Catch! - Recreational fishing news from Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia
Issue No.51, September 2020

Montebello prize winner announced

Smiling woman holding a large fish while standing on a fishing boat

And the winner is… Lisa Woolfenden! Congratulations Lisa, this year’s deserving winner of the fantastic Montebello Island Safaris charter trip to the Montebello Islands.

Lisa’s name was drawn from the pool of recreational fishers who have been generously donating their fish frames to the Send us Your Skeletons program for the past 12 months. Lisa and her husband John love being out on the ocean and donate most of their frames, mainly dhufish, baldies and the occasional pinky, and have done so for a number of years.

Mostly fishing from their boat from Hillarys, Lisa was keen to help our research to give a better idea of what’s happening under the surface and the health of our oceans and fish stocks.

“I think how WA has managed its fisheries is really great,” she said. “We have to give up a little every now and then to keep it that way through the closed periods, but there probably aren’t too many capital cities where you can venture just off shore and regularly catch quality fish.”

Keep sending those fish frames in – the next prize draw for SUYS will be a quarterly prize of a Daiwa Jigging Game rod, reel and braid combo, or Crewsaver lifejacket, donated by WA’s peak recfishing body, Recfishwest. To find out how to donate your frames, visit

Bite off shake down

fish with circular bite mark

Principal Research Scientist Gary Jackson and colleague Peter Coulson recently returned from a shake-down trip to the Abrolhos, where they ironed out the technical challenges of deploying underwater video cameras to record sharks taking fish off the line before they can be reeled in.

Shark depredation, or bite-off, is a global phenomenon and has been an issue of increasing concern to commercial, charter and recreational fishers in WA for some years.

For the past few years, our fisheries researchers have worked to better understand the issue, quantify levels of depredation using phone and on-line surveys, and identify the shark species involved.

With funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, our researchers are testing a range of shark deterrent products that are either on the market, or soon-to-be, to establish their effectiveness while line-fishing for reef fish at various locations off the WA coast. Testing will also be carried out in Shark Bay, Exmouth-Ningaloo and the Montebellos.

Changes to some regional office services – and welcome to two CRCs!

Image of several fishing guide publications

While front counter services are no longer available at our Karratha, Exmouth, Denham and Jurien Bay offices, don’t worry – renewing or obtaining your fishing licences is quick and easy using DoTDirect, and you can access the site at a time convenient to you.

Although our fisheries compliance officers still operate out of these offices and continue to monitor and patrol our fish resources, front counter services are no longer available from these sites.

Community Resource Centres (CRCs) in Jurien Bay and Shark Bay have come on board to provide some recreational licensing services and hard copies of our recreational fishing guides, which are also available from our website as digital copies.

To renew your fishing from a boat, rock lobster, abalone, netting, marron or freshwater angling licence, visit DoTDirect online, or if you are in the area, visit the Jurien Bay or Shark Bay CRCs, where staff will be able to help.

The Jurien Bay CRC, open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, is located at 67 Bashford Street. Phone 9652 2425 or email The Shark Bay CRC is located at 10 Denham Road and is open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm. Phone 9948 1787 or email

Changes to commercial rock lobster sales

Image of man holding a rock lobster and measuring length of its carapace

The western rock lobster industry is the lifeblood of many WA coastal towns. When COVID-19 hit, @WesternRockLobster proposed a package of relief measures to support the industry. After rigorous review by our scientists, we’ve rolled out changes to the current commercial rock lobster season, and introduced a new mechanism to allow commercial fishers to sell 100 lobsters per day direct to the public, local restaurants and fresh fish retailers directly from ‘back of boat.’

These changes will allow the industry to keep boats on the water and locals employed, while maintaining the sustainability of the world’s first @MSC certified fishery. If you enjoy recfishing for a feed of lobster, don't get confused with the new commercial sales changes, or it could be costly. To fish for rock lobster recreationally in WA, you must have a recreational licence and must not sell or use recreationally caught lobster for any gain or reward. Remember the statewide bag limit is eight lobster, per licenced fisher per day, and no more than four of these may be tropical rock lobsters. Check the Rock lobster recrational fishing guide for more information.

Did you know that fresh tar-spots are white?

picture of underside of lobster with white substance between the last two pairs of legs

Check out this great shot of a fresh tar-spot captured by one of our western rock lobster fishers – Tony Antenucci.

When lobsters mate, the male deposits a packet of sperm on the underside of the female. The scientific name for this sperm packet is ‘spermatophore’, but owing to its dark colour, it is commonly known as a ‘tar-spot’.

However, a lot of people don’t realise that when the tar-spot is still fresh it is actually white and sticky, almost the texture of chewing gum! It then gradually becomes darker as it hardens up in the few hours post mating.

Females with tar-spots are completely protected under current management regulations. So if you catch one of these, please put her back in the water so that she can spawn and contribute to the future recruitment of this iconic WA fishery.

Always something to do… at Ningaloo

Swimming with whale sharks, snorkelling, diving and turtle watching are not the only water-based activities available in the Ningaloo Marine Park World Heritage Area. You can also fish for spangled emperor, coral trout, Spanish mackerel and trevally in the zones marked for recreational fishing. Exmouth also hosts a range of billfishing tournaments throughout the year.

If you fish, please remember although recreational fishing is allowed in 66% of the park, there are a range of State and Commonwealth ‘look, but don’t take’ areas in the region. It's important to know your zones so we can continue to protect the biodiversity of this striking and significant part of WA. For more information visit our website.

And after you’ve caught your bag limit and put the gear away, you could take a tour and #Wanderoutyonder to see whale sharks (April–July), humpbacks (August–October) and manta rays (May–September). There are also great opportunities to watch the turtles (November–March), or the coral spawning (March and April).

Catch! the scientists

Fisheries scientist leaning over and tagging a shark

In the first of a series of profiles, find out more about the work of our marine research scientists.

Senior Research Scientist Dr Matias Braccini grew up in Buenos Aires. A love for surfing led him to take on studies that took him closer to the ocean. He now combines his passion for math and biology with marine science and provides scientific advice on sharks and rays in WA.

What Matias enjoys most is the great mix of field and office work. “One week I could be tagging sharks, the next week I may be analysing data,” he said. “Our research outcomes directly inform the management and conservation of sharks and rays in WA, by combining biology, ecology and exploitation histories to understand how populations respond.”

Principal Research Scientist Simon de Lestang was also drawn to his career by an affinity for the ocean.

“I enjoy the diversity of my job,” Simon said. “I study a number of different fish and crustaceans and my work ranges from handling animals on board boats to developing computer models to simulate fish stocks. I also interact with industry stakeholders and present to large groups of people.

“I work to ensure sustainability and maximise the economic return from a number of commercial and recreational fisheries in WA, including the largest, the western rock lobster fishery, which has an annual gross value of production of over $400 million.”

BEN signs reach milestone

Image of Rick Gerring, Ben Gerring's brother, with the Claytons Beach BEN sign

The Beach Emergency Number (BEN) sign program has reached a significant milestone with the 1000th sign going in the ground at Claytons Beach in the Shire of Wanneroo.

Each BEN sign has a unique code to help pinpoint exact locations and improve crucial emergency response times for a range of potentially serious incidents such as fishing accidents, surfing injuries or shark bites, so when you go fishing, take note of the number if there is a BEN sign nearby and help to keep all ocean users safe.

In the recent shark bite incident at Bunker Bay, the BEN sign was used to assist authorities to confirm the exact location of the incident and respond quickly to the situation.

BEN signs are part of the State Government’s shark mitigation strategy and locations can be found by visiting or via the SharkSmartWA app. For more information, visit our website for the full media release

Shore based survey data is in

People fishing off rocks

We recently wrapped up our Shore-Based Metropolitan Survey for the seventh year, which provides data on fishing effort, harvest rate and total catch for key nearshore species.

From February to June, our researchers interviewed shore fishers along 60km of the Perth metro coast to measure their catch and ask questions about their fishing activity. Since the survey began we’ve interviewed 22,075 recreational fishers.

This year, social distancing measures meant that catch data was restricted in April, however we were still able to collect effort data for the duration of the survey period by counting fishers. This provided valuable information into the shore-based recreational fishing effort during COVID-19.

For more information, contact us by emailing or call 9203 0111.

Don't dump imported seafood waste

Three brownish koi carp

To protect WA’s oceans and waterways, always bin your unwanted seafood. Raw and frozen seafood such as mussels and prawns imported for human consumption can introduce new diseases into WA’s aquatic environment.

When fishing or crabbing, use bait purchased from a quality bait supplier or catch your own. Don’t use seafood meant for human consumption as bait or berley, especially not raw imported prawns bought from supermarkets or fishmongers.

…and don’t dump ornamental fish either!

If you have ornamental fish you no longer want, please do not release them into our waterways. Ornamental fish can have a devastating impact on our native species and aquatic environment. If they get established they can be difficult if not impossible to eradicate and their impact may be irreversible. If you no longer want ornamentals, give them to an aquarium, contact an organisation such as the Koi Society of WA or find someone willing to take them.

If you see ornamental fish in our waterways, you can help us protect WA’s aquatic environment by emailing, or calling FishWatch (1800 815 507). Let us know about any unusual fish or pest species you see, or catch, and if you do catch a pest or ornamental species, please do not return it to the water. For more information visit our website.