Better management of toxic algal blooms in Swan-Canning river systems needed

For Perth’s legions of crabbing enthusiasts, it is small consolation the Department of Health (DoH) has finally lifted their health advice around consuming fish, crabs and other shellfish from large parts of the Swan-Canning system almost two months since the toxic algae Alexandrium has been detected at levels that warrant a health alert.

For the last six months, many Perth fishers have effectively been hit with a fishing closure in large parts of the middle and lower Swan and Canning rivers due to high levels of the algae.

Starting in mid-December the DoH issued a series of alerts warning people not to eat fish, crabs and shellfish from large sections of first the Swan and then later the Canning as “ingestion of toxins produced by the microscopic algae Alexandrium could produce a type of poisoning known as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).”

Simply locking recfishers out of the fishery for months at a time isn’t a good enough management strategy.

While there are still a few crabs around, the prime months for targeting the Swan’s famously big blue swimmer crabs are unfortunately well and truly behind us. This is the second successive year elevated levels of Alexandrium have substantially disrupted summer crabbing activities in what is the metro’s favourite fishing playground – the “jewel in the city’s fishing crown” as WA angling journalist Scott Coghlan recently described it.

In both years, the strategy to manage these algal blooms can be summed up as “monitor algae levels and wait for late autumn rain to come to flush the algae out of the system.” While Recfishwest welcomes all the sampling that has occurred over the last six months, there is a pressing need for management to do more than simply wait for winter rain. Any resource management plan worth its salt must address the needs of its stakeholders – the river is something we should all be able to enjoy and it is simply not good enough that the recfishing community is not able to access a large section of the river during the peak fishing season.

A more proactive approach required

Recfishwest  wants to see a much more proactive approach to the management of the Swan-Canning system with a framework that doesn’t lock us out of the fishery for months at a time – particularly if these blooms are going to become more frequent thanks to environmental change and predicted lower river flows. An open review of the way the sampling results inform the issuing and removal of health warnings needs to take place and a much more defined and transparent set of management actions linked to agreed trigger points for algae levels needs to be developed.

Reopening Cockburn Sound to recreational crabbing

If large parts of the Swan and the Canning River become off limits for crabbing for significant periods of the year, fishers are going to need somewhere they can go and re-opening Cockburn Sound is an obvious option that should be progressed as a matter of priority. We have been told the process to buy-back commercial crab fishing licences in Cockburn Sound following management changes announced in November, is progressing, however, the impact Alexandrium is having on Swan River crabbers provides a compelling reason to fast-track this process.

Blue swimmer crabs are the number one species targeted by recfishers and the Swan-Canning system is one of the State’s most important rec fisheries. Giving recfishers access to crabbing in the Sound again would go some way to offset the loss of access to the Swan and Canning as a result of Alexandrium and would demonstrate a much better management approach than simply praying for rain.

Catching blue swimmer crabs like these provides our kids with a genuine sense of connection to the outstanding natural environment the Swan-Canning supports on their doorstep.
Black bream are just one of the many species recfishers flock to the Swan and Canning rivers to target.

 

FADs in focus: Statewide trial program update

Following the launch of our trial FADs network back in November last year, we are getting excited to be in a position to deploy four new FADs off Exmouth opening up more fantastic fishing opportunities for local and visiting boat fishers.

We were very close to rolling this latest round of FADs in our Statewide network – but with cyclonic conditions forecast in the north of the State, we took the decision to hang fire until the weather conditions settled.

But everything is in place and once the conditions are favourable, deployment will go ahead with the new FADs catering for those who intend to target a range of highly-sought after pelagic species.

While species such as dolphinfish and tuna are expected to be encountered around those FADs located closer to shore, those located further offshore are expected to attract bigger species such as wahoo, yellowfin tuna and marlin.

The Exmouth FADs deployment has been a long-time coming, with the community asking for them for a number of years and it’s another example of how recfishing licence fees can be used to create fantastic new sports fishing opportunities aggregating abundant schools of fast-growing, spectacular-fighting pelagic species.

Delivering on our FADs promise

We promised a trial State-wide FADs network and that’s exactly what we’re delivering- once they go in off Exmouth, we’ll have deployed FADs in four different locations in the southern half of the State (off the north metro, south west of Rotto, Cape Naturaliste and Albany) and Exmouth in the north, with Geraldton and Broome to follow soon.

We have also received positive reports from fishers in the south, with fish, mostly dolphinfish being caught off both the Albany and Cape Naturaliste FADs. The Perth metro FADs are also firing, with plenty of fishers getting amongst the action and landing some great dolphinfish and tuna.

Learning the lessons

This FAD program was always designed as a trial. We’ve deployed different types of FADs in different locations to assess their suitability. Unfortunately, this has meant some break-off’s. Currently, we have had two FADs break away from Albany, one of which has been replaced in a more suitable location, and one break away from south west of Rottnest, which has yet to be replaced.

Due to all our FADs having trackers placed inside them, we are able to track wayward FADs, and when conditions are suitable, we’re able to recover them with the assistance of Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan and some of our supporters in the region – thanks, guys – your efforts were greatly appreciated! 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. This enables them to be deployed for longer periods of time, even in particularly heavy seas, such as those experienced along the south coast.

Gero and Broome FADs coming soon

By the time you read this article, Recfishwest will be closer to deploying FADs off Geraldton and Broome. We plan on deploying one FAD closer inshore to Geraldton and the remaining three, west of the Abrolhos Islands, in the hope of attracting larger gamefish. The Broome FADs in particular are somewhat of an experiment, as we’re deploying them in shallow water, relatively close to shore making them easily accessible to fishers in all boat sizes including tinnies. This presents the tantalising prospect of opening up some great bait-holding potential to enhance fishing action for pelagic species within just a quick run-out from the shore.

Hit up the fab FADs photo comp

Want to be in the mix to win a Shimano Stella 4000 in our fabulous FADs photo comp?  We have made the entry conditions as easy as possible so more of you can enter and be in for the running for this top of the line reel, which is also perfect for taming any small to medium-sized pelagics you might encounter while fishing the FADs. This competition will be running till June 30 and includes all FADs deployed across Western Australia.

Clay Lewis with a nice metro FAD dollie and in the mix to win a Stella 5000!

So, here are some basic rules and what you need to send us to be in the running:

  • A high-quality picture of a fish caught at any of the FADs deployed across the State (see contact details below);
  • In your picture make sure the FAD is clearly visible in the background;
  • If the fish is bleeding heavily, wash away excess blood before taking the photo;
  • Fish must be caught during the competition time;
  • Unlimited entries per fisher;
  • Competition is open to both line and spear fishers;
  • By entering you waive any intellectual rights to the image and agree to us to use the image you sent for any of our promotional materials including all of our digital channels and for any content we provide for external publications

Email in your high-quality pictures to aaron@recfishwest.org.au

Now – it’s over to you – get out there, give the FADS a crack and let us know how you go – we’d love to hear from you and see some of your pics of prized catches on the new FADs.

The Great Southern Salmon Campout 2020

Fancy a crack at catching one the best land-based sportfish in the world? Would you like to learn some cool tips and tricks to improve your salmon fishing, including lure and bait fishing, beach casting tuition and how to prepare and fillet your fish?

This years 3rd annual Salmon Campout at Cheynes Beach Caravan Park is a must entry in your fishing calendar. It kicks off on Friday afternoon 27 March through to lunchtime on Sunday 29 March.

The Great Southern Salmon Campout is designed for education, appreciation and loads of fun with your friends and family!

The event only costs $80 per adult or $40 per child, has plenty of activities to keep you busy and your mind on fishing the whole weekend. Camping or cabin accommodation is available at Cheynes Beach Caravan Park. Please contact them directly to book accommodation.

The weekend will include the following:

  • Complimentary BBQ Dinner on the Friday Night – meet and greet
  • Registration pack including information and Recfishwest’s top Salmon lures
  • Demo and ‘How To’ workshops:
  • Lure casting for salmon – rigging and lure selection
  • Bait fishing for salmon – bait rigging and gear selection
  • 4×4 safety
  • Beach casting tuition
  • Fish filleting and preparation

 

You will have the opportunity to learn new skills from industry experts, fish from world class beaches and make memories that will last forever.

If this sounds like your kind of adventure, make sure you get in quick and register!

Click here to register!

Ticket sales end 22nd March 2019.

Good signs of recovery for west coast demersal scalefish but we’re not out of the woods yet

With this week marking the lifting of the west coast demersal closure, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) have released the latest stock assessment science.

We hope those of you who have already headed out to try and bag yourself a dhuie, pinkie or a baldie have managed to get amongst ‘em.

It’s been 10 years since wholesale rule changes were brought in to recover some of these species after all the research showed the stocks were in strife. Since those changes were implemented, recfishers have played our part – a big part – in sticking to the rules designed to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the catch from 2005/6 levels and recover these slow-growing species’ stocks within a 20-year timeframe.

Now we are at the recovery plan’s mid-way point, the Department have released a west coast demersal update based on their latest research.

READ DPIRD’S WEST COAST DEMERSAL RECOVERY RESEARCH SUMMARY HERE

Good stewardship pays off

It will come as no surprise to many of us who target bottom fish in the metro and the South West that there are some good signs with many more, smaller dhuies being seen in the last few years. This is certainly grounds for cautious optimism, showing that our good work and stewardship, sticking to bag and size limits, and the annual two-month closure, is paying off.

However, we’re not out of the woods yet with the research showing limited evidence of recovery for demersal scalefish stocks in the Mid-West and Kalbarri areas. In addition, there appears to be few older dhuies and pinkies in the Department’s samples from across the whole bioregion (Kalbarri down to Augusta).

This shows there is still away to go and, while the recovery is progressing well, we need to keep doing what we’re doing to ensure the recovery stays on track.

That means doing everything we can to ensure released fish go back healthily. Barotrauma can impact on these species significantly, with the research summary showing that ‘post-release mortality’ – fish dying after being released – is potentially having an impact on the recovery.

So, it’s imperative to handle the fish carefully and use release weights to give them the best chance of going back well, if returning them.

It also highlights why catch and release fishing for demersals is not OK and once you’ve hit your bag limit, it’s important to move on and target other species like pelagics and squid.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHY CATCH AND RELEASE FISHING FOR DEMERSALS IS NOT OK HERE

Taking stock

Clearly, the Department needs to keep gathering scientific evidence to monitor the recovery’s progress.  And this is also where we can all play a big part by donating some of our demersal frames to the Department’s Send Us Your Skeletons sampling program.

The more samples the scientists get – the clearer and more robust picture they can build of the stocks’ health. So do the right thing by the fish and help the Department collect more samples by donating some of your frames to science (you can keep the wings and the cheeks – they just need the heads and the guts intact).

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT’S SEND US YOUR SKELETONS PROGRAM

So, we hope you get to bag a demersal or two for Christmas – but let’s continue to work together to ensure the recovery continues to progress and that there will be plenty of these fantastic fish to go at for us and for future generations of West Aussie fishers.

Lancelin Angling and Aquatic Club’s boat safety day

Recfishwest always love an opportunity to connect with the fishing community, and on December 8 we were invited to be part of the Lancelin Angling and Aquatic Club’s first Boat ‘N’ Trailer Day at their Lancelin clubrooms.

The idea of the event was to bring fishers in with their boats and help them keep on top of their trailer, boat and engine maintenance ahead of the coming summer/autumn fishing season.

There was a circuit set up for all the boats and their trailers to be able to cycle through and have their boat inspected by professionals from Big Five Marine who knew what to look for. One lucky boater even had his wheel bearings repacked as part of a demonstration!

It was a great opportunity to have a yarn with all the local fishers who came through the event and it was great to hear they were all very happy with their local fishing opportunities, with many out the morning before pulling pots and bring home a great feed of crays.

The event was also attended by St John WA – Lancelin, the Volunteer Fire Brigade and the passionate Lancelin Volunteer Marine Rescue Western Australia team. This allowed fishers to meet the kind and energetic emergency service people that have their back if something ever goes wrong out on the water, or even on their way to and from the ramp.

We were also privileged to be shown around the VMR’s new premises after the event and it was inspiring to hear about all the businesses and companies that had rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help build their new shed and office. We chatted to the vollies about their recent rescue efforts and their beloved vessels they keep in premium condition between rescues. The event shows the Lancelin fishing community is in great shape. Their upcoming John Bray Classic on 27 December is another popular community event and has had over 140 children attend in previous years. It was heartening to see the community coming together to help keep everyone safe, maintain their gear and meet the enthusiastic crews that will be there if all else fails.

Check out the club’s website here to see all the upcoming events and competitions here – http://www.laac.org.au/

Blue swimmer crab changes and what they mean for you

The new management changes for blue swimmer crabs in Perth and the South West will result in more protection for the female crab breeding stock will ensure bigger, better crabs in the near future.

  • Permanent removal of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and from Mandurah to Bunbury through a voluntary buy-back scheme will ensure more protection for the female crab breeding stock and more crabs and bigger crabs to fish for.
  • The buy-back of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn Sound opens the real possibility for recreational crab fishing in the Sound.
  • Introduction of a three-month seasonal closure – September 1 to November 30 – in all waters from the Swan and Canning Rivers (inclusive) to 15km south of Bunbury.

See our map below to show you what the changes mean for you in your favourite crabbing locations.

Reeling in a Bright Future For Fishing Clubs

Fishing clubs have been a staple of our great pastime for many years, as they provide an opportunity for hands-on learning amongst a social setting full of like-minded individuals.

Fishing Clubs remain an integral part of their local communities and the landscape of the WA fishing scene.

The traditional model of a fishing club has lost some of its appeal to up-and-coming fishers. The days of sharing fishing stories at the monthly club meeting have been replaced with the instant gratification of sharing stories on social media.

Due to the change in the way many of us share our fishing knowledge, some clubs have struggled to adapt to changes and now find themselves unable to attract fresh faces or ideas to their organisations. Being innovative and making fishing club’s attractive to the next generation is a vital part of continuing to deliver the numerous benefits that clubs provide to the members and their local community.

Pictured above is Russell Hanley from the Australian Trout Foundation and Matthew Gillett from Recfishwest.

We’re pleased to report that there is a great number of fishing clubs in WA that are as strong as ever. These clubs have continued to innovate and provide members with opportunities to socialise and go fishing in a way that aligns with current social norms and values.

As a part of our commitment to improve fishing in Western Australia, recently Recfishwest ran our inaugural Fishing Clubs Conference, aimed at building and developing fishing clubs across WA. The two-day conference provided information on current fisheries management and research approaches in WA, along with an update on Recfishwest projects.

The conference had a focus on assisting clubs to improve their services and discussions on ways to improve shore, boat and freshwater fishing.

From left to right: John Curtis from Australian Anglers Association, Craig Wells from WellStrategic and Malcolm Cruickshank from WA Anglers attended the conference over the two days.

Representatives from a number of fishing clubs from both the metropolitan and regional areas attended the conference, eager to learn new approaches and also share their experience and expertise with other fishing clubs from around the state.

Recfishwest took many learnings away from the two days and from the feedback received, the clubs took plenty away from the presentations and subsequent discussions.

This is the first time Recfishwest has held a forum like this, and we plan to hold similar events in the coming years to further understand and assist with the issues faced by fishing clubs around the state.

Thanks to the following clubs for attending the conference:

  • Australian Anglers Association
  • Australian Trout Foundation
  • Broome North Fishing Club
  • Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club
  • Exmouth Game Fishing Club
  • King Bay Game Fishing Club
  • Lancelin Angling and Aquatic Club
  • Mangles Bay Fishing Club
  • Nickol Bay Sportfishing Club
  • Perth Game Fishing Club
  • WA Trout and Freshwater Fishing Association
  • WA Anglers
  • WA Undersea Club

Recfishwest will continue to work closely with clubs to ensure they remain an integral part of their local communities and the landscape of the WA fishing scene.

Having seen first-hand some of the great work of many successful fishing clubs in WA, we are now more certain than ever that the future of fishing clubs is strong.

Pictured above is Scott Medling from Nickol Bay Sportfishing Club with Ben Knaggs & Dave Thomson from the Exmouth Game Fishing Club.