More than 400 turn out for Perth’s biggest family-fishing event

More than 400 anglers took part in the 28th staging of WA’s premier family fishing event – and there were plenty of great fish caught.

However, it was the presentation of the three big mulloway which really got the big crowd buzzing at the weigh-in on the Sunday.

Kids and adults gathered around to get a closer look at the three fish, with Tim Farnell’s 18kg-plus specimen taking out that section. As is the case nowadays, a lot of smartphones came out and there were plenty of pictures of the mulloway taken.

But you didn’t even need to catch a fish to win big, as one shocked eight-year-old found out when he picked up $1000 cash in the lucky redraw of the cash prize that had been allocated to any tagged fish weighed in.

The little tacker didn’t even catch a fish in Swanfish, which was run by the Melville Amateur Angling Club and Recfishwest, but he and his mum went away very happy! It was great to see all anglers taking care of their catch and it was clear all the fish which were weighed in were in great condition and nice and fresh, having been carefully handled and kept on ice after capture.

The winning black bream was weighed in live and returned to the Swan River, and was a thumper at more than 1kg.  There was also a 1kg-plus flathead and a tailor just under a 1kg caught – great captures which highlight the health of the Swan and Canning rivers.

Some beautiful blue swimmer crabs were also weighed in, and the success of the river prawn restocking in recent years was shown by a number of lovely prawns being presented.

There were some great prizes thanks to the support of Getaway Outdoors, Halco Tackle, Ugly Stik, Tackle HQ, Anglers Fishing World, Spud Shed, Coates Hire, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Fisheries were also on hand and were removing otoliths (ear bones) from black bream at the weigh-in for research.

Follow Swanfish on Facebook to stay informed.

It was great to have so many people attend this year’s event.

Recfishwest and community working together to improve your fishing

Recfishwest Community Grants Scheme – Round 7

Recfishwest is proud of the annual Recfishwest community grant scheme. This scheme is an opportunity for community groups to apply for funding to support community projects that make fishing better in WA.

Applications for Round 7 of the Recfishwest community grant scheme came from a broad range of community groups including fishing clubs and associations, health care providers, sea rescue groups, local government, environmental groups, men’s sheds and disability advocates.

There were some fantastic applications for fun, exciting and innovative ways to improve fishing experiences. Recfishwest takes great pleasure in providing community groups with the opportunities to make some dreams a reality, and we respect and acknowledge that often these small community groups have the ability to stretch a dollar much further than anyone could think possible.

The partnerships Recfishwest builds with community groups are equally valuable for us in supporting and hearing the wishes of the fishing community and ultimately working together for the goal of making fishing better for West Australians.

Recipients of Recfishwest Community Grant scheme – Round 7 funding include:

1. Mandalay Holiday Resort – To continue their popular family fishing event
2. Fervor – A seafood cook book utilising native Australian bush herbs and spices to complement our local seafood.
3. Fremantle Sailing club – To promote their Calamari Classic event alongside an educational workshop to support the occasion.
4. Fishability – Funding to assist in improving their wheelchair friendly fishing vessel the Nev Thomas.
5. Kalbarri Offshore & Angling Club – To once again support their highly successfully Kid’s Whiting Competition during the school holidays.
6. The Australian National Sportfishing Association WA Inc – Modernising the way in which they collect data for their West Tag program.
7. Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club – To continue the ever popular Family Fishing Fun Day, fishing education and safety as well as improving rock fishing safety infrastructure.
8. Albany Offshore Boating and Fishing Club – Support for their Easter rock fishing safety campaigning at Salmon Holes.
9. Esperance Land Based Fishing Club – A grant has been awarded to help build their annual fishing event.
10. Greenhead Men’s Shed – These local champions have received a grant to go towards the cost of designing, obtaining approvals and construction of a fish cleaning station for the local boat ramp.
11. Surfcasting and Angling Club of WA – The purchase of safety equipment and life jackets for dry casting days and fishing field days.
12. WA Underwater Club – Funding to educate on safe and effective practice for freedivers and spearfishers including regional representation and training course subsidies.
13. Breast Cancer Care WA – Continued support for the Purple Fly Fishing program providing the opportunity for those profoundly affected by breast cancer to enjoy the experience of fly fishing in a serene natural setting.

Mandalay Holiday Resort owner Clive Johnson and previous Recfishwest Community Grant recipient said: “The owners and staff of Mandalay Holiday Resort would like to thank Recfishwest for making some funds available to sponsor this great event (Mandalay Family Fishing Competition 2015/16). It was great to see kids get such a thrill for catching their first fish and making fishing available to so many families.”

Recfishwest continues to support local community ventures, and commend all the fantastic work and initiative taken by the community to date, completed through these grants.

Barramundi bonanza in Lake Kununurra

For a lot of Australians catching a big barramundi is high on their bucket list.

The iconic sportfish is a favourite target for lure fishing, and a highly regarded table fish. Striking hard and providing strong runs once hooked, barramundi put up a challenging and spirited fight as they manoeuvre around snags and launch into impressive aerial leaps attempting to shake the hook. The experience sells itself.

Most people think that to access the best barramundi fishing you need to travel to remote creek systems in Australia’s north or impoundments along the east coast.

Many regard places such as Kakadu and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory or Tinaroo Dam in Queensland as the best option for thrill seekers chasing a barra fix.

However, you will be pleased to learn that Australia’s next big barra fishery is much closer to home, with locals and tourists already tangling with fish measuring more than the ‘holy grail’ 1m in length.

Barramundi are an iconic sportsfishing species.

To put it into perspective, fish which were released as 5cm fingerlings three years ago are now over a metre in length!

Lake Kununurra in the State’s Kimberley is producing barramundi fishing like nothing experienced before.

Local champions have worked passionately to enable the stocking of barramundi to be a success and more than 500,000 fingerlings stocked into the lake since 2012 are now providing some of the most exciting fishing around.

The barramundi in Lake Kununurra cannot naturally reproduce in a closed freshwater system.

The fish spend their entire lives eating and growing and with no natural predators, some enormous barramundi have been able to gorge themselves to significant size on the abundance of natural bait in the system.

The stocking program which finished last year has shown us enough of what potential Lake Kununurra holds as a Barramundi hotspot. To put it into perspective, fish which were released as fingerlings three years ago are now over a metre in length!

Key stocking facilitator, Kununurra local and barramundi enthusiast Dick Pasfield said the barra fishing in Lake Kununurra was world-class and should only get better.

“Now that the stocking program has been completed and the building blocks of an amazing fishery have been laid the local stocking group will continue working to develop it into one of Australia’s premier impoundment fisheries,” he said.

Barramundi fishing is huge for Kununurra locals and the economic and social return from the stocking program will far exceed the actual cost of the program. It is a fitting tribute to the hard work and vision of the local community over the last 20 years that Lake Kununurra is now on the world sportfishing stage.

Former president of the Broome Fishing Club and Portfolio Manager at the North Regional Tafe aquaculture facilities Jeff Cooper said:

“What we have here is the start of something very exciting, the untold potential of impoundment barramundi fishing in Lake Kununurra is something we should not take for granted.

“This opportunity is unmatched and the possibilities are endless.”

Recfishwest will continue to follow Lake Kununurra barramundi developments and are in full support of realising the untapped potential of Lake Kununurra Barramundi fishing as well as assisting in the continued growth and tourism benefit to North West communities.

More Places to Fish, More Fish to Catch

Cast a vote in the 2017 State Election – How your vote could affect your fishing

Recfishwest works tirelessly to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community. With the 2017 state election fast approaching Recfishwest is working to ensure fishers are given the acknowledgement and consideration they deserve.

While Recfishwest has no political affiliation and will never tell anyone how they should vote, we do represent hundreds of thousands of members of the voting public that access the community owned fish resources of Western Australia. With this in mind, we are committed to informing you about all commitments made by registered political parties that are likely to impact on your fishing experiences and let you decide for yourself.

As in previous elections, Recfishwest has provided all political parties with our election “Package for Better Fishing in WA” and have asked each party whether they support this package. In our March Broadcast, we will provide an update outlining the level of support each party has provided for this package and compare the fishing related commitments made by each political party.

Recfishwest’s “Package for Better Fishing in WA” aligns with our vision of ensuring great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever and will protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the whole community.

It is worth noting that Recfishwest expects current funding levels for Recfishwest, the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and Fishability (formally Fishers with Disabilities) are maintained and as such have not included these in our election package, however, we will inform you if any party plans to change current funding levels for these.

In developing our “Package for Better Fishing in WA” Recfishwest acknowledge the state is currently bound by financial challenges and as such we have developed a fiscally responsible package that contains a number of policy commitments that would benefit fishing at zero cost to government.

The “Package for Better Fishing in WA” contains a number of aspirations and commitments to improve fishing experiences. These fall into two main categories:
• Creating more places to fish, and
• Providing more fish to catch.

More Places to Fish

1. Building the best fishing spots in Australia:

This will see artificial reefs for Albany, Perth, Carnarvon, Broome, Karratha, Port Hedland and Geraldton as well as FADs for Geraldton, Jurien Bay, Broome, Bunbury, Port Hedland, Carnarvon and Perth /Peel. (These reefs and FADs are in addition to artificial reefs in Esperance, Exmouth and Karratha and FADS in Kalbarri, Exmouth and Albany that have already been committed to through the RFIF)

2. Unlocking inland waters:

Recfishwest is calling for impoundments and urban waters to be opened for stocking of popular Australian Native freshwater fish such as Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Murray Cod and Aussie Bass.

3. Breathing life into waterways:

This involves the rehabilitation of shoreline vegetation and establishment of nursery habitats in selected estuaries including the Swan/Canning River.

mulloway reefs

More Fish to Catch

1. 10 million more fish to catch:

Recfishwest is calling for the stocking of 10 million fish including Australian Native Freshwater Fish, Barramundi, Mulloway, Blue Swimmer Crabs, Pink Snapper and Prawns as well as support for hatcheries used in breeding fish for these stocking programs.

2. A better deal for Peel:

The Peel-Harvey Stewardship Package Recfishwest has developed includes a fair and reasonable buyout of some commercial fishing licences, better recreational data collection and management changes to make your experiences fishing for Yellowfin Whiting and Blue Swimmer Crabs better.

3. A fair go for fishers:

Recfishwest is calling for policy changes to support fishing. These changes include:

a. Prioritising Lower West Coast Blue Swimmer Crabs for recreational and tourism purposes.
b. Prohibiting gillnets and beach-seine netting in proximity to coastal towns.
c. Rationalising current commercial fishing pressure in our estuaries.
d. Prioritising Salmon as a key sport fishing and tourism resource.

The commitments contained in Recfishwest’s “Package for Better Fishing in WA” represent an investment of $15 million over four years. Considering the government receives $7.5 million dollars every year through recreational fishing licence fees and that fishing is one of the state’s most popular recreational activities contributing hundreds of millions to the WA economy every year the package Recfishwest has presented to all parties is more than reasonable.

Recfishwest is also in discussions with political parties who wish to make commitments to benefit recreational fishing in WA that fall outside of our “Package for Better Fishing in WA”.

To help ensure fishing receives a fair go this election, ask your local candidates to commit to providing you with more places to fish and more fish to catch.

Innovative Tracking Program Sheds New Light on Bream

An innovative and exciting fish tracking program is shedding new light on the behaviour of Black Bream and highlights the importance of water quality and complex habitats such as rock, reef, snags and vegetated banks.  The Swan Fish Track project aims to identify how Black Bream use different habitats in the Swan and Canning Rivers, particularly the waters around the oxygenation plants in Guildford and Caversham. It involved tagging and tracking 55 Black Bream and following their movements and behaviour throughout these river systems.

Local bream fishers played a key role in the project with competitors at a WA Bream Classic event using their skills to contribute 20 of the total fish for the project including the majority of large fish over 300mm. The fish were surgically implanted with acoustic transmitter tags inside their body cavities. The tags emit signals to a series of 25 receivers located throughout the rivers. As a fish swims past receiver information on the time, depth and acceleration of the fish is transferred and recorded.

From this data Murdoch University Researchers Jake Watsham and Nathan Beerkens were able to analyse the first four months of the bream’s movement and behaviour. Their results were discussed at the Fishers for Fish Habitat Forum last month and gave some interesting insights into the behaviour of Black Bream.

Bream are Capable of Travelling….a lot!
The average distance covered by tagged bream throughout the four months of preliminary data was 33km with one fish covering a whopping distance of 130km and on one instance a fish recorded travelling 11km in less than 15 hours. When not on the move, fish spent most of their time at receivers in Ascot and Caversham. There was also movement of some fish between the Swan and Canning Rivers, confirming these populations are interconnected. Some of the bream’s movements through the rivers were found to be linked to heavy rainfall events. While bream are hardy fish that can handle a high salinity range, the tagged fish favoured areas where salinity ranged between 10-20ppt.

Low Oxygen Limits Habitat Availability for Bream
Historically big Black Bream utilised habitat in the deeper holes of the rivers and shallower flats provided habitat for smaller fish. However recent research has suggested that reduced flow in our rivers and a build-up of nutrients in sediments has created low oxygen conditions in the deeper holes. This has possibly contributed to decreased metabolism and growth rates in Black Bream and concentrated the fish into shallower habitats.
The data from Swan Fish Track has supported this research showing that bream had a preference for shallow habitat and avoided areas with low oxygen. Low oxygen appears to be stopping bream from inhabiting deeper areas, reducing their habitat availability.

Bream Need Habitat
The project showed fish favouring areas with complex habitats i.e snags and reef/rock bars. This suggests that replanting shoreline vegetation and restoring reef and snags would provide a real benefit to the fish in this system. With more than 20km of built-up shoreline there is great potential to improve the fishery by enhancing and restoring this habitat. If you are interested in getting involved in habitat projects that will make your fishing better, get in contact with the Recfishwest Habitat Officer, Michael Tropiano at michael@recfishwest.org.au

The Swan Fish Track project was run as a partnership between Department of Parks and Wildlife and Murdoch University, and The Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund funded post graduate researchers who are contributing to this project.

The project is ongoing and Recfishwest will continue to reveal more results as they become available. All fish tagged for the project have a yellow spaghetti tag next to their dorsal fin so if you catch a tagged fish please call number on the tag with the location of your capture and the tag I.D.
For more on the importance of healthy waterways and their impact on healthy fisheries, read our article here.

Artificial Reef Towers

Fishing for Perth metro pelagics has a new breath of new life with the instalment of two steel reef towers, which will boost fishing opportunities for fishers. The towers are an addition to the numerous other artificial reef and habitat enhancement projects complete or underway in WA, funded through recreational fishing licence fees.

The reef towers differ from the concrete reef modules currently installed off Dunsborough, Bunbury and Mandurah and those planned for deployment in Esperance, Exmouth and Dampier. The towers are the first steel artificial reef structures in WA, with a different layout and construction to the demersal reefs, and on a much larger vertical scale. Designed by Western Australian artificial reef specialists, Subcon, the purpose built reefs are an impressive 12.5m high or the same size as a four storey building!

To add to its height, each reef weighs a massive 70 ton and is 10m long and 7.8m wide. The costly process of reef deployment at sea was also reduced through a new innovative technique that has never been used with this style of artificial reef anywhere in the world. Instead of being loaded onto a barge and lowered using a crane, the large structure was towed out into position and its buoyancy tanks were flooded to safely and cost effectively sink the towers.

The reef towers were specifically designed to not only house demersal fish species but namely to attract an array of pelagic top-water fish in a similar way to FADs. The lattice-like steel upper part of the reef will provide structure and concentrate small baitfish, attracting predatory pelagics. The purpose built design will also allow demersal species to shelter amongst the large base structure with its various shapes, crevasses and vertical profile.

The steel lattice structure provides a complex habitat with variations in temperature, shade and hydrological effects such as current. The curved steel plates on the tower promote upwelling and the surfaces of the structure can be colonised by macro-algae, sponges and corals to favour a variety of different species and higher abundances of fish.

The wide range of habitats influenced by the reef towers will hold a good variety of fish species, with pelagics such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna all expected to turn up at the reef as well as demersal species such as Pink Snapper, Dhufish and Baldchin Groper. There’s also a good chance of King George Whiting, Skippy, Flathead, Flounder and even Mulloway that are caught in the surrounding areas. All of these species have been encountered on the established South West artificial reefs but other species such as Yellowfin Tuna and Bonito are also expected to make an appearance.

The reef towers were funded using recreational fishing licence fees and are for all recreational fishers to enjoy. Anchoring right on top of reefs should be avoided as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and the chances of your anchor returning. Similar to the South West artificial reefs, some of the best fish are caught around the structure, not right on top of it. Fish can be targeted by casting or trolling around the area and over the top of the reef as well as drifting near the reef location and jigging or drifting weighed baits in a burley trail.

The reef towers are located in “the paddock” between Garden Island and Rottnest Island. The final coordinates have been given as 32ᵒ 07.527′ S, 115ᵒ 27.013′ E for Tower 1 and 32ᵒ 07.461′ S, 115ᵒ 26.978′ E for Tower 2 in 44-45m water depth.

With huge projects like this, WA is showing the world what can be achieved by passionate fishers who believe in enjoyable, safe, sustainable and accessible fishing experiences for the WA community in the future. This project was made possible by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by Recfishwest and the WA Department of Fisheries.

Fish Towers to be deployed this summer

Get ready for some metro pelagic fishing this Summer at the new Fish Towers!  Two new exciting Fish Towers will be deployed this summer in the metropolitan region, funded through recreational fishing licence fees, creating exciting brand new fishing opportunities. The Fish Towers add to the continued development of artificial reefs in WA, joining the highly successful artificial reefs off the coasts of Dunsborough, Bunbury and Mandurah. The towers will be the first steel artificial reefs deployed in WA, with a different layout and construction material, on a much larger scale than the artificial reefs further south.

Designed by Western Australian artificial reef specialists, Subcon, the purpose built reefs are an impressive 12.5m high or the same size as a four storey building! To add to its height, each reef weighs a massive 50 tonne and is 10m long and 7.8m wide. The costly process of reef deployment at sea has also been reduced through a new innovative technique that has never been used with this style of artificial reef anywhere in the world. Instead of being loaded onto a barge and deployed using a crane, the large structure will be towed out into position and its buoyancy tanks will be flooded to safely and cost effectively sink the towers.

The fish towers have been specially designed for both pelagic and demersal fish species. The lattice-like steel upper part of the reef will concentrate small baitfish such as Yellowtail Scad, Bullseye, Pike and small Trevally, making the reef a perfect location for predatory pelagics. As well as this, the large area, vertical profile and differing types and shapes of the bottom part of the structure make it an ideal home for demersal species. The reasons that the towers make such a perfect homes for these fish species comes from their purpose built design.
The steel lattice provides shelter for baitfish from pelagic predators (which attracts these predators to the tower) while the structures’ complex habitat provides variation in temperature, shade and hydrological effects such as current, to favour a variety of different species and higher abundances of fish. The curved steel plates on the fish tower promote upwelling and the surfaces of the structure can be colonised by macro-algae, sponges and corals, both of these factors provide a boost to the food chain and increase the productivity of the reef, further increasing the number and variety of target species.

Pelagic species such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna species could all be expected at the reef as well as demersal species such as Pink Snapper, Dhufish and Baldchin Groper. Other species that could be caught in the area around the reef include, King George Whiting, Flathead, Flounder and even Mulloway! While all the mentioned species are expected on the reefs (and have been observed on the artificial reefs further south) other fish may also turn up in the proposed deployment area including Yellowfin Tuna, Amberjack and Bonito.

The reefs were funded using recreational fishing licence fees and are there for all fishers to enjoy. Anchoring right on top of reefs should be avoided as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and limit the chances of your anchor returning. As is the case with the South West Artificial Reefs, some of the best fish are caught around the structure, not right on top of it. Fish can be targeted by trolling around the area and over the top of the reef as well as drifting near the reef location or by drifting weighted mulies in a burley trail.

The exact locations are yet to be confirmed, but will be announced by Recfishwest in due course. It is expected they will be located between Rottnest and Garden islands and installation of the structures will begin this summer. With huge projects like this, WA is showing the world what can be achieved by passionate fishers who believe in enjoyable, safe, sustainable and accessible fishing experiences for the WA community in the future.