Home' Afloat : AFLOAT November 2015 Contents 52 AFLOAT.com.au November 2015
with David Lockwood
Cracking kingfish recaptures
Thankfully, Mother Nature didn’t make a fool out of us. The
forecast annual spring run of big kingfish arrived on Sydney’s reefs.
Along with the recreational fishers jigging traditional grounds, like
The Peak and 12 Mile, came the reports from the charter guys running
mid-week tours and catching many more.
I know some of these operators from many years of local fishing
and they are among the most environmentally conscious anglers
on the water today. Fishing for a living means they have to invest in
tomorrow’s catch. So they tag and release many of the kingfish that
they muscle to the surface from water depths of up to 120 metres.
A relatively high rate of kingfish
recaptures has become apparent
in recent years. That shows that
the kingfish are surviving the
catch-and-release process to fight
another day. Survival rates are at
least 85 per cent with released
kingfish, according to NSW DPI
research, and can be improved by
following some key hooking and handling procedures (see below).
The other great news is the valuable data from these kingfish
recaptures. Some of the tagged fish have been far ranging. According
to the NSW Fisheries reports, tagged kingfish travel great distances
from Sydney but often in completely different directions.
For example, a yellowtail kingfish tagged by popular Sydney
charterboat OceanHunter Sportsfishing on November 7, 2014, was
recaptured approximately 323nm from its original release location
off Sydney. The fish travelled way up north, east of the Ballina Bar,
when it was recaught.
The kingfish, originally released on the 12 Mile Reef in 120m
of water east of Sydney, enjoyed 109 days of liberty. The fish grew
from a total length of 73cm to approximately 87cm and 5kg in weight
when it was landed.
This is in contrast to a kingfish released off Port Hacking, Sydney,
on the November 28, 2014. This kingy almost made its way to the
Victorian border. The fish was caught off Eden, southern NSW, in
early July, 2015.
The south migrating fish, which was originally measured at
63cm fork length, grew to approximately 76cm total length, and
4.2kg throughout its 215 days at sea. The kingfish was caught while
jigging a school of fish and travelled a straight-line distance of
approximately 190 nautical miles.
More recently, on October 6 this year, the boys from OceanHunter
Sportsfishing reported a quite unusual day’s fishing:
“Interesting day! Caught two fish over a metre, one which was
tagged by fishing personality Alistair McGlashan earlier this year.
Then Matt Reid caught a fish we tagged over a year ago! Then Rod
Findlay caught a king we tagged over 9 months ago! Plus four more
recaptured over the weekend! Some had grown 18 centimetres!
People ask why we tag fish. It’s a limited resource which we must look
after. If we can manage it correctly we may have an awesome fishery.”
The relatively high rate of recaptures suggests some of these
schools of these migratory kingfish are returning to the same reefs
each year. That alone provides impetus for the charter guides and
indeed all anglers to tag and release. The big fish, especially the
longer and leaner ‘travellers’, are often mushy and unpalatable in
any case. An 80cm kingfish is good tucker, a metre-plus specimen
is worth more alive to fight another day.
NSW CATCH AND RELEASE FACTS
According to the NSW DPI, and the most recent research to hand,
most fish survive being caught and released. The main factors found
to reduce survival are deep hooking and poor handling. You can do
a lot to improve survival rates.
For flathead, the survival rates run as high as 91-96 per cent,
luderick peak out at 99 per cent, while snapper survival rates are
listed at 67-92 per cent and bream are 72-97 per cent. The reason for
such a wide variance has to do mainly with deep hooking.
As stated on the NSW DPI site, if the fish is hooked deeply, cut
the line as close as possible to the fish’s mouth, rather than removing
the hook. Compared to removing swallowed hooks from bream and
mulloway, simply cutting the line increased their short-term survival
from 12 per cent to more than 85 per cent.
Research shows that up to 76 per cent of the released line-cut,
gut-hooked bream then shed their hooks within around three weeks.
You can read a whole lot of reports on catch-and-release research
at <http://ww w.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/saltwater/
catch-and-release/research>. There’s a whole bunch of great advice
that even regular anglers should brush-up on at <http://www.dpi.
As the abovementioned kingfish recaptures prove yet again, our
NSW Game Fishing Tagging Program is a valuable source of scientific
information. The largest saltwater tagging program of its kind in the
world has been in operation since 1973. There’s some interesting
reading about significant recaptures at <http://ww w.dpi.nsw.gov.au/
There will be many more game fish and pelagics tagged by
sport and game fishers this summer. Meanwhile, anglers fishing for
demersal species can take heed from the fact that survival rates of
all released fish are well in excess of 50 per cent. You can do a lot
to boost those odds. Happy hooking, de-hooking or not, and smart
fish handling ...
Vic Levett from OceanHunter
Sportsfishing with a nice
Sydney winter kingfish.
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