Scott’s Species – sailfish, one of the ocean’s fastest fish

I have never really caught the marlin bug, but I do have an undoubted soft spot for sailfish as the billfish of the people, writes Western Angler’s Scott Coghlan in this week’s Scott’s Species.

Fish: Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus

Eating: Three stars

ID: Long bill and large fan-like dorsal fin that looks like a sail. Blue colouration on body gives way to white underneath, with vertical blue stripes.

How good is this photo that Jim Bastow snapped of Josh Cheong hooked up to a sailfish off Exmouth!?

Considered to be possibly the fastest fish in the ocean, sailfish were believed to be capable of speeds to more than 100km/h.

However, recent studies found they were more likely to hit top speeds of around 60km/h.

Easily identified by their huge dorsal fin, they are just that little bit more accessible to the average angler than marlin as they quite often show up in shallow inshore waters, even though they do swim down to depths of around 350m.

Removing sailfish from the water for photos can cause damage to their organs and skeletal structure, use a ‘selfie stick’ for great photos, while keeping the fish in the water and minimizing the stress on the fish.

Click here to download Recfishwest’s Fishing for Science sailfish fact sheet!

I have a fond recollection of catching my first sailie off Ningaloo while at anchor.

I had put a floating bait out and called it for a shark when line started peeling off the reel, only to watch a sailfish launch out behind the boat.

It almost spooled me but we were able to get it to the boat and I was able to tick off another angling first.

From memory we were only fishing in around 45m of water, but it is not uncommon for sails to venture in close to shore.

I have even caught one from the rocks near Steep Point while spinning for Spanish mackerel.

Sailfish have such a prominent dorsal fin. 📸 Peak Sportfishing

I had cast out a 100g metal and it was hit on the drop. When I saw the fish jump well out from the rocks I thought it was a Spaniard with a shark on its tail.

It was only when it kept jumping in that greyhounding fashion across the surface typical of sails that I realised what it was.

It took me to my last few metres of line but I was able to eventually bring it to the rocks, where I snapped the line to allow it to swim off.

I couldn’t bring myself to drop down the flying gaff, even though they are certainly edible.

I have caught a few sails, but never really targeted them and they’ve usually been an incidental capture.

We’ve often encountered them after seeing them greyhounding at the Mackerel Islands, usually in 15m or so of water.

I’ve also had them pop up next to the boat and we got a big one when that happened off Tantabiddi just as we were about to head in.

A bluewater roamer by nature, sailfish mainly feed on small baitfish and squid, and are often caught while trolling for marlin as they will take the same skirts being towed in the blue water.

However, sailfish will often show up in packs and that can make for some very exciting action as multiple fish are hooked.

The Broome Billfish Classic highlights the world-class sailfish fishery off the West Kimberley town, with Emi Campbell landing this sail at the 2021 comp.

Many sails are caught the same way as my first, on unweighted baits and I’ve hooked a few trolling surface lures such as stickbaits or poppers, which seem to excite them.

They are also often hooked on trolled bibbed minnows meant for other species like mackerel.

While sails are usually caught from Shark Bay north, there are definite hot spots for them.

Good numbers of sails are caught off Tantabiddi and Exmouth also has unique run of fish in the Gulf late each year.

The sails follow bait into the Gulf and offer great sportfishing action, as anglers look for working birds that indicate sails are onto some bait.

It can be mayhem when the fish are found!

Karratha also boats an excellent sailfish fishery out around where the ships anchor, while Broome is famous for its annual run of sails, where they turn up in huge numbers although they aren’t generally big fish.

This fishery is celebrated by the Broome Fishing Club’s annual Broome Billfish Classic.

Jade Relph with a sailfish during Broome Fishing Club’s 2020 Billfish Classic.

As mentioned earlier, we often see sails around the Mackerel Islands.

The most memorable sailfish capture I can remember at the Mackies was by former Australian cricketing legend, Merv Hughes, who cast a Halco Roosta popper into a school of working tuna and somehow hooked a sail!

He was very happy with himself then, and still is now.

Because they are very mobile, finding them can be tricky but working current lines in the blue water would be a good start, and they’ll often be found around bait.

Watch for them free jumping, or sometimes you will see them cruising with just their large ‘sail’ showing above the surface.

Casting at cruising sailfish is a very exciting angling experience, especially when they zero in on your offering.

Indeed, there is much to love about sails from my perspective.

They often show up when least expected, are a lot more manageable on traditional tackle than their bigger billfish cousins, are capable of thrilling aerobatics and boast an almost unmatched burst of speed, making them an ideal sportfishing opponent with a side helping of the spectacular.

It’s important not to take sailfish out of the water to take a photo. 📸 Peak Sportfishing

Fabulous FADs open up a wealth of sport fishing opportunities

Working in conjunction with local fishing clubs, Recfishwest is developing and deploying a network of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) off the coast of the Perth metro and WA regional centres as part of a three-year trial program.

FADs have been used across Australia and off the coasts of places such as Costa Rica and Hawaii to great effect to enhance sport-fishing opportunities for spectacular-fighting pelagic species such as mahi-mahi (dolphin fish), tuna, billfish and mackerel.

Funded by recfishing licence fees through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, we have developed the trial program working closely with local fishing clubs and have coordinated the production and physical deployment of the FADs.

This is exactly how we believe RFIF funds should be spent – as seed money to test ground-breaking projects such as this, that create great fishing opportunities for which there is high demand and support within the recfishing community.

For those who might not be familiar with the concept, FADs are essentially large floats anchored to the seafloor in open water, where they aggregate schools of baitfish, which in turn draw sizeable aggregations of pelagic species.

This creates spectacular sport-fishing opportunities for boat fishers – to get a flavor of just how good the fishing can be – check out this sensational footage filmed by Luke Ryan of TackleWest on the existing metro FADs.

If you’ve got a medium-size or larger boat (or even a tinnie if you’re in Broome!) sensational fishing like this could be accessible to you in the locations below.

*Once the FADs for each location are deployed, the exact GPS coordinates will be updated on our website.

UPDATE June 2020

All Metro, Albany and Cape Naturaliste FADs have now been brought back in for the winter and will be redeployed in late November 2020. Exmouth and Broome FADs will remain in place.

Perth

Expected time of re-deployment: Currently pulled in for winter, expected to be re-deployed in late November 2020.

Number of FAD’s/strategy: Two additional FADs going in West of Rottnest in addition to existing Perth Game Fishing Club FADs as well as four FADs for to be deployed further north, which can be accessed by boats launching out of northern metro ramps.

Perth FAD Coords with map

Albany

Expected time of re-deployment: Currently pulled in for winter, expected to be re-deployed in late November 2020
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing four FADs in the more temperate waters off Albany, they could potentially draw species like yellowtail kingfish. First time recreational fishing FADS have ever been deployed off Albany.

Albany FAD Coords with maps

Cape Naturaliste

Expected time of re-deployment: Currently pulled in for winter, expected to be re-deployed in late November 2020
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing four FADs for the first time off the cape in an area where the Leeuwen current flows – we’re expecting to see good aggregations of mahi-mahi here.

Cape Naturaliste FAD Coords with map

Geraldton

Expected time of deployment: Late November 2020
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing three FADs West of the Abrolhos and one in closer to shore. Out-wide you can expect mahi-mahi, wahoo, tuna and marlin, while mahi-mahi and mackerel could be the go along the FAD that is closer to shore.

Geraldton FAD Coords with map

Exmouth

Expected time of deployment: Deployed March 2020 (GPS coordinates up to date)
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing four FADs west of Ningaloo Reef. We are expecting good numbers of mahi-mahi, along with the possibility of wahoo and various species of tuna and billfish. FAD 1 yet to be deployed.

Exmouth FAD Coords with map

Broome

Expected time of deployment: Deployed June 2020 (GPS coordinates up to date)
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Fishing for mackerel and big trevallies could be accessible to even small boat owners.

BROOME FAD Coords with maps

FADtastic fishing for the future

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.

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 industry sponsors.

So once they’re in, get out there and have a crack – we’re sure you’ll quickly become a FAD fanatic if you’re not already!

Check out what Recfishwest CEO Andrew Rowland had to say about the FAD rollout here:

 

FAD Coords all locations

Things to consider when fishing on FADs

Reborn in Roebuck – A Salmon Tale

Imagine a fishery full of thumping trophy sportfish on your town’s doorstep and within easy reach of the boat ramp.

Imagine what that would look like – well imagine no further – sit back and enjoy this awesome film we commissioned film-maker and fishing fanatic, Craig Wells, to make about fishing in Roebuck Bay, near Broome. The film premiered recently as a finalist in the town’s Mud and Saltwater Short Film Festival.

Watch ‘Reborn in Roebuck – a Salmon Tale’ here

The fishing’s better when the fish are biting, and Roebuck Bay is a testament to what can be achieved through managing fish stocks to be healthy and abundant.

While previous management arrangements were biologically sustainable, they did not allow stocks to grow to a size that supports such extraordinary fishing experiences for the community.

Read more about how Roebuck Bay was reborn as a fishery here 

In a nutshell, recreational fishing enjoyment is maximised when fishery management delivers a high abundance of fish in places readily accessible for rec fishers.

The results speak for themselves in the film, we’re sure you’ll agree. Could something similar happen in your local fishery? Just imagine….

Many thanks to all of those involved in the making of this film.

Jake Craigie with a huge threadfin salmon he caught in Roebuck Bay

 

Roebuck Bay Marine Park a Win for Fishing

Recfishwest welcomes the final management plan for the Roebuck Bay Marine Park, which has retained unrestricted recreational fishing access. The plan was announced by Premier Colin Barnett and we believe it strikes the perfect balance between recreation and conservation, illustrating that recreational fishing is compatible with conservation goals.

It provides increased protection for the conservation values of Roebuck Bay while maintaining recreational fishing access to this vitally important area. This further builds on the massive advances in conservation made by the removal of commercial netting a couple of years ago, which has provided a massive boost to Barramundi and Threadfin Salmon fishing in the Bay.
Although there has been some opposition to the plan from those who wanted sanctuary zones and fishing lockout restrictions, we believe it compliments current fisheries management and has struck October a good balance between restoring, protecting and managing natural values of Roebuck Bay while allowing recreational use for all stakeholders.

It is important to note that the local community, including the traditional owners, have been extensively involved during the consultation process which led to the final management plan. Recfishwest believes the plan celebrates fishing as an extremely important and highly valued recreational and cultural activity within Roebuck Bay.

The Broome Fishing Club has welcomed the news with former club president Derek ‘Jig’ Albert saying the management arrangements to ensure great fishing and protection of the environment were currently working in Broome and the community hadn’t experienced this quality of fishing in decades. He pointed to a marked rise in key fish stocks, such as Barramundi and Threadfin Salmon, as proof current management was working.

The management plan also provides comprehensive protection for marine mammals which are already protected under the state Wildlife Conservation Act and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Yawuru people will play a significant role in the joint management of this park and Recfishwest looks forward to working with both Parks and Wildlife and the Yawuru PBC in promoting stewardship of the Roebuck Bay environment.
Our commitment is to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community.

Soon Kununurra will be able to provide both great impoundment and wild river fishing opportunities for visitors to the town, a unique combination sure to appeal to many anglers.
(Photos of competition courtesy of ABC Kimberley)

Roebuck Bay Marine Park: Where Conservation and Recreation Join Forces

Roebuck Bay Marine Park: Where Conservation and Recreation Join Forces
Recfishwest welcomes today’s release of the final management plan for Yawuru Nagulagun/Roebuck Bay Marine Park by the Premier, Hon Colin Barnett. This plan provides increased protection for the conservation values of Roebuck Bay while maintaining recreational fishing access to this vitally important area on the door step of Broome.

Recfishwest supports measures that sustain and protect healthy oceans and quality fishing experiences. The management plan announced today provides a win for both conservation and the community and demonstrates recreational fishing is compatible with marine conservation objectives.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said the plan celebrates fishing as an extremely important and highly valued recreational and cultural activity within Roebuck Bay.

“The management plan compliments current fisheries management and has struck a good balance between restoring, protecting and managing natural values of Roebuck Bay while allowing recreational use for all stakeholders”, said Dr Rowland.

“Current fisheries management in Roebuck Bay has resulted in fishing experiences being the best in living memory and has gone from strength to strength in the bay since the removal of commercial netting in late 2013.”

Former Broome Fishing Club President Jig Albert said management arrangements that ensure great fishing and protection of the environment are currently working in Broome and the community haven’t experienced this quality of fishing in decades.

“We’ve seen a marked rise in key fish stocks, namely Barramundi and Threadfin Salmon, so the proof is in the pudding in terms of current management working,” Mr Albert said.

The management plan also provides comprehensive protection for marine mammals which are already protected under the state Wildlife Conservation Act and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The new management plan is also important in fulfilling the cultural aspirations of the Yawuru people who will play a significant role in the joint management of this park. Recfishwest supports the Management Plan and look forward to working with both Parks and Wildlife and the Yawuru PBC in promoting stewardship of the Roebuck Bay environment.

Our commitment is to protect, promote and develop sustainable, accessible, enjoyable and safe fishing for the benefit of the community.

ENDS________________________________________
MEDIA CONTACT: Tim Grose, 9246 3366 or tim@recfishwest.org.au

Sanctuary Zone Not Needed In Roebuck Bay

‘When the community’s  ability to access sustainable fisheries is jeopardised, we will do everything we can to ensure decisions are made with adequate science and social considerations’

The fishing in Roebuck Bay hasn’t always been as good as it is now, in fact some say it’s the best ever.

A continued push to introduce a sanctuary zone in Roebuck Bay bemused local fishers from the Broome Fishing Club as there is no evidence to support ‘no fishing areas’.

In 2013 the Government decision to purchase all of Roebuck Bay’s commercial netting licences under the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy is now paying dividends and the fishing experiences are now being shared by the whole community. The government’s decision was a win for fishing in Broome and the environment of local waters.

Recfishwest’s Regional Policy Officer Matt Gillett travelled to Broome for the Broome Billfish Classic and spoke with the members and club committee on a range of issues. One of the fishing community’s key concerns is the continued push from local environmental groups for a sanctuary zone in Roebuck Bay.

‘’Hearing the concerns rings very true with Recfishwest, and as a fisher myself I have seen firsthand the quality of fishing in this area over the last few years change as the fish are returning to Roebuck Bay in big numbers’’ Matt Gillett said

‘’When the community’s ability to access sustainable fishing opportunities is jeopardised, we will do everything we can to ensure decisions are made with adequate science and social considerations. In this instance, we are confident that the fishing in Roebuck Bay is sustainable and implementing a sanctuary zone is simply not needed’’ Matt said.

Not only is the fishing fantastic, we’ve already seen important conservation activities in the Kimberley, namely the stocking of tens of thousands of Barramundi, fish tagging programs and genetic research demonstrating recreational fishers are stepping up and taking the lead to ensure healthy fish stocks.

Broome Fishing Club President Jig Albert said management arrangements that ensure great fishing and protection of the environment are currently working in Broome and the community hasn’t experienced this quality of fishing in decades.

“The numbers of fish are astronomical” Broome Fishing Club President Jig Albert.

This demonstrates fishers have a vested interest in conservation and community values that allow everyone to enjoy Roebuck Bay.

Broome’s first-ever women’s fishing workshop a major success

 

The Broome Fishing Club’s first-ever women’s fishing workshop was held last month and was a great success.

As part of its recent push to get more women into fishing the club hosted 67 lady anglers, who have all been very complimentary about the afternoon.

To make it even better, many of them took advantage of good weather on the following day to get out and try their newly-learned skills, with great results which led to a number of selfies on social media.

The workshop itself was broken into three sections, with the Department of Fisheries giving a talk on fish identification and bag limits.

The ladies were then broken into seven groups for knot tying demonstrations, with an instructor for each group.

The workshop concluded with a talk on the all-important topic of safety.  Family members then joined ladies for a meal of Mexican to round out a fun day.  Rounding out the community feel of the event, the local Men’s Shed also helped with the day, providing bus transport to the Broome Fishing Club from town.

If you are a keen female fisho and want to get involved and keep updated on what the group is doing, join the Broome Girls Gone Fishing Facebook page.