The Top End’s new artificial reef complexes are already exceeding expectations after having been in the water for just over 18 months. By all reports, these new fishing hotspots are alive with a diversity of fish that would rival natural reefs. To back up these claims, Fisheries researchers have been monitoring the four reef complexes with baited underwater cameras. So far, they have revealed well over 20 different varieties of fish that now call the artificial reefs home!
Whilst the results so far have been exciting, it’s still only early days. The colonisation of the reefs is expected to continue until they become self-supporting ecosystems. To date, most of the fish currently inhabiting the reefs have been attracted from other areas, drawn in by the ultimate purpose-built, fish-friendly habitat. Over time, these fish will reproduce and their young will replenish the surrounding reef areas.
By fishing responsibly, you can help the new reefs reach their full potential and continue to be productive into the future. Reaching up to 7m from the bottom, the new reefs are also attracting large numbers of pelagic species, with reports of large schools of trevally and mackerel and even the occasional billfish capture. Techniques such as high-speed trolling, midwater jigging and floating live baits are all effective ways to target pelagics around the reefs and nearby fish aggregation devices (FADs).
HOW TO BE A REEF GUARDIAN
Fish sustainably within your possession and vessel limits. If you have caught enough reef fish for your immediate needs, you should move to shallower waters or target species that are not susceptible to barotrauma – for example, go and fish on one of the FADs for pelagics.
Keep what you catch and move once you have caught enough for your immediate needs – do not be a fish hog!
Reef fish are not suitable for catch and release on the new reefs due to injuries caused by barotrauma.
Releasing injured fish will encourage schools of sharks to reside in the area.Use large non-offset circle hooks to help prevent the capture of smaller reef fish and decrease the incidence of gut-hooking.
When a fish is deeply hooked, cut the line close to the mouth and leave the hook in place.
If you kill a fish – use it. Any edible species should be used if killed. There are plenty of tasty recipes for using fish in alternative dishes, such as Asian fish cakes.
As you can see, it’s pretty simple. It’s all about being the reef guardians of our own resource. For further information on the new artificial reefs and the fishing rules, visit