I had a good chat with Fisheries Victoria’s Freshwater Fisheries Manager today Anthony Forster, trying to get some answers to those burning questions all us recreational fishermen had after we heard the latest news on the Hazelwood Barramundi stocking project.
What most people don’t know (I certainly didn’t) is that there is a lot of complex issues that fisheries need to work through to get this barra fishery up and running. The Hazelwood pondage is currently managed by the shire and the energy companies, and is used by numerous other recreational groups like swimmers, yacht club, water skiers and kayakers. So all these users plus the extra requirements of the power company (restricted areas etc) need to be taken into account before some of the more major decisions are make and ensure everybody is happy with the end outcome.
Fisheries currently have a working group working through these issues, which include, city of Latrobe shire, energy company, VR fish, and some local recreational fishing groups, and once they come up with some draft plans and proposals they will put them out to the wider fishing community for comment and consideration.
When will it be open to recreational fishermen?
Looks like they are still aiming for 20th October this year. But they have a hell of a lot to work through before then!
Will the fishery be catch and release only?
They currently have samples of the local bait fish and eels being tested for heavy metals. This along with some other tests will give them enough information to decide if the Barramundi will be suitable for human consumption. Once they have enough information they will make the call on whether the Hazelwood fishery will be catch and release or not. So this is still to be decided along with a host of other rules and regulations for the fishery.
More stocking to come?
Yes a full stocking program is going to be occurring, but as all this growth information is so new they need time to analyse the data fully and decide on a suitable stocking regime. But there will be some more fished stocked into the pondage at the end of this month.
Plans to upgrade the current boat ramp infrastructure?
Currently the boat ramp and car park is only suitable for approx. 20 boats, so fisheries are looking at how they can utilize the current infrastructure with minor changes ready for the October opening, with more serious infrastructure projects to come after that.
How will the fishery be managed in terms of numbers of anglers, boats etc?
As you can imagine there has been a ridiculous amount of interest in this stocking program, the potential for people to fish for big Barramundi here in Victoria has definitely got peoples attention.
Because of this, management of such a popular but small fishery is going to be paramount. By the sound of it the current working group are looking at a few different ballot style models for fishing the pondage. Something similar to Gippsland’s Hog deer ballot system may be in order.
With this in mind there will obviously also need to be increased policing of the fishery to ensure all the recreational fishermen are doing the right thing and abiding by the new rules, bag limits and size restrictions which they are currently working through for the pondage to be ready for the Oct 20th Opening.
Moving forward fisheries are going to be utilizing the 15 audio tagged fish and the 6 listening stations to learn more about how the barra behave in the pondage, and where they move to in certain times of the year.
As different areas of the pondage change temperature on a seasonal basis it is currently looking like the barra are moving around the whole pondage but at times staying in their desired water temperature. Fisheries will be able to let anglers know what parts of the pondage will be more productive at certain times of the year once they have a full 12 months worth of data. This will include the potential for a “closed season” if they find the barra are moving into any of the “restricted areas” that the pondage has.
This Hazelwood stocking project was one of the high level government initiatives from the “target 1 million project” promised by the state labour government.
Growth rate figures
Here is a graph fisheries sent me to show the growth of the Hazelwood barramundi against a few other Nth Australian Barramundi fisheries. Pretty impressive!! How they manage the long term stocking of the pondage could greatly alter this graph though. Too many barra in too short a time could result in a huge decrease of the current baitfish population and end up with lower growth rates etc. So they will be monitoring the quantity of the local baitfish population also. Lots of food for thought for fisheries. 😉
Great work to all involved!
Feel free to ask us any questions and we will answer them if we can. Otherwise we can pass them onto fisheries and try get a response for you.
Pics courtesy of Fisheries Victoria.