Inaugural Pemberton Trout festival makes big stocking splash with locals

With stunning weather and a spectacular forest backdrop, the inaugural edition of the Pemberton Trout Festival proved to be a great hit with the sizeable crowd that turned out for this new fish stocking event. 

Around 400 people made the picturesque journey to Big Brook Dam, just outside of Pemberton, to line up and hand-release hundreds of rainbow and brown trout into the crystal-clear waters of this fantastic South-West freshwater fishery.  

To top it off, every trout making a splash was at least yearling size, with dozens of parents and kids able to experience the thrill of holding the larger ex-broodstock specimens, some over 50cm in length, before gently caressing them into the water and watching them kick away to freedom.  

With a greater number of the larger fish being released, it means a higher survival rate and a better workout for anglers and their rods when these bigger trout grab lures, flies and baits.  

The stocking event proudly celebrated 50 years of Fisheries Department (DPIRD) management of the Pemberton Hatchery, which underpins WA’s ever popular South-West trout fishery.  

Along with Recfishwest, this new event was initiated and supported by local fishing clubs including the Australian Trout Foundation (ATF), Southern Forests Freshwater Angling Club (SFFAC) and Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association (WATFAA).  

The festival would also not have been possible without the tremendous support from DPIRD, the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre, Daiwa, Healthway, Pemberton Visitor Centre, Shire of Manjimup and the Australian Trout Foundation Inc.  

There were plenty of larger ex-broodstock trout up for grabs for attendees to help hand-release at the festival! Here’s Recfishwest Communications Coordinator Jarrad Lawford helping a young tacker release a beautiful brown.

“It was a great sight to see dozens of families and kids getting hands on in releasing these fantastic fish. There couldn’t have been a more fitting way to celebrate the history of the hatchery and the fishery here in Pemberton – the ‘spiritual home’ of WA freshwater fishing,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“The Pemberton-based trout hatchery run by DPIRD supports a fantastic program that brings thousands of anglers to chase these fish through South-West freshwater dams, rivers and streams. These anglers in turn inject more than $20 million annually into the regional economy and we believe there is huge potential to grow the fishery even further along with the social and economic benefits it brings to the region.”  

Every year, trout are released into various popular freshwater fishing dams and rivers such as Drakesbrook Weir, Harvey Dam, Waroona Dam, the Collie River and the Brunswick. 

With such a big turn-out for the successful event, it is hoped more fish stocking events like this can be run in the area in the future – watch this space! 

Recfishwest will continue to work closely with Government in creating more places for people to fish for freshwater species in safe, accessible and family-oriented fishing locations.  

Recfishwest’s Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group will continue to provide advice to DPIRD on where to distribute each year’s trout stocks bred at the hatchery.  

A big Recfishwest thanks to all our supporters who made this event possible, along with all attendees young and old who took part and helped release the fish quickly and in good condition.  

A unique experience in a picturesque place, hopefully the Pemberton Trout Festival will become an annual event!

Ensuring West Aussie fishers harness the potential fishing benefits of offshore wind energy projects

Recfishwest remains vigilant in ensuring recfishers are consulted with and have their say on plans to develop, construct and operate large-scale offshore wind energy (OWE) projects in WA, both in state and commonwealth waters.  

There are currently several OWE project proposals in the pipeline off our WA coast, with our South-West, Metro and Mid-West regions the likely locations. The wind turbines that would make up these projects could potentially become a defacto new network of artificial reefs – with similar structures in other parts of the world effectively creating new fish habitats and fishing opportunities.  

For this to happen, recfishers would need to be allowed access to the structures – but with no overarching regulatory framework in place for OWEs, there are concerns exclusion zones might be implemented around the structures, preventing fishing access.  

One of the proposed WA projects – The Leeuwin Offshore Windfarm – would have up to 200 wind turbines operating 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, for up to 50 years. The proposed windfarm would be situated around 15km off the coast between Preston Beach and Binningup. 

The planned Leeuwin Offshore Windfarm location (left) and an idea of what we could potentially see of our South-West coastline (right) Image: Copenhagen Energy.

Recfishwest acknowledges and supports the need for renewable energy production. In pursuit of The Western Australian Government’s aspirations for net zero emissions by 2050, offshore wind energy (OWE) is becoming an attractive proposition.  

Our south-west coastline boasts high wind speeds, favourable water depths, low risk of cyclones and good access to existing port infrastructure – all positive attributes for WA’s growing demand for green energy.    

Winds at sea reach a higher speed and are more constant than wind on land because there are no barriers. To harness this energy, the wind turbines are seated on giant towers installed on the seabed in depths of up to 60 metres or on floating structures anchored to the bottom in deeper waters. 

While it has been proven overseas that recreational fishing can be largely compatible with offshore wind energy projects, it must be a recognised factor and key value when planning, designing, constructing and operating any offshore wind farm projects off the WA coastline.   

Recfishwest will only support OWE projects that improve recreational fishing experiences with no net loss of amenity. As a matter of priority, the decision-makers behind these OWE projects must provide clarity around maintaining fishing access and ensure recreational fishers are consulted in the planning and construction processes. 

From a fishing perspective, OWE projects can act as artificial reefs, potentially enhancing marine abundance in the area through the provision of increased habitat and structure availability.  

Over time, windfarm pylons can potentially lead to an improvement in marine abundance due to the structures acting as artificial reefs, although their construction can cause other issues. Image: Copenhagen Energy.

However, these projects also have the potential to adversely impact environmental and social values through habitat damage and implementation of exclusion zones, along with displacement and concentrations of commercial fishing efforts.  

West Aussie recfishers deserve to be able to fish these structures, without the construction potentially having negative impacts on the fishing spots they already cherish.   

“It is crucially important that any OWE projects should avoid important habitats such as spawning areas and nursery areas, as well as popular fishing locations,” said Recfishwest Operations Lead Matt Gillett.   

“While the possibility of having potentially hundreds of turbine structures in our waters acting as artificial reefs sounds great to keen fishers, this benefit is pointless if we don’t have close accessibility to fish them. We’ve seen this respect given to recfishers overseas and this is what we want locked in if these projects are to proceed.”  

Before development and planning is confirmed, Recfishwest will consult frequently with recreational and professional fishing groups to ensure boating and fishing activities are not negatively impacted.    

To find out more about Recfishwest’s stance on OWE, please click here 

Troutfest 2022 – Our recap of all the thrills and spills!

With beautiful weather conditions and a buzzing crowd of more than 250 people, the sixth edition of Troutfest proved why it is one of the most enjoyable family-friendly events in our picturesque South-West.  

The annual community event saw dozens of excited families lining up to hand-release around 350 rainbow trout and brown trout into the much-loved freshwater gem of Drakesbrook Weir.  

While this year saw hundreds of smaller fingerlings and yearlings released once again by people of all ages, the larger splashes were a lot louder than previous Troutfest events, with more numbers of larger ex-broodstock trout – some upwards of 50cm in length – diving into their new Drakesbrook home.  

Fancy fishing for rainbow or brown trout? Check out all the stocking locations this season!

People of all ages got involved releasing trout of all ages!

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland, Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke, Mr Robert Jetta and the Shire of Waroona President Mike Walmsley all rolled up their sleeves to help out during the event, made possible by the Shire of Waroona, Alcoa and DPIRD’s freshwater hatchery in Pemberton.  

The Western Australian Trout and Freshwater Angling Association (WATFAA), the Australian Trout Foundation (ATF) and Southern Forests Freshwater Angling Club (SFFAC) also returned to help teach the next generation of freshwater fishers, with free fly-casting and fly-tying tuitions.  

It was encouraging to see so many youngsters learning the life skills of fly fishing while trying their luck at landing a trout, with many experiencing the adrenaline rush of catching yearling and ex-broodstock trout on flies, lures and even corn kernels!  

There are plenty of ways to get involved at Troutfest, from releasing trout to trying your luck at catching them!

“When you see the enjoyment on not just the kids’ faces, but also the adults getting involved in hand-releasing this iconic species, it’s easy to see why this event is so symbolic to so many people and freshwater fishing in our South-West,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“Troutfest is now an eagerly anticipated and adored event by keen fishing families. It is highly valued by the WA recfishing and regional communities and there is no better way to celebrate the fantastic freshwater fishery in the State’s south.”  

Troutfest is part of a carefully managed South-West trout stocking program, funded with assistance from recreational fishing licence fees through the RFIF to help improve the experiences of around 10,000 freshwater fishing licence holders who enjoy chasing trout from Pemberton to Waroona.  

Hundreds of larger yearling and ex-broodstock trout made a splash this year, more than any previous Troutfest event!

All 800 trout released into Drakesbrook Weir this year through the program were hatched and reared at DPIRD’s hatchery in Pemberton, which helps distribute hundreds of thousands of trout throughout our State’s fresh waterways each year.  

Recfishwest, through its Freshwater Fisheries reference Group, offers advice to DPIRD on where to stock each year’s stock of bred trout throughout the South-West.  

“A big thank you to the Shire of Waroona, Alcoa, Daiwa and our other event supporters for helping bring this great day to the community, and also DPIRD for their tremendous ongoing supply of rainbow and brown trout from their Pemberton hatchery,” added Andrew.  

Missed out on Troutfest? Don’t worry, for the first time, a second community trout stocking event will occur on November 6 at the Big Brook Dam Foreshore & Picnic Area to celebrate 50 years of Fisheries Department Management of the Pemberton Hatchery! 

Find out more about this upcoming event below! 

Fisheries Minister fixes DPIRD’s Harvey Dam marron stocking blocking with 100,000 juveniles to be released

After a long three-year stocking hiatus, Harvey Dam is finally set to see 100,000 marron make a splash into its waterways in 2023. 

The announcement by the Fisheries Minister Don Punch fixes a decision by DPIRD to prevent marron being stocked into Harvey Dam as part of a stocking program funded by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and launched by the Premier Mark McGowan at the dam in 2019.  

Read the full media release from the Fisheries Minister here.  

Harvey Dam is the most popular recreational marroning location in our South West and provides an ideal habitat for marron spawning and growth.

Over the last few years, the team from Aquafarms, supported by Recfishwest, helped release 300,000 marron into the popular Waroona and Logue Brook dams.  

Large numbers of marron were also supposed to be released into Harvey Dam last year as part of this project, but one month before stocking DPIRD advised Recfishwest that, approval to stock Harvey Dam would not be provided.  

DPIRD’s rationale for refusing permission to stock Harvey Dam was largely based on two-decade old research. However, this rationale did not extend to Logue Brook or Waroona Dams, leaving local marron fishers confused and disappointed that the premier marroning location of a recreational-only fishery was missing out, despite assurances it would be a focus of the stocking project.  

Recfishwest raised our concerns directly with the Fisheries Minister and is pleased that he cut through the red tape put in place by DPIRD to ensure marron would be stocked in WA’s premier marooning location as intended.

This photo, taken in December 2019, was the last time marron were stocked into Harvey Dam, shortly after Premier Mark McGowan announced the RFIF-funded marron stocking program.

A sensible outcome  

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “We thank the Minister for listening to Recfishwest and overcoming needless Government bureaucracy to right this wrong – it’s a sensible resolution that ensures a good outcome for the community.  

“By working with the Minister and DPIRD, we hope to achieve a similar sensible resolution for the west coast demersal fishery and avoid the extensive social and economic damage the Government’s initial proposal for a nine-month ban would cause. 

“Marron is an icon of the South-West and marroning is a hugely popular pastime, with Harvey Dam the most popular marroning location.  

“The marron season brings in thousands of freshwater fishers from around the state to the pristine South-West waterways, helping inject millions of dollars back into our regional tourism economies.  

“Stocking initiatives like this can future-proof the marron fishery and take us closer to our vision of year-round marroning.” 

Breeding from the marron captured at Harvey Dam has already begun, with restocking expected to start as early as June next year.

Check out our marron fishing tips on our ilovefishing website

Marroning in Harvey Dam is hugely popular, especially when larger catches like these are made possible thanks to the dam’s ideal conditions.

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 maniac” 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.

Here’s Sam’s marvelous marron 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!