Electro-fishing initiative: partnership protects native fish

Thursday 11 June, 2020

Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) is again partnering with the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) to relocate Murray cod and other high-value native fish caught up in irrigation channels in the Murray Valley region.

After successful trials in the Murray Valley and Central Goulburn, this catch and release initiative could see hundreds of native fish re-stocked each year at well-known fishing locations including Lake Benalla, Broken Creek at Nathalia and Victoria Park Lake in Shepparton.

"A similar exercise was trialed last year and in 2017 with more than 550 valuable native fish - mostly decent-size Murray cod–relocated into a more natural habitat on each occasion," VFA Chief Executive Officer Travis Dowling said.

Murray cod and other valuable natives like golden perch and blackfish can adapt to life in GMW’s irrigation channels. However they can be at risk when GMW lowers channels for de-silting and weed spray programs.

The fish likely originated from the Murray River and Lake Mulwala before finding their way into the irrigation network via the Yarrawonga Main Channel offtake at Yarrawonga.

"This is a great chance to save some big cod and give them a new home. Cod fishing has never been better in Victoria, so get your favourite spinnerbait or Stumpjumper out and get ready," Mr Dowling said.

The annual three month window at the end of the gravity irrigation season is an ideal time to undertake this program.

Electro-fishing, involves a boat equipped with electrodes which are lowered into the water to attract and stun fish. They can then be netted, placed in a holding tank and transported for release into lakes and rivers.

GMW General Manager Water Delivery Services Warren Blyth welcomed the joint effort between GMW and the VFA.

"This is a true partnership between our organisations; we have a shared vision and are working together to protect the native fish species whilst delivering a benefit for our local communities through better health of our waterways and fish populations," Mr Blyth said.

"The end of the irrigation season presents the perfect opportunity to undertake this initiative and we are hopeful the program will take place each year. It allows GMW to progress with weed spraying programs and desilting of channels that is part of our regular maintenance program without impacting valuable fish species."

The electrofishing boat is funded through recreational fishing license fees while GMW is providing some manpower, transport and site safety management. Electrofishing is taking place during June.

The VFA is working with local fishing clubs in Benalla, Nathalia and Shepparton to take part in the fish releases expected to result from the partnership.

Murray cod fast facts

  • Murray Cod are the most long-lived freshwater native fish in Australia, reaching ages of 50 years or more
  • They are Australia’s largest freshwater fish, regularly growing to more than 1m
  • A top predator in their habitat, a Murray Cod will eat almost anything that crosses its path – other fish, yabbies, shrimp, waterfowl, small mammals and turtles