Scott’s Species – Marron – the craze for freshwater crays

Marron

Eating: 5 stars

It has been some years since I marroned with a purpose, but the memories of chasing them in our beautiful southern forests remain strong and it is something I probably should try again before too long.

I fondly recall a great night spent on the old Harvey Weir, before it was flooded to become what is now Harvey Dam, chasing them not long after I got my driver’s licence. We parked the car by the water, started a fire and then threw in some pellets.

Using drop nets, we ended up with a nice feed of marron and enjoyed a night to remember over a few cold drinks. Life was simpler back then…but I digress. There are few more uniquely West Australian fishing experiences than catching marron.

A juvenile marron (left) and Graham Stewart holding the prized catch that so many marroners chase!

Found from Esperance all the way north to Hutt River, past Geraldton, but endemic to the South-West, they are our own freshwater crayfish and despite having to endure some serious challenges in recent years, they continue to offer a great fishing option in many of our freshwater waterways during a limited season.

Dropping rainfall and reduced river flows due to increased community demands on water have meant marron have faced some real habitat issues, but the good news is that current stocking programs supported by Recfishwest are helping boost numbers and might even ultimately lead to longer seasons.

On a trip to Pemberton last summer to chase trout, I saw heaps of marron in the Warren River and Lefroy Brooks, which was hopefully a good sign for the future. Although I haven’t chased marron in recent years, they are a common encounter when trout fishing.

I remember standing on a rock in knee-deep water at Waroona Dam and being surprised when a large marron emerged from under that rock. It was not quite “methuselah” of the Freshwater Fishing in South West Australia book fame, but it was a beauty. I also remember foul hooking a big one on a Celta at Cascades on the Lefroy Brook one year. After admiring it for a few seconds I let that one go.

Locations stocked in recent years include Waroona Dam, Harvey Dam, Big Brook Dam and Logue Brook Dam. A licence is required to catch marron during the January-February season. There are detailed rules around bag and size limits which vary in different locations, with Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam and the Hutt River regarded as ‘trophy waters’ with tighter regulations to enhance the chance of catching trophy specimens.

Matt Pullella trying his luck marroning in a small stream.

Some locations are also snare only, including Big Brook Dam, Logue Brook Dam and Harvey Dam, with the full list and the latest comprehensive rules available at www.fish.gov.au.

There are three main ways of catching marron and a baited drop net is the most simple and effective, especially in deeper water such as the Warren River. A simple stocking filled with chook pellets can be used as bait, or other meat baits like chicken necks or fish. However, I always reckon the greatest fun to be had is in stalking them in the shallows with a snare or scoop. This is even more fun with a good headlamp at night. The reward, of course, is a feed of one of the tastiest crustaceans on the planet!

Chasing the mighty marron with a freshwater fishing expert

For Recfishwest Operations Officer Sam Russell, the month-long marron fishing season is the best time of the year!

The self-confessed “marron madman” is one of the State’s 10,000 marron licence holders who loves chasing the iconic freshwater species endemic to our South West from noon on 8 January to ​noon on 5 February, inclusive, each year.

There’s still time to catch a feed of marron this season, so Sam has shared his helpful tips!

Recfishwest’s Sam Russell is a self-confessed “marron madman” and has an affinity for the iconic South West freshwater crustacean.

Recfishwest: What got you into marron fishing, Sam?

SR: I’m a Collie boy at heart, having grown up there, and marroning is definitely a popular pastime for a large part of the community. One of my first fishing experiences was catching marron in a neighbour’s dam when I was younger, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

RFW: What do you enjoy most about the South West’s freshwater marron fishery?

SR: For me, the scenery plays a big part in why I love it. Chasing marron in the South West’s pristine bushlands is an incredibly enjoyable fishing experience. The challenge of catching a marron with a snare also adds to the theatre. And, not to mention, that they taste pretty great as well!

RFW: What are your favorite spots to go for marron?

SR: I like to fish a wide variety of locations for marron. Most of the South West rivers and dams will hold marron, so it really does pay off to do a bit of exploring and try out different spots. If you’re new to marron fishing, dams are a really great place to start.

Locations like Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam and Logue Brook offer safe, accessible marron fishing opportunities for fishers of all skill levels.

In 2019, Premier Mark McGowan and Recfishwest launched a three-year stocking program in 2019 which will have seen 300,000 marron released into Peel and South West freshwater waterways by the end of this year, which is very exciting for the fishery!

RFW: For fishers new to marroning, what gear do they need?

SR: A snare, or a “bushman’s pole” depending on who you’re talking to, is the most enjoyable way to catch a feed of marron.

All you need is your snare, a quality head torch, a hessian bag to keep your catch in and some chook pellets.

Head to your target location, preferably at night because this is when marron are generally most active, and place a couple of handfuls of chook pellets close to the bank about 10m to 15m apart.

Wait half an hour and then check your baits for marron. If you see a marron on your bait, carefully loop the snare under the tail of the marron from behind, then pull up quickly when your snare reaches about where the carapace meets the tail. It is hard and does take some practice!

Try to only shine your torch as far ahead of you as you can reach with your snare. Also, remain as stealth as you can because marron are fast and will quickly slip back underneath the cloak of darkness if you’re not quiet.

You can also fish for marron with scoops and drop nets, although there are quite a few rules regarding where you can use each capture method as well as specified gear dimensions. I recommend heading to the Department of Industries and Regional Development’s fisheries website and familiarising yourself with the rules before heading out.

Attempting to snare a marron or two at places such as Harvey Dam is great fun.

RFW: How’d you like cooking your marron?

SR: I love to cook marron on the barbecue. Simply cut the marron in half from the head to the tail, wash away the guts in the head and place the marron shell side down on medium heat. Scoop some butter, garlic and salt into the empty head cavity then baste this over the tail while it cooks. Cook until the meat goes white and firm then enjoy!

RFW: What fishing advice do you have for people chasing marron for the first time this season?

SR: Just get out there, have a crack, catching marron really isn’t that hard and is a fantastic way to spend an evening with family and friends. There are countless rivers and impoundments in the South West and Peel regions that hold marron. If you do your research, are willing to learn and explore some different spots, you’ll have a feed of marron in no time.

Tim Grose, of Recfishwest, with a cracking South West marron!

The start of a stocking program that could take marron fishing to the next level

Great-tasting and awesome to catch — it’s safe to say marron are a South West icon and favourite species among many WA fishers.

That’s why Recfishwest was pleased to be involved in kicking-off an important stocking program at the weekend, which will see 300,000 marron released into South West freshwater waterways over the next three years.

Recfishwest joined Jordan Parker and Scott Bell from Solair Group to release 2,300 marron into Logue Brook Dam, near Harvey.

“That felt like a lot of marron, but it’s less than one per cent of what’s going to be stocked in the next three years,” Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said.

WATCH: How’s this fantastic footage from the weekend’s marron release!?

Backed by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund (RFIF) and announced by Premier Mark McGowan, Dr Rowland said it was great to get the pointy end of this marron stocking project underway with the first of the one-year-old marron going in the water.

“These marron have been bred at Solair Group’s Capel-based hatchery and were nurtured through the vulnerable stages of their life to maximise post-release survival,” he said.

“So, when will you be able to catch these marron? They will be legal size by next marron season.”

Two of the 2,300 stocked marron getting acquainted with their new Logue Brook home.

Safeguarding against changing environment 

An important part of this three-year program will involve scientific monitoring to determine its effectiveness with the objective of future-proofing this fishery from environmental change.

Marron are endemic to WA’s South West and provide terrific fishing experiences for the 10,000 fishers who hold marron fishing licences.

However, Dr Rowland said declining annual rainfall and reduced stream flows are placing marron populations under pressure.

“South West dams such as Harvey, Glen Mervyn, Waroona and Logue Brook will play an increasingly important role in supporting good marron catches,” he said.

“While we can’t change the weather, we can support healthy population abundances through programs like this, in turn making fishing better.”

Making fishing better

Most importantly, Dr Rowland said the stocking program was designed to enhance the fishery and was exactly the sort of initiative Recfishwest want to see fishing licence money spent on.

“We want to ensure fishers will continue to be able to explore the South West and continue to catch marron for many, many more years to come,” he said.

“The weekend’s marron release was a great start and a major step towards Recfishwest’s vision of expanding the current month-long season towards year-round marron fishing.”

This marron stocking project will help protect marron stocks from environmental pressures.

Snaring a feed of South West marron

Marron are endemic to WA’s South West and fishing for them is a tradition for many WA families. They are great eating and the largest freshwater crayfish in Western Australia and as another year nears its end, this summer’s marron season is nearly here.

Due to open from noon on 8 January to noon on 5 February this season should see more than 11,300 licensed fishers head off to the South West waterways to target these freshwater crustaceans. Marron are targeted in some of the most accessible and beautiful areas of the South West; fishers experience the fantastic bushland of the South West first hand while fishing.

Marron are a sought-after species among many fishers.

Marron can be caught using drop nets, scoop nets or snares all of which are relatively inexpensive. Fishers can choose to target marron in rivers with drop nets and scoops or in trophy water dams with snares.

Trophy waters are specific areas that are managed differently to provide fishers with the opportunity to catch trophy sized marron. Harvey and Waroona Dams along with Hutt River are deemed trophy waters, with Harvey and Waroona Dams being snare only (meaning no nets or scoops).

Snares are a challenging but often more rewarding method of chasing marron. This coupled with larger size limits and tighter bag restrictions creates fisheries where there is more chance of catching marron and larger sized ones too. These delicious crustaceans are an icon to many people in Western Australia and as such carefully managed by the Department of Fisheries.

It is worth having a good read of the Marron Recreational Fishing Guide to understand the specifics of marron fishing including fishing methods, what method is allowed in which area as well as the applicable bag limits.

Habitat

Marron prefer cool, oxygenated water with low salinity and areas with fringing or overhanging vegetation and submerged or fallen trees for cover. The healthiest populations of marron are in rivers that are mostly in their natural state; with healthy bushland throughout their catchments and with plenty of vegetation along their banks with little to no alteration to their natural flow regimes. Marron eat almost anything organic found in rivers or dams, including leaves, algae, and other small invertebrates and decaying matter. Marron respond well to chook pellets and there are considered the preferred bait for many fishers.

Bush man poles can be used as a more challenging way to target marron.

How to catch

There are three methods to catch marron – the relaxed set and forget of drop netting from the banks of a river or the more active patrolling of the water’s edge with a torch and a bushman’s pole, or scoop net along shallows. Many would consider drop netting as the most common method, partly because there is less work involved and many are looking for a relaxing evening. Drop nets are a very simple yet effective method that can only be used in certain waterways. These have holes in the base large enough for smaller undersize marron to escape (outlined in the recreational marron guide). Setting drop nets along open sections of water away from logs and submerged trees is important as they can easily become caught up and stuck making them difficult to retrieve. Chook pellets in a sock secured to the middle of the drop net are great bait for marron in these nets. Bushman poles can be used in trophy areas unlike drop nets and scoops and are great fun as well as a good challenge. A bushman’s pole is any stick or pole with a self-tightening noose attached to the end of it; the user must not be able to open and close the loop like you can with a cray loop.

Making small piles of chook pellets around 30cm from the shore along the bank of the river or dam can draw in the marron in close. When searching for marron around your pellets, try aiming the torch to the side keeping the marron on the edge of the light, use just enough light to see the marron so you don’t spook them. While a marron is within reach of your snare, lower the loop down behind the marron. Once the loop is in position, shine the light directly on the marron to make it move back slowly. Lift the pole to then tighten the loop around the tail of the marron.

Marron are like prawns and crayfish; they can walk slowly in any direction and when frightened they will shoot backward with a pull of their tail. When searching along the banks ensure you only shine the light as far as you can reach with your snare. Shining the light onto marron will only spook them, making them less likely to come in close where you can reach them with your snare. Scoops are used in a similar way to snares but are not allowed in trophy waters. Many people wade through the shallows with scoops and head torches searching for marron, aiming to scoop the marron from behind as this is the direction they will usually retreat to using their tail.

Not sure how to cook marron? Visit I love Fishing – Cooking Marron

Not only is marron fishing fun, but it can create long lasting memories.

The finer details

Setting up a base camp around the area you intend to fish is ideal, doing this before dark helps you to be ready for your night time marron mission. Once set up, make sure you survey of the area for potential fishing spots. Collecting any rubbish during daylight will prevent you from stumbling onto them in the dark making the fishing experience safer, and benefiting the environment. Make sure you wear suitable footwear to protect your feet from sharp sticks or rocks along the banks. Consider other fishers by reducing music noise in later hours of the night, taking all your rubbish home with you and try not to take up a massive area of the bank as ‘yours’. Most of the time concentrating on a smaller area is more productive than trying to cover a huge area. Walking quietly and calmly along the water’s edge is important as it will prevent the marron from moving away to deeper water where they’re harder to catch.

*Please note, it is illegal to enter private property to access a river or creek without permission of the farmer/landholder.

Enjoying the stunning South West

Many avid Marron fishers have areas or spots they revisit around the South West in search for a great feed, with over 20,000 individual days of marroning estimated to have been undertaken in regional South West areas each marron season. The Fisheries Department have also estimated that in 2015, a further 30,000 marron could be sustainably harvested on top of what has been recreationally caught, allowing new marron fishers to be part of a sustainable fishery and have a great chance of getting a feed. Many fishers have preferred spots that are not simply chosen for targeting marron, but instead for being a great camping location along a spectacular stretch of water. If you’ve never targeted marron before, it’s definately worth having go. Not only are they fun and rewarding to catch, but you will have a memorable experience exploring the State’s South West among the bush and freshwater rivers and dams with your mates or family. All while targeting some of the tastiest crustaceans you’ll ever have on your plate.

Marron socking programs

Marron are important to South West waterways. To secure their abundance in South West waterways the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre has run marron breeding trials. Funded by the Commonwealth Government these trials aim at using stocking to help secure great populations of marron in the more popular waterways and accessible locations such as the Wellington and Harvey dams located only one and a half hours drive from Perth. Research and development into the marron stocking to focus on improving the resilience of the fishery, all while enhancing the experience of marroners. To find out more, visit I love Fishing – Marron Stocking.

Improving the Recreational Marron Fishery Through Stock Enhancement

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in conjunction with Recfishwest, will be investigating the benefits of stocking juvenile Marron into recreational dams in Western Australia.

Staff at the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre (PFRC) have begun a new captured Marron breeding program.  This program is based on recent advice provided from a Marron research project conducted by Ecotone and funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) that looked at ways to improve the sustainability of WA’s iconic Marron fishery.

If the captured Marron breeding program is successful, a trial stocking program is planned which will see thousands of tiny “craylings” (juvenile Marron) released into Harvey Dam, a popular recreational Marron fishing location, only one and half hours South of Perth.

FACT FILE:
• Number of recreational Marron licenses 2016 season was 11,366.
• Wellington Dam and Harvey Dam are the most popular fishing locations.
• The estimated 20,000 individual days of marroning in regional locations provide a significant economic boost to regional towns in the South-West.
• In 2015 fishers caught an estimated 70,000 Marron despite research showing more than 100,000 Marron could have been sustainably harvested during this period.
• Research and development is focussed on improving the resilience of the fishery whilst enhancing the experience of the States many marroners.

If you’re passionate about Marron, do yourself a favour and follow Marron Matters on Facebook.

Conservation Marron Stocking- Full Media Release

Picture: Marron eggs (left), once hatched they turn into ‘Craylings’ (middle & right)

South West Forest Beauty Sets the Stage for Marron Experience

Western Australia’s rugged Jarrah and Karri forests in the South West will once again play host to the almost 11,000 fishers expected to take part in the much-loved marron fishery in January.  It is one of the most uniquely West Australian fisheries, offering the chance to catch a feed of tasty native crustaceans in a superb freshwater setting armed with nothing more than a bag of chook pellets, a pole snare or a drop net.  The 2017 season for our native freshwater crayfish runs from noon on January 8 to noon on February 5.

The short season reflects the challenges in managing this fishery, which continues to face less than optimal environmental conditions.

The waterways Marron inhabit have been impacted by habitat loss, diminishing water quality and falling rainfall in recent years. Recfishwest identified this issue some years ago, and have since been undertaking a project which will help shape future management of this fishery.

The Future Proofing WA’s Iconic Marron Fishery project was funded by the Federal Government through the Fisheries Research Development Corporation and is a partnership between Ecotone Consulting, Department of Fisheries, Murdoch University and Recfishwest. To date, the project has revealed some fascinating insights into the drivers and aspirations of participants.  Community surveys revealed many people view marroning as a great family activity and environmentally rich experience that they were prepared to travel a long way to undertake. For many marron fishers the opportunity to socialise with family and friends is more important than actually catching anything.

Concerns raised about the fishery included the state of the environment, length of the season, level of compliance and lack of facilities at popular locations, with the next part of the project to look at how fishing amenity can be improved through stocking and habitat enhancement of marron.

Marron fishing locations vary from extremely remote to easily accessible depending on how adventurous you are willing or able to be. The natural bush environment in which it occurs makes marroning a great, fun summer activity and the good rains over the 2016 winter should mean the marron will have more water and habitat to move around in this season. This is great news for marroners, after major bushfires played havoc with access to many marron fisheries last summer.

Scooping, snaring and drop netting are all options for marron fishers, enabling the participants to tailor their expedition to their preferences and ability.  A licence is required but marron fishing is affordable and extremely accessible throughout the South West, with no need for expensive gear or a boat, and it is a safe and enjoyable pastime for families with the bonus of a great feed at the end of the day.

For the advanced marroner wanting a real challenge, there are fisheries which are snare-only and these include the Harvey River (upstream of the highway) and Harvey Dam, Big Brook Dam, Glen Mervyn Dam, Waroona Dam and Logue Brook Dam.

Trophy fisheries with different bag and size limits are the Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam and Hutt River.

Click here to find out more about marron on our ILoveFishing website!

Future Proofing WA’s Iconic Marron

A project which will help shape future management of the Marron fishery has revealed some fascinating insights into the drivers and aspirations of participants in this fishery.  The project entitled ‘Future Proofing WA’s Iconic Marron Fishery’ was funded by the Federal Government through the FRDC and is a partnership between Ecotone Consulting, Department of Fisheries, Murdoch University and Recfishwest.

This project has just completed community surveys aimed at gaining a better understanding of what motivates people to go Marron fishing, the social value of the pastime, and what people want from this fishery.  The surveys revealed that many people view marroning as a great family activity and environmentally rich experience that they are prepared to travel a long way to undertake. For many Marron fishers the opportunity to socialise with family and friends is more important than actually catching Marron.

Some of the concerns raised about the fishery included the state of the environment, the length of the season, the level of compliance and lack of facilities (toilets, rubbish disposal) at popular locations.  The second part of the project will look at how fishing amenity can be improved through stocking and habitat enhancement of Marron.

The third part of this project will focus on developing a blueprint for the future management of Marron and will depend on the outcome of the first two parts of the project.

After the success of the recent Pink Snapper restocking in metro waters, along with the stocking activities of Mulloway, Prawns, Black Bream, Brown and Rainbow Trout and Barramundi, Marron just might be the next species we see stocked to boost the enjoyment of all marron fishers.

Collie marron deaths not acceptable

Recfishwest was horrified to learn that hundreds of WA’s most iconic freshwater crustacean, the mighty marron, have been left for dead in the southern end of the Collie River due to mismanagement of the State’s water resources.

Marron have been deprived of important environmental water flows resulting in them walking out of their river pools to gain oxygen, only to bake in the sun, leaving behind what has been described as “a marron graveyard”. The marron deaths follow revelations that river flows in the Collie River South Branch have been diverted into Lake Kepwari, a decommissioned mine void.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said seeing hundreds of dead marron on the dry river bed is a disgrace especially as the Lake is full.

“How come there’s a full lake and an empty river?” Dr Rowland said.

“This is a man-made problem and we’re calling for swift and decisive action so that marron and other wildlife in the remaining permanent pools within this 15km river section do not succumb to a similar fate as we progress into the warmer month.

“We all understand our climate is variable, 2015 has been a dry year, and managing our water resources can be complex but the fact of the matter is that water for the environment must come first so that this type of disaster doesn’t happen again.”

(Images courtesy: Blayde Grzelka – Collie Mail)