Release The Jewies!

EARLY data from research by fisheries scientists in NSW indicates that jewfish are a viable catch & release target, especially if caught in shallow water.

This is positive news as jewfish, especially those caught in estuary systems, are highly regarded as a sportfish with more and more anglers now electing to release fish they catch.

Full details on the research won’t be available until about September, however, NSW Fisheries scientist Dr Paul Butcher told Fisho that preliminary results indicated that jewfish easily survived the catch & release process.

The researchers tested jewfish C&R survivability in Sydney Harbour earlier this month. The results indicated that jewies caught in about 5m of water basically showed no ill effects from the C&R process. According to the preliminary results, the research showed 100 per cent survivability, meaning that anglers catching and releasing shallow water jewies – for example, those caught in estuaries, off the rocks or from the beach – can feel confident that the fish they release will live to fight again another day. This long-term survivability obviously depends on proper handling techniques, and the use of proactive fishing methods – namely lures or circle hooks to prevent internal damage to the fish from deep hooking injuries.

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Technician Craig Brand with a Sydney Harbour jewfish used in the study.

Fish caught in deeper water – 20m – displayed some barotrauma issues but still recorded reasonable survival rates. This is interesting as other research showed fish such as snapper were far more likely than jewfish to suffer significant damage.
According to Paul Butcher, fish caught in deep water are generally retained by anglers – jewies are, after all, excellent table fish! – so the release aspects of this part of the jewfish fishery are not as important as for fish caught and released in shallower water (but still deep enough to cause barotrauma).

The study in Sydney Harbour involved jewfish released into cages that encompass the entire water column down to their original capture depth of about 20m, where they were monitored for several days.
“Our purpose-built cages allow the fish to choose their own depths after being released, which is a very important consideration in terms of their recovery, and ensuring that our results are realistic,” Dr Butcher said.

Fisho will detail the full results of this jewie research as soon as the final data is compiled. Meantime, feel free to carefully release any shallow water jewies you catch. They should swim away with minimal problems. If you get any from deep water, however, you are probably best off releasing those fish into your icebox! If, however, you want to release your fish, ensure you use a release weight to assist the fish back to depth or a needle to vent trapped gases.

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