Call for fish hatchery
The Wimmera might have an opportunity to rekindle a role in Victoria’s native-fish breeding program if the state’s angling peak body has success in lobbying for a regional hatchery.
Victorian Recreational Fishing Peak Body, Vrfish, which represents Victorian anglers, is advocating for a purpose-built native-fish hatchery in northern Victoria.
It has made the call as part its platform leading up to the November Victorian election.
Lake Charlegrark in west Wimmera was for several years the home of a Murray cod hatchery, its fish providing lakes in the region and beyond with a high-quality freshwater alternative native table species to introduced trout and redfin.
Many fish with origins in the Charlegrark hatchery grew to enormous size and became the subject of fishing folklore at popular Wimmera lakes such as Green and Taylors.
The heaviest officially recorded Murray cod caught on rod and line in Victoria came out of Lake Charlegrark. Vrfish chairman Rob Loats of Donald said the popularity of native freshwater fisheries had reached new heights thanks to dedicated stocking programs involving iconic Murray cod and golden perch.
“Unfortunately, our ageing infrastructure has not kept pace with growing demand, leading to many fish stocked in Victoria purchased from commercial hatcheries in NSW,” he said.
“We also fear our supply of native fish from NSW commercial hatcheries could be under threat due to changes in ownership.
“A specific native fish hatchery in northern Victoria will better suit the required growing conditions of our native fish and secure the state’s fish stocking program well into the future.”
The only State Government fish hatchery is at Snob’s Creek at Lake Eildon, a project initially established to breed salmonids such as trout in cooler waters 71 years ago.
Mr Loats said anglers had contacted Vrfish in support of an expanded native-fish breeding program, including increased production of Macquarie perch, river blackfish, trout cod, silver perch and eel-tail catfish to improve recreational fishing and to help species recover in the wild.
He said Vrfish also believed a new native fish hatchery would free up much-needed space and resources at the Snob’s Creek Hatchery to increase the production of salmonids, including catchable-sized rainbow trout stocked in ‘family fishing lakes’. In 2017-18, the State Government stocked five-million native fish to create new fishing opportunities for Victorians as part of a Target One Million policy.
BIG: Horsham’s Mark O’beirne with a Murray cod he caught at Lake Mulwala in 2016. The fish is similar to the many Charlegrark-bred cod that trophy anglers hunted in Wimmera lakes during he 1970s and ’80s.