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The ongoing delivery of the NT Government’s $50 million RecFishing Futures Program has resulted in activities that directly improve the recreational fishing experiences and opportunities in the Northern Territory.

There have been improvements and upgrades to key launching ramps around Darwin and at Shady Camp. Fish aggregating devices (FADs) have been successfully trialled at Fenton Patches and Dundee Beach and are now being utilised by fishos to target pelagics. More recently, there has been a rollout of artificial reef systems installed at Dundee Beach, Lee Point, the Adelaide River mouth and Gutters Central.

Hold a fish horizontally if it is intended for release. However, this golden snapper was caught in water deeper than 10m, and was kept for the dinner table as it almost certainly had incurred barotrauma from that depth.

Artificial reefs and FADs are specifically designed to assist fish productivity in the long term. However, the future of recreational fishing in the Top End does not, and should not, rely solely on government initiatives, fishery plans and compliance. The future of fishing is actually in fishos’ hands. Ultimately, it is our behaviour and how we use the resource that will actually determine its long-term sustainability. Each and every one of us who wets a line has a responsibility to act as a fish guardian – not a fish hog!

Being a fish guardian is pretty simple: it’s about being aware of the consequences of our actions and fishing responsibly. Fishing is more than filling the freezer and catching as many fish as possible, regardless of their survival prospects. It is about being out there, taking on the challenge that fishing presents, embracing the incredible surroundings we fish in, enjoying the company of our mates and, finally, sharing and appreciating the superb meals made from the fish we decide to harvest.

Left: Barotrauma in fish is an injury caused by the expansion of gases in the body due to a decrease in pressure as the fish is brought up from deep water. Black jewfish are most susceptible.

So how do we go about being fish guardians?

  • If you are bottom fishing in water deeper than 10m and have caught enough for your immediate needs, you should move to shallower waters or target species that are not susceptible to barotrauma – for example, go and fish around one of the FADs for pelagics.

  • Keep what you catch and move once you have caught enough for your immediate needs don’t be a fish hog!

  • If you are bottom fishing in water deeper than 10m and are continually catching juvenile and unwanted species, utilise your catch and change fishing locations instead of staying in hope of catching the big one.

  • Use large non-offset circle hooks to help prevent the capture of smaller fish and decrease the incidence of gut-hooking.

  • If your fish are getting taken by sharks, move to another location; don’t just keep feeding the sharks!

  • When handling a fish for a photo and release, make sure you hold it horizontally and support its weight with your other hand. Research has shown suspending fish vertically by the jaw or gills can cause fatal injuries.

  • If you are releasing a fish, minimise the time it is kept out of the water. If you are taking a photo, leave the fish in the net in the water while you get the camera ready.

  • If you intend to release a pelagic fish, such as mackerel, tuna or billfish, it’s preferable not to remove it from the water.

  • 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 guardians of our own resource.


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