Best bay spawning in 24 years for sand flathead

Recent surveys of Port Philip by fisheries scientists have recorded the best sand flathead spawning in 24 years.

Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) CEO Travis Dowling said sand flathead are a popular ‘bread and butter’ species because they are easy to catch and delicious on the dinner table.

“For many Victorians, sand flathead were the first fish they ever caught so this big spawning event in the bay is wonderful news that will resonate with lots of people, young and old,” Mr Dowling said.

“The VFA monitors annual spawning success for several fish species because it has a major influence on the performance of our marine fisheries.

“Surveys in Port Phillip predominantly target snapper and King George whiting however they also provide an indicator for sand flathead.

“While several flathead species inhabit Victorian waters, including dusky, rock, blue spotted and tiger, sand flathead make up most of the recreational catch, particularly in Port Phillip.

“Sand flathead spawning success was high in Port Phillip during the 1990s resulting in a booming fishery up until the mid-2000s. However, low spawning success from 1997/98 onwards saw a decrease in sand flathead abundance.

“On the back of a moderately successful spawning event in 2013, sand flathead stocks have begun to rebuild, and this should continue for the foreseeable future thanks to the strong 2021 year-class.”

“Recent survey work had also measured snapper spawning success, which was found to be low this year. Snapper spawning is naturally variable, so some years are good, some years are great, and other years not so good.

“The news does not concern fisheries managers because the western snapper stock, which includes Port Phillip snapper, had a record spawning event in 2018 and this cohort is just beginning to reach the legal minimum length of 28cm, which will bolster the fishery for years to come.”

Mr Dowling said the State Government had removed ninety per cent of commercial netting effort in Port Phillip already and the entire bay would become completely net free by next April.

“That means more fish than ever for recreational fishers to enjoy in Victoria’s biggest fishery.”

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