State-wide FADs trial program six months on – measuring success and the lessons learned

When Recfishwest launched the State-wide 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 – six new FADs, in addition to PGFC’s six 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 – four 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 – four 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 – three 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 breakaways 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? 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 shore.

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 State-wide FADs program as a permanent part of the WA fishing landscape.

Community comes to the rescue of storm-battered FADs

We’ve had a fantastic response from both Esperance Volunteer Marine Rescue Team and Perth Game Fishing Club member Dylan Picken, who came to the rescue for three FADs that were smashed adrift from their moorings during last week’s storm.

With great weather over the last few weeks, we have been happy to receive positive reports of plenty of fish being caught off the Recfshwest FADs around the State, which were deployed as part of a three-year trial program in November last year.

Esperance Volunteer Marine Rescue Team bringing one of the stray Albany FADs home.

Unfortunately, the storms that impacted the south-west coastline recently wrenched a number of FADs breaking free of their moorings. Three of the four FADs deployed off Cape Naturaliste broke free of their moorings and currently only Number 4 remains anchored in place. A couple of other FADs deployed as part of the trial were also lost off the Albany coastline prior to the storm. However, the fantastic team from Esperance Volunteer Marine Rescue stepped in to retrieve both drifting FADs, which had drifted some 260 nautical miles east of their moorings to the Recherche Archipelago thanks to a strong Leeuwin Current  – huge thanks to the marine rescue guys from us on behalf of the recfishing community for their efforts.

Also earning a big shout-out is Perth Game Fishing Club member, and red-hot keen recfisher, Dylan Picken, who spotted and retrieved one of the Cape Naturaliste FADs that came adrift following the storms that lashed the south-west coast last week. Dylan came across one of the FADs while fishing out from Dawesville Cut and was able to safely bring it back to shore for us. The FAD was around 50 nautical miles north east of its original position when retrieved by Dylan.

Thanks to both Dylan and the Esperance crew’s efforts we will now be able to look at redeploying them next summer. With winter fast setting in, these recovered FADs will not be re-deployed immediately and the remaining ones including those off the Perth metropolitan coast will be retrieved until they are put back out in November for the second year of the trial.

We are already learning a great deal how to evolve the FADs program during this initial three-year trial and will look to improve how the devices are rigged and anchored going forward. We’ve deployed different types of FADs in different locations to assess their suitability with all the devices having satellite trackers placed inside them, so we are able to track them if they come adrift. This also means when conditions are suitable and, if in range, the FADs can be retrieved so we can learn more about why they came loose in the first place. We will continue to refine locations and the design of these FADs to improve their ability to aggregate fish, but to also improve their robustness.

If you have been fishing the FADs, make sure to send us in your pictures. We currently have a FADs photo comp still running and by sending us in a high quality pic of fish caught at the FADs you can be in for the running to win Shimano Stella 5000. Click here to find out more.

Brian Norton got stuck into this dolphinfish at the Recfishwest metro FADS

Expect Exmouth FADs to fire fast!

Some positive news for fishers in or heading to Exmouth – we were delighted to deploy three new FADs off Exmouth as part of our ongoing three-year trial Statewide FADs program launched in November.

Despite all the challenges of the current time, we continue on our mission of making the fishing experience even better in WA and were able to deploy the devices in time for the start of the Gamex tournament last week.

Nat Hutley with one of the first dolphinfish caught of the Exmouth FADs!

Three FADs went in west and north-west of Tantabiddi on Saturday and given how highly productive these tropical waters are, we have not been surprised to already hear of dolphinfish and tuna to be turning up on them within days of deployment.

CLICK HERE FOR THE EXMOUTH FADS COORDINATES

Exmouth FAD deployment underway

Consulting with the community

As with all the FADs in the statewide program, the locations of the Exmouth FADs was determined in close consultation with local community fishing experts and we hope they create some great new fishing opportunities for local and visiting fishers soon.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE FADS TRIAL HERE

The FADs trial is getting really exciting now as we begin to move into relatively unchartered waters in the FADs space, if you’ll forgive the pun.

This is what makes the three-year trial such a compelling program – with dolphinfish and tuna already being found on the Exmouth FADs, potentially you can find yourself out there hooking up to a plethora of awesome sportfish such as wahoo, as well as billfish of all kinds.

On the other hand, it maybe that some of the FADs we are deploying around the State might not fire up as we’d anticipated – this is the nature of the trial.

Trials and tribulations of running the FADs program

Clay Lewis with a beautiful dolphinfish caught on the metro FADs

We’ve already had a couple of FADs in Albany and the metro get battered off their moorings by high swell conditions and we’ve replaced one and looking at replacing the others as soon as possible.

We’re also looking at ways we can strengthen the FADs moorings for future deployments.

It’s all part of the trial which has pre-determined objectives against which we are monitoring the trial’s success.

It’s a responsibility we take very seriously as part of our mission to create great fishing experiences for the WA community and to ensure that your licence fees are effectively reinvested to make fishing better.

With Broome and Geraldton FADs to come, we are confident that the trial is going to provide even more exciting fishing opportunities – as well as provide an opportunity for us to learn how to best establish a permanent statewide FADs program into the future.

You can help us throughout this trial over the next couple of years by telling us about your experiences of fishing the FADs and sending us your FADs fishing pics. So, drop us a line and enter our FADs fishing photo comp for the chance to win a Shimano Stella SW500XG – click here for more details.