28 January, 2015

Gone Fishing

One of the most common recreational uses of rivers is fishing and in this, the Barwon and its tributaries are no different to most. What is caught and where varies from river to river and location to location and there are multiple websites which give detailed descriptions of what fish can be caught where and when, such as the Department of Environment and Primary Industries site which includes the Barwon and more.
Fisherman at Barwon Heads
During my meanderings up and down the Barwon I've come across several species of fish which call the river home and come across all sorts of people fishing along its length, from families fishing off the William Buckley footbridge at Barwon Heads or on the banks amongst the mangroves to the retirees fishing off the platforms through Geelong.
On a recent paddle up from Baum's Weir we met a guy paddling a fully-equipped Hobie Cat upriver to spend the day fishing for redfin (aka English perch) in the quiet section of river above Merrawarp Road. He claimed to have caught over fifty of the fish in the river over the past two weeks, which is good news for the Barwon as they are an introduced species which impacts native fish populations. Fortunately, they also make good eating (the reason they were introduced by settlers in the 1860s). Whilst they have been declared a noxious species in New South Wales, this is not as far as I can tell, yet the case in Victoria, however anglers are strongly encouraged not to return redfin to the water once caught.
Other problem exotic species I have come across in the Barwon are mosquito fish and of course carp, all of which I mentioned in an earlier post. It has been noted that since the introduced carp population took hold in the 1960s, that stocks of redfin have reduced, however the carp themselves cause serious damage to native fish populations and our waterways.

Carp in the Barwon at Breakwater
On the other hand however, I did come across a native species on a recent fishing excursion to the Moorabool River. We took the kids (along with the rods they received for Christmas) to a relative's property where we used to fish as kids too. I can't say that the haul was huge however, there were several good bites which resulted in a catch of one short-finned eel and a redfin fingerling, which had the misfortune of catching its tail on the hook.
Short-finned eel taken from the Moorabool
Like redfin, short-finned eel make good eating and are particularly popular as an export to Japan. They are found in many of our waterways, extending from the South Australian border along the east coast. They are also found in New Zealand and almost as far north as Fiji. Their ability to draw up to 50% of their oxygen through their skin, means young eels are able to move short distances between bodies of water such as lakes, river pools, swamps and dams over moist ground, where they stake a territory of around 400m. Males are somewhat smaller than females, reaching maturity at around 14 years as opposed to females maturing between 18 and 24 years.
Short-finned eels were also an important source of food for the local Wathaurong tribes who used the rocky parts of the riverbed - such as the anabranch at Fyansford - to create traps to catch the eels as they swam downstream.
Anabranch, Fyansford
Whilst there are a number of other species of native fish common to the Barwon and associated waterways, I have yet to spot them.

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