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.
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!
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
There’s nothing quite like rolling up your sleeves and helping release thousands of rainbow and brown trout into Drakesbrook Weir – and the opportunity to do this again at Troutfest for 2022 is fast approaching!
Recfishwest is once again partnering with the Shire of Waroona and DPIRD’s Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre to host the sixth annual Troutfest community fish stocking event and celebrate all things trout and freshwater fishing on Saturday, 15 October.
Troutfest 2022 When? 15 October, 10am – 2pm
Where? Drakesbrook Weir, Weir Road, Waroona What to bring? Suncreen, a hat, water – fishing gear if you want – although Recfishwest will loan out gear on the day. More info? Visit the Shire of Waroona website or contact the shire on 9733 7800.
Celebrating the South-West and Peel regions’ great trout and freshwater fishery, the event will give you the unique chance to jump in the drink at Drakesbrook Weir and help release thousands of radiant rainbow and beautiful brown trout.
This year will also see many larger yearlings and ex-broodstock rainbow and brown trout released into Drakesbrook Weir than in previous years. More larger fish released means a higher survival rate for the fish and critically more fish grabbing anglers’ lures, flies and baits!
Along with the opportunity to release trout, Troutfest also features several fun fishing activities including a free fishing clinic, fly-casting tuition, fly-tying demonstrations, and a casting competition for kids.
Last year, dozens of excited kids were able to catch a trout as our happy snaps show – and this year will be no different. This is what trout fishing is all about – fishing fun in our great outdoors in our spectacular South-West!
“Troutfest is a great celebration of this fantastic fishery,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “It showcases the value that fish stocking plays in helping future proof our fisheries and creating fish abundance for great fishing. The fishing is always better when the fish are biting.”
“Anglers visiting South-West freshwater dams, streams and rivers helps inject more than $20 million annually into the regional economy, but there is great potential for growing the fishery and boosting that economic injection even further.
“We want to work closely with Government to create more places for people to fish for freshwater species, where they can catch fish in safe, accessible, and family oriented fishing locations.
“DPIRD already does a great job with their Pemberton-based trout hatchery, but with great collective will and vision from the Government, an expansion of the freshwater fishery could unlock huge social, economic and fishing benefits for the community.”
Recfishwest, through its Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, advises DPIRD on where to stock trout each year.
Recfishwest thanks Daiwa as our community fish stocking partners, our Troutfest partner in the Shire of Waroona, along with our supporters in Alcoa, Healthway, Fishability and Act, Belong, Commit for helping us run this event for another year.
In a great outcome for WA anglers, Fisheries Minister Don Punch recently announced the herring bag limit is to be increased from 12 to 20 from 1 October.
This is in line with advice provided by Recfishwest to the Minister in April calling for the increase.
The advice was based on DPIRD’s scientific assessment that showed herring have made a strong enough recovery to allow for an increase in the bag limit without slowing down the continued growth of the herring stock.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “We’re really pleased to see the Fisheries Minister has listened to fishers’ views and responded to the strong herring stock recovery with this positive outcome.
“Herring brings pleasure to a wide range of anglers including mums, dads and kids, with a wide range of fishing ability. It truly is the ‘people’s fish’ and we will continue to make sure there will be plenty of them around for people to enjoy forever.”
Thanks to more than 4,000 of you who responded to our survey, we were able to gauge community views on what the revised bag limit should be in light of the strong recovery of the stock.
It was great to see how many people care about the future of this hugely valued species.
As our survey results showed, a majority of 32 per cent of you who responded called for an increase in the bag limit to 20, while 27 per cent favoured the bag limit staying at 12. Only 11 per cent called for a return to the former bag limit of 30.
It’s a fish journey that gives Finding Nemo a run for its money.
Rewind to 2013 in the East Kimberley Ord River in Kununurra, where 12 barramundi were caught, placed in a specially adapted trailer and transported over 1,000km north-east to North Regional TAFE’s Aquaculture Centre in Broome.
Over the past nine years, they grew from around 50cm in length to about one metre, changed from male to female and spawned almost a quarter of a million baby barra between them.
Last Friday, those original 12 barramundi made the 1,000 km ‘return-journey’ and were released into Lake Kununurra, where they will see out the rest of their years.
“It was so good seeing these animals go full circle and return to where they’re from,” said Milton Williams, North Regional TAFE Senior Aquaculture Technician, who has worked at the centre for the last 15 years and oversaw the release operation of these magical fish.
“Having seen them grow and do their bit spawning, it was so rewarding watching them swim off into their wild habitat.”
It is a testament to the stocking program run by the North Regional TAFE in Broome and the local Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group, which has seen more than one million barramundi released into its waterways since 2013.
Lake Kununurra has since become a world-class hotspot for anglers chasing one-metre giants in ‘barra-dise’. According to a 2020 report conducted on the restocking program, the economic value of barramundi fishing to the region is already $7.6 million per year.
To ensure the fish are healthy in the centre and contribute to the growing species abundance, their diet includes fresh “human-grade” seafood including mullet, whiting, prawns, squid and pilchards.
As barramundi are protandrous hermaphrodites, they also change sex from male to female once reaching five to six-years-of-age at around the 90cm mark.
Milton said the female fish have produced eggs consistently well over the last few years, whereas the males might have been suffering from a little ‘performance anxiety.’
“The females have spawned consistently well, it’s the males we have trouble with,” said Milton. “They don’t always fire and we rarely have them all in spawning condition at once – usually it’s about half of them. Between these fish they have successfully contributed 214,000 barra fingerlings that have been transported and released in the lake.”
For their 12–14-hour journey back to Lake Kununurra, the fish were purged so none of their waste impacted on the pH of the water, which can be lethal to the fish. The ratio of fish to water in the oxygenated transportation tanks was 80kg of fish to 800L of water.
Once at the lakeside, water was slowly pumped through the tank to allow the fish to acclimatise and “osmoregulate” from the saline water in which they were kept in at the hatchery and in the transportation tanks to the freshwater environment of the lake, as well as adapting to temperature changes.
A special fishery being delivered by a strong partnership
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland commented, “It’s great to see these fish being treated with the respect they deserve being released back into their natural habitat after contributing to this great program.
“Thanks to fish like this and the fantastic efforts of North Regional TAFE, the local Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group and the support of the State Government, the lake has flourished into a special fishery in a beautiful part of the world. Where else do you get the chance to catch metre-long barra in such a safe and accessible setting?”
There’s plenty of reasons to be excited for the future of freshwater fishing in WA’s beautiful South-West following the release of this year’s trout stocking numbers and locations.
Not only can you fish the dams, rivers and streams with postcard backdrops for big trout, but larger specimens in greater numbers are set to flourish through these areas and end up on the hooks of more keen freshwater anglers thanks to smarter and safer stocking.
Trout are stocked each year in WA and vary in size, from smaller fry (5cm), to mid-sized ýearlings, right up to ex-broodstock fish (>40cm). These hatchery-reared trout are released and targeted by the growing number of Western Australian freshwater anglers – currently around 10,000.
Leading the charge behind the stocking efforts is the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre (PFRC). DPIRD maintains its close working relationship with Recfishwest. This year will also see the 50-year milestone of the hatchery being run and operated by the WA State Government.
Based on the recommendations of DPIRD and values from Recfishwest’s Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, this year’s rainbow and brown trout stocking ahead of the freshwater fishing season will see 153,500 rainbow fry, 31,500 rainbow yearlings and 2,700 ex-broodstock rainbows released in our South-West, while 12,000 brown yearlings and 650 ex-broodstock browns will also make a splash.
It brings the grand total to 200,350 rainbow and brown trout being released through various brooks, dams and rivers with tens of thousands more mid-sized yearlings stocked than previous years.
Releasing the smaller fry into our waterways means having to survive threats from redfin perch, water rats, droughts and more over the course of around 800 days before they reach ex-broodstock size.
While many fry do reach legal size, stocking more of the larger yearlings and broodstock trout through these waterways instead means an increased chance these fish will recruit to the fishery and be encountered by anglers.
DPIRD Freshwater R&D Senior Research Scientist Andrew Beer, says the improvements in stocking design and a focus on “right fish, right place, right time” for fish releases means improved outcomes and the odds of anglers landing bigger trout.
DPIRD will also boost capacity to transport large numbers of bigger trout through the South-West waterways next year, via a custom-made fish transport tanker truck capable of carrying five thousand litres of water.
The truck will be used to transport yearlings and ex-broodstock trout with lower risks of handling damage to the fish and off-road features that can allow easier access in and out of rough and boggy areas.
Key benefits to this include reducing the number of days the hatchery staff are on the road. This efficiency offers two positive outcomes – less risk of traevl and more days they can contribute to hatchery operations.
A $20 million catch
“We’re pleased to see the Government’s commitment to the future of this fantastic fishery and this dedication to advancements in stocking, which will ultimately result in better quality fishing for anglers,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.
“The flow on effects from anglers visiting South-West freshwater dams, streams and rivers helps inject more than $20 million annually into the regional economy thanks to keen anglers spinning lures, bait fishing and fly fishing for trout.
“We believe there is massive potential for expanding the trout stocking program and fishery and commend DPIRD’s Aquatic Freshwater Research and Development team for championing this cause from within the Department.”
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: 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.
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.
I cast a paddletail plastic, with a weedless hook and flasher, at a rock bar along the banks of the Lower Ord, writes Recfishwest Communications Officer Zach Relph.
One crank of the reel, then let the paddletail slowly flutter down… and bingo! The rod bends, line peels and an East Kimberley barra is acrobatically leaping out of the water.
The fight is over relatively quickly and while it isn’t a trophy fish, it’s an important capture that’ll play a role in ensuring the ongoing stocking of barra into a fishing gem, where monster specimens are caught on a regular basis – Lake Kununurra.
Now local and visiting fishers are reaping the rewards with the chance to wet a line in a world-class sportfishery.
Brimming with barra, safe and accessible with no saltwater crocs, as well as being free of big tidal movements typical of Kimberley rivers, it’s easy to see why Lake Kununurra is a must-visit fishing location for anglers.
All million fish released into the lake have been hatched and reared at North Regional TAFE’s (NRT) Broome Aquaculture Centre, with its aquaculture experts influential in the program’s success.
The stocking program exists because barra are unable to successfully reproduce in the freshwater lake – they require saltwater to complete the breeding process.
WATCH: See the action from the broodstock collection
NRT oversee the well-managed stocking program along with Recfishwest, the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
That’s why straight after the latest release of juvenile barra into the lake on 18 July, attended by 150 locals and holidaymakers, the NRT team was already casting its eye to the future – catching more fish for breeding purposes – or broodstock, as they are called.
“We need to collect male barra for our maturation tanks at the Broome Aquaculture Centre so we can keep stocking fish into Lake Kununurra,” NRT’s Milton Williams explained.
“Barra are born as males, but transition into females at about 80cm. At the moment, we’re running out of males so we need to collect more while we’re here in Kununurra.”
This will ensure the fishing enjoyed on the lake by East Kimberley locals and travelling anglers will continue to go from strength-to-strength.
The stocking effort is dependent on maintaining the genetic background of the barra found near Kununurra to maintain the genetic purity.
“Some of the fish will want to eventually follow their natural breeding migration, meaning they’ll want to swim downstream to the saltwater to spawn,” Milton told Recfishwest.
“The fish that do this will make their way through the diversion dam and into the Lower Ord.”
Bagging the broodstock
With NRT on the search for more broodstock, Recfishwest joined Milton and TAFE acting regional manager Anthony Aris in pursuit of breedable barra late last month with the best method to catch them just happening to be rod and line!
Fishing with rod and reel – and barbless hooks to help minimise potential injury – is an effective broodstock collection method, reducing handling stress.
This ensures the fish are in optimal condition for transporting back to the Broome Aquaculture Centre.
Milton and Anthony, who both have long associations with this stocking program, were aiming to catch fish preferably 60cm or bigger – a more suitable size for captivity and breeding purposes.
Milton has been involved in the Lake Kununurra stocking program since its infancy and was part of initial broodstock collection a decade ago.
Having watched each of the fish stocked through the program grow from a hatchling, he has a close affinity with the barramundi in Lake Kununurra.
“From collecting broodstock 10 years ago to now playing a part in stocking one million barra is fantastic,” Milton said.
“As an avid fisherman, to see the program go full-cycle and visit Lake Kununurra myself to catch the fish and have guys regularly ring us to say they’ve caught 1m barra is very rewarding.”
A female barra in the wild can produce 30 million eggs across a spawning period.
However, barra eggs and larvae require saltwater for successful fertilisation and Lake Kununurra is freshwater, meaning the barra stocked cannot complete the breeding cycle in the 55km lake.
Multiple spawning events take place at the NRT hatchery throughout the year, with one female barramundi producing up to 10 million eggs in the hatchery.
After eggs are fertilised, the TAFE team separate the fertilised eggs from the non-fertilised eggs – the fertilised eggs float, whereas the non-fertilised sink, making it easy to differentiate.
“We separate the eggs and place the fertilised eggs into a hatching tank where they hatch,” Milton said.
“Once we feed the fish with zooplankton enriched with algae for a few weeks until they are big enough to eat artificial food.
“The time between hatching to releasing generally takes about 50 days and they’re measuring about 50mm by this stage.”
Fishing for the future
Outside of their day-to-day duties at Broome’s Aquaculture Centre, Milton and Anthony are hooked on the allure of chasing barra across the Kimberley’s vast array of rivers and creeks.
The two mad-keen recfishers hadn’t fished the Lower Ord in late July previously, but quickly homed in on a daily bite-time – roughly between 3pm and 5pm – at the areas in which we were fishing.
Downstream of Buttons Crossing – over Ivanhoe Crossing – proved fruitful during the broodstock collection, especially in the late afternoon.
Around this time the barra weren’t overly fussy or shy when a lure such as a Samaki Vibelicious 70mm, Daiwa Double Clutch 90mm or a Zerek Flat Shad were flicked in their proximity.
While I initially thought the Lower Ord barra would be more inclined to take natural-coloured lures resembling the bait fish they predate, the sportfish still engulfed bright orange, pink and green lures.
Frustratingly, some of the smaller sized barra – in the 25cm to 40cm bracket – would inquisitively follow a lure to the boat without taking a swipe.
However, when they did hook-up – every treble or single hook used had crushed barbs – you knew about it, especially because I was relatively under-gunned fishing with a 20lb outfit.
Even small barra prove why the species’ power is revered by many fishers.
Stocking up on magnificent fishing experiences
Following the collection efforts, Milton and Anthony returned to Broome with 13 barramundi which would become broodstock for the ongoing stocking program at Lake Kununurra.
The fish were safely driven back to Broome in two tanks – the same tanks which initially transported the latest batch of 50-day-old fingerlings from the Broome Aquaculture Centre to Kununurra.
With the State Government funding set to see 400,000 barra stocked into the lake annually for the next three years, the hatchery team is already readying fish for the next batch of stocking.
So, if you’re looking for a new fishing experience in a magnificent, be sure to visit Lake Kununurra.
Chasing a sportfish iconic to northern Australia at a location abundant with barra, while surrounded by the picturesque setting is a sight to behold and an experience to relish.
With this trailblazing program entering another exciting chapter, Recfishwest is excited to see future catches of magnificent trophy barramundi from Lake Kununurra for many more years to come.