The Science of Fishing 2018

Calamari

Many anglers are saying 2018 has started as one of the best years for Calamari they can remember. Fish are in great numbers right throughout Port Phillip Bay and Western Port and for this time of year, the size has been on the upside too.

We can only predict that by the time September arrives when you usually catch the big ones, you will be catching MONSTERS!

Cuttlefish

The other species on the upside is the Cuttlefish. Over the past 2 years, we have seen more and more Cuttlefish amongst anglers catches, and this past 6 months more so in Western Port. Why? We wish we knew; but here are some facts about Cuttlefish:

CUTTLEFISH FACTS:

- Spawn in winter
- Eggs take 3-5 months to hatch
- 100-300 eggs per female
- Biased sex ratio of 11 Males to 1 Female
- Reproduce once and then die
- Individuals return to their spawning location and have been tracked moving 65km

Cuttlefish Photo
TW Logo

Outlook for 2018 & Beyond

Get out and enjoy the cracking season we are having. The size will only get bigger throughout winter and into Spring.


Yellowtail Kingfish

Yellowtail Kingfish are most definitely on the rebound after being commercially overfished decades ago. 2018 has been the best season in a very long time, with fish abundant around the entrances to both Port Phillip Bay and Western Port.

More and more anglers are targeting Kingfish due to their superb eating. This species is rated amongst the best in the world for sashimi and is why there is a large demand overseas for farmed fish from South Australia. Lucky for us, we have this great eating fish at our doorstep.

There is not a lot known about Kingfish in regards to where they go during the cooler months. Do they migrate to warmer waters? Do they stay year-round but nobody fishes for them? Do the same fish return each summer?

Dr Corey Green from the Victorian Fisheries Authority has commenced studying the species to find the answers. Apart from aging a lot of fish through the otolith and doing some DNA work, Corey is using satellite tags to monitor movement. These tags are attached to a fish and they log GPS movement, depth and temperature. The tags are programmed to pop off the fish via erosion of a component and the tag then transmits the data via satellite back to Corey.

He has tracked one fish via a satellite tag with a slight hiccup in that the Kingfish was most likely eaten by a shark with a very expensive satellite tag attached. It eventually surfaced and you can see the results below:

  • - The Kingfish was tagged off Lady Julia Percy Island in Victoria’s west
  • - The fish swam out over the Continental shelf at depths between 20m – 100m
  • - The fish then headed towards King Island but was eaten by a shark
  • - The temperature and depth data continued to log but GPS was lost
  • - The tag was eventually passed by the shark off Flinders Island
  • - The tag drifted with the current until it downloaded its data via satellite
  •  

Corey has another tag out there on a fish that was caught and released off Barwon Heads in April. That tag is programmed to popup and provide data in August 2018.

Kingfish GPS
Kingfish Photo
Kingfish Depth
TW Logo

Outlook for 2018 & Beyond

Each year seems to be getting better and better with Kingfish. We suggest trying to fish for them earlier than usual. There is no reason they are not there as the water starts to warm in October/ November.


King George Whiting

It’s been a tough season for King George whiting so far, and the experts are saying it is because all the big fish we enjoyed in 2017 have reached 4 years of age and left our bays to spawn in the ocean.

Read Prof. Greg Jenkins report on King George whiting:

KGW Title

KING GEORGE WHITING TAGGING PROJECT

Project Update – May 2018

Welcome to the first project update newsletter for the Victorian King George Whiting tagging project. This project works through the involvement of recreational fishers and is supported by the Recreational Fishing Licence Funding Program. The project has been running since January 2017 and works in partnership with fishing clubs as well as individual anglers.

The project seeks to unlock some of the still unknown secrets about the life of King George Whiting in Victoria. We know that Whiting enter our major bays when they are only a few months old and then leave again at about 4 years of age when they are about to mature and begin spawning. We also know that at the known offshore spawning grounds in South Australia and Tasmania, fish up to 20 years old and over 70 cm in length can be found. But, we don’t know how much juvenile (up to 4 years old) Whiting move within bays or between bays. And we also don’t know where our older Whiting go once they leave the bays, including where they spawn.

FISH TAGGING

KGW Photo
KGW Tag Breakdown

Figure 1. Number and size of King George Whiting tagged in five areas between January 2017 and April 2018.

Tagged Whiting have ranged in size from 20 cm to 48 cm (Figure 1). Very good numbers of large (38 cm +) Whiting have been tagged, mostly in the Queenscliff and Somers areas (Figure 1). This is valuable to the project because these fish are likely to be approaching the age where they will leave the bays and move to offshore waters. Smaller fish around or under legal size have mostly been tagged in the Queenscliff and Clifton Springs areas (Figure 1).

KGW Taggers

Recaptures

There have been 18 recaptures of tagged whiting, giving a comparatively high return rate of 7% so far. The longest time between tagging and recapture so far has been 11 months, and the shortest is 45 minutes! Surprisingly, all fish have been recaptured close to the location where they were tagged, indicating that the Whiting in the bays are either site attached (stay in the same spot!), or possibly move and then return to the same location on a frequent basis. Don Newman is our leader in both the number of fish tagged that have been recaptured, and the number of fish recaptured!

KGW Recaptures
KGW Length

There has been no evidence of juvenile Whiting moving between bays or offshore so far. Fishers are still catching some large (40 cm +) whiting, but they are harder to find this year, most likely because some have now moved out onto the coast. As this movement offshore happens we are hopeful of receiving some recaptures from further afield in the near future.

Please be on the lookout for tagged whiting

If you capture a Whiting with one of the yellow tags, please contact us on 03 52583686, or email whitingtag@gmail.com, and provide the tag number, as well as the length of the fish, date and location of capture. If desired, the fish can be released again to provide even more information for the project.

Fishers are reporting that the Whiting fishing has been pretty tough going this year, which is consistent with our predictions based on the number of baby whiting (larvae – see picture) that the Victorian Fisheries Authority have monitored in the past few years. The large fish that have been around recently were spawned in 2013, which was a strong year for numbers of larvae. Numbers of larvae were down, however, in 2014 and 2015, and this is now reflected in fairly low numbers of fish in the 30 to 40 cm range. Fortunately, 2016 was a strong year for larvae, and we expect these fish to reach legal size over the next year. There are already reports of large numbers of whiting that are just under legal size in some areas. The number of larvae in 2017 was also strong, and so we expect excellent whiting fishing once these two groups of fish enter the fishery over the next few years.

KGW Graph
KGW Baby

Acknowledgements

We are most grateful to the anglers who have embraced this project and the fantastic contribution they are making to the project’s success.

We thank Lauren Veale of the Nature Glenelg Trust for letting us use her newsletter on Mulloway tagging as a template for this one.

We thank Fisheries Victoria, the Victorian Fisheries Authority and VRfish for their ongoing support for the project.

For any enquiries on the project please contact Greg Jenkins on 52583686 or email whitingtag@gmail.com. Further information on the project can be found at: http://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/fisheries-ecology/king-george-whiting-tagging-project/

TW Logo

Outlook for 2018 & Beyond

While it may be tough now, we have some very good times ahead. The Victorian Fisheries Authority report very strong numbers of fish spawned in 2016 & 2017 settled in our bays which will provide us with some of the best whiting seasons on record in the next few years.


SNAPPER

While Snapper seasons have still contained good size fish in recent years, the numbers of fish have dwindled due to several poor spawning years over the past decade.

That is all about to change!

A recent fisheries survey in Port Phillip Bay has recorded the highest abundance of baby snapper in 26 years, easily beating the previous peaks in 2001 and 2004 that gave us some great snapper seasons from 2008 onwards.

Victorian Fisheries Authority scientist Dr Paul Hamer is saying the snapper baby boom would see an unprecedented influx of small snapper in 2022 and bigger snapper over 40cm in 2025. Paul has simply never seen baby snapper numbers as good as this in all the years he has been conducting the surveys.

VFA scientists undertake the annual surveys of baby snapper in late March and know to expect variation in spawning success depending on environmental conditions. The survey measures the abundance of newborn snapper between 3 and 10 cm that have survived from the recent spring-summer spawning season.

Anglers will notice exceptionally high numbers of undersize snapper over the next few years in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port, and central/western coastal waters.

Snapper Graph
Snapper Photo
TW Logo

Outlook for 2018 & Beyond

Get ready to be plagued by Pinkies and some of the best snapper fishing in years to come. With 2017/18 being the best spawning year since records began 26 years ago, once these fish reach size it will be snapper mayhem.