Frequently asked questions

What’s the aim of the yabby net swap program?

The aim of the program is to:

  1. Raise awareness that, from 1 July 2019, the use of opera house nets in all waters (public & private) will be phased out by regulation,
  2. Encourage recreational fishers to use more wildlife friendly gear to catch yabbies.
  3. To promote responsible fish practices to minimise wildlife by-catch and ensure continued community support for recreational fishing.

How do I hand back my old opera house in exchange it for an open top lift net?

Simply take your old opera house nets (up to 3 per) to any participating tackle store and trade them for free 'wildlife friendly' open top lift nets, while stocks last. The VFA has registered 45 tackle stores throughout Victoria to participate in the yabby net swap program and, we expect this number to grow. To find your closest net swap location, click here for a list of participating tackle stores. This webpage will be updated from time to time as new tackle stores join the program. Further information on how the yabby net swap program works can be found on this flyer.

Can I exchange nets on behalf of my family members or friends?

No, not unless your family members are present at the exchange.

Do I need to be a Victorian resident to exchange a net?

No, however the intent is to offer this opportunity to recreational fishers who fish Victorian waters.

Why can't we ban the use of opera house nets sooner that July 2019?

The 1 July 2019 deadline provides time for fishing tackle stores and importers to transition from the purchase and sale of opera house nets to wildlife friendly open top lift nets. As most yabby nets are manufactured overseas, ordering and supply lead times can be long and costly. We will also use this time to run an extensive education and awareness campaign and facilitate the one-for-one yabby net exchange program enabling fishers to trade in their old opera house nets for free 'wildlife friendly' open top lift nets.

Are we planning to ban the sale and possession of opera house nets?

No, our focus is on phasing out and then banning the use of opera house nets in Victoria from 1 July 2019.  As opera house nets can still legally be used in some other states, some fishers may reasonably be in possession of them in Victoria and use them when travelling and fishing interstate waters.

Are other states also planning to ban the use of opera house yabby nets?

We understand that NSW Fisheries are reviewing the use of opera house nets and are soon to release a discussion paper.

How did the VFA select tackle stores to participate in the yabby net swap program?

The VFA used its data base of more than 300 tackle stores to select popular tackle stores that sell large numbers of recreational fishing licenses. We then tried to achieve a regional spread of tackle stores across Victoria. We contacted these stores and invited them to register.

How do tackle stores register to be part of the yabby net swap program?

Tackle store owners that sell large numbers of yabby nets who would like to participate in the yabby net swap program, can contact us by email

How many yabby nets are VFA making available to swap?

The VFA has purchased an initial batch of 4,300 open top lift yabby nets which will be available in registered tackle stores from Friday 7th September. A second batch of 5,700 open top lift yabby nets is expected to be available by 1 October 2018.

Will the VFA consider extending the number of yabby nets available for exchange?

We will monitor the yabby net swap program and consider the need to expand the yabby net swap program based on the level of interest and popularity of the program.

What fishing equipment can I currently use to catch yabbies for recreational purposes in public waters?

Under current fisheries regulations, Victorian recreational fishers can use the following equipment to catch yabbies:

a) Not more than 10 baited lines (no hooks)

b) Not more than 2 bait traps (labelled) – see below

Bait trap

c) Not more than 5 hoop nets in specified waters (see page 60 of the Recreational Fishing Guide) – see below

Hoop net

d) A combination of 10 nets (labelled) that are hoop nets or open top lift nets in specified waters (see page 60 of the Recreational Fishing Guide)  – see below

Open top lift net

Note: Opera house nets cannot currently be used to collect yabbies in public waters. From 1 July 2019, opera house nets cannot be used in private waters e.g. farm dams.

Opera house net

What fishing equipment can I currently use to catch yabbies for recreational purposes in private waters?

Under current regulations, in addition to equipment used in public waters (see above), yabbies can also be collected from private waters e.g. farm dams using opera house nets – see diagram.

Can I keep using opera house nets to harvest yabbies from private farm dams?

No, from 1 July 2019, it will be illegal to use opera house nets in any waters in Victoria, including private farm dams and wetlands. To ensure yabby fishers aren't disadvantaged by the phasing out of opera house nets, we have organised a hand-back/exchange program.

In comparison with opera house nets, how effective are open-top lift nets at catching yabbies?

VFA research compared the catch performance of six different yabby net types and found that more yabbies can be caught when fishing with open top pyramid nets than fishing opera house nets. We found that while opera house nets caught more yabbies over long soak times (6 and 12 hours – passive fishing), over short soak times (set and lifted every hour – active fishing) open top pyramid nets caught the most yabbies.

Download a full copy of the report here, or email

Brown, P., Hunt, T. L., and Khageswor, G. (2015) Effects of gear type, entrance size and soak time on trap efficiency for freshwater crayfish, Cherax destructor and Cherax albidus. Marine and Freshwater Research 66 (11), 989-998.

How do we know opera house nets kill air breathing water rats (rakali), platypus and turtles?

We have received many reports and photographs of opera house nets drowning turtles, rakali and platypus. Our Fisheries Officers have observed dead animals in opera house nets in both public and private wetlands and dams.

Do opera house nets keep catching yabbies and other bycatch ('ghost fish') if they are lost?

Yes, opera house nets that are lost by fishers (e.g. if snagged and irretrievable), continue catching yabbies and other bycatch species, most of which cannot escape. Trapped / decaying yabbies in the opera house nets attract other species which also become trapped. This is called "ghostfishing”.

What's the bag and possession limits for yabbies?

The daily bag/possession limit is 20 litres of whole yabbies or 150 whole yabbies. The absolute state-wide possession limit is 60 litres of whole yabbies or 400 yabbies or 10 litres of yabbies (other than whole yabbies) not exceeding 400 tails. Berried (egg-carrying) female yabbies must be returned to the water.

What are the dimensions for open top lift nets?

Open top lift nets are a square or rectangular net open at the top that:

  1. is not more than 60 centimetres long and not more than 60 centimetres wide;
  2. has a mesh net height more than 15 centimetres perpendicular from the base;
  3. has a top opening of not less than 20 centimetres by 20 centimetres; and
  4. does not have any internal device designed for use, or capable of use, in connection with the taking of yabby.

Example diagram of an open top lift net:

Open top lift net