Salmon run: warning for fishers as Easter bounty gathers in southern waters

Pic: WA Museum picture of West Australian Salmon
Pic: WA Museum picture of West Australian Salmon

FISHERS cannot be caught out thinking they are safe from danger during the west coast run of spawning Australian salmon this Easter and autumn.

“If you’re on rocks, before you even start fishing you should be thinking ‘If I get washed in, where do I get out?’,” Fisheries (DoF) aquatic resources director Nathan Harrison said.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and fishing lobby Recfishwest want salmon fishers to explore safer beaches, but others – including swimmers and divers – also need to avoid large schools of salmon that bring marine predators including dolphins, seals, sea lions and sharks close to shore.

Fishers’ expectations are high after sightings of migrating salmon near the South West capes

Dr Harrison said fishers travelling south needed to familiarise themselves with the coast’s rugged and changing swells, wear life jackets and gripping shoes on the rocks and tell others where they were going.

Salmon were once the target of commercial fishing for rock lobster bait, but their once low population has increased in the past 10 years after commercial licences were reduced, resulting in the commercial catch now being five per cent of previous annual haul of about 3000t in WA.

Fisheries senior research scientist Kim Smith said it was too early to say if a “bumper run” will pass Perth this year.

“The number of salmon running up the west coast this year will depend on what the currents do, especially the strength of the Capes current which is a northward-flowing, cold current that flows against the coast, and in which the salmon travel, so roughly speaking they will go as far north as the cold water goes,” Dr Smith said.

The adult fish spend summers on south coast, but with the recent increase in their population have come reports of sightings during the run as far north as Exmouth.

Dr Smith said there was no evidence mature fish have stayed north, including near Perth, but some juveniles less than four years old will stay in nursery areas, and the salmon adult population was considered to be sustainable.

Responsible fishing

Humane, clean and safe salmon fishing is promoted by recreational fishing lobby Recfishwest during the annual spawning run during Easter.

“The Japanese-style method of iki jime is the most humane method of killing the fish, using a spike in the soft part of the fish’s skull, above and behind the eye, and then bleed the fish and put it immediately on ice for the best eating,” Recfishwest communications officer Tim Grose said.

Fisheries officers will patrol the most popular metropolitan areas for salmon, including the North and South Moles in Fremantle and Coogee’s Ammo Jetty and Woodman Point, to ensure fishers do not breach the daily four-fish bag limit and dispose of the fish and offal from their cleaning properly.

Mr Grose said salmon should be bled on the beach, away from the water where sharks could be attracted and the public who could be offended.

Bait bags, discarded tackle and lines should be taken home to be binned and not pollute the sea.

Other fishers’ spaces had to be respected, and if it was crowded new arrivals should move to another location, where the highly mobile salmon may swim to anyway.

Recfishwest and Fisheries are currently studying the economic impact of the annual spawning run along the south coast and north of Perth, with the results – to be used in management of the fishery – expected to be complete in about a year.

“Last week, I drove to Hamelin Bay to chase salmon for a day and spent $190, so that worked out that each fish I caught was worth $20 to $30,” Mr Grose said.

AUSTRALIAN salmon (arripis truttaceus) in WA:

Minimum legal size 300mm.
Daily bag limit is four fish.
WA’s is the largest of three species.
Noongar name is ngari (pronounced ‘nyari’).
WA spawning run in autumn.

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