Trout talks centre on rainbow decline

PRIOR to a public meeting in Cooma to discuss the plight of the Snowy region’s rainbow trout, the Snowy Lakes Strategy Working Group met at Jindabyne and NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) managers and researchers met on the following day to discuss the outcomes.

According the latest NSW Council of Freshwater Anglers Freshwater Fisher newsletter, around 120 people attended the public meeting convened by Fisheries at Cooma on the evening of 29 May. The main topic discussed was the recent downturn in the rainbow trout fishery in the region, which after some spectacular seasons in both Lake Eucumbene and Lake Jindabyne, has delivered two very disappointing spawning runs and poor shore-based rainbow fishing over the past two summers.

Rainbow fishing has been difficult but anglers using electronic fish finders say they are seeing many fish deep in the lake and are still catching rainbows when trolling. This isn’t much comfort to most anglers who are only equipped to catch fish from the shore.

The “catchability” of rainbows underpins not just recreational angling “customer satisfaction” (very important in a fishery stocked with fish the anglers have paid for with their licences) but also to a local economy that as long ago as 2001 was estimated in a report by Dominion Consulting to be worth around $70 million to the region every year.

Curiously, the brown trout fishery seems to be unaffected, with this year’s spawning run described by many as the best in over 20 years. Whether this winter’s rainbow run will again be poor remains to be seen over the next few months—last year the run was barely adequate to provide the numbers needed for stripping for the Gaden Trout Hatchery annual breeding program.

The public meeting at Cooma basically presented the same information as the Snowy Lakes Strategy Working Group saw the previous day. The presentations seemed too detailed and complicated for many in the audience but nonetheless there were well-informed questions, particularly related to research priorities.

Questions at the meeting included querying why monitoring and creel surveys undertaken by Fisheries from the 1960s through to the 1980s were not kept up (DPI’s Cameron Westaway explained that they were overcome by other priorities at the time and the format of the surveys may have had statistical problems); whether too much money was being spent on natives at the expense of the salmonid fishery; whether Gaden Trout Hatchery staff were releasing fish in such a way that ensured good survival rates; and whether the opening of the season on the spawning rivers should be delayed so that the rainbows (which sometimes spawn well into October and even November) would be better protected.

There were several other questions, but the main questions were about why more money isn’t being spent on the research and monitoring that this recent crisis has shown to be necessary. Mr Westaway told the meeting that he would like to spend more money on research across all freshwater fisheries, but that the funds (which would normally have to come from the licence-funded Recreational Fishing Freshwater Trust) were simply not available for doing all the research that he would like and that alternative funding streams, such as direct sponsorship of research by universities through donations by fishing clubs, needed to be considered.

The conclusions reached by Fisheries during and after the Snowy Lakes Strategy meeting, and then presented by Fisheries to the public at the Cooma meeting, were:

  • Improved spawning run monitoring is needed
  • Productivity/limnology research is needed
  • Creel surveys are needed, each of which must be cost effective.

    (Comments from the public at the Cooma meeting will presumably be taken into account before these conclusions are finalised)

Read the full details in the Freshwater Fisher newsletter at:

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