Angling options for Cairn Curran Reservoir

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June 2007 Fisheries Revenue Allocation Committee

Executive Summary

The views of 110 recreational anglers were collated to describe the angler-use patterns of the Cairn Curran Reservoir fishery and to obtain information on angler target species and preferred catches for the fishery. Angler preferences for management options were also surveyed by consulting local and visiting anglers with a varying degree of experience fishing at the reservoir and different angling focuses. Anglers generally agree with current fishery management of Cairn Curran Reservoir as a mixed fishery, and are happy to see the stocking of brown trout and native fish including Murray cod and golden perch.

Anglers target redfin in the warmer months and brown trout in the cooler months, and relatively few anglers target golden perch compared with brown trout and redfin, and no anglers claimed to primarily seek Murray cod; most anglers claim to catch their target species. Netting surveys conducted at the time of the interviews confirmed the presence of trout, redfin and golden perch in the reservoir.


Although management options for the Cairn Curran Reservoir fishery are specifically referred to in the Bendigo Region Fisheries Management Plan, there has been disagreement among angler representatives about the management objectives. The main points of contention relate to the mix of species present in the reservoir (both naturally occurring and stocked) and to the contribution of stocked fish to the fishery. Some anglers have preferences for golden perch, (Macquaria ambigua) whilst others prefer brown trout, and some target the self-sustaining redfin (Perca fluviatilis) that are present. There has also been debate regarding the value of Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) stockings in this water and debate about changing the management strategies in the Fisheries Management Plan to include stocking of rainbow trout. (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

For such a large water and such a valuable recreational resource, it is important for managers to know how many anglers fish this water, what they catch and what are their management preferences.

An angler survey was the most appropriate way to obtain this information, although a full-scale creel survey is not considered necessary at this stage.


  1. Anglers use patterns for the fishery, particularly to determine information on target species and preferred catches, angler satisfaction, and preferences for management objectives.
  2. Determine length-frequency composition for each major species in the Reservoir.


An angler census was undertaken during 2005/06 to obtain recreational fishers' views on the fishery and the current management practices. The reservoir was visited on three occasions, between Christmas and New Year in December 2005, April 2006 and September 2006. Fisheries Victoria developed the census questions which mostly related to angler experience, species sought and angler opinion on any stocking options for the reservoir. A copy of the question sheet is presented in Appendix 1. The Anglers on the reservoir were intercepted while they were fishing (Boat-and bank-based anglers) and questioned. All anglers were interviewed individually. Creel clerk visits were timed to cover times when anglers may be targeting native fish as well as introduced species.

Fishery-independent data on the fish diversity and relative abundance was obtained from a netting survey undertaken August 2005. A standardised fleet of 18 nets with a mesh range of 89-114mm (3.5"– 4.5") was set in the afternoons and pulled the next morning. All fish were identified, measured to the nearest 5mm and weighed to the nearest gram.


Angler Survey

Figure 1 Proportion of seasons fished by anglers
Figure 1 Proportion of seasons fished by anglers in Cairn Curran Reservoir.
Figure 2 Frequency of visits by anglers in the
Figure 2 Frequency of visits by anglers in the Cairn Curran Reservoir.
Figure 3 Primary target species for anglers in
Figure 3 Primary target species for anglers in Cairn Curran Reservoir.

A total of 110 recreational anglers were interviewed over three sampling trips. The majority of anglers were boat-based although some shore-based anglers were also interviewed. Anglers were primarily located in the main pool of the reservoir as low water levels restricted access at other locations further along the storage. More anglers were interviewed in summer (n=61) than autumn (n=15) or spring (n=34).

Months fished

The majority of anglers interviewed fished the warmer months of the year. This could include several combinations of months but spanned from September to April. Only 26% of those interviewed fished the reservoir all year round (Figure 1).

Angler experience in Cairn Curran fishery

The majority of anglers interviewed had limited or no experience with the fishery. Most interviewed anglers only fished the reservoir a few times a year, or were fishing the reservoir for the first time. 38% of the interviewed anglers regularly fished the Cairn Curran Reservoir, at least on a monthly basis (Figure 2).

Target species

Anglers claimed to be targeting redfin, trout, carp, tench, golden perch and Murray cod. Often anglers were seeking more than one fish species. To simplify the analysis, the first species nominated was taken as the primary species targeted at the time of the interview and the results pooled for these categories. Redfin were the most popular angling target species (42%) (Figure 3). Trout were also very popular (32%), but 16% of anglers were not targeting any specific species. Only 5% of anglers claimed to specifically target golden perch. Murray cod were not the primary target of any of the interviewed anglers although two anglers mentioned the species as a secondary target. Actual angler responses to this question are presented in Table 1

The Majority of anglers (66%) claimed to catch their target species. In general, anglers did not have any issues with catching nuisance fish. Thirteen anglers claimed they catch non-target species but only two anglers named the species. One of these anglers named carp (Cyprinus carpio) and the other angler named redfin.

Target species Secondary target species Other target species No of responses
Anything    17
Anything Redfin   1
Carp    4
Carp Tench   1
Golden perch Redfin   5
Redfin    37
Redfin Anything   2
Redfin Anything Yabbies 1
Redfin carp Anything   3
Redfin Golden perch   1
Redfin Golden perch Murray cod 2
Redfin Trout   1
Trout    20
Trout Anything   2
Trout Golden perch   1
Trout Golden perch Redfin 1
Trout Golden perch Redfin, tench 2
Trout Redfin   5
Trout Redfin Anything 1
Trout Redfin Carp 1
Trout Redfin Murray cod 1
Trout Anything Carp 1
Total    110

Table 1 Target species and number of responses from anglers in Cairn Curran Reservoir.

Angler views on current stocking

The majority, of the anglers (95%) agree with the current mixed species stocking regime of trout, Murray cod and golden perch in Cairn Curran Reservoir. Only 5% (n=11) disagree, stating reasons including: that golden perch predate on redfin (n=1), that trout should not be stocked (n=4), that only golden perch and Murray cod should be stocked (n=1), that redfin should be stocked (n=1), and that it is a waste of time stocking these species if nobody catches them (n=1). Three people wanted a reduction in the number of native fish stocked in the reservoir.

The majority of the anglers (88%) supported the stocking of Murray cod, even if catch rates are extremely low. Anglers that didn't agree (12%) gave reasons including that Murray cod belong in the Murray River, that Murray cod predate and eat redfin, that not enough people catch them to warrant stocking so it is a waste of time, and that the reservoir does not suit Murray cod.

The majority (91%) of anglers interviewed wanted to see the reservoir managed as a mixed species fishery, and only 8% wanted specific species management; one percent was undecided. The anglers wanted to see was a mix of trout, redfin, golden perch and Murray cod. One angler also wanted Chinook salmon.

Other angler comments

Anglers expressed a range of comments that were synthesised into 11 categories. Some anglers agreed with the current management (22%), although some anglers (19%) focused on stocking and wanted more fish put in the reservoir. Water levels and management of the water levels were of concern to many anglers (32%) and they wanted something done about the low water levels. Access was a concern for some anglers who wanted to see more boat ramps (5%).

Some anglers suggested alternative fish management (10%), such as stocking fewer but larger Murray cod, stocking what is popular, doing something about the cormorants, or looking at alternative management scenarios as in Queensland. Other issues included maintenance of the redfin fishery or making the reservoir exclusively a redfin fishery (6%), praising the facilities (2%), clashes with other user groups (boat speeds) (2%) and carp (2%).

Netting Survey

Netting was undertaken in August 2005 prior to the angler surveys. The results of the netting survey indicate a range of fish species present in the reservoir at the time of the angler interviews (Table 2).

Brown trout and redfin were relatively abundant and present in sizes acceptable to anglers. Some golden perch were captured confirming the presence of this species in the reservoir. Some of these fish were relatively large in excess of 6kgtotal weight. Two Australian bass were also caught. This coastal species has not been officially stocked into Cairn Curran Reservoir and the presence of at least two fish may suggest the occurrence of illegal stocking of the species. No Murray cod were captured in the survey. Length-frequency composition for most of the species are presented in Figure 4. Bass is not presented as only two fish were caught.

  No. Ave length Max length Min length Ave weight Max weight Min weight
Australian bass 2 305 310 300 562 596 528
Brown trout 87 459 640 385 1431 3247 669
Carp 168 348 500 235 969 3108 315
Golden perch 7 538 630 430 4242 6600 1439
Redfin 42 296 430 245 513 1486 276
Tench 53 396 505 285 1002 1934 376
Yabby 5 59 65 52 50 60 40

Table 2 Species caught in netting surveys of Cairn Curran Reservoir August 2005

Figure 4 Length-frequency composition for species sampled from Cairn Curran Reservoir (August 2005)

Figure 4 Length-frequency composition for species sampled from Cairn Curran Reservoir (August 2005)


Managers need to know whether the current fishery management of a waterbody suits the user group. Social surveys are often used to collect these data, but evaluating the social dimension of recreational fishers is a complex task and requires appropriate methods (Smith 1983). Problems with such surveys are prevalent because it is difficult to verify many of the angler responses. Angler responses are subject to bias, because anglerstend to over-report desirable behaviour or will give the most sociably acceptable answer (Miranda and Frese 1991). This is more pronounced if the questions relate to past events rather than present events, as anglers tend to reinterpret past events in a more favourable light (Miranda and Frese 1991). On-site, face-to-face methods have a lower potential for sampling error than off-site methods (Pollock et al 1994) but even then communication between people has the potential for errors. For example, the respondents may misinterpret the question or the interviewers may misunderstand or state the question wrongly, or mishear or incorrectly write the response (Smith 1983).

The number of anglers or sample size also needs to be considered in social surveys. The evaluation of social data is complex and must be approached correctly to make the study precise and therefore relevant. Smith (1983) suggested that greater than 30 and less than 300 is considered a suitable sample size, but this depends on the sample being representative from the entire population and the link to the variation in answers. In the present study, a total of 110 anglers were interviewed and this number was considered appropriate for the fishery. High variability in answers would have required a larger sample size, but the anglers fishing in the Cairn Curran Reservoir had low variation in their answers, which indicates there was no need to gain more responses. The three questions that asked for views on the management (1. agree with current stocking, 2. agree with cod stocking, 3. agree with mixed management) all had over 88% positive responses. Apart from sample size, the validity of social surveys also depends on gaining information from representatives from the entire population. The interviews in the present study were conducted at Cairn Curran Reservoir three times throughout the year, and included anglers who primarily fish in summer for redfin and possibly native species like golden perch and Murray cod, as well as anglers who fish in the cooler months and target primarily brown trout. The anglers sampled also had a range of experience with the reservoir from first-time anglers to regulars. The anglers sampled also came from a range of different regions (32 different postcodes), including interstate, as well as the local vicinity. Therefore the range of responses is likely to be representative of the views from a wide sector of Cairn Curran Reservoir anglers.

The proposed outcomes of the study were to determine a picture of the angler use patterns for the fishery and particularly determine information on target species and preferred catches. The results of the survey indicate that anglers fish the reservoir all year targeting redfin in the warmer months and brown trout in the cooler months. Native fish are targeted at certain times, but by relatively few anglers. The majority of anglers interviewed were happy to catch redfin and brown trout and some still targeted other species in the reservoir like carp and tench.(Tinca tinca) As most anglers claim to catch what they target, the reservoir provides a productive recreational fishing resource. Anglers are generally satisfied with the current management of the reservoir and with the current stocking regime of brown trout, golden perch and Murray cod, even if not many Murray cod are caught. Netting survey results confirmed the presence of brown trout, redfin and golden perch in sizes suitable for recreational angling.

Even though the majority of anglers were not targeting the stocked fish and were instead targeting redfin, there was overwhelming support for the current management of the Cairn Curran Reservoir fishery. Some anglers want to see fish stocked into the water storage, whether they catch them or not, and some anglers consider the opportunity to catch a variety of fish as an important attraction to a fishery. At the time of the questionnaire, very few people claimed to be specifically targeting native species (5%), but many more wanted to see the continuation of golden perch and Murray cod stocking. Only two anglers mentioned Murray cod as a target species, but the majority of anglers wanted to see the Murray cod stockings continue.

Redfin were the most sought after and popular species in the reservoir. This is not surprising as redfin are one of the most popular species for Victorian freshwater anglers and are the third most abundant species harvested in Victoria (after flathead and King George whiting) (Henry and Lyle 2003). In the warmer months of the year, Cairn Curran Reservoir is predominantly a redfin fishery and the status of the redfin fishery is such that some anglers oppose the stocking of native fish, the fear being that native species may predate on redfin and upset the redfin fishery. Management of the redfin fishery is by way of the statewide daily catch limits. The fishery withstands a considerable angler harvest and effort. This is supported because most people claim to catch their target species in the reservoir, and the netting survey indicated the presence of redfin atsizes suitable for angling.

In most recreational fisheries, distribution of the recreational catch is skewed towards large numbers of anglers catching fish or very few (Smith 1983). However, the majority of anglers in Cairn Curran Reservoir claimed to catch their target species which suggest catches are exceptionally good or there is a bias in their responses. . However, as there was no verification of the anglers' responses to this question, the answers may be viewed with some circumspection and, as previously stated, anglers may tend to reinterpret past events to put them in a favourable light. Another interpretation is that the anglers are truthful because redfin are often prolific, and small fish are relatively easy to catch by anglers with a range of skills and experience. Therefore, in some lakes and possibly in Cairn Curran Reservoir, even first-time anglers can catch the odd fish and thus most people who target redfin would catch their target species.

Brown trout are routinely stocked into the reservoir and targeted by many anglers. The trout fishery is restricted to the cooler months with many of the spring-time anglers targeting this species. The netting survey indicated the presence of trout in the reservoir up to relatively large sizes, and supported the anglers views that the reservoir produces good trout angling (most catch their target species). Many anglers support the stocking of trout and many expressed a desire to see more trout stocked into the reservoir. Few anglers were targeting trout in the reservoir over summer, even though the netting survey showed that they are present. Anglers seem to target redfin through the warmer months.

Although no Murray cod were recorded from the netting survey, this does not mean that they are absent from the reservoir. Murray cod are relatively difficult to catch in mesh nets compared with other recreational species like brown trout, redfin or golden perch. The reason is unclear but likely to be from a lack of movement of Murray cod. Mesh nets are passive gear and rely on the fish swimming into them. If a fish does not move very far it is less likely to encounter a net and become ensnared. It is likely that Murray cod are present in the reservoir, and just not sampled in the August netting survey.


  • Cairn Curran Reservoir provides a multi-species fishery, primarily for redfin and brown trout, but also for golden perch.
  • Anglers fish the reservoir all year but mostly during the warmer months.
  • Anglers' main target species are redfin and brown trout.
  • Redfin is an extremely popular angling species in Cairn Curran Reservoir for much of the year.
  • Anglers agree with stocking of native species (golden perch and Murray cod) into the reservoir, even if not many are caught.
  • Anglers agree with the current stocking of mixed species in the reservoir.
  • Anglers agree with the current mixed-species management approach.
  • Netting surveys confirm target species (redfin, trout and golden perch) are present in the reservoir and that fish of excellent quality may be found.


Thanks to Russell Strongman, Wayne Fulton, Nigel Fulton for this comments on the manuscript. Revenue Abery and Michael Bretherton for assisting with or derived from the sale of Recreational Fishing undertaking the surveys. Thanks also to Wayne Licenses funded this research project.


Henry G.W. and Lyle J.M. (Eds) (2003) The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Canberra.

Miranda L.E. and Frese W. (1991) In: D. Gutherie. J. Hoenig, . Holliday, C. Jones. M. Mills, S. Moberly,

K. Pollock and D. Talheim (Eds) Proceedings of the international symposium and workshop on creel and angler surveys in fisheries management, American Fisheries Society Symposium No 12, Houston 26–31 March 1990. pp 375–379.

Pollock, K.H., Jones, C.M. and Brown, T.L. (1994) Angler survey methods and their applications in fisheries management, American Fisheries Society Special Publication 25. 371pp.

Smith, C.L. (1983) Evaluating Human Factors. In:

L.A. Nielsen and D. L. Johnson (Eds) Fisheries Techniques. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda. pp 431–445

Appendix 1-Census question sheet

Cairn Curran Reservoir Assessment

Ph 03 57708000 Private Bag 20 ALEXANDRA 3714

Funds from the sale of Recreational Fishing Licences are supporting a research project to investigate angling options for Cairn Curran Reservoir. Part of this work involves a survey of Cairn Curran's anglers. This survey will obtain vital information from anglers to assist Fisheries Victoria in determining the management objectives for this water and to inform the process for the future revision of the Bendigo Region Fisheries Management Plan in 2007. Your cooperation is appreciated. Thank you.

How far have you travelled to fish Cairn Curran Res.? km Postcode  
How often do you fish Cairn Curran? A few times per year Monthly Greater than monthly  
What months do you mostly fish Cairn Curran? Dec-Feb Mar-May June-Aug Sep-Nov Year round
Which species do you target? Trout Golden perch Redfin Murray cod Anything
At Cairn Curran Res. do you usually catch your target species? Yes No If no, do you catch nuisance 'nontarget' species? Yes No
FV currently stock brown trout, golden perch and Murray cod. Do you agree with this combination? Yes No Why?  
If Murray cod are caught infrequently, should they be stocked regardless? Yes No Why?  
Would you prefer Cairn Curran to be managed as a mixed species fishery or a species specific fishery? Mixed (list species) Species specific (list species)  
Any other comments?