21 February, 2015

Eels not seals

Over the last week, I have spent quite a few hours paddling on the river. On Sunday, after hearing from friends that they had spotted a seal in the section of the river immediately below the lower breakwater, I headed down from town for a look.
As I got close to the lower breakwater, I began seeing small floats every hundred metres or so down the middle of the river. Curious, I had a look. What I discovered was that these (there were about a dozen of them), were floats marking the positions of commercial eel traps which had been placed in the river.
Float belonging to a commercial eel trap on the river
Whilst I have seen individual fishermen catching eels on the Barwon before, this is the first time I have come across a commercial venture. A little research suggests that there are two commercial licences for eel fishing on the Barwon, with details of the eels and the industry in general outlined in an article by the Environment Department. The licences cover areas from Queen's Park to Lake Connewarre and part of the river downstream of the lake.
Below the break things were different. There were no traps but fish of some description (I couldn't see which but would assume Short-finned eels) were jumping in the channel between the breakwater and the lake. Alas, there was no sign of the seal which had no doubt been making the most of the plentiful food supply. I did however come across three fishermen who were very pleased there was no seal to eat the fish they were trying to catch!

Something breaking the surface
Once I reached Lake Connewarre, conditions were still mild so I thought I'd continue down to Barwon Heads to see if I could spot my "prey", however whilst I enjoyed the paddle (despite the stiff breeze which popped up as I approached the Heads), there was still no sign of the seal.
On the plus side, I did get some more great shots of the river downstream of the lake.
The western end of Lake Connewarre
In addition to a number of scenic shots of water and blue sky, I also snapped a number of very blurry shots of the numerous skydivers who were also making the most of the fine conditions. At one point I also managed a shot of one of the planes coming and going from the nearby Barwon Heads Airport and passing over the lake.
The view overhead
As I threaded my way through the myriad of channels, trying to find the exit from the lake to the river below, I spotted hundreds of birds of a variety of species all making use of the various sand banks around, including a pair of Pied oystercatchers
Pied oystercatchers on the flats
and quite a number of Caspian terns, which I don't remember seeing along the river before, including this pair, one of whom has clearly been banded for research purposes.
Caspian terns
A little further downstream through the state game reserve, the scenery was as flat as always, but no less impressive for that.
Below Lake Connewarre
One thing I did note which I don't remember seeing before, was what appear to be areas of bank erosion through the swampy part of the river which leads into the mangroves at Barwon Heads. Whether this is natural or not, I don't know.

Bank erosion along the lower Barwon
Past this point, the wind picked up and the paddling became hard work, but I made it to the Heads without issue and took the easy option of a ride home.

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