Fillet or Release

December 13, 2017 0 Comments

Fillet or Release

Lately there has been large focus on sustainability in the wider recreational fishing community of NSW and probably Australia. This has been led by several advocates, most notably celebrity fisho Al McGlashan who regularly espouses tag and release of large kingfish on his Instagram feed. The message being that its down to the fishos to take an element of responsibility in maintaining the future stocks of our fisheries.

It’s a great and noble message but like all good intentions, its surrounded by a number of differing emotive views and opinions on what exactly is the right approach. Keep the small or let them grow and settle on the odd big one? How big is a big one? In some ways, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Even Al, who has probably released more fish than others have ever caught, has come under fire for keeping a fish some thought he should have put back.

Which seems pretty hypocritical really, for one fisherman to begrudge another the odd feed. Isn't that the primary driver to why most of us are out there?

So what is the right approach? Or is it simply too ambiguous for recreational fisherman to decide. Technically, if you are fishing within the limits of the DPI then you are legally entitled to do what you want and no one can tell you different.  So you could catch up to 5 fish as long as they are all over 65cm long.

But is that sensible or the right way? Should fishos even be the ones making this call? Would it not make more sense for the DPI as custodians of the fish stock to come to the party a bit more on this one?

Maybe they can take a lead from the nation with the gold standard kingfish fishery in the world - New Zealand. Despite their riches, the kiwis only have a 3 fish bag limit and minimum size of 75cm. Which incidentally is the length the fish start to sexually mature. Coincidence? I think not. In a pure numbers game, it makes far more sense to have as many fish as possible at a breeding age to increase the base of the population pyramid. Instead, we are hooking them out before they can breed and then getting upset when someone keeps a fish that survived that gauntlet.

Incidentally, independent mariculture research by Poorternaar, Hooker & Sharp 2001 - shows that while fish will begin to mature at 75cm. It actually took 50% of males till they were 81cm and females 94cm till they were sexually mature. This is way bigger than what most would think and typically falls in the size range you would consider to be “just right” for keeping.

ic: Kingfish numbers and size are slowly increasing but should we be doing more?

So if we are really serious about making our kingfish fishery world class – then we need to remove the ambiguities around sustainability and have hard guidelines that protect our future.

Its a radical proposal but we should decrease the bag limit to 3 and increase the minimum size to at least 75cm or even 85cm

Sure, this is going to upset a few/(lot of) people at first but no one is going to be complaining, when in a couple years’ time, with stocks flourishing, metre plus fish are the norm and if you take it home, or set it free - its never an issue.  Sounds pretty good to me!

Until then, fillet some and release/ignore some.

When do you fillet or release? and should we increase the limits or leave it to the fisherman? 



Russel P
Has spent over 30 years of his middle aged life trying to spend more time in the ocean. Likes to surf, bodysurf, free dive and pretend he enjoys chasing big waves.

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