It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and appetite for trout fishing this weekend down at Drakesbrook Weir, Waroona, for our annual Troutfest event.
Fisheries Minister 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.
Trout fishing in the South West’s freshwater fisheries is a great way to catch beautiful fish in some truly scenic settings and isn’t that hard to do. In this article, Recfishwest staff member and self-confessed ‘trout tragic’, Nick Drummond, takes a look at some of the basics you need to know to give this fun form of fishing a go, as we gear up for our annual Troutfest event on Saturday, August 31.
Have you experienced the spectacular freshwater angling the South West has to offer?
If not, you’re missing out! From chasing radiant rainbow trout in serene Karri-tree lined dams, to casting lures or flys at cunning brown trout in streams, brooks and rivers where the bubbling water tumbles down the bends and stones, to trawling a wriggling lure behind your ‘yak at dawn on a still glassy lake waiting for that electric hit on your rod – trout fishing in WA’s South West has something to offer anglers of all ages and experience.
We have a fantastic trout fishery in Western Australia, supported by a comprehensive trout stocking program, with which Recfishwest is closely involved in, ensuring there is a good distribution of these fabulous-looking sportfish in waters throughout the South West. So, if you haven’t had a crack at trout fishing in WA – why not give it a go?
What gear do I need?
If you’re a little daunted by starting out in an unfamiliar fishery, don’t be. Yes, there are a few considerations to figure out such as where exactly to go, how to fish the area, bite times, lures selection etc and some might be thinking, ‘Don’t I need one of those super special fancy fly rods to catch a trout?’ – no, you definitely don’t. And if you keep it simple when you start out by using a light spin set-up, you won’t go far wrong and this gear can easily be as effective and often more effective then fly rods. The outfit only needs to be light; something you would use for herring, skippy, bream or whiting would be perfect. Using a lighter breaking strain line helps to cast further, especially when you can cast small shallow diving minnows, soft plastics and spinners that don’t have much weight to them.
Where do I fish?
There’s a host of majestic waters to explore in the South West – which is a great part of the attraction of trout fishing – wide-open dams, babbling brooks and rolling rivers – all have their own attraction and different ways you can approach them from a fishing perspective. Dams are significantly more accessible to novice anglers, closer to Perth, and a great place to start when getting into freshwater fishing. Streams, brooks and rivers usually involve much more hiking, 4WD-driving and exploring in order to find fishable locations.
Fishing in dams
There is some damn good fishing to be had in the dams! There are many impoundments that hold good fish, with stand-outs being Waroona, Drakesbrook, Harvey, Logue Brook, Glen Mervyn and Big Brook – all great locations that are stocked annually and hold great fish. Late winter/early spring is generally the best time to be on the hunt in dams, when the water is cooler after winter rains have flown in through their tributaries. Dams can still produce fish all year round, but you just have to work harder for them and find the cooler water where the trout retreat to during the warmer months. Remember when trout fishing, it’s paramount that you fish the early mornings or late afternoon, as this is when the trout are fired up and, on the bite – particularly in impoundments. Yep, this means you will have to brave those ’fresh’ mornings when you can see your breath and feel the chill of the air on the tip of your nose, but this is when you will have the best chance – and it’s amazing how soon you warm up when hooked up to a lively rainbow trout or if you’re really lucky a big brawny brown!
Fishing in streams
The majority of streams and brooks flow through some of the beautiful bush that WA’s South West has to offer. They twist their way through the valleys of karri trees and provide fishers with a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature while chasing a trout. Stream locations are mainly around Pemberton, including the Lefroy Brook, Warren and Donnelly river. Closer to the Metro area is the Collie Gorge below the Wellington Dam and the Murray River (Lane Pool area) can also produce good fish. When stream fishing you will often do quite a bit of hiking and cover a lot of ground searching for pools and areas moving on to the next area after a few casts in each of them. Fishing these waterways using a kayak is a really fun way to catch fish and gives you access to spots that you can’t reach from the bank.
What about the stocking program?
Stocking trout helps to sustain the populations found in our waterways. Though the trout colour up ready for the breeding season, doing their best to push up the streams and brooks in late winter, their spawning is very rarely successful.
To ensure an abundance of trout are on offer for fishers, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development along with the Pemberton Trout Hatchery stocks over 650,000 trout each year! Last year, a trial stocking of 3,500 advanced yearlings into a number of locations into South West waterways was a huge success in the eyes of many freshwater anglers. This year there are 6,500 advanced yearlings being stocked, up by 3,000 fish on last year! These advanced yearlings are larger than the usual yearlings as they’re raised with more space and food to get them to a larger size of around 30cm before release. The increased size gives the advanced yearlings significantly better chances of survival in the South West waterways avoiding being eaten by redfin, birds and larger trout. At 30cm, when caught, they also make for great fishing snaps to show off to your family and friends and on your social media.
There are some other bits and pieces that can make your trout fishing easier and more effective, but they’re not necessary when starting out. Waders are one of these freshwater fishing tools that you don’t need, but can help you in certain situations. They’re a great way to keep warm and dry when exploring the South West, and help you to reach locations people that want to keep their feet dry cannot. Polarised glasses help in nearly all fishing situations and help you to better spot fish and structure beneath the water’s surface. Spotting fish in this way is something I’ve done in the clear waters of dams on a few occasions, though getting them to hit your lure is a different matter!
A small landing net can be incredibly handy when you’re in the final moments of the fight and trying to subdue the slippery trout! Don’t forget your freshwater angling licence, required when fishing any freshwater body, above tidal influence. There is a licence- free weekend for freshwater fishing on the September 31 and August 1, the same weekend as the Recfishwest’s Troutfest event at Drakesbrook dam. This may be a good opportunity to try freshwater fishing for free and explore the beautiful surrounding in WA’s South West.