Worrying times on the estuaries
  |  First Published: May 2013

Unfortunately in March a fish kill occurred recently in the Curdies River.

Although I fished upstream just prior and saw no ill effects, good friend and angler Steve Hilliard fished downstream the same weekend and came across numerous bream carcasses in the lower reaches of the river and the lake. I was working in Peterborough later that week and noticed that the lake was very low, the water warm and no doubt low in oxygen with the mouth well and truly closed to the sea via a massive sand bar.

I did note three weeks ago that much of the lake was choked with weed. That would explain the large influx of waterbirds feeding on the weed that is growing profusely. Unfortunately these waterfowl defecate directly into the water numerous times a day. This just adds to the nutrient content that simply flourishes in this tepid environment. This just consumes more soluble oxygen which in turns starves the fish and no doubt in the near future a potential algal bloom is well and truly on the cards.

What we need is rain and plenty of it now plus the current warm Indian summer style temperatures to dissipate. I cannot see consistent rain happening in the near future so the Curdies estuary and its fishery are potentially in dire straits.

I was informed recently by a local angler that a similar situation has also occurred in the Gellibrand River. The angler in question counted at least 200 fish (many of them bream) carcasses floating in the lower reaches of the river.

After some investigation I found out that the mouth was manually opened far too late so the toxic water stayed in the system and sank when incoming salt water (that weighs less than fresh water) entered the system but only skimming over the top instead of flushing the system proper. Apparently thousands of fish including many bream, estuary perch, mullet, salmon and sea run brown trout were lost to this act of ill-timed bureaucratic stupidity. A senseless waste of valuable fishing resources has now been placed in dire straits.

On the upside, the saltwater scene has been nothing short of fantastic. Plenty of solid pinkie snapper to 48cm have been caught all along our coastline. In fact boaters who have been launching at Boat Bay and off the beach in Peterborough have noticed that the snapper stomach contents have been full of black crickets. Especially in March and April the crickets have been prolific and a certain amount must get blown out into the sea via a north wind. They then drown and float. So here is another classic case of snapper surface feeding. I wonder if anyone has come up with a large black woolly fly so as to take advantage of this slightly obscure snapper feeding frenzy?

Clifton Beach near Princetown has been solid for gummy shark to 14kg with the favoured bait being chunks of unskinned eel pinned on a ganged rig.

After dark with a rising tide has been the optimum time to fish.

The southern bluefin tuna scene is really gaining momentum now with fish to 46kg being caught in depths from as little as 30m way out to 1400m. Schools are still a little thin on the ground but no doubt this will improve in the fullness of time.

Our local estuaries are in dire straits and some much needed heavy rain is required now to flush out the toxicity that is currently infecting these rivers.

Some of the dead bream found in March in the Curdies estuary.

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