty of divers in the water at this time so common sense needs to be used, keep a lookout for dive flags and don’t throw your old bait in the water if divers are nearby.  There are plenty of crays for everyone to enjoy during the whites run.

After crayfish hatch, they live offshore as planktonic Phyllosoma later growing to the Puerulus stage that settles in inshore waters.

What is a well-set pot?

Cray pots that are well-weighted are much harder to pull up but sit steadily on the seafloor while the swell and surge rolls back and forth. Heavy pots are also much more likely to stay put during a storm so they don’t end up tangled in the reef where they can become stuck and even detached from their ropes when the ropes rub against the reef overnight and fray. Crays are much more likely to enter if the pot is still, any movement will mean no crays in the morning. Pots should be set on the sand on the western side of natural habitats such as reef or weed, this way, as they migrate to the north-west, they will walk off the reef, onto the sand and find your pot sitting there ready for them. Make sure the baits are fresh, so don’t let your bait get rotten in the basket, change it every few days at the very least. Use something oily to get the best results, blue mackerel and orange roughy heads or the new burley bricks that are a great plastic-free alternative that are packed in cardboard ready to go in your bait basket. You can check them out here: https://recfishwest.org.au/media-release/innovative-steps-to-plastic-free-fishing/.

A few more tips include clipping the tail of your crays as soon as possible, marking your floats clearly with your gear ID and it’s also worth marking your pots too. You should also soak your pots before you deploy them as they’re known to bubble for at least 24 hours as the dry wood soaks up the saltwater, something that crays hate and you are unlikely to catch while they’re bubbling. Catch these and even more tips here: https://ilovefishing.com.au/2017/10/12/top-tips-potting-crayfish/

Thanks to Simon de Lestang from DPIRD for presenting this great information at the cray fishing night that was held at the Cockburn Powerboats Club. There was a great turn-out from club members and non-members, with a huge amount of information shared over the course of the night. Keep an eye out for club nights like these, they’re a great opportunity to meet like-minded fishers and advance your fishing knowledge. We expect this whites run, and the next, to be excellent and wish all fishers the best of luck chasing a feed of delicious WA crays for Christmas.

DPIRD guide to rock lobster fishing: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/documents/recreational_fishing/licences/rec_licence_rock_lobster.pdf

The huge turnout at the Cockburn Powerboats Club’s cray fishing night

 

 

 

 

 

Recfishwest AGM and Annual Report – reflecting on another great year

Recfishwest held our annual AGM on 19 November at the Boating Industry Association of WA in Burswood. In reflecting recreational fishing achievements for 2018/19, some highlights included;

Recfishwest staff Ben Carlish, Vanessa Abbott, Matt Gillett and Leyland Campbell
  • The launch of the groundbreaking Economic Dimensions report which demonstrated recreational fishing in Western Australia directly contributes at least $2.4 billion to our local economy.
  • Seeing the fishing community embrace measures designed to protect spawning Pink Snapper in Cockburn sound.
  • Creating a mandate to bring back bigger blue swimmer crabs after almost 4,000 people completed our crab survey
  • The deployment of Western Australia’s biggest purpose-built reef in Exmouth’s inner Gulf.
  • Seeing recreational fishing licence money used to resolve resource sharing conflict with the commercial fishing sector in Derby

These were just some of the great achievement for 2018/19 that Recfishwest and our members celebrated at the AGM.

READ OUR 2018/19 ANNUAL REPORT BY CLICKING HERE

At the AGM, Recfishwest Chairman Tim Bray acknowledged the contributions of outgoing board member Tania Douthwaite and thanked her for her dedication to the Communications Committee and the Recfishwest Board. He welcomed Geoff Ellis who was reappointed to the Board as well as Liam Surridge who became Recfishwest’s newest board member. Liam brings a wealth of expertise in financial management and has been involved in Recfishwest for some time now as part of the Recfishwest Freshwater Reference Group and our Finance, Audit and Risk committee.

To see who else is on Recfishwest’s board, click here. 

Recfishwest Fishing Clinic instructor Luke Doherty alongside Liam Surridge and staff member James Florisson
Liam Surridge joins Recfishwest’s board alongside Tim Bray (middle). Tim has been reappointed as the Chairman for another two-year term. Right: Andrew Rowland Recfishwest CEO.

Tim was delighted to be re-appointed as the Chairman for another two-year term. Tim also continues to further contribute as a member of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee and Chair of the Nomination and Remuneration committee.

On behalf of the Recfishwest board and team, we greatly thank you for your ongoing support of this great organisation. Our purpose has never been clearer; our team continues to work harder than ever and, as a result, great things are happening to enhance fishing experiences in Western Australia. We encourage you to get your family and friends to jump on board with us and help us grow our membership to keep fishing fantastic in WA for generations to come.” Tim Bray – Recfishwest 2019 AGM

Stuart Bowman and Stewart King from the South West representing freshwater fishing at the Recfishwest AGM

Volunteers rewarded for ensuring fishing is accessible for all

The fantastic team of volunteers at Fishability spend their time improving land-based fishing access and inclusion for people with disabilities across WA.

At the recent Fishability awards night, held at the AQWA, their efforts were commended by Minister Dave Kelly who awarded volunteers and congratulated them on their commitment to ensuring that everybody has the right to experience fishing.

Recfishwest staff were proud to attend the awards night, offering our congratulations to award recipients as well as volunteers, staff and sponsors who commit their time to ensure fishing is accessible for all and who make the Fishability program possible.

2019 Award recipients:

Chairman’s Award – Earlybird Bait

Fishability volunteers spend their time improving land-based fishing access and inclusion for people with disabilities across WA.

The Chairman’s Award was awarded to Earlybird Bait who was recognised for its contribution to Fishability  through the  supply of bait to the Mandurah program over the last seven years. Every six weeks, members from the Mandurah team collect 20 packs of squid and 20 packs of prawn from Earlybird Bait and it is this generosity and focus on community service that is the reason Fishability believe Earlybird Bait is worthy recipients of the Chairman’s Award.

Patron’s Unsung Hero Award – Terry Morey and Graham Welsh from Mandurah

This year’s Patron’s Unsung Hero Award was proudly presented to two worthy recipients.

The first was Terry Morey who was recognised for his contribution to the Fishability Mandurah program over the last four years.  Terry first became involved in the Fishability program as a participant with his support-worker, however, after a short period, Terry asked Dee Castillo, Coordinator of the Fishability Mandurah program if he could be a volunteer instead of a participant.  Dee did not hesitate in agreeing. Terry is happy to perform any job that is asked of him and over the last two years, he has taken on the role as the official photographer and social media coordinator, ensuring every person has media consent – he does an excellent job.  Participants and support-workers look out for him every week.  Terry was the first person to be involved in the School Aged Children’s Program and the teachers look for him for assistance.

Executive Officer Di Bruce, Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly and member for Joondalup Emily Louise Hamilton at the Fishability Awards Night.

“Terry’s contribution to Fishability is outstanding and he thoroughly deserves this award,” says Di Bruce, Fishability Executive Officer.

Equally, the second recipient of the Patrons Unsung Hero Award is Graham Welsh.

This award recognises Graham for his contribution to the Fishability Mandurah program. Since joining in 2014, his input and impact has been outstanding. Graham always attends the activities, rain, hail or shine, bringing the trailer down to wherever the program location is. Graham is always thinking about how to better the Fishability program, how to improve the lay-out of the trailer with its full capacity and how to ensure all the participants have an enjoyable and memorable experience.  He recently made a special stand for an electric rod out of bits and pieces he had lying around for one of the Fishability participants so it was easier for them to fish. Graham is a deserving recipient of the Patrons Unsung Hero Award for his dedication, professionalism and passion for Fishability.

2019 Nev Thomas Award – Michelle Lee from Busselton 

Busselton local Michelle Lee received Fishability’s 2019 prestigious Nev Thomas Award, honouring her commitment to ensuring that everybody has the right to experience fishing.

Years ago, Michelle recognised the gap in recreational activities for children with disabilities in Busselton and the South West.  Michelle, a passionate angler, decided to start Fish Girl Fishing Families, reaching out to over 400 families of children living with disabilities. The weekly activity was solely funded and supported by Michelle with the help of local businesses. Fishability approached Michelle in 2015 after hearing of her program and offered support. The partnership forged has created a phenomenal program delivering recreational fishing opportunities to hundreds of children and adults requiring support in this region.  Michelle is now the Coordinator of the Fishability Busselton program, showing so much empathy and respect to all participants.  All participants love coming to The Deck and Geographe Bay Marina to see Michelle and her team, and have expressed that they cope better both mentally and physically as a result of their participation with the Fishability community.  Michelle is always willing to help others, always with a smile on her face and laughter in her voice. Congratulations Michelle and the Busselton Fishability team.

Read more in Busselton Mail here.

Busselton local Michelle Lee was awarded the 2019 Nev Thomas Award.
Well done to all award recipients.

Giving bream fishing in the Swan more mussel

A new trial project by Murdoch University will be providing valuable evidence to support future habitat enhancement and restoration projects in our estuaries.

The project is to encourage the growth of black bream’s favourite food the black pygmy mussel.

Black pygmy mussels attach themselves to newly cleaned snags

We support projects such as this as fishing experiences rely on plentiful fish stocks which in turn require healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems. This is especially true in estuarine environments, which act as important nursery habitats for many key recreational fish species.

In the case of the black pygmy mussel, not only do they filter the water preventing algal blooms and fish kills, but the mussels are also an important food for black bream. More mussels mean more food for bream, thereby improving the bream’s growth rate and body condition. This means bigger and better bream which in turn will mean better fishing experiences.

Newly hatched black pygmy mussels are called spat and these spat like to settle on logs, branches, pylons, rocks and any other submerged habitat. Unfortunately, filamentous algal also like to settle on this structure and once the algae have settled there is no room for the mussels to settle and grow.

This project has two main parts.

Part one – Snag for a Snag

Part one of the project involves volunteers brushing algae off snags in the upper Swan River when the mussels are spawning creating an abundance of habitat for mussel spat to settle on.  Strong colonisation of these snags by mussels will then preclude future growth of algae and provide an ongoing food source for black bream in the Swan River.

To date there have been three volunteers cleaning days to make habitat available for mussel spat. Check out the video of these cleaning days below.

Huge thanks to the volunteers who showed up on Saturday. It was a tough slog on the hottest November in Perth on record. The mussel gods thank you!

Posted by Alan Cottingham on Thursday, 21 November 2019

Part two – Swan River’s first mussel reef trial

The second part of this project involves the deployment of a mussel reef, the first of its kind in the Swan River estuary system. Not only will this reef increase diversity of habitat around the flats in the estuary basin it will also improve the general health of the Swan River.  Mussels, filter-feeders by nature, are already attached to these deployed reefs and will immediately begin to consume plankton and non-living material from the water column, in turn improving light penetration and growing conditions for aquatic vegetation plants.

Check out the video of this reef below

‘’Mussels can positively affect an ecosystem by its capacity to filter water and greatly improve the health of the water system in which they inhabitant,’’ Project coordinator Alan Cottingham says.

You can see the difference they make in a tank full of water here.

Having healthy fish habitats is key to having healthy and sustainable recreational fisheries and Recfishwest is proud to support programs and initiatives that help keep our environment healthy.

One of the mussel stakes forming part of the mussel reef
Local volunteers get in on the action to create more habitat for black pygmy mussels and more food sources for black bream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recfishwest staff and volunteers lending a hand to clean the snags along the banks of the Swan River

 

Cleaned snags provide better surface area for the mussels to attach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This project was funded by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and is a great initiative in providing better habitat which supports better fishing.

You can read more about this exciting project by visiting the RFIF page – Swan River Habitat Restoration.

Mussel are an important food source for black bream
Mussels also play an important role in the ecosystem by filtering water and greatly improving the health of the water they inhabit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New metro FADs are a go!

Six new FADs off the Perth metro coast have been deployed marking off a huge milestone in establishing our three-year State-wide FADs network trial.

This means the prospect of sportfishing opens up for all the sensational pelagics that can be encountered on the FADs.

So as the water begins to warm up, it’s perfect timing to put dolphinfish, tuna, wahoo and billfish on your target list.

We’ve put two additional FADs at the back of Rotto, which will complement the existing spread of six FADs out there deployed by the Perth Game Fishing Club, with whom we have been working closely with to get this great project off the ground.

In addition, in really exciting news for northern-suburbs recfishers, we’ve deployed a cluster of four FADs due west of Mindarie Marina. This means you now have access to FADs within a 40-50 km steam out from boat ramps at Hillarys, Ocean Reef, Mindarie and Two Rocks.

See the FAD deployment video below:

See below for the coordinates for both sets of FADs:

FAD #Decimal Degrees (DD)Degrees Decimal Minutes (DDM)Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS)
RFW 1-31.617 115.133S 31° 37.02' E 115° 7.98'31° 37' 1.2" S 115° 7' 58.8" E
RFW 2-31.700 115.117S 31° 42.00' E 115° 7.02'31° 42' 03" S 115° 7' 01.2" E
RFW 3-31.700 115.175S 31° 42.00' E 115° 10.5'31° 42' S 115° 10' 30" E
RFW 4-31.733 115.175S 31° 43.98' E115° 10.5'31° 43' 58.8" S 115° 10' 30" E
RFW 5-32.114 115.116S 32° 06.84' E 115° 6.96'32° 6' 50.4" S 115° 6' 57.6" E
RFW 6-32.113 115.160S 32° 06.78' E115° 9.6'32° 6' 46.8" S 115° 9' 36" E

Or click here to see the metro FADs map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launching these FADs gets our toe in the water, gets the attention of Government and potential future partners and gives us the capability to learn more about when and where best to deploy the devices.

This is why we’re going for deployment in places like Albany, Cape Naturaliste and Geraldton as well to see how they might work there and closer to shore in Exmouth and Broome to see if they can open up more fishing opportunities for species like dolphinfish, billfish, wahoo and queenfish (Exmouth), Spaniards, tripletail and trevallies (Broome) further north.

Click here for more information about regional locations for FADs to be deployed in the next few weeks and months, as well as things to consider when fishing them.

When we publicly launched the FADs with the Minister for Fisheries a couple of weeks ago, we said this is exactly what RFIF money should be spent on – new innovative projects meeting a high demand from the community that can dramatically enhance recfishing opportunities.

That’s why we’ve been so keen and persistent in pursuing this project – we’ve encountered quite a few obstacles along the way – the approvals process has been particularly long and bureaucratic – but we kept our eyes on the prize – fantastic sportfishing for pelagics off the metro and regional centres for recfishers.

Now – it’s over to you – get out there, give the FADS a crack and let us know how you go – we’d love to hear from you and see some of your pics of prized catches on the new FADs.

Trial FADs network launch opens up new sport fishing options for WA

Yesterday Recfishwest joined the Minister for Fisheries in Fremantle to announce the launch of a trial State-wide Fish Aggregation Device (FADs) network.

We have been working closely with local fishing clubs to develop and deploy additional FADs off Perth metro and off Albany, Cape Naturaliste, Geraldton, Exmouth and Broome as part of a three-year trial program.

If you’re in any doubt about why this is fantastic news for WA’s boat fishers – check out this awesome footage of TackleWest’s Luke Ryan and his mate doing battle with mahi-mahi (dolphinfish) on the existing Perth FADs.

WATCH SOME AWESOME FADs FISHING OFF PERTH BELOW

More than a passing FAD – FADs for the future 

We’re sure that’s got you drooling and yesterday’s announcement will make new and exciting fishing options for these species along with billfish and tuna for metro fishers, and those fishing out of regional WA centres.

Those north of Perth can also expect mackerel in the mix on the FADs as well.

Funded by recfishing licence fees through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF), this is exactly how RFIF funds can be spent – as seed money to test ground-breaking projects. These are projects that create great fishing opportunities and for which there is high demand and support within the recfishing community.

As a result, we’re really excited to be able to deliver this trial program, build our understanding and expertise in this space and be in a stronger position to source future investment in FADs from recfishing licence money and, potentially, from industry sponsors.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT THE LOCATION OF THE FADS AND WHAT SPECIES YOU CAN EXPECT TO CATCH ON THEM

A long road worth travelling

It’s been a long journey and we’ve had to wade through a mess of red tape and push hard uphill all the way, but finally we’re here – new FADs ready to go in off Albany and Cape Naturaliste in the next couple of weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also in the next couple of weeks, we’re deploying extra FADs off the metro, west of Rotto, to complement the existing ones already there every year by the Perth Game Fishing Club (PGFC), along with four new ones that will be readily accessible to those launching from northern suburbs boat ramps.

All up, that’ll bring the total number of FADs in the Metro to 12.

We’d like to give special mention and thanks here to the PGFC and their President, Peter Coote, whose 20 years of FADs’ experience has been invaluable in helping us to develop the trial program and maximise the benefits to recfishers.

We also thank the many fishing clubs, tackle stores and individuals in the regions with whom we have consulted on developing this program for their time and local knowledge they have shared with us.

In early 2020, we plan to deploy a further four FADs each off Geraldton, Exmouth and Broome. The Broome FADs particularly are something of an experiment, as we’re deploying them in shallow water, relatively close inshore making them easily accessible to fisheries in all  boat sizes including tinnies. This presents the tantalising prospect of opening up some great bait-holding potential to enhance fishing action for pelagic species within just a quick run-out from the shore.

So, once they’re in, get out there and have a crack and let us know how you go.

READ WHAT THE MINISTER HAD TO SAY HERE

Get geared up and ready for the whites’ run

It’s coming up to that time of year, when many fishers will be dusting off their cray pots and loops in readiness for the annual ‘whites run’, a time when hauls of tasty crays (WA rock lobster) are pulled freshly from the inshore reefs, not far from the local boat ramp.

There’s a real sense of anticipation as fishers launch their boats, park the trailers and get ready to head out to their pots or gear up for a dive.

Catching crayfish is a big part of our WA lifestyle with thousands of families sharing the experiences of catching and enjoying this fantastic seafood each year.

It’s not just potters that do well on the crays, divers get in on the action too.

The quality of recreational fishing for this highly popular crustacean has gone from strength to strength since changes were made to the management of the fishery in 2013. Now there are more than 52,000 licensed cray fishers who contribute millions of dollars each year to the WA economy through spending money on licences, boats, bait, gear, fuel and ice.

Cray fishers’ activity goes up another level at this time of year with the hotly anticipated whites run whetting the appetite for soaking pots and dive-suits.

“The much-anticipated whites run allow fishers to get out there and catch their own seafood for the Christmas table. It’s not uncommon to see boats lined up at the boat ramp,” said Leyland Campbell, Recfishwest Operations Manager.

”Seagrass seeds popping, Christmas trees flowering – according to fishers, these are signs the whites run is not too far away,” he said.

The whites run, a potter’s dream!

The annual whites run also coincides with boat-ramp-chaos, as thousands of recfishers hit the boat ramps each day during the run, presenting the best chance to bag themselves a feed of crays.

Crays can be caught on inshore reefs, no need to head out deep!

During November and December, crayfish embark on a migration that fishers can target to land a good feed. The specific time of the migration varies each year, although generally it’s around late November to early December. The migration is usually triggered by environmental factors like tides and the moon-phase kicking off the crayfishes’ movements.

Crays shed their shell to grow into a larger one that’s often initially pale, and walk out to deeper waters, hence their description as white crays. During these times, the best option is usually to position your cray pots on the back side of the reefs on the sand. The position is crucially important, if you place your pot on the reef it’s prone to becoming stuck in the cracks and crevices or the crayfish will simply choose the more natural caves in which to hide. But if you drop your pot on the sand west of the reef, it’s likely to attract any crayfish walking out to deeper water. Remember to bait them as often as possible and weigh your pot down so it doesn’t rock or shift in the surge, as crayfish are unlikely to enter pots that are moving around.

Given the high abundance of crays on inshore reefs resulting from a well-managed fishery, the prospect for cray fishing in the run-up to Christmas is very good.

Going ‘loop-y’ for a feed of crays

Using a loop to catch your crays can create a whole lot of fishing fun!

Dropping pots may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so for those that prefer or enjoy life under the water, there’s always the option of diving for your crays. Sometimes the best places are in less than 5m of water! Yep, during the whites run, many of the inshore reefs, particularly the shallow ones, become loaded with crays! All you’ll need to get started is a licence, cray loop, some snorkelling gear, gloves, a wettie and a mate!

It doesn’t matter if it’s only shallow, or how experienced you may be, you should always have someone there to watch your back.

Learning to loop can be difficult at first, but practice makes perfect. Give it a shot laying on the ground at home and looping a water bottle and you’ll pick it up in no time – just let your housemates/partner/family know in advance what you’re doing – or they may question your mental well-being! A tip is not to mess around slowly positioning the loop behind the crayfish, get it in there quickly and calmly. Avoid opening the loop too much as they might just shoot straight through it and try to remain calm when you spot one.

Remember that not every cray you see is worth pursuing and sometimes its best to ignore the crays that are in a difficult-to-reach location and find one that is more out in the open. It’s known that jumbo crays can be found in six metres of water, so don’t feel like you have to dive deep to catch them. Often you’ll find them in ledges that border sand, ledges that are protected from surge, or in the same places you find baitfish and small reef fish relaxing in the calm water.

Want to find out more about cray fishing techniques?

Click here to find out about a fishing information evening being hosted at the Cockburn Power Boats Association club in Coogee on Friday 1 November.

Evolving rules with an evolving fishery

Over the past few years, cray fishing rules have evolved to ensure rules are simplified, practical and people’s fishing experiences are maximised.

A cray which has recently moulted.

In May 2018, the recreational crayfishing season was opened year-round allowing fishers the chance to chase a feed of crays through winter, something that was much to the delight of Mid-West fishers who enjoy cray fishing during what is considered to be some of the best weather during the year.

The latest change in rules came into effect in November 2018, which dictates the rigging of recreational cray pots to be similar to commercial pots, to mitigate the potential risk of interaction with migrating whales when the ropes are over 20m in length. The top half of the rope must hang vertically in the water column when the rope is over the length of 20m.  This can be achieved by using sinking rope on the top half of the pot rope, or by simply attaching a weight such as a fishing sinker half way down the rope.  Additionally, a maximum of two floats can be attached to a recreational pot meaning greater participation and enjoyment for everyone.

Make sure you’ve rigged your pots right by watching our video below.

Stay up to date on all the rules here.

Get out there and into ‘em!

Good luck to all cray fishers headed out in search of a tasty feed, may your pots be full and ledges packed! There’s no better time to get out and chase down a feed of crays with the loop or drop a pot. Start slow and give it a go, like all types of fishing you will pick it up the more you do it and there’s nothing better than bringing home a feed of crays that you caught yourself for a beautiful family Christmas lunch.

We’ll keep you posted as the cray season unfolds and when the whites make their run. Keep in touch via our weekly fishing reports, monthly newsletter, social media or website.

Give your community a fishing boost!

Round 10 of the Recfishwest Community Grants is still open for fishers!

We want your applications for projects to improve fishing for your community. Previous successful projects receiving Community Grants funding have included the Kalbarri Kids Whiting Comp,  Steep Point Clean Up Day (pictured above), the West Kimberley Women’s Fishing Clinics and videos to help raise the profile of Fishability.

Check the full list of round nine grants here.

The Mary Island Fishing Club decided to run a West Kimberley Women’s Fishing Clinic and the sessions were a huge success with fishers learning how to back a boat trailer, tie knots, rig their own fishing gear, fillet fish and much more!

You could use the money to hold a fishing clinic, hold a fishing competition, offer a training day for your club members, purchase new information or safety signage, or improve access to fishing locations. There are so many opportunities to improve fishing for your community. Think outside the box and bring new projects to the table.

The grants are available to a maximum of $8,000 for each applicant, although preference will be given to applications under $5,000. Applications which demonstrate the support of local recreational fishers or fishing club will rank highly. This scheme is funded using recreational fishing licence fees through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund. Be a part of making fishing better in WA, help us help you, help fishers!

Recfishwest Community Grant Program Application Form – Round 10

Recfishwest Community Grant Program Guidelines – Round 10

Applications open: Friday, 27 September

Applications close: Midnight Friday, 22 November

Broome North Fishing Club used their Community Grant funding to host a threadfin competition for locals and visiting fishers to the region.
Whiteys Tackle & Camping used their funding to have their very own instore app to help fishers apply for licences, understand the fishing rules, check the weather, navionics chart viewer and much more. This is the first of its kind in Australia!

Doubts about trout? Check this out

For some recfishers, freshwater angling has remained elusive.

This is often because they are apprehensive about paying for a freshwater licence and stepping blindly into the ‘foreign world’ of the freshwater fish.

Freshwater fishing can provide hours of joy and take you to stunning locations.
A preview of the guide’s map, with plenty of great spots to try. Check the link out at the bottom of the article for the full guide with a larger map.

But now, thanks to a great project, the product of the Australian Trout Foundation (ATF), the way is lit for anyone who wants to have a crack at this distinctive branch of angling.

The ATF is an independent, not-for-profit organisation in the country that is specifically dedicated to protecting and improving Australia’s trout fishery, ensuring that all Australians can enjoy trout fishing now and for future generations to come.

Now the ATF has written and produced a guide on how to fish many of the impoundments most accessible to metro fishers, including; Waroona, Drakesbrook, Logue Brook and Harvey dams. Each location has its own break-down so you have the edge when you rock up to the dam! The guide is jampacked full of information on lure types, fishing styles and hot tips such as trolling diving minnows from a boat in summer to get to cooler water, jigging soft plastics from your kayak around structure, or casting spinners or flies on the windward side of the dams! Learn about hook sizes, line weights, bait types, rod and reel combos, just about anything you could ask for is crammed into the guide. The ATF is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that is specifically dedicated to protecting and improving Australia’s trout fisheries, ensuring that all Australians can enjoy trout fishing now and for future generations to come and we think their guide has done just that.

Filled with heaps of great freshwater fishing information from the well-versed freshwater fishers at the ATF, the guide will help point any fisher in the right direction and hopefully put them a cast closer to their first trout. The ATF also plan to roll out a series of guides explaining where and how to fish for trout in the rest of the South-west.

You can catch the full guide here.

Or grab a hard copy at the information centres of both Waroona and Harvey.

Pick up your free guide and enjoy fishing in our beautiful South West.