YELLOWTAIL kingfish are making a comeback to Port Phillip Bay and anglers are catching good numbers.
It has been a long time since yellowtail kingfish of any serious size were about the Rip and South Channel.
When the kingfish were running in numbers, it was like Bourke St, with boats trolling for fish that in some cases exceeded 30kg.
Many anglers look back with fond memories of those heady days.
It was a free-for-all and no one seemed to care how many kings were caught because the supply seemed endless.
But in 1992 and subsequent years, the kingfish stopped coming to the southern end of Port Phillip Bay.
It was as if someone threw a switch and the big kingfish ceased to exist.
There were small kingfish outside the bay at places like Charlemont Reef off Barwon Heads, and around the conning towers of the sunken submarines offshore from Pt Lonsdale.
But big kingfish, those in the 10 to 15kg size ranges or bigger, had vanished.
It is easy to apportion blame after the event. "Amateur and commercial fishers had caught so many kingfish that they fished them to near extinction," is a common line among people with whom I fish.
Some anglers probably caught and sold more kingfish than the commercial fishermen, but that alone didn't destroy the fishery.
The reason the kingfish went into decline was that regulations were inadequate, in terms of minimum size and bag limits, to protect the stocks.
In fact, back in the 1970s and '80s, I don't think there was a size and bag limit on kingfish.
This is something that has been introduced subsequently.
Fisheries Victoria director of management Travis Dowling said the minimum size limit of 60cm and bag limit of five a day was aimed at ensuring kingfish get every chance to grow into trophy fighting fish for anglers.
He said Fisheries Victoria would continue to monitor their catch and welcomed input from recreational anglers on how the fishery was performing.
Maybe I am over-reacting, but when I hear of large numbers of kingfish being caught, I begin to have to wonder whether the existing bag and size limits are enough.
Kingfish grow to 50kg and a couple of metres, yet anglers are being allowed to take them when they are little more than juveniles.
Perhaps an increase in size and a reduction of bag limits would help stave off the inevitable. No one wants a repeat of 1992.
The introduction of more stringent size and bag limits for dusky flathead in East Gippsland estuaries appears to have worked.
The daily bag and possession limit is five fish, of which no more than one may exceed 60cm.
The limit was introduced in December 2003 following concerns about greater angler catches of dusky flathead due mainly to the effectiveness of soft-plastic lures.
There was widespread angler support for the dusky flathead catch limits, and monitoring has indicated these limits have been effective in constraining the number of fish taken.
The limit has been reviewed annually to ensure stocks are protected.
Anglers will be able to provide ideas and comments on these species and any other recreational fishing opportunities at the Fisheries Victoria Regional Roundtable consultation forums, starting in Frankston in May.
- For more details, visit http://new.dpi.vic.gov.au/fisheries/recreational-fishing/regional-roundtables
Fish cleaning tables
RECREATIONAL anglers visiting coastal fishing spots now have the luxury of cleaning their catch in comfort thanks to 20 new fish-cleaning tables across Victoria.
The total number installed by Fisheries Victoria is now more than 30.
All feature slanted, stainless-steel surfaces and many are roofed.
The tables have been installed at Curdies River at Curdie Vale; Yambuk Lake boat ramp; Apollo Bay boat ramp and Apollo Bay wharf; Ocean Grove boat ramp; St Helens boat ramp, Corio Bay; two tables adjacent to the boat ramp at Port Welshpool; main wharf at Port Franklin; jetty at the main boat ramp at Inverloch; Dawsons Cove and Fishermans Wharf, Paynesville; Shaving Point at Metung; Johnsonville boat ramp on the Tambo River; public reserve on the Glenelg River, Nelson; Fishermans Landing and main ramp at Lake Tyers; Karbeethong (near Mallacoota) boat ramp and a second table on the jetty, and the main boat ramp at Mallacoota.