Recfishwest believes Minister for Fisheries Don Punch’s decision to ban the use of wire trace 800m from shore between South of Mandurah to Two Rocks goes too far.
We agree that fishing for large sharks in the Metro area does not meet communities’ expectations around responsible fishing.
However, the Minister’s decision will unnecessarily impact on fishers who choose to use small wire trace to fish for species like tailor and mackerel either from the shore or trolling lures close in out of boats.
“Recfishwest had proposed reasonable and workable solutions to limit the diameter and length of wire trace – restricting fishing for large sharks without preventing tailor and mackerel fishers using their preferred gear,” said Recfishwest CEO DR Andrew Rowland.
“For example, limiting wire trace to 30cm length or shorter would have restricted shark fishing without unnecessarily impacting on fishers who target mackerel along the metro shores each summer. We can’t understand why this commonsense approach was not adopted.
“That said, we support the Minister’s call for local governments to rescind their multiple and ill-conceived local laws related to fishing that continue to contradict the overriding State-based fishing regulations.”
Andrew said he would be discussing the decision with the Minister.
“We will be asking for clarification from the Minister around if this new legislation will prohibit using a wire trace while trolling lures for mackerel close to the shore – as we don’t believe that was the intent of this legislation,” he said.
“The taxman”, “the men in grey suits” or just plain old “bloody sharks.” Whatever you call them, sharks biting off your prized catch as you bring it into the boat can be the bane of many fishers’ fishing trips north of Geraldton.
As fishers prepare to head north for their eagerly anticipated winter fishing trips, we continue to arm you with information that can help reduce, if not completely prevent, the number of hooked fish lost to sharks.
A good starting point is this web pagewe have put together having talked to some of the experts with a bunch of good tips, one of which is avoiding areas where sharks are present.
But how can you tell if you’ve got sharks under the boat where you’re fishing? In this latest article we’ve talked to a number of fishers and charter fishing operators who regularly encounter sharks during their fishing trips and asked for their advice on how to spot sharks on your sounder. This can allow you to choose not to bother having a drop or a troll where they’re already present, or moving on as soon as you see them coming into your spot.
A sounder approach to limiting shark bite-off
With sounder technology going to the next level in the last decade or so – it means fishers can survey what is under the boat before dropping a line better than ever before.
While sharks have an advantage at picking up fish scents and fish struggling on the end of your line in a flash – to their distinct disadvantage they are relatively easy to spot on a sounder.
How do they stand out? Unlike scalefish generally targeted by fishers, sharks do not have gas-filled swim bladders.
This means they will generally appear as a continuous solid or even wavy line on sounders, rather than the curved arches that show up on the sounder screen that generally indicates scalefish.
Josh Bruynzeel, skilled fisher and crewman from On Strike Charters in Exmouth, said sharks are easy to distinguish on all sounders, regardless of their price range or brand if you know what to look for.
“Sharks appear as a solid line that goes from left to right on your sounder rather than a fish arch,” Josh said. “They will also move under the boat and follow you regardless of your speed, whereas fish will generally sit on structure and tend not to move too much.
“You will get a solid echo from the front to back of sharks, the line doesn’t tend to fade either as it does with fish. Depending on the ping speed of your sounder, if it is higher you may also get multiple lines appearing on top of one another and that is a shark, but generally they appear as one long, continuous line and I would advise you don’t bother dropping a line if you see that on your sounder.”
Chris Tanti, a Simrad and Richter pro-teamer, and a recent winner of the Shimano WA Open in Jurien Bay, also said sharks are easy to differentiate from fish.
“The main difference between sharks and fish is sharks don’t have that arched ‘boomerang’ appearance on your head unit. Another factor is unlike bottom-dwelling fish that generally live close to the ocean’s substrate, sharks are generally higher in the water column and must ‘continually swim to live’ so to speak,” said Chris.
Chris Tanti also provided an array of other measures fishers can explore on their sounders during fishing trips.
“Because most fisherman aren’t targeting sharks, generally I wouldn’t play with your sounder settings too much. For instance, if you’re targeting bottom fish leave the settings that best suit you for that style of fishing. This is where bottom lock and depth line comes in handy to clearly differentiate the seabed from fish species,” said Chris.
“Another handy feature for pelagic fishers is TVG (or Time Variable Gain). Having this turned up will show you the ‘actual’ size of the fish as the head unit will work harder to show ‘true’ sizes of fish and sharks deeper in the water column. For example, if your TVG is set at 1, a 6-foot shark may look much bigger at 10 metres than say 20 metres.”
Be selective about the ground you fish
Josh also recommends steering clear of good-looking structure close to shore that is commonly fished, as sharks know hooked fish are easy targets at these locations.
While this kind of structure can look mouth-watering to anglers on sounders and often holds fish, sharks learn that these spots frequently see lines dropped down, leading to hooked fish and easy meals.
“The further away you travel from shore, the less likely it is you will come across sharks. I catch 99 per cent of my demersals off flat ground and most fishers don’t realise that bigger fish frequently sit under ledges only half a metre high.
“I don’t bother fishing big lumps or structure because it is almost always covered in sharks. I’ll fish mud, sand or rubble where fish will still gather but sharks don’t tend to,” added Josh.
Keep moving spots to keep the odds in your favour
Eddie Lawler, owner of Peak Sportfishing charters in Exmouth, said one of the easiest ways to avoid shark-bite off when fishing is to move spots frequently as boat activity and increased fishing action can act as a dinner bell for sharks.
“My biggest tip is to keep moving, regardless of whether you’re catching fish or not. As soon as we get one or two fish in the boat, we move spots immediately and try to put a fair amount of distance between each drop,” said Eddie.
“I’ll also do mock drifts over the spot I plan to fish with no lines in the water to analyse what it looks like on the bottom, to see if any sharks are in the area and to confirm the direction of the drift, but moving frequently is essential. Do not sit on a spot all day because your odds of getting sharked go through the roof.
“When we catch billfish, we also try to limit the amount of time that the fish are tied to the side of the boat and we never lift them out of the water. We release them as quickly as possible and don’t sit on one spot waiting to be sharked.”
If the fishing action is red hot at a particular spot, Chris Tanti said it’s wise to protect the future of that spot by not lingering for long.
“If you have a favourite ‘honey hole’ and suddenly lose a nice fish to a shark there – I’d highly recommend picking up and motoring (with haste) to another spot to protect that cohort of fish,” Chris said.
“I was bottom-fishing recently off Mandurah and hooked a solid dhufish before it got sharked and I only got the head back. There is absolutely no point in staying there when that happens, you’ll just lose more fish and knock off the local population without getting any fish on the deck,” said Chris.
More shark tips from one of Australia’s best sportfishers
As for what to do once you hook a fish to keep it away from awaiting jaws, Chris has numerous tips you can try.
“For bottom fishing – especially deep dropping in places like Exmouth where sharks can be a real problem – I like to click the boat into gear once the fish is clear of the bottom as the sharks have learnt to follow the boat. This brings the catenary of the fish up on a larger angle.
“Once the fishes swim bladder expands and it starts to come up quickly, I usually try to get on top of the fish as quickly as possible. You can also throw diversions at the sharks such as bait if you have any.”
With a lot of impressive sportfish catches and experience under his belt, Chris also advised fishers should lower their drag right back when they hook a fish while trolling.
“For pelagic fish – don’t be afraid to almost free spool your reel if a shark is on its tail. Sometimes sharks give up on an easy feed if a fish powers away with speed and the fish is easy to chase down and get in the boat when you do that as its lactic acid has built up, meaning less work to land it safely. This is a great technique if you like using lighter gear and enjoy your sport fishing.
“Don’t be afraid to chase your fish down either in the boat if you’re trolling. If the fish is running away from the boat, chase it down and reduce the amount of line you need to reel in when it runs and this also puts the odds more in your favour,” added Chris.
The push from the Town of Cambridge to ban all forms of land-based fishing along a popular fishing coastline between City Beach and Floreat has been slammed by the metro fishing community.
Last week, the Town of Cambridge pushed to ban all forms of land-based fishing in just over two weeks’ time along a 1,200m stretch of popular fishing coastline from around 50m south of the City Beach groyne up to the Floreat Surf Lifesaving Club to the north.
This stretch of coastline has provided some of Perth’s best land-based fishing experiences for generations and includes Floreat beach, which has been a much-loved fishing spot known for producing great catches of whiting, herring, tarwhine, tailor and mulloway.
It follows what the Town of Cambridge says is a number of shark fishing instances in the area over the summer, despite only one complaint on this along the same stretch between January 2022 and January 2023.
“It’s utterly ridiculous and ludicrous by the local Government and they don’t have the understanding, the ability or the knowledge of fishing to be able to create good public policy around fishing. To ban all fishing because the council have an issue with sharks is akin to stopping all cars on the road because there is an issue with speeding. It’s just bizarre that they would go down this pathway,” said Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell on ABC Mornings last week with Nadia Mitsopoulos.
“This council proposal would stop little kids from having a dab net walking around the groyne and going for crabs or fishing for herring and whiting off the beach, it’s just madness. This is a State issue and it should be managed through State fisheries legislation.
“This stretch is one of the most iconic beach fishing locations in the Perth metro area and this is just an overreaction that completely ignores all the wellbeing, health and economic benefits that fishing provides. There has been no consulation with Recfishwest as the peak body for recreational fishing on this proposal.”
This contentious proposal has been widely condemned by the metro fishing community, with 6PR announcer Karl Langdon labelling the proposed ban an “absolute joke” and adding the groynes in this area are “one of the most accessible fishing platforms for parents to teach their kids how to fish and for those that are less able-bodied.”
Recfishwest recognises shore-based fishing for large “trophy” sharks (greater than three metres) at popular swimming beaches does not meet the community’s expectations of responsible behavior and is currently in discussion with the Minister for Fisheries on how best to address this specific matter.
Recfishwest believe State-based Fisheries legislation is and should remain the overriding legislation governing fisheries in Western Australia and LGA’s should stick to managing roads, rubbish and rates and leave recreational fisheries management to the State.
This ludicrous proposal will be open for public comment soon and we will keep you updated and informed on how you can tell the Town of Cambridge exactly what you think. We will continue to fight for the rights of recreational fishers across WA and together we can put a stop to this outrageous proposal – stay tuned.
Given ongoing public discussion on shark fishing from popular beaches and, in light of some Local Government Authorties stepping out of their jurisdiction seeking to ban some fishing activities, this is Recfishwest’s position:
Recfishwest recognises shore-based fishing for large “trophy” sharks (greater than three metres ) at popular swimming beaches does not meet the community’s expectations of responsible behavior and Recfishwest supports action being taken by the State Government to address this issue.
For more than a decade, various Local Government Authorities have attempted to address these types of issues through ill-conceived, impractical and unenforceable local laws that are often inconsistent with overriding state-based fishing regulations. Recfishwest favours state-based fishing legislation that can address the community’s concern while minimising impacts on fishing for other species and fishing access to beaches that are not popular for swimming.
Recfishwest believes a change to fishing tackle rules will provide the most appropriate approach for managing public concerns around fishing for large sharks from Perth’s popular beaches. Limiting the shore-based use of wire trace to 2mm diameter and 1m length, combined with limiting the size of shore-based hooks to 12/0 and under, would effectively prevent the targeting and landing of large sharks. Importantly, this approach would not impact on fishers targeting other species such as tailor or Spanish mackerel.
Implementing these gear arrangements for shore-based fishers between Two Rocks and the Dawesville Cut would address public expectations associated with responsible fishing at swimming beaches within the metropolitan area.
Recfishwest sees no evidence that fishing activities pose increased risk to public safety and supports research to assess all potential risk posed to beach-users from a broad range of activities along the metropolitan coastline. Such research will better inform the community, local government and policy-makers resulting in science-based management solutions for all relevant risks rather than management simply designed to address unquantified public fears.