Netters slay trophy bream

IN disturbing news, Fisho has heard reports that commercial haul netters have recently removed “boxes and boxes” of black bream from NSW South Coast estuary systems.

Netters working the Brou and Coila systems have reportedly removed large numbers of large bream, local anglers report.

“These lakes are finished now,” one local angler told Fisho. “We won’t see fish like there was in here again. It will take decades for the stocks to build back up.”

Fisho has been informed that the netters have taken between 5000 and 8000 bream from individual South Coast lakes. A source told us that “the crews doing the hauling in Coila took 72 boxes one night, 50 boxes the following night and then a further 80 boxes”.

Coila Lake, near Tuross Heads, is a small landlocked lake which until recently boasted a population of resident black bream, most of which were large and up to 20 years of age. Fisho has seen images of bream up to 49cm being caught and released in this lake in the weeks before the netters moved in.

Regarded as a fragile system, the lake had a reputation as being the best black bream fishery on the east coast with the potential for further development as a sustainable sportfishery for local and visiting anglers.

Critics of estuary netting say significant socio-economic benefits are lost when systems become overfished by commercial operators.

“Why would someone spend big money to come down here to catch nothing?” one well-known angling commentator said. “They’ll come for the chance at catching and releasing 40cm bream. But if those bream are all in boxes covered with ice there’s no point. The local economy loses, the fish are gone, sold for a few bucks a kilo. What has happened here is a f***king disgrace.”

Both systems are part of the Batemans Marine Park. A section of the lake known as Coila Creek was designated a decade ago as a sanctuary zone to protect breeding bream. Anglers are now questioning how an area recognised as an important breeding ground for a vital recreational species can be subjected to intensive commercial netting.

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“How in the hell is this fisheries management?” the local angler Fisho spoke with today said. “They stop you and I from catch & release fishing but they let haul netters in. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Unverified reports suggest a crew of six boats are travelling to various systems using haul nets to target and catch schools of resident bream. Fisho understands the netters are not local.

NSW Fisheries has been contacted for comments regarding the use of haul nets in these fragile estuaries. Fisho understands the use of haul nets for estuary bream is uncommon and is seeking answers from the Fisheries Department on why this method of commercial extraction was allowed in these small, landlocked systems.

It is understood that the big, old bream in Coila and Brou are able to evade or avoid gill nets but have no chance of escaping the haulers.

Fisho will also contact embattled NSW Fisheries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson for comments.

The netting scandal in these small, fragile estuary systems has resulted in a call for the affected lakes to be immediately gazetted as recreational fishing havens with restocking programs instituted to regenerate fish numbers.

Fisho encourages all concerned anglers to support this move.

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