Native fish report card program

John Douglas
Fishery Manager, Victorian Fisheries Authority

We value our freshwater native recreational fish including; Murray cod, golden perch and others but, despite occasional fish population surveys and angler feedback, we have no long-term and objective information about how they are performing. Fish population surveys tell us about fish population abundance, evidence of recent breeding and or, stocking contribution, presence of multiple years classes, fish movement patterns and can be used to inform an overall fish population health rating. This information has been collected for our iconic trout streams (Wild Trout Fishery Management Program) but to date not for our key native fisheries.

This is all about to change. For the first time, the population health of our most important ten native river fisheries across ten catchments will be surveyed over the next four years. This Native Fish Report card program is a partnership between the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DELWP), the Victorian Fisheries Authority and Recreational Fishing Licence holders (through RFL funding). The program will provide $600,000 over four years.

Because we can't monitor all of our 270 + freshwater fisheries, we've selected 10 of our most popular and important (priority threatened species) native recreational fisheries – these are called reference rivers. We focussed on rivers rather than lakes and impoundments because most of our native fisheries breed in rivers and not lakes. Rivers were selected in collaboration with DELWP, Catchment Management Authorities and expert recreational fisher input. At each reference river, up to 10 survey sites will be surveyed each year using electro-fishing methods. The performance of our lakes and impoundments fisheries will be separately surveyed using angler catch and effort data collection – refer My Catch and Diary Angler program.

Here are the list of priority native river fisheries and target species to be surveyed over the next four years.

CMA region

Priority River

Recreational species

Priority threatened species

Corangamite CMA

Gellibrand River

River blackfish

Australian grayling

East Gippsland CMA

Mitchell River

Australian bass

Australian grayling

Glenelg Hopkins CMA

Glenelg River

Estuary perch

Nil

Goulburn Broken CMA

Lower Goulburn River

Murray cod, Golden perch

Trout cod, Silver perch

Mallee CMA

Lindsay River/Mullaroo Creek

Golden perch, Murray cod

Silver perch

Melbourne Water

Yarra River

Murray cod, Macquarie perch

Australian grayling

North Central CMA

Gunbower Creek

Murray cod, Golden perch

Trout cod, Silver perch

North East CMA

Ovens River

Murray cod, Golden perch

Trout cod, Macquarie perch

West Gippsland CMA

Thomson River (including Macalister River downstream Lake Glenmaggie)

Australian bass

Australian grayling

Wimmera CMA

Wimmera River

Freshwater catfish, Golden perch

Nil

Survey highlights from the first year

Mitchell River

Thomson / Macalister Rivers

  • Australian bass were collected at 13 sites, with legal size fish captured at 8 sites.
  • More than 30 small Australian bass (< 125 mm) were collected from two sites show recent stockings have been successful.
bass stocking program
Our bass stocking program through Gippsland Rivers is showing promising results for anglers.

Yarra River

  • Low numbers of Murray cod were captured with only one legal size fish captured.

  • Macquarie perch abundances were also lower than historical surveys, with no legal size Macquarie perch captured. Gellibrand River

  • Low numbers of river blackfish captured from the Gellibrand River.
  • All fish captured were adult fish, indicate lack of spawning and recruitment.
  • Tributaries contained more fish. 

Glenelg River

  • Estuary perch were collected from eight sites.
  • Most legal size fish found closer to the estuary.
  • Also collected large Australian Bass from Casterton upstream towards Rocklands reservoir.

Wimmera River

  • Golden perch captured from every site surveyed (23 were legal size)
  • Low numbers of silver perch and Freshwater catfish were detected. 

Lindsay River/Mullaroo Creek

  • Golden perch collected from all 13 sites surveyed. 77 legal Golden perch collected
  • Low numbers of Silver perch were detected.
  • Only one Murray cod detected. 
Silver perch 
Silver perch were found in in the Gunbower Creek and to a lesser extent in the Goulburn River.

Gunbower Creek

  • Golden perch captured from seven of the 11 sites surveyed - 28 (93%) were legal size.
  • Murray cod present in good numbers at most sites.
  • Six oversize Murray cod captured, including four > 1m.
  • Silver perch were collected from 7 sites.
  • Trout cod were captured from 3 sites. 

Goulburn River

trout cod
Report card surveys tell us trout cod are doing well in the Ovens and parts of Goulburn River.
  • Murray cod collected at all 11 sites surveyed with evidence of Murray cod recruitment.
  • Legal size fish and oversize fish present.
  • 51 legal size golden perch collected from 9 sites.
  • Trout cod captured at five sites, higher abundances downstream Lake Nagambie
  • Silver perch captured at seven sites, although in low abundances.

Ovens River

  • Murray cod collected at all 12 sites surveyed. All size ranges collected with evidence of recruitment, legal size and oversize fish collected. 18 legal size fish collected
  • Trout cod present at 9 of 12 sites surveyed - good size distribution
  • Macquarie perch going well - collected at six sites.

Presenting the results

our best Murray cod fishery
Based on population surveys, our best Murray cod fishery is the Ovens River

Survey information will not only be used for fisheries management purposes, it will also help anglers decide where they should go to target their preferred species. To get this information out to the broader public, the information will be presented on the web using an on-line, user friendly mapping format. At the click of a button, the latest native fish population data will be available including size of fish, relative abundance, key species and general river reaches. This data base web product is currently being developed and is expected to roll out in 2018.