Perth’s ‘silver ghost’ busters on the city’s doorstep

With skyscrapers and buildings reflecting along the Swan River at the South Perth foreshore, the waterway in the heart of WA’s capital city has to be one of the most accessible mulloway locations in the country.

Fishing to the Max! Fishing guru Max Sampson proving big mulloway can be caught in the heart of Perth!

The river – hidden in plain sight – appears to be getting even better as a happy hunting ground for recfishers chasing prized “silver ghosts”.

Perth recfishers targeting the elusive Swan River mulloway have enjoyed something of a purple patch in recent months, with some anglers landing metre-plus-long monsters near the Narrows Bridge freeway crossing.

This season’s bumper mulloway run has delivered multiple fish-tipping the scales at more than 15kg.

Recent posts online on groups, such as Mulloway Hunterz, seems to have ended the long-running myth that catching big mulloway in the metropolitan rivers regularly is a rarity.

City croakers a reward for persistent hard-work

Well-known angler and Recfishwest Safety Ambassador Chris Dixon feels like he may be on track to “crack the code” for metro mulloway river fishing.

Chris – one half of Dixon Brothers Fishing – set social media ablaze in April when he posted a photo and video of him catching a huge 142cm mulloway from the Swan River.

The massive mulloway, which was released, capped off three nights of hard work fishing the Swan for a river croaker. Watch the video here.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see a fish of this size in my life, let alone catch it from my capital city,” Chris told us.

“Once you’ve got the bite, there is no turning back. It certainly requires a lot of time and effort, but to catch a big mulloway with the city in the background at the Narrows or the Causeway really is pretty cool.

“I hope to get to a level where I crack the code and can find them consistently, because catching more around the metre mark is more of a reward than just catching one really big mulloway.”

Mad-keen fisher Max Sampson has also had a great time of it catching silver ghosts this season, sharing photos with Recfishwest of the big mulloway he has pulled from the Swan over the past few months.

“The excitement of catching a mulloway is unbeatable, they are a great fight and a real trophy fish,” Max said.

“Catching 1.5m mulloway within five minutes of the Bell Tower is amazing – I just love catching them.”

How to catch a ghost

For many years, rigged baits have been considered the go-to method for Perth’s recfishers chasing mulloway in the river systems.

Ghost buster! Chris Dixon caught this 142cm silver ghost in the Swan in April.

When fishing with bait in tidal rivers and estuaries a dropper rig and three-way swivel are recommended for those tidal flows.

Traditionally, the most popular fishing method for mulloway in the Swan has been fishing with baits, but more recently fishers are using minnow lures and soft plastics trolled or cast from boats to catch mulloway.

The best fishing times are at dusk and dawn especially with a rising tide. Mulloway, once caught, will typically make two runs and it is best to let them run on their first and bring them in on their second run. Be careful when handling the fish, taking care to always support the body.

You can find more information on catching mulloway on our ilovefishing website here

Mulloway catches at WA’s beaches on the west coast between Kalbarri and Lancelin have been fairly common for recfishers who know the gutters in which the fish are likely to be lurking at favourite spots such as S-Bend and flat rocks, which seem to produce decent mulloway on a regular basis.

Check these mulloway catches out from across WA:

The King and Kalgan rivers on the State’s south coast are also regular reporting good catches. However, in recent years, reports of monster mulloway catches from the metropolitan rivers had been on the decline.

With the recent great run of catches in the Swan, it is great to see many fishers choosing to release their fish allowing them to fight another day especially considering large mulloway taste great. Small ones do not make very good table fish hence their moniker “soapies,” and should be released.

Currently, the mulloway minimum legal-size limit is 50cm, however, mulloway do not start reproducing until they are between 80cm to 90cm which is why Recfishwest supports raising the minimum size limit for them.

For those lucky enough to catch a mulloway for dinner, extracting the mulloway’s jewels (otoliths) can provide a couple of striking trophies of your catch that make for a great conversation piece!

Check out how you can get your hand’s on a mulloway’s jewels here

One of the 20,000 mulloway that Recfishwest helped released in 2013.

Healthy river systems lead to heathy fish stocks

Recfishwest recognises mulloway’s value as a trophy species for WA’s recfishers.

We have supported projects to boost stocks of the prized fish, including a 2012 Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund project that saw 20,000 juvenile mulloway released, with 600 released in the Swan and 1,400 in Mandurah and the rest near Jurien.

By now these fish should be approaching the magical metre mark.

We believe stock enhancement projects like this can play a big part in future-proofing fish stocks and making the fishing experience better. Abundant fish stocks are more resilient to modern day pressures and are more likely to deliver a better fishing experience because fishing is better when fish are biting!

FLASHBACK – SWAN RIVER MULLOWAY STOCKING PROJECT

Fishing for mulloway is one of the great WA fishing experiences – if you’ve the skill to hook up to one the sheer power of a big mulloway run is the kind of gut-churning thrill that keeps many anglers coming back for more.

This experience is freely available on the city’s doorstep, and for those willing to put in the time and effort, the recent catches show just how valuable the Swan-Canning system is and Recfishwest will continue to make sure it stays that way.

Max Sampson loves fishing the Swan River and trying to land a big mulloway!

Better management of toxic algal blooms in Swan-Canning river systems needed

For Perth’s legions of crabbing enthusiasts, it is small consolation the Department of Health (DoH) has finally lifted their health advice around consuming fish, crabs and other shellfish from large parts of the Swan-Canning system almost two months since the toxic algae Alexandrium has been detected at levels that warrant a health alert.

For the last six months, many Perth fishers have effectively been hit with a fishing closure in large parts of the middle and lower Swan and Canning rivers due to high levels of the algae.

Starting in mid-December the DoH issued a series of alerts warning people not to eat fish, crabs and shellfish from large sections of first the Swan and then later the Canning as “ingestion of toxins produced by the microscopic algae Alexandrium could produce a type of poisoning known as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).”

Simply locking recfishers out of the fishery for months at a time isn’t a good enough management strategy.

While there are still a few crabs around, the prime months for targeting the Swan’s famously big blue swimmer crabs are unfortunately well and truly behind us. This is the second successive year elevated levels of Alexandrium have substantially disrupted summer crabbing activities in what is the metro’s favourite fishing playground – the “jewel in the city’s fishing crown” as WA angling journalist Scott Coghlan recently described it.

In both years, the strategy to manage these algal blooms can be summed up as “monitor algae levels and wait for late autumn rain to come to flush the algae out of the system.” While Recfishwest welcomes all the sampling that has occurred over the last six months, there is a pressing need for management to do more than simply wait for winter rain. Any resource management plan worth its salt must address the needs of its stakeholders – the river is something we should all be able to enjoy and it is simply not good enough that the recfishing community is not able to access a large section of the river during the peak fishing season.

A more proactive approach required

Recfishwest  wants to see a much more proactive approach to the management of the Swan-Canning system with a framework that doesn’t lock us out of the fishery for months at a time – particularly if these blooms are going to become more frequent thanks to environmental change and predicted lower river flows. An open review of the way the sampling results inform the issuing and removal of health warnings needs to take place and a much more defined and transparent set of management actions linked to agreed trigger points for algae levels needs to be developed.

Reopening Cockburn Sound to recreational crabbing

If large parts of the Swan and the Canning River become off limits for crabbing for significant periods of the year, fishers are going to need somewhere they can go and re-opening Cockburn Sound is an obvious option that should be progressed as a matter of priority. We have been told the process to buy-back commercial crab fishing licences in Cockburn Sound following management changes announced in November, is progressing, however, the impact Alexandrium is having on Swan River crabbers provides a compelling reason to fast-track this process.

Blue swimmer crabs are the number one species targeted by recfishers and the Swan-Canning system is one of the State’s most important rec fisheries. Giving recfishers access to crabbing in the Sound again would go some way to offset the loss of access to the Swan and Canning as a result of Alexandrium and would demonstrate a much better management approach than simply praying for rain.

Catching blue swimmer crabs like these provides our kids with a genuine sense of connection to the outstanding natural environment the Swan-Canning supports on their doorstep.
Black bream are just one of the many species recfishers flock to the Swan and Canning rivers to target.

 

UPDATE: Latest update on the Swan River algal bloom

SWAN RIVER ALGAL BLOOM UPDATE 01 MAY 2020

Department of Health is reminding people that the warning associated with persisting toxic Alexandrium algal in the Swan and Canning Rivers remains in effect.

Fish, crabs or shellfish collected from within the following waterways should not be eaten due to the potential for unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish toxins:

  • Swan River – from Pelican Point, Crawley to the south of Perth Yacht Club, Applecross and upstream to Middle Swan (Reid Highway) Bridge. Middle Swan includes the commonly known areas of Como Jetty, Matilda Bay, Perth Waters, Elizabeth Quay, Barrack Street Jetty, Claisebrook Cove, Maylands Yacht Club, Ascot Waters, Hind Reserve, Riverside Gardens, Garvey Park, Sandy Beach Reserve, Point Reserve, Kings Meadow, Fish Market Reserve and Woodbridge Riverside Park.
  • Canning River – from the South of Perth Yacht Club and upstream to Kent Street Weir (this includes commonly known areas of Canning Bridge, Mt Henry Bridge, Salter Point, Shelley Bridge, Riverton Bridge, and Castledare).

For more information, click here.

NOTE: Despite Department of Health signs stating “NO FISHING”, there is no reason why you can’t continue to catch and release fish without any risk to your health in the affected areas.

More information on the algal bloom can be found in these FAQs

A map of the impacted area can be viewed below:

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions continues to conduct weekly water quality monitoring at an increased number of sites to track the extent of the bloom.

Mussels, crabs and fish are also being tested for the Alexandrium toxin. DoH and local riverfront councils have arranged for health warning signs advising against eating shellfish, crabs and fish to be erected at key riverfront locations including jetties, boat ramps and key accessible foreshore areas within the affected region.

It should be noted that swimming and other aquatic recreational activities on the Swan and Canning rivers are not impacted by the algal bloom, but as a general rule swimming should be avoided in areas of discoloured water.

DBCA is conducting weekly water quality monitoring at an increased number of sites to track the extent of the bloom.

Cockburn Sound pink snapper and blue swimmer crab changes now in effect

Remember the latest management changes, including seasonal closures, for both pink snapper and blue swimmer crabs in the West Coast Bioregion came into effect on September 1.

Both of these closures are critical in protecting spawning snapper and crabs, helping to secure the future of the fantastic fishing experiences both of these iconic recreational species offer in the metro area and South West.

To catch up on the latest pink snapper management changes click here.

To find out the about the blue swimmer crab management changes click here.

You can find a break-down on what these crab changes mean for your crabbing area here.

A step towards bigger, better crabs in Perth and the South West

Recfishwest joined the Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly in Mandurah and colleagues from the commercial fishing sector to announce a series of changes that represent a watershed moment in the management of the crab fisheries in Perth and the South West.

The significant reform will offer much more protection for the female crab breeding stock and secure a more resilient recreational crab fishery with more, bigger crabs and a better crabbing experience for everyone.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT THE NEW CHANGES TO THE RULES WILL MEAN FOR YOU

Through some constructive negotiations with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), the Southern Seafood Producers WA (SSPWA), we reached a point of agreement that has secured the best outcome for recreational fishers given the very real sustainability issues the fishery was facing.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT THE MINISTER HAD TO SAY

FIND RECFISHWEST’S MEDIA RELEASE HERE

Taking on board the views of nearly 4,000 recreational fishers who responded to our survey on the initial discussion paper, we put forward 10 proposed management changes to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in November last year.

The package announced by the Minister today met eight out of 10 of our recommendations – a great result, particularly in the context of what had been proposed.

A stark alternative

But before we got there, we were potentially looking down the barrel of a broad-scale five month closure from the Swan/Canning to Geographe Bay (inclusive) and a night curfew on crab fishing between 11pm and 4am.

The sustainability of the blue swimmer crabs must come first.

This blunt proposal by DPIRD galvanized ourselves, WAFIC and the SSPWA to sit down and hammer out a joint response which would ensure we could get a sensible, better outcome by working together.

Had we ended up in a Mexican stand-off with the commercial sector and DPIRD, we could have seen the process painfully drag out – possibly for years – which would have been in no one’s interests and yet again delayed vital management intervention.

Instead, we arrived at the following positive outcomes for the recreational fishing community:

  • A buy-back of commercial fishing licences from oceanic crab fisheries in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and from Mandurah to Bunbury, leading to their permanent closure and with an indication from the Minister that this will happen swiftly as a matter of priority.
  • The buy-back opens the door to the very real possibility of Cockburn Sound opening for recreational crab fishing in the near future.
  • A mixture of management measures introduced that will, within near future, result in better crabbing and bigger crabs and help to establish the Swan/Canning system as a trophy crab fishery right on Perth’s doorstep.
  • The blunt flat five-month closure across the resource and a night-time crab fishing curfew was averted avoiding impact on local businesses in Geographe Bay and Mandurah that benefit from crab fishers flocking to town. Instead, a three-month September to November closure has been introduced, excluding Geographe Bay which will remain open all year-round.
  • In Geographe Bay, a new limit of five female crabs within the bag limit of ten will ensure more female crabs remain in the system leading to bigger crabs and better crabbing in the near future.

Protecting a prized part of the WA lifestyle

Increasing pressure on Perth and South West crab stocks has taken its toll in recent years leading to an ongoing decline in the number of size crabs.

The writing has clearly been on the wall for some time and those of you who completed our survey on the future of the resource also backed our message loud and clear: the sustainability of the crabs must come first.

CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOLLOWING YOUR RESPONSES TO OUR SURVEY

Negotiating the best outcome for our community
We will always do whatever it takes to ensure the best outcome for our members and our community. Delivering on that commitment was/is paramount for us for such an iconic fishery as this. That meant doing the wise and mature thing and working with our colleagues in the commercial sector to achieve the best outcome.

In the complex world of fisheries management, with the often fiercely competing interests of different sectors, being able to negotiate an outcome like this was a watershed moment.

Recfishwest is looking forward to seeing the flow-on effects of these management changes in the near future, resulting in many more people across the board enjoying better crabbing and catching bigger, better quality crabs.

How good is this? Isn’t this worth protecting?

Swan River’s First Mussel Reef Trial

Great fishing experiences rely on plentiful fish stocks and healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems. This is especially true in estuarine environments, which act as nursery habitat for many key fishing species as well as a lifetime habitat for others.

Murdoch University have been working on a project to improve the recreational fishing experience in the Swan River Estuary by providing and restoring complex habitat and prey communities with funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.

The health and habitat of the Swan River Estuary System is extremely important for its inhabitants and the community who access it. A habitat that provides shelter for fish, as well as acting as an attractant for prey communities is what sets the scene for a healthy and self-reliant eco system. In turn, it can improve the overall health of the system which will in turn, improving recreational fishing experiences.

Part three (final stage):

VOLUNTEERS and FAMILIES NEEDED to help restore the Swan rivers mussel populations.

These mussels were once key prey of black bream. If we are to bring back the big bream we have to start here.

Did someone say free sausage sizzle? Yep! Come down this Saturday, to help Murdoch University researchers with a project to restore habitat and help bring back an abundance of black bream to the Swan River, as part of a project titled ‘Snag for a Snag.’ It’s a great day to come down and enjoy the beautiful swan river, lend a hand and even have a fish afterwards! Volunteers will help by preparing the banks of the river for the arrival of the Black Pygmy Mussel spat.

The newly hatched black pygmy mussels, called spat, attach themselves to the clean snags, increasing important prey communities for black bream, thereby improving the breams growth rate, body condition and therefore enhancing the recreational fishing experience.

WHEN: 10am Saturday 16th November

WHERE: Kings meadow Oval Guildford

WHAT TO BRING: sturdy footwear, boardshorts/bathers, waders.

Water, snacks and a BBQ will be provided.

 

Part two:

The second part of this project commenced on March 22nd with the deployment of a mussel reef, the first of its kind in the Swan River Estuary System. Not only will this reef increase the diversity of habitat around the flats in the estuary basin, thereby attracting fish through provision of greater food abundance and diversity as well as shelter, it will also improve the general health of the Swan River in that particular location. The mussels, filter feeders by nature, are already attached to these reefs and will immediately begin to consume plankton and non-living material from the water column, in turn improving light penetration and growing conditions for aquatic vegetation plants.

‘’Mussels can positively affect an ecosystem by its capacity to filter water and greatly improve the health of the water system in which they inhabitant.’’ Project coordinator Alan Cottingham says.

You can see the difference they make in a tank full of water here.

Local volunteers have been enthusiastically putting their hand up to engage in the project, assisting in the restoration and deployment components whilst raising awareness of the importance of environment quality for fish stocks. Check out the reef’s deployment video below all made possible with help from volunteers from the Marine Men’s Shed, Murdoch University Dive Club, Murdoch University students and other local volunteers. Reef locations are yet to be announced.

This trial project will explore the potential for scaling-up of such projects, providing valuable evidence to support future habitat enhancement and restoration projects in other estuaries.

You can read more about this exciting project by visiting the RFIF page – Swan River Habitat Restoration.

One of the mussel stakes forming part of the mussel reef
Local volunteers get in on the action to improve habitat for black pygmy mussels

Part one:

Earlier in the year, Murdoch began part one of the project by cleaning and re-snagging existing habitat in the upper Swan River to align with the expected mussel spawning cycle. The newly hatched black pygmy mussels, called spat, attach themselves to the clean snags, increasing important prey communities for black bream, thereby improving the breams growth rate, body condition and therefore enhancing the recreational fishing experience. A short video of this project can be viewed below.