Prawns now or fish in the future? – LMAC’s message
THE Douglas Local Marine Advisory Committee is asking recreational fishers of the Douglas shire to make an extra effort to look after our future fish stocks while they are out chasing a feed of prawns this wet season.
Committee member and keen recreational fisher Jason Mills said the best time for catching prawns is usually after the rivers have been in flood, when discoloured water is beginning to clear.
“The feeding bonanza these conditions provide is why we find so many juvenile fish and prawns along our beaches during the wet season,” Jason said.
“Juvenile fish such as threadfin and blue salmon, grey mackerel, silver jewfish, grunter, trevally species, dart, whiting and barramundi along with great populations of baitfish crowd together in these nurseries along our beaches.
“This makes them incredibly vulnerable to capture and being meshed by the gills in our drag nets and cast nets during our pursuit of a feed of prawns.”
Mossman Boat and Fishing Club vice-president Peter Logan backed the committee’s call for responsible netting.
“We look at the loss of these juvenile fish as an issue that affects how many fish there are for us to catch in the future and not just see it as part of catching a feed of prawns,” Peter said. “We care strongly about this, each juvenile fish is one less fish available to catch in the future”.
Drag nets are by far the most damaging to juvenile fish populations. The size of the net and the fact that a typical drag can last for five to ten minutes means the number of juvenile fish likely to be meshed and killed is much greater than what is possible by even the most energetic cast netter.
Recreational fishers must be aware that under the Queensland Fisheries Act a drag net (also referred to as a seine net) must be no more than 16m in length, 3m in drop and have a mesh size no greater than 28mm. The net can have no pocket, bag or similar device. Use of the net is subject to the following conditions:
• No part of the net containing fish must be out of the water other than to immediately remove fish from the net for release.
• Any fish not being kept, must be released into the water deep enough to allow the fish to escape.
• It must not be anchored, staked or fixed.
• Any fish caught in a drag net can be kept provided they meet size and possession limits.
In addition, the Douglas Local Marine Advisory Committee suggests recreational fishers who are chasing a feed of prawns and want to ensure healthy fish and prawn stocks for the future should:
• Choose a cast net over a drag net and preferably a drawstring cast net as they mesh less juvenile fish than standard nets and catch plenty of prawns.
If you are going to use a drag net:
• Keep your drags to less than 3 minutes.
• Don’t repeatedly drag indiscriminately along the length of the beach searching for the motherlode of prawns and harming many juvenile fish in the process. Prospect along the beach instead and/or during different stages of the tide with a cast net and then get out the drag net when you find concentrations of prawns.
• Accept that there are days when the prawns just won’t be there in numbers and give the area a rest to let the juvenile fish grow and prosper.
• Clear your net of the unmeshed fish first before you collect the prawns. Be prepared and have a bucket with fresh sea water to hold the fish as you clear them from the net. Release them immediately into knee-deep water.
• If fish are meshed by the gills and can’t be removed from your net without harming them, discard them into the water; don’t leave them to litter the beach.
Port Douglas fishing guide Chris McCormack supports this approach: “It’s a very bad look for all recreational fishers when you see a couple of groups with drag nets working a beach that is left covered in dead juvenile fish.
“It says to people that rec fishers don’t care about the future, they just want to catch whatever they can now. We should all do everything we can to limit the number of juvenile fish that die in our nets. I would rather catch a few less prawns now to ensure I have more fish and prawns to catch in the future.” I was fishing for barra at a secret spot one of my neighbours told me about.
All I can say is that it’s between Port Douglas and Mossman.
It was about a year ago, late one afternoon.
I got absolutely nothing, trying out a few different places.
I was sitting on the bank of this narrow creek, and I’d been threre for about an hour.
I had a few prawns on me because I was going to go down the beach a bit later. Anyway, I put one on and stuck it out, and then bang! The line shot off straight down this creek, straight down the middle.
I wondered what the hell it was. He knew where he was going – he was off. If he’d gone into the mangroves that would have been it. But after about 10 minutes I had it under control.
It turned out to be a 52 cm mangrove jack. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had with one. That was on light gear. He was dinner that night.
Choose a cast net over a drag net. Clear unmeshed fish first before you collect the prawns. Have a bucket with fresh seawater ready to hold the fish and release them immediately into kneedeep water.