Electro-fishing partnership set to relocate native fish

By Country News

High-value native fish caught in irrigation channels in the Murray Valley will again be relocated as part of a continued Goulburn-Murray Water and Victorian Fisheries Authority project.

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 trialled 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 G-MW’s irrigation channels.

However, they can be at risk when G-MW 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,” Mr Dowling said.

“Cod fishing has never been better in Victoria, so get your favourite spinnerbait or Stumpjumper out and get ready.”

The three-month window to relocate fish takes place at the end of the gravity irrigation season each year.

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.

G-MW water delivery services general manager Warren Blyth welcomed the joint effort.

“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,” Mr Blyth said.

“It allows G-MW to progress with weed spraying programs and de-silting of channels that is part of our regular maintenance program without impacting valuable fish species.”

The electro-fishing boat is funded through recreational fishing licence fees while G-MW is providing some manpower, transport and site safety management.

Electro-fishing 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.