Exploring fishing opportunities in helping control the spread of redclaw in WA’s north

Redclaw might look and taste similar to their delicious southern freshwater cousins, but unlike marron they are not native to Western Australia and are classified as a pest species.  

Not only are they invasive, but they are also exceptionally adaptable to tough environments with the ability to survive out of the water for up to 48 hours. It means they can move freely and modify river environments including physical habitats, food-web structures and water quality, while displacing native species through predation and competition.  

It is why Recfishwest is targeting increased recreational fishing opportunities for redclaw to manage and monitor the spread of this crayfish, providing recfishers with better education on the species and improved measures on catching them, so they can do their part to help the environment with the added incentive of taking home a delicious feed!

Redclaw crayfish can survive out of the water for 48 hours, moving freely and taking over fresh waterways with a broad diet that limits the resources for native WA species.

“Recfishwest believes a more coordinated approach is needed in WA to help stem the distribution and impact of redclaw. The two key components of a new approach are better community education and allowing more fishers to target redclaw while reducing the chances of by-catch of other native species,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. 

“We are making the case to DPIRD to legalise effective, wildlife-friendly fishing gear for redclaw for more northern regions of WA which which avoids the entrapment of fish, turtles or other native animals throughout the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley regions.” 

“This would be a win-win scenario as recreational fishers can target a delicious species while directly reducing the ecological impacts of redclaw through these northern freshwater ecosystems.”   

Recfishwest will continue to keep the recreational fishing community updated of any changes in regulations for redclaw crayfish fishing throughout our Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley regions. If you catch redclaw, send pictures to DPIRD and make note of when and where you caught it, including GPS coordinates if possible.  

Please dispatch all the redclaw you catch and do not return any to the water or move them around to other locations. If you catch redclaw, the FishWatch number to report them is 1800 815 507, or people can email aquatic.biosecurity@dpird.wa.gov.au. 

 

Click here for a rundown on the current legal practices for catching redclaw crayfish in WA. 

Recfishwest is pushing for an increase in fishing opportunities for redclaw while reducing by-catch to limit their impact on the environment and providing recreational fishers with a five-star quality feed.

Redclaw fact file

Growing up to 25 centimetres in length with a mottled blue-green colouration, they are tolerant of a wide variety of habitats, from fast flowing rivers to still billabongs. The females are also able to spawn up to 1,000 eggs multiple times per year, meaning the population can multiply rapidly and become self-sustaining.  

They eat a wide variety of prey including small aquatic invertebrates, molluscs and aquatic plants. This diverse diet means native north-western aquatic animals such as fish and turtles are competing with redclaw for food.  

As a result, it is recommended redclaw crayfish are not to be released if caught. 

They are widely considered a freshwater delicacy with the texture and flavour of their flesh compared favourably with other marine crustaceans, with their sweet-flavoured meat containing low levels of fat, cholesterol, and salt.

Over the past two decades, redclaw crayfish have rapidly spread west from their natural habitat of north-east Queensland and the Northern Territory. They are now distributed throughout a number of sites in the Pilbara region, including the Karijini and Millstream National Parks, the Fortescue River, Newman and Lake Kununurra. They have also been detected in the Harding Dam near Karratha.  

Redclaw are rapidly moving across Western Australia, with catches reported as far west as Karratha and as far south as Newman. To see the current WA distribution and catch regulations for redclaw, visit the DPIRD website.

 

Metro abalone season dates announced

The four dates of the upcoming West Coast abalone season have been announced, so get ready to get geared up for abs!  

Over the upcoming summer season, recreational abalone fishing will take place over one-hour sessions on four Saturday mornings between December and February.  

The more than 17,000 licensed abalone fishers will be able to fish between 7am-8am on: 

  • Saturday 10 December 2022 
  • Saturday 14 January 2023 
  • Saturday 4 February 2023 
  • Saturday 18 February 2023 

Enjoy safe abalone fishing by being across safe gear and abalone fishing practices. 

Click here for great abalone fishing and safety tips from SLSWA 

Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) volunteers are on standby each year to provide condition forecasts for the abalone season and keep fishers safe.

 

Abalone fishers either dive or scan shallow reefs on foot searching for them. Rough conditions and wearing the wrong gear (pictured right) often not mixing well.

Assessing the risks to keep fishers safe

Investing in the right gear for abalone fishing is not only safer, but it also increases your odds of catching them while keeping your caught abalone fresh.

 

Make sure you keep an eye on the forecasts and check RLSWA’s tips for abalone fishing to ensure you come home safe with a full bag!

Images: Perth Fishing Safaris

Inaugural Pemberton Trout festival makes big stocking splash with locals

With stunning weather and a spectacular forest backdrop, the inaugural edition of the Pemberton Trout Festival proved to be a great hit with the sizeable crowd that turned out for this new fish stocking event. 

Around 400 people made the picturesque journey to Big Brook Dam, just outside of Pemberton, to line up and hand-release hundreds of rainbow and brown trout into the crystal-clear waters of this fantastic South-West freshwater fishery.  

To top it off, every trout making a splash was at least yearling size, with dozens of parents and kids able to experience the thrill of holding the larger ex-broodstock specimens, some over 50cm in length, before gently caressing them into the water and watching them kick away to freedom.  

With a greater number of the larger fish being released, it means a higher survival rate and a better workout for anglers and their rods when these bigger trout grab lures, flies and baits.  

The stocking event proudly celebrated 50 years of Fisheries Department (DPIRD) management of the Pemberton Hatchery, which underpins WA’s ever popular South-West trout fishery.  

Along with Recfishwest, this new event was initiated and supported by local fishing clubs including the Australian Trout Foundation (ATF), Southern Forests Freshwater Angling Club (SFFAC) and Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association (WATFAA).  

The festival would also not have been possible without the tremendous support from DPIRD, the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre, Daiwa, Healthway, Pemberton Visitor Centre, Shire of Manjimup and the Australian Trout Foundation Inc.  

There were plenty of larger ex-broodstock trout up for grabs for attendees to help hand-release at the festival! Here’s Recfishwest Communications Coordinator Jarrad Lawford helping a young tacker release a beautiful brown.

“It was a great sight to see dozens of families and kids getting hands on in releasing these fantastic fish. There couldn’t have been a more fitting way to celebrate the history of the hatchery and the fishery here in Pemberton – the ‘spiritual home’ of WA freshwater fishing,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“The Pemberton-based trout hatchery run by DPIRD supports a fantastic program that brings thousands of anglers to chase these fish through South-West freshwater dams, rivers and streams. These anglers in turn inject more than $20 million annually into the regional economy and we believe there is huge potential to grow the fishery even further along with the social and economic benefits it brings to the region.”  

Every year, trout are released into various popular freshwater fishing dams and rivers such as Drakesbrook Weir, Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam, the Collie River and the Brunswick. 

With such a big turn-out for the successful event, it is hoped more fish stocking events like this can be run in the area in the future – watch this space! 

Recfishwest will continue to work closely with Government in creating more places for people to fish for freshwater species in safe, accessible and family-oriented fishing locations.  

Recfishwest’s Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group will continue to provide advice to DPIRD on where to distribute each year’s trout stocks bred at the hatchery.  

A big Recfishwest thanks to all our supporters who made this event possible, along with all attendees young and old who took part and helped release the fish quickly and in good condition.  

A unique experience in a picturesque place, hopefully the Pemberton Trout Festival will become an annual event!

Fisheries Minister fixes DPIRD’s Harvey Dam marron stocking blocking with 100,000 juveniles to be released

After a long three-year stocking hiatus, Harvey Dam is finally set to see 100,000 marron make a splash into its waterways in 2023. 

The announcement by the Fisheries Minister Don Punch fixes a decision by DPIRD to prevent marron being stocked into Harvey Dam as part of a stocking program funded by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and launched by the Premier Mark McGowan at the dam in 2019.  

Read the full media release from the Fisheries Minister here.  

Harvey Dam is the most popular recreational marroning location in our South West and provides an ideal habitat for marron spawning and growth.

Over the last few years, the team from Aquafarms, supported by Recfishwest, helped release 300,000 marron into the popular Waroona and Logue Brook dams.  

Large numbers of marron were also supposed to be released into Harvey Dam last year as part of this project, but one month before stocking DPIRD advised Recfishwest that, approval to stock Harvey Dam would not be provided.  

DPIRD’s rationale for refusing permission to stock Harvey Dam was largely based on two-decade old research. However, this rationale did not extend to Logue Brook or Waroona Dams, leaving local marron fishers confused and disappointed that the premier marroning location of a recreational-only fishery was missing out, despite assurances it would be a focus of the stocking project.  

Recfishwest raised our concerns directly with the Fisheries Minister and is pleased that he cut through the red tape put in place by DPIRD to ensure marron would be stocked in WA’s premier marooning location as intended.

This photo, taken in December 2019, was the last time marron were stocked into Harvey Dam, shortly after Premier Mark McGowan announced the RFIF-funded marron stocking program.

A sensible outcome  

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “We thank the Minister for listening to Recfishwest and overcoming needless Government bureaucracy to right this wrong – it’s a sensible resolution that ensures a good outcome for the community.  

“By working with the Minister and DPIRD, we hope to achieve a similar sensible resolution for the west coast demersal fishery and avoid the extensive social and economic damage the Government’s initial proposal for a nine-month ban would cause. 

“Marron is an icon of the South-West and marroning is a hugely popular pastime, with Harvey Dam the most popular marroning location.  

“The marron season brings in thousands of freshwater fishers from around the state to the pristine South-West waterways, helping inject millions of dollars back into our regional tourism economies.  

“Stocking initiatives like this can future-proof the marron fishery and take us closer to our vision of year-round marroning.” 

Breeding from the marron captured at Harvey Dam has already begun, with restocking expected to start as early as June next year.

Check out our marron fishing tips on our ilovefishing website

Marroning in Harvey Dam is hugely popular, especially when larger catches like these are made possible thanks to the dam’s ideal conditions.

Herring bag limit increasing from 12 to 20 in October

In a great outcome for WA anglers, Fisheries Minister Don Punch recently announced the herring bag limit is to be increased from 12 to 20 from 1 October.

One of the most easily accessible fish to catch off WA, herring are the most important fish species off our coast.

This is in line with advice provided by Recfishwest to the Minister in April calling for the increase.

The advice was based on DPIRD’s scientific assessment that showed herring have made a strong enough recovery to allow for an increase in the bag limit without slowing down the continued growth of the herring stock.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “We’re really pleased to see the Fisheries Minister has listened to fishers’ views and responded to the strong herring stock recovery with this positive outcome.

“Herring brings pleasure to a wide range of anglers including mums, dads and kids, with a wide range of fishing ability. It truly is the ‘people’s fish’ and we will continue to make sure there will be plenty of them around for people to enjoy forever.”

Thanks to more than 4,000 of you who responded to our survey, we were able to gauge community views on what the revised bag limit should be in light of the strong recovery of the stock.

It was great to see how many people care about the future of this hugely valued species.

As our survey results showed, a majority of 32 per cent of you who responded called for an increase in the bag limit to 20, while 27 per cent favoured the bag limit staying at 12. Only 11 per cent called for a return to the former bag limit of 30.

See a full summary of our recent herring bag limit survey here.

This response from the public built the foundations of this recent decision and it is a great result in prioritising herring for recreational enjoyment and human consumption.

Future management decisions on herring will be guided by future stock assessments, community sentiment and the outcomes of a herring working group.

See the media release from Fisheries Minister Don Punch here.

Fishing Services Remain Despite Amalgamation

As of July 1, 2017, the Western Australian Department of Fisheries’ time as a stand-alone agency came to an end, after its amalgamation with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Regional Development into what will now be known as the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). This change came about as part of the Government’s amalgamation plan, cutting the number of Government agencies from 41 to 25.

Although this brings to an end the last remaining stand-alone fisheries department in Australia, Recfishwest has been assured by the Minister that recreational fishers will see no loss of service for the pastime we all love.

As part of their election commitments to recreational fishing, the Government committed to continuing the funding of the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, which has provided benefits such as Artificial Reefs , FADs, stocking of species such as Mulloway, Barramundi and School Prawns as well as providing vital research into key recreational fishing species so as to better inform ongoing management measures.

The Government has also reassured its commitment to funding Recfishwest, to ensure that fishers have a strong connection to decision makers. Recreational fishing is an important part of our lifestyle and culture, and reports from throughout the state indicate that the quality of fishing experiences available is world class. Fishing provides well-documented health and wellbeing benefits as well as driving tourism in which boosts regional economies.

We are pleased to see the Government’s continued commitment to fishing in this great state.

Recfishwest looks forward to working with DPIRD to ensure that West Aussies continue to have safe, sustainable, accessible and enjoyable fishing experiences and will continue to work to ensure that all current services to recreational fishing will remain.