Statewide FADs trial program six months on – measuring success and the lessons learned

When Recfishwest launched the Statewide trial FADs program back in November last year, we said we wanted to ‘road-test’ a ground-breaking project that could create great fishing opportunities for which there is high demand and support within the recfishing community.

So, six months on as we prepare to bring in the Perth FADs until next November, how have they fished and what have we learned?

Overall, from the reports and capture pics on the FADs we have received, along with a steady stream of social media and YouTube videos, we are thrilled to be able to report much of the trial program has proven successful so far.

The FADs fire up

Fishing highlights from those FADs deployed in the first six months of the trial include:

Metro – 6 new FADs in addition to PGFCs 6 Rotto FADs deployed Nov 2019

Large schools of dolphinfish aggregated on the new Perth FADs within two weeks of deployment with numerous reports of successful stories to the devices. Fishers launching from northern suburbs boat ramps have told us the more northerly located metro FADs have made more regular FAD runs viable.

Cape Naturaliste – 4 FADs deployed December 2019

While some of the Cape Naturaliste FADs have fished better than others, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the quality of fishing on these south-west devices creating a welcome alternative to targeting demersals for boat fishers launching from Dunsborough, Busselton and Bunbury.

 

Albany – 4 FADs deployed December 2019

A nice dolphinfish caught from the Albany FADs, which have created a brand new fishery for recfishers launching out of Albany.

Albany FADs have been one of the outstanding success stories of the trial with a potentially brand-new southern dolphinfish fishery created and plenty of stories and images of good captures reaching us. This was what the trial was always aimed at achieving – great new fishing opportunities. Given, you can count the number of dolphinfish reported being caught off Albany in the last decade on one hand until now, it’s a great win for Albany medium to large trailer boat fishers.

Exmouth – 3 FADs deployed March 2020

Exmouth FADs that are due to remain in place until November reportedly had fish on them within two days of deployment! From what we’ve heard, these FADs are firing – but we would love to see more photos/footage of captures from Exmouth – so please send them into us and there’s still a chance to win a Shimano Stella as part of our Fab FADs photo competition.

Check out some recent hot dolphinfish action on the metro FADS on this Tacklewest video

Learning from setbacks

Recfishwest FADs coordinator Matt Gillett rigging up the Perth FADs ahead of deployment.

In any meaningful trial program that looks to break new ground such as this, there have been setbacks. But it’s from these that we have been able to learn lessons that will ultimately help evolve and refine the program increasing the quality of the fishing experience on offer.

Working with local fishing clubs such as the Perth Game Fishing Club (PGFC) – who have been outstanding in sharing their FADs knowledge and experience – we purposefully spread out each location FAD set in varying depths and prevailing currents to see how each would perform.

Undoubtedly, some FADs held fish much better than others especially in Albany and Cape Naturaliste and we will adjust FAD drops accordingly next time around in these locations. We have also had some of the FADs break away – some due to the exceptional swells encountered during the large storm event earlier this month in the south-west. There were also a couple of Albany FAD break-aways that occurred in larger swell events in February and we will be upgrading the rigging gear for these FADs going forward.

Community support

A big shout out to the Esperance Volunteer Marine Rescue, who retrieved two of the Albany FADs that had drifted some 260 nautical miles east of their original moorings!

We were delighted to see members of the community step in and help us retrieve the FADs that went adrift, which we were able to locate using the satellite trackers we had rigged to them.

A big shout out to Scott Coghlan and his crew in Albany, the Esperance Volunteer Marine Rescue Team and PGFC member Dylan Picken for their assistance in retrieving some of the wayward devices. Read about some of the latest community FADs rescue missions here.

So, what next? While, due to COVID-19, we were not able to deploy the FADs planned for Geraldton this season, we are hoping to have the planned Broome FADs deployed in the next four weeks. In the Broome trial, the FADs will be relatively close to shore, so it’s going to be really interesting to see what turns up on these within a relatively quick run from the boat ramp.

We’re also looking at expanding the trial to a couple of other locations in the next few months – watch this space. In addition, if you’re a south-west FADs fan look out for an online survey we’ll be running to gain more insights into your FADs fishing experiences over the past few months.

On top of this, we’ll be soon publishing a new quarterly FADs report on this website with a more detailed and technical assessment of how they have performed in line with the program’s objectives.

Recfishwest has always believed FADs are exactly the kind of enhancement initiatives recfishing licence money should be invested in. We will continue to put efforts into the trial making the case for establishing a Statewide FADs program as a permanent part of the WA fishing landscape.