Lake Macquarie has been listed as a “trophy” fishery to protect big flathead.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) officially announced the listing in the ‘trophy’ fishery program on Thursday, the aim of which is to protect dusky flathead while allowing anglers to experience the thrill of catch and release fishing.
It brings the lake into the same trophy status currently being trialled in the St Georges Basin and Tuross Head on the south coast.
The unique angler-driven initiative involves the introduction of voluntary code of practice for the release of ‘trophy’ sized flathead over 70 cm in length, and tagging where possible so data can be garnered on survival rates and behavioural patterns.
“The ‘trophy’ fishery program will maximise flathead stocks, provide enhanced angling opportunities and has the potential to increase local tourism,” according to Mark “Wilba” Williams, who will be in charge of the tagging program on the lake.
“This has been brewing for a while, but now it’s official. The government is putting in money to erect signage around local boat ramps alerting fishos to the ‘trophy’ status, catch and release code and tagging programs.
“A lot of people already let the big flatties go because they know they’re breeders.
“This new program will be about further educating the fishing population about a very popular species of recreational fish, and how stocks can be sustained into the future.”
DPI’s Manager of Recreational Fisheries Programs, Bryan van der Walt said research indicates dusky flathead have a very high survival rate when released.
“The new code of practice will provide detailed information on best practice catch and release techniques, meaning the recreational fishing haven of Lake Macquarie will continue to get better and better,” Bryan said.
“The tagging component of the Lake Macquarie ‘trophy’ fishery has only just started but the program has been successfully running for more than a year in St Georges Basin and Tuross Head.
“Approximately 90 big flathead have so far been tagged on the south coast and this is providing DPI researchers with valuable data.
“All three of the trophy fisheries will be promoted as great spots to go if you want the best chance at catching quality fish.”
Catch and release is recognised as an important means of ensuring the sustainability of recreational fisheries.
For more information on the ‘trophy’ fishery program, including the code of practice, visit the NSW DPI website.
Speaking of flathead, 11-year-old Ashley Price hooked a nice lizard in the harbour on a lure while Brock Euston got a 58cm flattie fishing with his old man up around Sandgate.
One look at the weather forecast this weekend tells you summer is just around the corner.
The game fishing season opens next weekend, pelagics are beginning to stir along the coast and marine mechanics are running flat chat to get boats ready.
Game fishing guru Tim Dean, currently running charters on the Great Barrier reef aboard his trusty vessel Calypso, reckons there’s lots of reasons to get excited.
“It’s that time of year for game fishos to get the tackle out, get new line, sharpen the hooks, service the reels and sort the motors out on your boat.
“Summer is just around the corner and after shivering away all winter, everyone’s keen to get into it.
“These warmer temps are coinciding nicely with the opening of the game fishing season on October 1.
“I know there will be a lot of boats getting ready to hit the water off Newie, Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie this weekend.
“There’s already been a few reports of marlin, yellowfin and I know they’ve been having a crazy bluefin tuna run off Sydney lately.
“There’s no reason why guys working wide of Norah Canyon fishing the temperature edges won’t find them this weekend.”
Tim heads north each year to fish the barrier reef with a range of local and international clients.
What he sees up there in September is often a good indicator of what might be swimming past the Hunter come December, January and February.
“There’s been a huge amount of small blacks off the Queensland coast this year,” he said.
“One of the best light tackle seasons on record. Whether that translates to what makes its way down the coast is up to the fishing gods. But I’m expecting it to be good.”
The heavy tackle season has kicked off up north and already things have been going well.
“A good friend of mine weighed an 1100lb fish this week,” Tim said.
“The big ones have showed up nice and early and the fishing’s been bloody brilliant.”