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.

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

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)

Community Doubles the Size of the Esperance Artificial Reef

Esperance will now receive an artificial reef twice the size of the one announced in December thanks to matching funding through Royalty for Regions and the efforts of the local community.

In December 2016 it was announced that Esperance would receive an artificial reef, funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund. The reef was made possible thanks to the local community who had built a good case for the reef over the last 2 years. Support from the Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club and the South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council along with local champions such as Graham Cooper was the driving force behind getting the funding needed for this reef.

Following the announcement of the Esperance reef, Recfishwest successfully applied to the Goldfields-Esperance Regional Grants Scheme for matching funding to double the size of the reef. A large factor in the success of this application was demonstrated local support for building this important community asset. Letters of support from The Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club, the South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council, Tateys Tackleworld, The Rotary Club of Esperance, Moby Marine and Tourism Esperance all played a vital part in the success of this application and on behalf of Esperance Fishers, Recfishwest thank all of these groups for their support.
A larger reef means more habitat for fish, creating even better fishing! It also allows a larger number of boats to fish the reef. The additional funding will also enable a citizen science community monitoring program to collect and analyse footage of the reef as it matures over time using specially designed underwater video equipment (as used on the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs).

The reef will be designed to improve fishing opportunities in close proximity to boat ramps for families in small boats. The final location for the reef will be decided following a constraints mapping exercise and community consultation. Once a suitable final location has been found we can select both the reef module design and the number of modules that will make up the reef. It is envisaged the Esperance Reef will be deployed by next summer.

Artificial Reef Towers

Fishing for Perth metro pelagics has a new breath of new life with the instalment of two steel reef towers, which will boost fishing opportunities for fishers. The towers are an addition to the numerous other artificial reef and habitat enhancement projects complete or underway in WA, funded through recreational fishing licence fees.

The reef towers differ from the concrete reef modules currently installed off Dunsborough, Bunbury and Mandurah and those planned for deployment in Esperance, Exmouth and Dampier. The towers are the first steel artificial reef structures in WA, with a different layout and construction to the demersal reefs, and on a much larger vertical scale. Designed by Western Australian artificial reef specialists, Subcon, the purpose built reefs are an impressive 12.5m high or the same size as a four storey building!

To add to its height, each reef weighs a massive 70 ton and is 10m long and 7.8m wide. The costly process of reef deployment at sea was also reduced through a new innovative technique that has never been used with this style of artificial reef anywhere in the world. Instead of being loaded onto a barge and lowered using a crane, the large structure was towed out into position and its buoyancy tanks were flooded to safely and cost effectively sink the towers.

The reef towers were specifically designed to not only house demersal fish species but namely to attract an array of pelagic top-water fish in a similar way to FADs. The lattice-like steel upper part of the reef will provide structure and concentrate small baitfish, attracting predatory pelagics. The purpose built design will also allow demersal species to shelter amongst the large base structure with its various shapes, crevasses and vertical profile.

The steel lattice structure provides a complex habitat with variations in temperature, shade and hydrological effects such as current. The curved steel plates on the tower promote upwelling and the surfaces of the structure can be colonised by macro-algae, sponges and corals to favour a variety of different species and higher abundances of fish.

The wide range of habitats influenced by the reef towers will hold a good variety of fish species, with pelagics such as Samson Fish, Yellowtail Kingfish, Salmon, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna all expected to turn up at the reef as well as demersal species such as Pink Snapper, Dhufish and Baldchin Groper. There’s also a good chance of King George Whiting, Skippy, Flathead, Flounder and even Mulloway that are caught in the surrounding areas. All of these species have been encountered on the established South West artificial reefs but other species such as Yellowfin Tuna and Bonito are also expected to make an appearance.

The reef towers were funded using recreational fishing licence fees and are for all recreational fishers to enjoy. Anchoring right on top of reefs should be avoided as it will limit the benefit they can have to all fishers and the chances of your anchor returning. Similar to the South West artificial reefs, some of the best fish are caught around the structure, not right on top of it. Fish can be targeted by casting or trolling around the area and over the top of the reef as well as drifting near the reef location and jigging or drifting weighed baits in a burley trail.

The reef towers are located in “the paddock” between Garden Island and Rottnest Island. The final coordinates have been given as 32ᵒ 07.527′ S, 115ᵒ 27.013′ E for Tower 1 and 32ᵒ 07.461′ S, 115ᵒ 26.978′ E for Tower 2 in 44-45m water depth.

With huge projects like this, WA is showing the world what can be achieved by passionate fishers who believe in enjoyable, safe, sustainable and accessible fishing experiences for the WA community in the future. This project was made possible by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and supported by Recfishwest and the WA Department of Fisheries.

Shark Bay Snapper Research Helps Lift 20+ Year Old Recovery Strategy

Pink Snapper are a favourite Western Australian recreational fishing species, available to boat fishers, shore fishers and novice fishers alike.  Shark Bay in WA’s mid north-west is home to some awesome Pink Snapper fishing but this has not always been the case. Many fishers will have memories of the stock collapse in the 1990s when excessive fishing wiped out a large proportion of the Shark Bay Pink Snapper population. Strict regulations were put in place as part of a community awareness program to protect the remaining stocks. These regulations included a “tag-lottery” system whereby only fishers who received tags were permitted to fish for snapper.

The Pink Snapper Research Team

A group of passionate Snapper fishers became actively involved in the management of the fishery and in the early 2000’s a group of keen community members joined forces and committed their own time and resources into catching Pink Snapper in the name of science. These fish were used to conduct a thorough stock assessment on the Shark Bay Pink Snapper populations and help shape management at the time.

These active community members aided the Department of Fisheries in collecting size and weight data of the recovering population, as well as collecting Pink Snapper otoliths (ear bones) to help with age studies, through the examination of annual growth rings on the otoliths. This information painted a picture of strong recovery for Shark Bay Pink Snapper.

As of January 2016, the unpopular tag system in Freycinet Estuary was replaced with new management arrangements which allow a bag limit of 2 Pink Snapper per day with a possession limit of 5kg of filleted fish within the Freycinet Management Zone. These changes were well received by the community who now have the opportunity to fish for this iconic species whilst maintaining this area as a wilderness fishing destination that doesn’t allow the possession of large amounts of fish.

These important stock assessments continue and with the recent collaboration of Recfishwest, another successful sampling trip was undertaken by recreational fishers in October 2016. These community champions once again donated their time and resources to ensure there is sufficient data to manage the fish they love to catch.

Stories like these reiterate how proper fisheries management informed by fisheries research can be used to successfully restore a heavily impacted fishery to a healthy and sustainable state. Recfishwest continues to support fisheries research and promote the activities that improve the fishing experience for the community.

Rock Lobster Science Predicts Great Fishing To Come

The 2015-16 western rock lobster season drew to a close at the end of June. Good news for crayfish lovers is we are less than three months from the opening of the 2016-17 season, starting October 15. General consensus among lobster fishers was that the past season was another extremely productive one, highlighting just how well this fishery is managed.

There were plenty of good crays caught, with an excellent early season run of whites. This white migration phase is typically from November to late January where large numbers of pale pink (whites) lobsters, recently moulted from their deep red colour, migrate from inshore reefs to deep water. During this migration, the lobster are highly exposed to fishing and large catches are taken by fishers. Adult and non-migrating lobsters are known as ‘reds’ and form the catch between February through to June. Then again once the season starts in October until when the “whites” start again in November.

Two changes to rules this season also proved popular with recreational fishers. The first was the removal of a maximum size limit for female lobster. The size limit requirement on female lobster was an old management tool before it was managed as a ‘quota managed fishery’ (management that sets out a defined number of lobsters that can be removed from the water each year by rec fishers). It’s also important to note, any female in breeding condition such as in setose, tar spot (see above) or carrying eggs must be promptly returned to the water. The other change, which proved to be very well accepted by recreational fishers, was the ability for two licenced fishers to share a pot. This change to the rules enabled more people than ever to enjoy the experience of catching a feed of our fantastic crayfish.

There will be plenty of recreational fishers counting the days to a great 2016/17 fishing season, as an above average juvenile count forecasts healthy stocks and a great fishing season for all.

Great Change in WA Fishing Landscape

The addition of artificial reefs has been a great change to the WA fishing landscape in the last three years. Quality fish started appearing on the first two reefs in Georgaphe Bay almost instantly, and the new installation off Mandurah should be the same. Prime recreational fishing species like Pink Snapper, Samson Fish, Dhufish, Skippy and Yellowtail Kingfish love the new structures and take up residence around them. Not only do the reefs improve fishing in the area where they are deployed, they also increase the productivity of the local fishery itself. However, recreational fishers are also finding they need to tailor their tactics to suit these purpose-built structures.

The modules are perfect cover for tough fighters likes sambos and kingies, which can run straight through the reef when hooked, meaning disaster for the angler. That means the bigger fish are almost impossible to stop if hooked close to the structure and it requires fishers to take that into account when fishing around the reefs. For that reason, it is best to avoid anchoring right on the reef (which also means less chance of losing the anchor), rather you should circle the area to get a feel for the structure. Taking into account wind direction and current, set yourself to anchor so you are sitting alongside the reef. Anchoring directly on the reef will lead to heavy tackle and fish losses, but being too far away will produce poor results, so take the time to get it right, remembering that those sambos, pinkies and kingies know exactly where to head when hooked.

Always be responsible and courteous of other fishers in the area, including spear fishers, there’s plenty of opportunities to fish the reefs. A berley trail is a good way to bring the fish to you. Alternatively, trolling around the reefs is a good way to find the pelagic fish which are in the area, while drifting close to it should allow you to draw bottom fish like dhuies and pinkies to your bait or lure. Good luck and send us your photos! Check out this latest capture on the Geographe Bay Reef – thanks to Perth Game Fishing Club’s ‘Hook Up’ Newsletter!

Geographe Bay Snapper Keen Busselton based member Dean Eggleston sent in this item following a competition weekend organised by the Naturaliste Game and Sports Fishing Club in April. “The pink snapper was a surprise that’s for sure, with the weather forecasts being all over the place my brother and I decided to have a fish on the Dunsborough Artificial Reef for NGSFC’s Light Tackle tournament. We had heard reports of some Spanish Mackerel being caught there on and off over the last couple of months. We had anchored up on the middle cluster of the reef in 26m of water at around 6:30am. My first drop on 2kg was hit, the fish didn’t really fight much and I thought it was only something small. 10 – 15 minutes later we had the leader coming up to the boat, I didn’t get to see much as my brother took the leader. All he said was, it’s a decent fish, but when it hit the deck I was certainly surprised. On return to the weigh station, I asked the weigh master for an extra 100 bonus points for pulling the fish out of what we call the Lego blocks, a local description of the 3m cubic structures with big holes in them. They are in a group of 5 only a few meters apart so getting what would be expected to be a feisty fish from them added a degree of difficulty.” The fish weighed in at 9.9kg, quite an achievement on 2kg line.

Bream Tagging in the 21st Century

A new tagging project will track the movement of Black Bream in the Swan/Canning estuary and needs the help of recreational fishers.  The ‘SwanTrack’ project involves a collaboration between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Murdoch University (Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research) and involves setting up an acoustic receiver arrays (or ‘listening stations’) that are attached to yellow buoys (with DPaW written on them) right throughout the Swan and Canning estuary.

The array will allow the tracking of any of the larger species of fish to answer questions about how they use the estuary (e.g. where do they breed? which habitats do they use and when?).  The fish are tracked by placing acoustic transmitters inside each fish that are then detected by the receivers when they pass within a couple of hundred metres.

The tags provide useful information on movement patterns and it have the potential to be used for several species. The first project will focus on Black Bream and financial support for honours students has been provided by Revfishwest.  The project will acoustically track Black Bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) using the SwanTrack array to determine how their movements and habitat use relate to the water quality conditions in the Swan River, including how those movements specifically respond to operation of the new oxygenation plants.
Information gathered will be of direct use by managers in understanding fish response to the plants and possibly enable refinement of their operation to maximise their efficiency.

The tagged bream will have a yellow spaghetti tag (they may foul up a bit and turn black) with Murdoch Uni, a tag number and a phone number.  Researchers would appreciate anyone who catches a tagged fish contact them with where they caught it, when, and its total length. Contact Stephen Beatty, 9360 2813 or www.freshwaterfishgroup.com if you catch a fish. Make sure you take a photo and let us know.

With the cost involved with the project, they would also like people to release those tagged fish, of which there are 55 in the system. Stay tuned for photos, video’s and results of the study.

We’ll keep you updated on the results of the project.

Mandurah Artificial Reef

The Mandurah Artificial Reef has been deployed. At a total cost of just over $1.1 million, the reef is the first in Western Australia to be solely paid for by the recreational fishing community. The reefs were funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund by recreational fishing licence fees.

The purpose-built reef consists of 30 cubic reinforced concrete modules, arranged in clusters of five modules. Each module is 3m x 3m x 3m, weighs 10 tonnes, has a surface area of 30m2 and has an internal volume of 27m3.

The module design is the same as those used in the south west artificial reefs, being a hollow cube with curved cross braces. The design is aimed to promote upwelling (bringing nutrient rich water from the sea floor to the surface creating phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms, providing the basis for productive food chains) as well as create varied complex spaces and habitats which act as shelter for fish.

The reef is located 9km from shore being easily accessible for boats leaving from the Mandurah Estuary mouth or the Dawesville Cut. In 25m depth the reef is spread across four hectares of barren desert-like seafloor which had little marine life prior to reef deployment.

The deployment of the reefs, announced by the Fisheries Minister, the Honourable Joe Francis MLA, was the last stage of a long community driven process to get the reefs in the water. Both Port Bouvard Recreation and Sporting Club as well as the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC) consulted with Recfishwest on reef location with volunteers from MOFSC even dropping cameras to the seafloor to find the ideal site characteristics for the reef.

Strong support also came from local MP and keen fisher, the Honourable Dr Kim Hames. The reef had support from a large amount of stakeholder organisations including the Western Australian Department of Fisheries, City of Mandurah, Tourism WA and the Mandurah and Peel Tourism Organisation as well as many others.

With the same modules in a similar depth to the successful south west artificial reefs, the Mandurah Artificial Reef is expected to develop into a complex marine habitat supporting a diverse fish community providing fishing opportunities for iconic species such as Pink Snapper, Skippy, Dhufish, Baldchin Groper and Samson Fish. Prior to the deployment of the Dunsborough and Bunbury artificial reefs only a dozen fish species were identified at the deployment locations. Three years later over 60 species have called these reefs home. As the Mandurah reef has been constructed from the same modules and placed in a similar depths we are confident the Mandurah reef will experience the same success.

It will take surprisingly little time for the new reefs to be inhabited by fish and colonised by algae, sponges and corals. Within two months of deploying the reefs off Dunsborough and Bunbury, pelagic species such as Samson Fish and Skippy were observed on the reefs as well as large amounts of bait holding up in the modules. In only 6 months, large amounts of algae had colonised the modules and demersal fish such as Dhufish were seen on the reefs. In just over a year, coralline algae, sponges and bryozoans appeared on the reefs.  Now over 60 different fish species including slower colonisers such as Blue Groper, Octopus and Wobbegongs have been identified on these reefs.

The Mandurah Artificial Reef is Australian made with the modules being designed by an Australian company called the Haejoo Group, built in WA at MJB industries in Australind, deployed by Perth based company Subcon Ptyltd who used staff and vessels from Total AMS.

The local fishing community has had real ownership of the development of the reef as well as provide expert advice to maximise the fishing opportunities for everyone in the region. There is no doubt that the Mandurah fishing community will grow a sense of stewardship for the reef as it continues to develop.

The reefs will also assist the broader local community by bringing benefits to local businesses and the economy by increased fishing tourism in the Peel Region. The artificial reefs provide not only an opportunity for ecological growth on the modules but also social and economic growth for the community.