1kg every 10 days – WA Marlin Show Extraordinary Growth Rates!!

Did you know…

Two juvenile Black Marlin were kept during Gamex 2017, as part of a study looking at Black Marlin Biology in Australia, (as a contribution to a study by Sam Williams – a PhD student at the University of Queensland).

Left: Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland with 1 of the Marlin captures. Right: Recfishwest Research team sampling Marlin number 2.

Sam aged these fish by extracting the fish’s ear bones called otoliths. Fish age is determined by counting the opaque zones, much like one would count rings on a tree to determine its age.

Left: Marlin ready for sampling – gut, gonad and ear bone samples were taken. Right: The Marlin’s otolith (ear bone) – the age is determined by counting rings, similar to the ageing of trees!

So How Old Were They?

Extraordinary Exmouth

When you think Exmouth, you think of Gamex. You may also think of it as your ultimate fishing destination; your opportunity to catch a big 1000lb Marlin or reel in big Sailfish or Dolphinfish.

Photo courtesy: Peak Sport Fishing Exmouth.

 So why and how is Exmouth such a coveted game fishing mecca?

 “Is there just more big fish in the waters off Exmouth?” In short – yes.

 “But surely with thousands of game fishers descending on Exmouth every year the fishing would decline?”

 Answer: It’s because the community value game fish so much, they’ve shown a desire to understand more about the fish they catch and preserve the iconic status of gamefish in WA for biological, social and economic reasons.

 In recent years there has been a number of ‘investments’ made to ensure the recreational fishing sector understand more about the fish we catch, and there’s no better example of this than Exmouth’s famous Gamex tournament!

 Recfishwest’s Research Team are currently up at the 2018 Gamex Tournament collecting samples of game fish that  come into the weigh station every night. It’s the 2nd consecutive year the team has headed up for the game fishing tournament to carry out this important work, with plenty of fish being submitted to allow for a solid set of fish data, potentially used for a variety of projects worldwide!

 

Tag a mate that…Tags fish?!

Fish tagging is another method used by game fishers to do their bit for ‘science.’ Tagging fish allows a percentage of the fish population to be monitored ‘in the wild’ with repeat catch records, giving insight into an individual fish’s movement and size over time.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland with a tagged Sailfish in Broome.

Do you remember the 1000 pound Marlin caught off Exmouth earlier in 2018 by local skipper Eddy Lawler? You probably didn’t know Eddy has tagged over 1000 Marlin, many are recaptures of his previously tagged fish! That’s only one boat skipper providing over 1000 points of data for Marlin, making Eddy more of an advocate for fisheries research than most others worldwide! Read more about the 1000lb Marlin here.

So Why Aren’t All Fish Tagged and Released?

To understand more about the fish we catch at Statewide fishing tournaments, there are a number of different research techniques used to sample fish species that wouldn’t normally come into weigh stations at your local fishing club.

Gamex 2018 Yellowfin Tuna ready for sampling.

Fishing tournaments provide a great social and economic activity for regional towns in WA and is the fabric of a lot of communities, especially in fair weather months. So when hundreds of fishers descend on regional fishing clubs to go tournament fishing, a whole range of species are brought in to the weigh station, iced down and ready for the table. It’s at these times where the opportunity to collect samples from these species is at its’ greatest and goes a long way to helping researchers understand more about the fish we catch.

Researchers can quite quickly collect samples from species such as trevally, mackerel and cobia to help determine length, weight, age and diet from a few simple cuts – leaving the fish in high quality ready to for the fisher to take home and cook up!

Dietary data allows us to understand a species effects on the rest of their environment. It also allows the drawing of food webs and better grasp the entirety of the relationships between species – essentially ‘what eats what.’

What’s Next?

If you’re lucky enough to be fishing at the 2018 Shark Bay Fishing Fiesta in May, the Recfishwest Research Team will again be on-hand to sample the fish the competitors bring in – to help us understand more about the fish we catch and do our bit as a sector for conservation!

The 2018 Gamex samples that will be collected will be kept on ice and made accessible to research providers, such as Universities) who run specific projects looking at topics such as fish biology, population dynamics and age and growth rates.

 

How Can You Help?

Recfishwest will be taking their Research Team to as many statewide fishing tournaments as possible and we’re always looking for Supporting Partners who can help us achieve this. Your brand will be directly associated with research activities as described in the article above and is great way to enhance your corporate social responsibility! This will ensure high-quality fishing experiences are maintained and enjoyed, as an integral part of the WA lifestyle. Want to know more, email tim@recfishwest.org.au or check out our Partnerships and Sponsorship page here.

Record Marlin Lands Exmouth International Fame

Western Australia is blessed with many wonderful fishing opportunities. Our 12,000km long coastline provides access to many and varied species and experiences from Bream, Flathead and Salmon in the south, to Billfish and Barramundi in the north. Every now and then, we witness a spectacular capture of a trophy fish, the type that most of us dream about and the type that thrusts WA into the global fishing spotlight.

The 494kg Marlin that has gained international fame. Photo credit: Wes Jones.

Such a capture took place on New Year’s day this year in Exmouth when Captain Eddy Lawler of Peak Sportfishing Charters captured an Australian Record Blue Marlin. Eddy is a well-known Marlin champion. He has over 1000 marlin releases to his name, including some recaptures of his own fish. Recently Eddy and others in the Exmouth community have been contributing to Marlin research by releasing fish with satellite tags which will track their movement over a number of months, so when Eddy and his team hooked up on the big Blue, they knew they were onto a good fish.

It’s not just the Marlin that have people flocking to Exmouth, with great fishing opportunities to catch prized gamefish like this huge Yellowfin Tuna. Photo credit Peak Sportfishing Adventures

At 494kg, it was the biggest Blue Marlin ever officially weighed in Australia to GFAA rules and the first Marlin of any species over the old 1000lb mark captured in WA. This is a fish that will cement Exmouth’s reputation as a world-class Marlin fishery.

Many coastal communities in WA thrive from fishing-related tourism, and Exmouth is no different. Many fishers throughout Australia travel to Exmouth each year to sample the world-class fishing it offers. Recently, an increasing number of international fishers have been making the journey too.

Local tackle store owner Jeni Gates reports that the number of visiting fishers from Asian countries is on the rise.

“It’s fantastic to see these fishing experiences being recognised globally as some of the best in the world.”

“We are talking to more and more international visitors, particularly from the Asian region, who are visiting specifically to go fishing.”

“Our small town needs this fishing tourism, and the recent capture of the ‘grander’ Blue Marlin will go a long way towards promoting this region as a world-class Marlin fishing destination like Hawaii or Cabo.” Jeni said.

Captures such as this can not be underestimated when it comes to promoting our fantastic state and the opportunities it offers to visitors. Recfishwest congratulates Eddy and his team and looks forward to seeing the Exmouth Marlin fishery shine in the international spotlight for years to come.

Australian Blue Marlin Record

If you haven’t fished in Exmouth, you haven’t lived! The warm waters of the Ningaloo coast provide some of the best fishing experiences Western Australia has to offer and if this week’s capture is anything to go by, the fishing is better than ever.

An Australian record Blue Marlin was captured this week by Captain Eddy Lawler of Peak Sportfishing Charters.

Eddy is a well-known Marlin champion. He has over 1000 marlin releases to his name, including some recaptures of his own fish. Recently Eddy and others in the Exmouth community have been contributing to Marlin research by releasing fish with satellite tags which will track their movement over a number of months, so when Eddy and his team hooked up on the big Blue this week, they knew they were onto a good fish.

At 494kg, it was the biggest Blue Marlin ever weighed in Australia and the first Marlin of any species over the old 1000lb mark captured in WA. This is a fish that will cement Exmouth’s reputation as a world-class Marlin fishery.

Marlin are extremely fast growing, with a fish of this size estimated to be about 15 years old. Its exact age will be determined by removing its ear bone, which contains growth rings, similar to those found on trees.

Apart from being an excellent capture, a fish of this size is extremely important to fisheries Science. This fish will provide insights into Blue Marlin age, growth rates, feeding behaviours and population dynamics.

The local community plan to make a fibreglass cast of the fish to use to educate visitors to the region on the excellent fishing experiences the region has to offer.

For more on Game fish science in Exmouth, read our article “Fishing is an Exact Science”.

Photos credit: Peak Sportfishing Adventures, Exmouth

FADs to be Deployed in Regional Fishing Hotspots

Regional fishing hotspots are set to get a boost in 2018 as fish aggregating devices (FAD’s) are deployed in WA regional centres including Exmouth, Geraldton and Albany. With funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, local communities are working with Recfishwest to deliver FADs. This will diversify fishing opportunities for locals and visiting fishers alike. FAD’s will provide fishers an opportunity to catch fast growing, highly migratory pelagic species.

Recfishwest’s Fishing Development Officer Matt Gillett with a Dolphin Fish caught off Jurien Bay.

Designed to aggregate fish such as Mahi Mahi, Tuna and Billfish, the regional FAD project will see the first FAD installed in 2018. FAD’s have been used successfully throughout Australia, including off the coast of Perth, where the Perth Game Fishing Club deploys FAD’s in November each year. These are accessed regularly by metropolitan fishers and provide high quality fishing for Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo and Marlin.

Some of these FAD’s will be in reach for regular trailer boat fishers with boats of less than 5 metres to enable them the opportunity to catch highly sought after sport fish.

Recfishwest looks forward to implementing this program and will keep subscribers up to date with progress reported through our Broad Cast and social media platforms.

This project was made possible by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.

Fishing is an Exact Science

March 2016

World leading Australian marine biologist Dr Julian Pepperell will be a special guest at the hugely popular Gamex fishing tournament in Exmouth this month.  Gamex organisers will be hoping for better luck this year after a looming cyclone forced the cancellation of last year’s event.  Dr Pepperell will be at Gamex as part of his project to use local fishing tournaments to monitor and research important recreational game fishing species.

This project, supported by Recfishwest and the Department of Fisheries, is funded by your licence money through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF).  His program encourages fishing clubs and recreational fishers to facilitate and conduct monitoring and biological research on billfish, tuna, sharks, mackerel and other fish captured during major game fishing tournaments throughout WA, as well as during normal game fishing club activities.

In NSW game fishing tournaments have facilitated over 40 research projects from over 20 scientific organisations. These include a range of projects that assist in the management and sustainability of these species through studies of their biology, ageing, genetics, ecology, reproduction and movement.

Dr Pepperell is trialling a new non-invasive genetic sampling technique, which basically involves collecting fish DNA from their external body mucous.
The new technique has been adapted by using ‘FTA Cards’ normally used in human forensic work. FTA Cards are used to store DNA after fish slime has been obtained from the fish and wiped on the cards, ready to be mailed to the lab for genetic analyses.

Marlin and sailfish are ideal subjects for this type of research, as they have been shown to handle catch and release fishing well.  Recfishwest believes that Dr Pepperell’s coordinated biological monitoring and sampling program for tournament and club-based fishing in WA will ultimately provide important data for the purposes of better understanding various species, particularly the movement and population genetics of billfish species inhabiting the Indian Ocean about which very little is currently known.

The program is also archiving tissue samples from all fish weighed at the tournaments for potential future use by researchers both locally and globally.

To date, Dr Pepperell has attended three tournaments in WA resulting in 172 fish being sampled and 747 fish being tagged.  This project is another example that demonstrates a high level of commitment by recreational fishers towards assisting research to improve our knowledge of the state’s fish stocks.