Flathead for the Future?

With the Victorian Fisheries Authority 10 yearly regulation review currently underway, long serving VRFish member Brian Wright of the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, reflects on his many decades of experience as both an angler, and citizen scientist of the Port Phillip Bay Flathead fishery. A fishery that many anglers now believe needs to be thoroughly assessed to ensure continued sustainability.

As part of the Victorian Fisheries Authorities (VFA) 10 year regulation review, VRFish reached out to anglers across the state to provide advice on possible changes to regulations of our many inland and marine recreational fisheries.  The Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club (APYAC) committee and members, are proposing a change to the recreational bag limit for all bay flathead to be reduced to 10 fish per angler per day, and a minimum length increase to 30 cm’s. If adopted, this would replace the current bag limit of 20 fish per angler per day, and the 27cm minimum size limit, as it currently stands today for three species of Flathead found in Port Phillip Bay.

Although fishing in Port Phillip Bay is in very good shape with other popular species such as Snapper, Whiting, Salmon and Squid, which all appear in good numbers, anglers from APYAC who have been actively targeting Flathead in the bay for many decades, now believe this is not the case for the hugely popular ‘bread and butter’ species. 

“The flathead fishery of Port Phillip Bay has been under pressure for various reasons over the past few seasons” stated Brian. “And it is worth noting that unlike the Snapper, Whiting and Salmon which annually enter the bay in vast numbers from Bass Strait, the three bay species of Sand, Rock and Southern Blue Spotted (Yank) flatties are residential, and do not receive any yearly increase from southern waters.” 

“With the decrease in numbers it is hard to expect a return to the massive catches of past years, as all the future stock has to come from within the bay itself.”

“Most anglers at APYAC can’t get near the bag limit of 20 flathead these days and are happy to target 10 fish, which allows 20 fillets to take home of the once common Sand flathead”. 

Brian also reports that “The Rock Flathead are not caught in great numbers by anglers at APYAC, and their stocks do not appear to be under threat. However, the Southern Blue Spotted (Yank) Flathead is a different story. These fish average 34 to 44cms with the odd larger one taken over 50cm’s, and have been known to reach 90cm’s when conditions allow.”

Brian believes that “If anglers follow the VRFISH guidelines of ‘Limiting Their Catch’ rather than ‘Catching Their Limit’ we can all share in a better fishing future.”

“The regulation review process only comes around every 10 years” said VRFish Chairman Rob Loats. “The Victorian Fisheries Authority have a real opportunity here to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our Port Phillip Bay Flathead fishery.”

“Our 2018 Sand Flathead Survey shows that an overwhelming majority of anglers had reported that the fishery has deteriorated in recent years. This may be due to a number of environmental factors, and work still needs to be done in this space. But the opportunity to implement new regulations whilst this occurs needs serious consideration by the VFA.” 

The current Fisheries Regulations (2009) will expire on 3 February 2020, with consultation expected to continue with anglers into late 2019.

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