Hunters Under Fire
While anglers are still reeling from the creation of marine parks at many of their traditional fishing spots, a new battlefront is emerging. The Greens want to prevent hunting in National Parks and anglers could eventually be caught in the crossfire.
But if America is any guide, worse is to come. Robert J. Stevens, a 69-year-old hunter from Virginia, was recently convicted of criminal charges for producing and selling films about dogs because he violated a federal law that prevents depictions of animal cruelty.
Stevens made several films showing dogs hunting and, using old stock footage from overseas, dogs fighting. His intention was to convey the strength of the Pit Bull, a breed that he is passionate about and trains for hunting.
However, a prosecutor hauled him to Pittsburgh to face charges for his documentaries. You see, the federal law in America bans the dissemination of images of animals being hurt, wounded or killed unless the images have serious value. The Humane Society is pushing hard with an emotional argument that says Stevens promotes animal cruelty.
The landmark case might result in serious problems for any person, outlet or entity that shows or sells depictions of hunting and fishing activities in America, says the Professional Outdoor Media Association, to which this writer subscribes.
Of course, Australian laws are different – for now – but the rise and rise of animal liberationists and green groups has already resulted in campaigns against hapless anglers pictured alongside their prized catch. Kids weighing record fish have themselves been crucified.
Is it just a matter of time before fishing is considered a form of hunting and banned in National Parks? And how long before fishing shows are targeted for supposed cruelty? Arm yourself. Food for thought.
Dispatch the Catch
It’s incumbent on every angler in these times of close scrutiny by animal liberationists to do the humane thing and dispatch the catch properly, in a swift and considerate manner. But how do you do that?
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has released a guide to the humane harvesting of seafood. It’s no longer acceptable to leave a fish out of water or cook a crab that hasn’t been dispatched properly. Here’s how to do the right thing.
For fin-fish intended for the table, the DPI recommends percussive stunning or a swift sharp blow to the head just above the eyes using a heavy wooden handle or so-called priest. When applied correctly the fish’s gill covers should stop rhythmically moving and the eye should remain still. Fish should only be bled after they have been dispatched.
But in recent times ideas have changed about how to humanely handle crustaceans in the restaurant and catering industries. DPI recommends that all crustaceans be immersed in saltwater ice slurry for a minimum of 20 minutes before boiling, broiling, or preparing in some other way. This ensures the animal is immobilised before procedures that may cause pain, says DPI, though it’s debatable whether fish or shellfish do in fact feel pain.
Restaurants selling live seafood are one of the greatest sources of complaint about animal welfare. Causes of stress in seafood in restaurant tanks include poor water temperature control, inadequate aeration, poor or unsuitable water quality, overcrowding and incompatible species being kept together.
Steer clear of fish in tanks if there is foam on the water surface, cloudy water, slime or algal growth on the walls of the tank. Then again, some will argue they are all heading for fish heaven, any way. That said, stressed fish make poor eating. Lactic acid released in the flesh creates a bitter taste. All the more reason to dispatch them promptly.
A Tangle of Rules and Regs
Did you know you are not allowed to collect pipis in NSW for human consumption, that you can keep only one dolphin fish over 110cm in length, and that the wobbegong shark is a catch-and-release species despite a commercial fishery?
Trawl the reams of rules and regulations governing recreational fishing in NSW and you will come away reeling. The bag and size limits are a moving target, there are seasonal closures in freshwater streams to protect introduced species like trout, while a minefield of laws govern permissible fishing methods.
No more than four rods or lines are to be used or set by any one person at any one time, with no more than three hooks or gangs of hooks attached to each line. However, you are allowed to have one line with six single hooks with lures attached, otherwise known as a bait rig, if it is used for hand jigging.
Jagging, once a popular technique for harvesting sea mullet when they are running behind the beaches, is illegal these days. And you must return to the water any lobsters or crabs carrying eggs. But did you know the foreshores of Sydney Harbour are an Intertidal Protected Area where collecting seashore animals for bait is banned?
If all the NSW fishing rules and regulations were bound together it would be create a mighty tome. But at the end of the day, ignorance is no defence and its incumbent on every angler to fish by the rules. Read up at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/regulations.
David Lockwood’s Guide to Fishing – July
Winter might have struck with a vengeance last month, but the oceans paint a very different picture. Unseasonably warm 20°C water was kissing the coast at the time of writing, pointing to a La Nina weather event and, for some fish, a winter of discontent.
What’s wrong with warm water? Nothing if you are a fish that likes the stuff. But when I was growing up in Sydney, winter brought a whole new creel of species to our waterways. You had to brave the elements, but to the victor there were spoils.
Cold green water would flow from the Southern Ocean and deliver hordes of angry barracouta, short-finned pike or snook (not to be confused with the long-finned garden variety), great rippling shoals of cowanyoung, delicious Tasmania trumpeter, big blue morwong, and even bore fish. Few of these fish reach Sydney these days, instead visiting the South Coast at best.
In the estuaries, where the westerly winds and lack of rain would turn the water gin clear, you could see the John dory lurking below the schools of yellowtail and hardy heads. And hairtail as long as a man and as thick as your forearm could be caught in Botany Bay, Sydney Harbour and Cowan Creek.
I’m not buying into the global-warming debate, but these days are different. Once a winter fish, Australian salmon have become residents around Sydney with their range increasing to the Queensland border. And barracouta, normally a cold-water fish, were caught in mid-summer off the Central Coast.
But snook, cowanyoung, Tassie trumpeter and the big winter morwong, not to mention southern bluefin tuna, are noticeable by their absence. And while John dory can be caught, they are much harder to find. Ditto the hairtail, which appear to only call Cowan Creek home. And they’re so much smaller these days.
The flipside of all this is an extended season for our warm-water fishing. Offshore fishers have been getting stuck into big kingfish at Long Reef and, although I’m breaking a code of silence and might end up in cement shoes, the same can be said for the reefs off Terrigal.
I’m betting the kings will continue this month, just watch the winter weather. Having said that, the warm water can’t continue. So I’ve taken the brave step of running a winter fishing map and key with this issue. Time will tell whether the prophecy is right. Check back.
Providing the weather is agreeable now is also good time for plumbing the depths at Browns Mountain for gemfish, hapuka and blue eye. Or try the 120 metre reefs with lighter tackle for long-finned perch.
Due to the warm water, oodles of bonito have been patrolling the headlands. But in a sign of the changing season, thumper tailor have joined them. Beach fishers and those soaking big baits in the estuaries have all been taking their fair share of tailor. July is tailor time, too. Bleed the fish, butterfly them, scatter the flesh with salt, and grill when fresh. Now that’s the taste of fresh fish.
Pittwater has been home to some seriously big kingfish, but in the most recent news locals noticed plenty of big leatherjackets around the wharves. Those in the know consider that a harbinger to the arrival of John dory. What they fail to return in numbers they more than make up for on the tooth. Small live baits fished in mid-water are the ticket.
While fishing for John dory, establish a berley slick to bring the baitfish to your boat or wharf. And fish cut baits for bream, trevally and tailor. Hawkesbury fishing guide Greg Joyes says school-sized jewfish should be around the bridges and in Cowan Creek, where hopefully the hairtail arrive this winter.
Down south, Botany Bay guide Scotty Lyons put his crew onto a good catch of bream and trevally from aptly named Trevally Alley. Lately, I’ve spied some big whiting mooching about. Try the flats in places like Port Hacking at night.
Of course, the annual trout season in NSW was closed in streams and rivers from midnight on Monday, June 8 to allow brown, rainbow and brook trout a chance to breed during their spawning run. But all trout dams remain open to fishing year round.
According to fishing guide Steve Williamson from Jindabyne there are some big trout moving into the rivers and back into the dam. Visiting anglers scored brown trout to 3kg. But in even bigger news, Gaden Trout Hatchery released its ex-brood Atlantic salmon into Lake Jindabyne. Some of the fish being landed weighed more than 5kg
Inland or out at sea, play it safe in July. Hypothermia can occur in as little as 30 minutes after immersion. Symptoms include exhaustion, apathy, difficultly with reasoning, slowed mental and physical reactions, poor sense of touch, slurred speech, and swollen lips, hands and feet.
Read up on hypothermia and how to avoid it at http://www.maritime.nsw.gov.au/campaigns/cold.html.
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