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 Accenture Mackerel 5000 held in Dampier by the Nickol Bay Sportsfishing Club in mid-October needs to take a bow, it just produced some of the most jaw-droppingly big Spanish mackerel ever seen in a West Aussie fishing comp!
Recfishwest’s Fishing for Science team ventured up to the sun-kissed Pilbara town for the competition on October 15, backed with the support of Woodside North West to collect more Spanish mackerel samples to be used by DPIRD to inform the future Pilbara’s Spanish mackerel stock assessment.
It resulted in a mighty 65 narrow-barred Spanish mackerel heads being kindly donated by many of the 153 competitors in what was one of the most red-hot mackie sessions witnessed in WA, which ultimately set a new Fishing for Science PB for the most mackerel samples collected in one day.
In a great show of support from the Dampier community, more than 80 per cent of Spanish mackerel brought to the competition’s weigh-in were happily handed over for sampling.
The samples collected included the gonads and ovaries for a sexual maturity analysis and the removal of the fish’s heads to collect otoliths for aging purposes back in Perth. In addition to this, our Fishing for Science team recorded the length and weight of each fish.
The data collected during this competition will be vital to inform the current Pilbara mackerel stock assessment being put together by DPIRD.
While the biggest Spanish mackerel donated topped out at just over the impressive 30-kilogram mark, it was another gargantuan monster of a Spanish mackerel that nearly joined the audience’s jaws on the floor from the scales.
The 34.4kg beast landed by Casey Roskell scored him a big cheer from the crowd and $5,000 as the biggest specimen landed during the one-day-long competition, which maxed out the first scale brought out by the King Bay Game Fishing Club before a heavier scale was required!
“We were quite stunned at not only the sheer number of Spanish mackerel being caught and kindly donated to our team, but also some of the sizes of the fish as well. They were easily some of the biggest Spanish mackerel we’ve seen in recent memory,” said Recfishwest’s Senior Operations Officer Sam Russell.
“It just highlights how productive the pristine Pilbara waters are along with the importance of fishing competitions to regional communities like Dampier. We had a great yarn with all attendees and the competitors made a great contribution to our Fishing for Science program, 65 mackies in one day is now the number to beat! I’d also like to give a massive shout out to the Nickol Bay Sportsfishing for running an amazing comp and being so accommodating for our Fishing for Science program.”
In a partnership between Recfishwest and Woodside North West, this new event on the Pilbara fishing calendar is expected to grow over the next three years, based on the enthusiastic response to the Accenture Mackerel 5000 competition with the 50-boat capacity rapidly filling up.
Recfishwest also had the pleasure to have a friendly yarn with key stakeholders in the Pilbara region, including the Nickol Bay Sportfishing Club, King Bay Game Fishing Club and Karratha Adventure Sports, with valuable insights on addressing issues such as shark bite-off and how recreational fishing can be improved in the area.
With 78 boats brimming with 266 competitors all hoping to catch the biggest Spanish mackerel at the recent MACK10K competition in Onslow – our Fishing for Science table was jam-packed with macks!
The annual competition, hosted by the Ashburton Anglers Fishing Club, attracts scores of avid fishers who travel from far and wide across WA to the coastal Pilbara town, with its pristine waters providing the perfect playground for competitors and for various mackerel and billfish species to thrive.
With impressive prizes up for grabs across more than 17 categories and with Recfishwest once again working in collaboration with DPIRD Research Scientist Paul Lewis, our crew collected scientific data from dozens of Spanish mackerel that were brought to the weigh-in station.
Thanks to the contribution of the friendly and helpful competitors, our Fishing for Science program, supported by Woodside North West, collected data from a whopping 76 Spanish mackerel, including their weight, length, condition, sex and maturity stage.
“The number of Spanish mackerel samples collected for Fishing for Science at this year’s MACK10K is the most fish donated since the Fishing for Science program was initiated, so a huge kudos to the Onslow locals who are clearly passionate about helping us better understand this species,” said Recfishwest Senior Operations Officer Sam Russell.
In addition to our Fishing for Science program, DPIRD’s Paul Lewis took the otoliths from the 76 sampled fish on the filleting table for further scientific analysis. The finalised data will then be used in conjunction with commercial catch data to provide a clearer assessment of the Spanish mackerel stocks in the Pilbara Management Area.
“The biggest mackerel caught this year at the MACK10K (23.90kg landed by John Higgens) would be around 14 years old and that is normally the maximum age we see from Spanish mackerel each year at this competition from analysis of the otolith bones,” said Paul.
“We consistently see a strong class of fish every third year and Spanish mackerel reach legal size within about two years. 2019 was a particularly strong recruitment year for Spanish mackerel to thrive off the Pilbara coast and we thankfully saw that flow through to 2022 and 2023.”
A big Recfishwest thanks to the Onslow fishing community and Woodside North West who strongly support our Fishing for Science program, Paul Lewis who worked tirelessly to collect the data and the Ashburton Anglers for their hospitality during this great annual competition.
The Geraldton and Mid-West fishing community is relieved to hear that, following Recfishwest’s constructive discussions with the Fisheries Minister, the bag limit for popular large pelagic species like mackerel and tuna has been reinstated back to three fish around the Abrolhos Islands.
The initial revised daily bag limit down to one large pelagic fish around the Abrolhos was announced as part of the package of new west coast demersal fishing rule changes announced by the Minister in December last year.
The bag limit change had left many Mid-West fishers bewildered and disappointed, given there are no sustainability concerns around these fast-growing pelagic species which are highly abundant around the Abrolhos.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “The Minister has made a sensible decision to reinstate the original daily bag limit back to three large pelagic finfish.
“We are glad that the Minister listened to us and common sense has prevailed. Recfishwest is now looking forward to seeing fishers rightfully enjoy the full benefits of the pelagic sportfishing opportunities available throughout the Abrolhos Islands.
“Generations of fishers have travelled to the Islands for the fantastic sportfishing opportunities on offer, so this is great news. We are glad to see DPIRD has now clarified the reinstatement of the original three large pelagic fish bag limit on their website and in the online version of their fishing rules booklet.
“This change was also inconsistent with the overall push to develop greater sportfishing opportunities to support the recovery of demersal scalefish species along the west coast.”
With the latest revision, it also means charter operators and their customers can rightfully enjoy the full sportfishing opportunities on offer throughout the islands during the April-May period, which is one of the most popular times of the year for visitors to travel to the region and wet a line in the hopes of catching one of these hard-fighting pelagic species.
A spokesperson for the Minister’s Office told the Geraldton Guardian, “A bag limit of three large pelagic finfish has been reinstated following feedback provided by Recfishwest about how the reduced bag limit was impacting the recreational fishing experience at the Abrolhos Islands.”
“The reduction was originally introduced as part of a new wilderness fishing concept at the Abrolhos Islands and not due to sustainability concerns.”
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.
Hard-fighting, mean-looking and great-tasting — Spanish mackerel are among Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan’s favourite species to catch. In this week’s edition of Scott’s Species, written exclusively for Recfishwest, Scott outlines why he believes Spaniards are one of the most underrated table fish on offer.