Welcome to your go-to source for what’s new in the 2023 WA Recreational Fishing Guide. With fishing being a popular pastime for over 620,000 people in Western Australia, staying informed is key. This guide not only helps you fish ethically but also furthers marine conservation. We’ll cover all you need—from rule changes to conservation tips.
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What are the Recreational Fishing Guides?
The WA Recreational Fishing Guides are the official resource for fishing rules in Western Australia, covering bag limits, gear types, and more. Available in multiple formats (PDF available here) and regularly updated, they help anglers fish responsibly and contribute to marine conservation. The latest version is for 2023.
What’s in 2023’s Recreational Fishing Guide?
It’s recommended that you read the document in its entirety to ensure you’re completely up to date with the ever-changing recreational fishing landscape in Western Australia. However, if you’re short on time or would prefer a more concise overview, here’s what you can expect in the 2023 WA Recreational Fishing Guide:
‘Fishing for the future’: an emphasis on sustainable fishing
The 2023 WA Recreational Fishing Guide emphasises the critical role of sustainable fishing practices in Western Australia, a region where fishing is both a popular recreational activity and an economic driver. Approximately 620,000 people participate in fishing in the area, highlighting the importance of responsible resource management.
The guide provides rules that are backed by research and aims to ensure that fish populations remain sustainable for generations to come. Violating these regulations carries stiff penalties, including fines up to $400,000, up to four years in prison, and the forfeiture of boats and equipment. Offenders may also lose the right to engage in any licensed fishing activities.
Changes to the rules
Effective from February 1, there are several important changes to recreational fishing rules in the West Coast Bioregion of Western Australia. These changes focus on conserving demersal scalefish and aim for sustainable fish stocks by 2030. Key points include:
- Annual closures: 1 February–31 March, 1 August–22 September, 9 October–15 December; exclusions for certain fishers.
- Boat & bag limits: Four-fish boat limit; two WA dhufish bag limit within mixed species limit of two.
- Size limits removed: No more size limits for WA dhufish, baldchin groper, and breaksea cod.
- Tackle limit: One bait or lure per line in the West Coast Bioregion.
- Pink snapper closure: Extended from 1 August to 31 January in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds.
- Baldchin groper closure: 1 October–31 December at the Abrolhos Islands.
- One demersal scalefish bag limit.
- 5 kg fillet possession limit, plus an extra 5 kg for large pelagic finfish; or a one-day whole fish limit.
- Filleting rules clarify two fillets count as one whole fish, with boat limits applying in the Abrolhos Islands Fish Habitat Protection Area.
Care for your catch
The guide outlines key practices for responsible fishing and fish care that aim to sustain fish populations for future generations:
- Releasing fish: Quickly release undersized or protected fish using suitable hooks and long-nosed pliers for hook removal.
- Fish welfare: Use knotless nets or wet rags for unhooking; handle with wet hands. Revive spent fish before release.
- Storing catch: Keep in a seawater ice slurry or damp open-weave bag, out of the sun.
- High-grading: Discouraged due to irresponsible resource use and risk of exceeding bag limits.
- Dangerous fish: Return poisonous or venomous species like blowfish to the water.
- Barotrauma: Cease fishing upon reaching limits to prevent damage to deep-water fish; use a release weight if needed.
Shark depredation and mitigation
The guide addresses shark depredation, a challenge for commercial, charter, and recreational fishers in Western Australia, and offers several recommendations to mitigate its impact:
- Change locations: If sharks start consuming your catches, move to a different fishing spot immediately.
- Use deterrents: Consider employing devices that deter sharks to increase the likelihood of landing a fish safely.
- Avoid hotspots: Stay away from areas known for frequent shark depredation, as sharks can learn to frequent these spots for an easy meal.
- Opt for lures and jigs: Using these instead of bait can reduce the likelihood of attracting sharks.
- Avoid catch and release: This method might attract more sharks to the area.
- Don’t clean fish at sea: To avoid attracting sharks, bring fish waste back to land for composting.
Your licencing fees
Each year, about $8 million collected from recreational fishing licences goes towards managing recreational fishing activities in Western Australia, an amount matched by the state government. The funds are allocated across various initiatives benefiting recreational fishers:
- Project funding: 25% of the revenue is reserved for new initiatives.
- Representation: 15% supports Recfishwest, the peak body representing the interests of recreational fishers in WA.
- Management and research: The remaining funds are used for management, research, education, and compliance.
- Specific projects funded by these licence fees include:
- Construction of artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices (FADs)
- Restocking efforts for marron, snapper, and barramundi
- A programme to train future fisheries leaders
- Stocking of trout
- Research on popular species like blue swimmer crabs, black bream, and squid
- A statewide recreational boat fishing survey
- Installation of artificial reefs across the state to enhance fishing for small boat owners
Bag and size limits
Bag and size limits aim for sustainable fishing and resource sharing. Bag limits manage fish stocks, while size limits ensure fish mature for breeding. Measure captured fish and release if under-sized or protected.
- Finfish types and regions: Finfish are categorised by environment—Demersal, Estuarine, Freshwater, Nearshore, and Pelagic—with specific rules for regions like North Coast and West Coast Bioregions.
- Mixed species bag limit: Limits number of fish across species within 24 hours e.g. West Coast Bioregion’s limit for demersal scalefish is two fish.
- Individual species bag limit: Caps the number of a single species in your mixed bag e.g. one coral trout per day max.
- Boat limit: Max fish allowed on boat, calculated as daily bag limit times people on board. The boat master is responsible for compliance e.g. western rock lobster limits vary by people on board, and a licence and daily limits apply.
In the Recreational Fishing Guide 2023, you’ll find detailed and easy-to-understand diagrams that list the exact guidelines on bag sizes and limits on contents pages 14–41.
FishWatch—1800 815 507
FishWatch is a confidential phone line service and online platform for reporting illegal fishing, aquatic pests, and fish kills. Users can detail the event, participants, and equipment involved. Offences include netting rivers, exceeding limits, and fishing in closed areas.
FishWatch also helps protect against aquatic threats in Western Australia. Good vessel upkeep and gear cleaning are advised. Alternative reporting can be done via WA PestWatch app, Biosecurity Branch, or local DPIRD offices. Specific location and photo details are crucial when reporting.
Finfish possession limits
There are regulations for finfish possession limits in Western Australia that aim to ensure sustainable fishing practices.
- Up to 10 kg of fillets, plus 10 kg from large pelagic fish like mackerel. Skin must be attached.
- Alternatively, 10 kg of fillets and one day’s bag limit of whole fish.
- Two-day bag limit of whole fish is allowed.
- Overnight charter: Limits double to 20 kg of fillets or two days’ bag limit of whole fish. Labelling required.
- Abrolhos Islands: 5 kg of fillets plus one day’s bag limit of whole fish.
- Freycinet Estuary: 5 kg of fillets or one day’s bag limit of whole fish.
- Lalang-garram Zone: One whole fish or two fillets.
- Definitions for ‘fillet’ and ‘trunk’ are provided in the guide.
- Large pelagic fish can be in two pieces and count as one.
- Some baitfish and purchased fish are excluded.
- Labelling guidelines are provided for stored fish.
Transport and labelling:
- Stored fish exceeding one person’s limit must be labelled.
- Unaccompanied recreationally caught fish must be personally transported; couriers are not allowed.
Cooking and storing recreational fish on commercial sites
Recreationally caught fish can be stored and cooked at commercial premises like resorts and hotels that offer accommodation and meals. Guests can have their catch prepared by the on-site chef. The restaurant may charge for this service but cannot sell the fish to others.
A ban on having recreationally caught fish at commercial premises involved in selling or processing fish still applies, except for those offering lodging and meals. Stored fish must be labelled with the owner’s name and address and kept separate from commercially caught fish. Standard possession limits apply.
Crabs, prawns, and molluscs
You can catch crabs using approved methods like hand, wire hook, drop net, or scoop net. Measure them across the widest part of the shell. Keep crabs whole unless eating immediately. Special cleaning is needed for blue swimmer crabs from Swan and Canning rivers. Return protected crabs to the water.
Freshwater prawns in the North Coast Bioregion have specific gear limits, and redclaw crayfish rules are available at select DPIRD offices. For prawns, use designated nets, but note that some areas like Swan and Canning rivers have restrictions. Release crabs caught during prawn fishing. Prawn hand-trawl nets are prohibited in some West Coast Bioregion areas.
Edible molluscs, except oysters, must be whole and in-shell until more than 200 metres inland. Using abalone as bait is illegal due to risk of spreading disease.
In Western Australia, fishing licences are required for powered boat fishing and catching specific species like rock lobster, abalone, and marron. Licences are also needed for freshwater angling in the southwest and for using certain nets. Shore fishing is generally licence-free. Licences can be renewed online and aren’t valid in other states.
A Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence (RFBL) covers activities like line fishing, crabbing, and spearfishing for 12 months. Exceptions include unpowered boats, licensed charter boats, or if you have a species-specific licence. The RFBL aids in fishery management.
Closed seasons and protected areas
Seasonal closures and protected areas exist to promote sustainable fishing in various regions of Western Australia. Here’s a summary of key points:
- Demersal scalefish: Closed seasons differ by region, such as the West Coast Bioregion, to help species like dhufish and snapper recover.
- Blue swimmer crabs: Indefinite closure in Cockburn Sound; annual closure from Sept 1 to Nov 30 in Swan River to Minninup Beach.
- Pink snapper: Spawning closures from Aug 1 to Jan 31 in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds; similar in Gascoyne Coast Bioregion.
- Baldchin groper: Abrolhos Islands closed from Oct 1 to Dec 31.
- Southern garfish: Closed in Metropolitan waters indefinitely.
Marine protected areas:
- Managed by DPIRD, including fish habitat areas and wreck sites.
- Inshore reserves managed by DBCA.
- Offshore parks managed by Parks Australia.
Measures are regularly updated based on stock assessments and research. Illegal fishing during closed seasons is not allowed, and multiple agencies oversee these rules.
General fishing rules
Legal gear in WA waters includes one bait/lure per line for demersal scalefish in the West Coast Bioregion and three elsewhere. Shore-based fishing allows two attended lines. Don’t tamper with rock lobster pots and report issues. Spearfishing is ocean-only and restricted in certain areas. Nets are mostly banned, and release weights are needed for demersal scalefish.
Restrictions include no traps, berley, waterway obstruction, explosives, commercial gear, or set-lines in protected areas. Be cautious when buying gear; some stores sell illegal items. Always verify with local regulations.
Ensure boats and gear are in top condition before fishing. Check the latest rules and weather for boat fishing, and inform someone of your plans. For rock fishing, wear a life jacket and don’t go alone. Abalone fishers should monitor waves and wear safety gear.
Divers need a buddy, a dive flag, and may consider a shark deterrent. Use the SharkSmart WA app for shark updates and note Beach Emergency Numbers (BEN) at public beaches for emergencies.
Contribute to fish conservation by volunteering in research programs, sending in fish frames for monitoring, maintaining angler log books to help scientific projects, reporting tagged fish recaptures, and sharing photos of unusual marine species through the Redmap website or app.
That’s your quick overview of the 2023 WA Recreational Fishing Guide. Fishing is more than fun; it’s a shared duty for marine sustainability. Follow these guidelines for healthier oceans.
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