It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and appetite for trout fishing this weekend down at Drakesbrook Weir, Waroona, for our annual Troutfest event.
The Minister for Fisheries, Dave Kelly (pictured below about to release a nice brown trout), was a keen participant and took the opportunity to announce the launch of the WA Inland Fisheries Research Advisory Committee.
The inaugural meeting of this committee took place earlier in August and it represents a huge and exciting step forward in securing a brighter future for the WA trout and freshwater fishery in Western Australia.
Bringing together Recfishwest, WA trout fishing experts, trout stocking specialists from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the South West Regional Development Commission, the committee’s objective is to steer the future direction of research and development of inland fisheries with a particular focus on the Pemberton Trout Hatchery.
A vision for the trout stocking program
The first meeting provided a vision for how DPIRD’s trout stocking program can be recalibrated to truly “deliver maximum community benefit” quoting the committee’s principle term of reference.
We believe there is massive potential for expanding the trout stocking program and fishery, with no reason why participation in freshwater fishing couldn’t and shouldn’t double in the next three to five years.
Changing up the stocking regime, putting in place a more robust research program associated with it and exploring new potential freshwater/trout fishing locations could evolve and secure the fishery well into the future.
There is a genuine opportunity here for us to improve and open up great angling experiences accessible to a wide range of fishers.
The flow-on benefits of this to the community would be many – tourism, the regional economy and the rec fishing industry would all benefit as fishers seek the magic experience of hunting rainbows and browns in majestic south-west waters.
To capitalise on this new opportunity, one of Recfishwest’s primary objectives will be to ensure a rigorous trout stocking evaluation research program is put in place.
We have long pushed for a program of this kind with little scientific data gathered around the effectiveness of stocking fry in waters we need stock in a way to maximise fish survival to provide the best possible trout numbers for anglers.
To address this issue, as well as impacts of reduced rainfall and streamflow in the South West, the initial focus of the committee is to consider radically overhauling the stocking regime to make the vast majority of stocked fish (currently 600,000 fish of all ages) into more robust yearlings – which will mean more angler-ready fish for your next fishing adventure.
In addition, the committee is also considering how the timing of releasing fish could be changed to maximise growth potential and survival rates of stocked trout to improve the cost-benefit to the State with greater catch returns.
Stocking Aussie natives
While the committee’s initial focus is on trout, we still have a big appetite for delivering a comprehensive Aussie native stocking program in some of WA’s freshwater locations and finding new and innovative ways for future-proofing our marron stocks.
And to be clear the new advisory committee will not be replacing Recfishwest’s expert Freshwater Fishing Reference Group, which is key to developing our policy and strategy in this space – rather it will complement it significantly.
The committee will allow us to take the reference group’s excellent work forward with a seat at the table where decisions directly affecting the future of the fishery will be made.