Electrofishing exercise saves native fish

Thursday 8 June, 2017

Few fishermen can lay claim to catching 560 native fish in just four days. Fewer still would have released every single one – including several dozen whopping Murray Cod measuring just under a metre.

So it’s no wonder Dr Dion Iervasi had one word to describe the result of his recent fishing expedition to the Goulburn Valley: “Stoked!”

Dr Iervasi isn’t your average angler. He is an aquatic ecologist who runs Austral Research and Consulting, a specialist contractor for fish sampling, surveying and relocation.

In late May, Dr Iervasi brought his electrofishing boat and crew to the East Goulburn Main irrigation channel in the Katandra and Invergordon districts, about half an hour north east of Shepparton. In a partnership with Fisheries Victoria and the manager of the channel, Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW), the aim was to catch and relocate as many high-value native fish as possible.

The boat, which uses electrodes to temporarily stun fish so they can be netted, travelled more than 30km of irrigation channel to catch Murray Cod, Golden Perch and Blackfish. The fishing was done in advance of GMW treating the channel for aquatic weed, which will improve the flow of water to irrigators next summer.

While there was anecdotal evidence of native fish adapting to life in the channel, Dr Iervasi said he had never worked on an irrigation channel before and had no real expectation of how the “fishing” would go.

“It proved to be very successful to net and safely release more than 500 of these valuable native fish,” he said. “In the last hours of the last day we pulled in about 20 Murray Cod of 50 to 90cm in length, which was amazing,” he said.

With the help of local school children, the fish were last week released into family-friendly fishing spots identified by local angling clubs. Larger cod were released into the Goulburn River where they will hopefully spawn.

GMW Managing Director Pat Lennon said the partnership was a success.

 “It created a win-win situation for ourselves, for Fisheries Victoria and the wider community by relocating iconic Murray Cod while we undertake important winter maintenance,” Mr Lennon said.

The final tally for the exercise was:

  • 560 fish relocated, comprising 432 Murray Cod, 121 Blackfish and seven Golden Perch;
  • 189 fish relocated to Nathalia’s Broken Creek;
  • 115 fish relocated to Numurkah Lake;
  • 163 fish relocated to Victoria Park Lake in Shepparton;
  • 93 fish relocated to the Goulburn River.