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.

 

Fishing in ‘barradise’ – the 2022 Apex Kununurra Barra Bash

East Kimberley fishing gems shone bright silver recently, with a record-breaking number of Apex Kununurra Barra Bash competitors experiencing ‘barradise’ first-hand.

Now in its 24th year, the 2022 Apex Kununurra Barra Bash, running from September 23-25, is the ultimate celebration of barra fishing in the Kimberley, all within the backdrop of postcard-esque scenery and safe, accessible fantastic fishing spots.

With just $50 entries for adults and juniors fishing for free, the potential returns of catching monster barra and taking home sensational prizes across the three-day competition saw more than 720 anglers across all ages try their luck in beautiful East Kimberley waterways, with 168 barra, 181 catfish and 70 sooty grunter landed in total.

“Seeing the attendance record get smashed clearly highlights that family-friendly fishing events such as the Apex Kununurra Barra Bash are part of the social fabric of regional communities like this,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “Well done to all involved in running the Kimberley’s premier freshwater fishing event once again.”

“Lake Kununurra is an increasingly important part of the competition. There’s a growing number of annual fishers heading to Kununurra to fish the lake without the worry of big tidal movements or saltwater crocodiles hindering their fishing experiences. The stocking program run in partnership with the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group (LKBSG), North Regional TAFE and DPIRD has seen more than 1.3 million barra stocked into the lake since 2013. With metre-plus barra catches now a regular occurrence – Lake Kununurra has established itself as a world-class sport fishery.”

Find out more about the fantastic barra fishing Lake Kununurra has to offer here! 

This stunning image taken by Darren Francis won the best picture competition by showcasing the beauty of fishing on Lake Kununurra.

More than $50,000 worth of cash and prizes was on offer for the Bash, including $3,000 for the biggest barra caught and any competitor who landed a barra over 55cm going into the draw for a $12,000 three-night stay at the Kimberley Coastal Camp!

For all competitors who managed to land the highly respectable ‘metrey’ barra, they went home with a new Shimano Speed Master 12 fishing reel, along with two $500 gift voucher prizes sponsored by Recfishwest for the best snap taken on Lake Kununurra and a random draw prize for any one taking a photo on the lake and posting it on the LKBSG Facebook page.

Tyran Flick is a man holding $3,000 in cash! This 1.07m barra was the biggest caught throughout the entire competition!

Attendees didn’t even have to wet a line to be in the running for the biggest ‘lucky door’ prize, with an $18,000 tinnie up for grabs, made possible by a host of sponsors including Recfishwest.

This great prizing is made possible through our East Kimberley Barra Promotion project, supported by the State Government’s Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF).

Bailey Dawe was the lucky winner of the $18,000 dinghy and decided to give his new boat a test run on Lake Kununurra!

With the huge range of extravagant prizes on offer, fishers eagerly patrolled their favourite barra spots during the competition in search for the revered northern sportfish, which frequently cross the one-metre mark all along the 55km length of Lake Kununurra, located around 40km west of the Western Australian and Northern Territory border.

Lake Kununurra has since become a world-class hotspot for anglers chasing one-metre giants. According to a 2020 report conducted on the restocking program, the economic value of barramundi fishing to the region is already $7.6 million per year, showcasing its importance to the local community.

Next year’s competition will be the 25th edition, which is likely to be celebrated by putting an even bigger boat up for grabs for all attendees. Make sure you pay this beautiful region a visit!

Check out the Apex Kununurra Barra Bash Facebook page to see all images and winners from 2022!

Dozens of amazing prizes were given away this year, all in front of a record-breaking crowd!

Fitzroy River barra fishing films highlight concerns over water extraction proposals

“The Fitzroy River is our lifestyle, it’s our mental health, it connects the community – in a small town like Derby where there’s not a lot to do, everyone loves coming to the river,” says Mary Island Fishing Club’s Sara Hennessy in one of two cracking little films about barra fishing and the Fitzroy put together by the ‘Kimberley – Like Nowhere Else‘ group. Continue reading “Fitzroy River barra fishing films highlight concerns over water extraction proposals”

Scott’s Spots – Kuri Bay, a pearl in the Kimberley’s fishing crown

A stunning bay encompassing the Kimberley’s exhilarating surroundings, Kuri Bay is a must visit fishing location for all mad-keen WA fishers, writes Western Angler Editor Scott Coghlan in the latest edition of Scott’s Spots.

Kimberley fishing guide extraordinaire Peter Tucker with a lovely queenfish.

Continue reading “Scott’s Spots – Kuri Bay, a pearl in the Kimberley’s fishing crown”

Lake Kununurra brimming over with barra

There has been more great news for WA barra fishers with an extra 100,000 juvenile barra released into Lake Kununurra last week and another 100,000 fish released this week, taking the total number of barramundi stocked in the lake since 2013 to more than 850,000.

Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group member Curt McCartney with a beautiful bronze barra from the lake.

The lake has been quickly establishing itself as a world-class barramundi fishing location and local members of the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking group say fish are averaging more than a metre!

Read more about the Lake Kununurra Barra stocking program here.

Last week’s stocking of 100,000 barra was funded by a

Regional Economic Development (RED) grant and the Broome Aquaculture centre did such a good job in breeding barra they ended up with twice as many fish as they needed! This provided an opportunity for even more fish to be stocked into the lake, but they needed additional funds to transport the extra fish to Kununurra.

Acting quickly from a request by Recfishwest, the Minister for Fisheries approved the use of recreational fishing licence funds to transport and stock the remaining 100,000 fish.

Read the Minister for Fisheries’ media release here. 

The stocking of Lake Kununurra clearly demonstrates how well-planned stocking programs to create amazing fishing experiences can bring enormous benefits to local communities.

Avid local recfisher Curt McCartney has caught and tagged more than 100 barramundi in the Lake and says the big, fat, bronze monsters are often not difficult to find, but can provide a challenge to entice as they’re all so well fed on the lake’s abundant supply of bait fish!

Check out these sounder images showing barramundi schools hanging just off the bottom.  If that doesn’t get barra nuts’ casting arms twitching – we don’t know what will!

You can check an article in The West about Curt cracking 100 tagged barra and the great fishing on offer within the lake here

STOP THE PRESS!

Check out this 1.3m barra caught from the lake by barra enthusiast Curt McCartney after this article was originally published!

This is just more proof that the barra stocking program is really delivering the goods.

What a monster of a barramundi caught by Curt McCartney, 1.3m of solid Kununurra barra, you beauty!

Tagged barra caught seven years after original release in Roebuck Bay

A recent capture of a tagged barra in Dampier Creek near Broome has shown stocking programs can and do pay long-term fishing dividends.

Barramundi being released back in 2012

Steve Chambers from Tackle World Broome recently reported one of his customers had caught a 76cm-long tagged barramundi in Dampier Creek.

The barra was later identified as a stocked fish from a batch of 1,000 barra released in Dampier Creek, Roebuck Bay in 2012 – as part of a stocking program funded by one of our Community Grants – click here for more info about community grants.

At the time of its release on 16 August 2012,  the fish – ‘barra no.1873’ – measured 39.5cm.

It’s great to see this fish, reared by the Broome Aquaculture Centre of Kimberley TAFE, being caught and showing that the released fish are still out there and continuing to provide fishing experiences.

The fish, before their release, were screened for their high health status and were expected to have a great survival rate.

While the fish appears to have been relatively slow-growing, the recapture reflects how much of a long-term investment stocked fish like these are providing benefits to the fishing community a number of years later.

Barramundi being released back in 2012

Women in the West

“The West Kimberley women’s fishing course is something that I (Sara) have wanted to do (through the Mary Island Fishing Club) for a long time.  There are so many women out there that go fishing and camping with their partners and families and do not have the ability or confidence to really “do it for themselves.’ As a result they tend to gravitate to the stereotypical women role of organising the food, looking after the kids and just winding in a fish and more often than not reliant on the “men” to help them all the time to facilitate the act of fishing.” Sara Hennessy, Mary Island Fishing Club.

“We had been proposing to run a series of women’s fishing clinics for quite some time and were getting more and more queries from local women asking WHEN Are we going to do it!!!”

“In 2017 we decided to apply for a grant through the Recfishwest Community Grants Program to help with the funding required to organise, promote and produce the program. We were delighted to hear we were successful in our application and immediately began summarising and finalising the program.” Sara Hennessy, Mary Island Fishing Club.

The program began in March 2018 and over 10 weeks, the highly enthusiastic women undertook a well-planned training program enabling them to build fishing networks, confidence, and interact with other women in the region whilst building the knowledge and skills to be competent in many fishing related areas. The program (with the help from local community organisations) involved:

  • Basic fisheries rules and licencing details session
  • Places to fish around Derby and local catch information
  • Knots, rigs and tackle information and demonstrations
  • Casting and learning to throw a net
  • Trailer talk (how to back a trailer, launch and retrieving), practical session at Derby port
  • Getting to know your tackle – how to look after your reels, basic reel servicing
  • Basic boat mechanics – trouble shotting simple mechanical issues
  • How to fillet fish
  • Recreational Skippers Ticket

The West Kimberley Women’s Fishing Clinics (WKWFC) were a resounding success overall.  Over 10 weeks, multiple aspects of the key skills needed to successfully fish & boat were covered.

”47 women signed up for the sessions, this was more than double what we had expected or budgeted for!” Sara Hennessy, Mary Island Fishing Club.

Mary Island Fishing Club would like to thank the Fisheries department for their support who provided free info/kits to all participants and also Cone Bay Barra farm who

donated fish for the filleting/processing catch sessions.

All in all the participants that attended the numerous sessions achieved great outcomes and walked away with an entire new skill set and some great friendships.

 

Round 8 of the Community Grants are opening soon! Stay up to date via our monthly broadcast, fishing reports, Website and social media channels.

Barramundi bonanza in Lake Kununurra

For a lot of Australians catching a big barramundi is high on their bucket list.

The iconic sportfish is a favourite target for lure fishing, and a highly regarded table fish. Striking hard and providing strong runs once hooked, barramundi put up a challenging and spirited fight as they manoeuvre around snags and launch into impressive aerial leaps attempting to shake the hook. The experience sells itself.

Most people think that to access the best barramundi fishing you need to travel to remote creek systems in Australia’s north or impoundments along the east coast.

Many regard places such as Kakadu and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory or Tinaroo Dam in Queensland as the best option for thrill seekers chasing a barra fix.

However, you will be pleased to learn that Australia’s next big barra fishery is much closer to home, with locals and tourists already tangling with fish measuring more than the ‘holy grail’ 1m in length.

Barramundi are an iconic sportsfishing species.

To put it into perspective, fish which were released as 5cm fingerlings three years ago are now over a metre in length!

Lake Kununurra in the State’s Kimberley is producing barramundi fishing like nothing experienced before.

Local champions have worked passionately to enable the stocking of barramundi to be a success and more than 500,000 fingerlings stocked into the lake since 2012 are now providing some of the most exciting fishing around.

The barramundi in Lake Kununurra cannot naturally reproduce in a closed freshwater system.

The fish spend their entire lives eating and growing and with no natural predators, some enormous barramundi have been able to gorge themselves to significant size on the abundance of natural bait in the system.

The stocking program which finished last year has shown us enough of what potential Lake Kununurra holds as a Barramundi hotspot. To put it into perspective, fish which were released as fingerlings three years ago are now over a metre in length!

Key stocking facilitator, Kununurra local and barramundi enthusiast Dick Pasfield said the barra fishing in Lake Kununurra was world-class and should only get better.

“Now that the stocking program has been completed and the building blocks of an amazing fishery have been laid the local stocking group will continue working to develop it into one of Australia’s premier impoundment fisheries,” he said.

Barramundi fishing is huge for Kununurra locals and the economic and social return from the stocking program will far exceed the actual cost of the program. It is a fitting tribute to the hard work and vision of the local community over the last 20 years that Lake Kununurra is now on the world sportfishing stage.

Former president of the Broome Fishing Club and Portfolio Manager at the North Regional Tafe aquaculture facilities Jeff Cooper said:

“What we have here is the start of something very exciting, the untold potential of impoundment barramundi fishing in Lake Kununurra is something we should not take for granted.

“This opportunity is unmatched and the possibilities are endless.”

Recfishwest will continue to follow Lake Kununurra barramundi developments and are in full support of realising the untapped potential of Lake Kununurra Barramundi fishing as well as assisting in the continued growth and tourism benefit to North West communities.

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)