Prawns now or fish in the fu­ture? – LMAC’s mes­sage

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - SPORT -

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.

https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/ fish­eries/recre­ational/rulesreg­u­la­tions/gear-tidal-waters

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.

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