Winter update on the Mulloway Tagging Program

Since our last post about the Mulloway Tagging Program in March 2019, we have recorded a number of new interesting recaptures.

There are currently 75 anglers across Victoria dedicating their time to tagging Mulloway. Collectively, they have tagged almost 500 Mulloway, and so far we have recorded a total of 64 recaptures, which equates to around 15%. A further seven of these Mulloway have been recaptured a second time! The project is funded by the Victorian Fisheries Authority through Recreational Fishing License Fees, and kicked off in late 2017. The three year tagging project is increasing our understanding on Mulloway movements across Victoria and interstate.

Back in March, Tim Vincent caught this 102 cm tagged Mulloway from the Hopkins River. The fish had previously been tagged from the Hopkins River by Warrnambool angler, Luke Gercovich, almost exactly one year earlier. The fish was 80 cm when tagged, and therefore showed considerably high growth. After this quick pic, the fish was released back to the water.

DuringMay 2019, we recorded six recaptures! Three were Mulloway tagged off Browns Bay in south east South Australia (in summer to early autumn 2017/18), and later recaptured in the Glenelg River. One fish was at liberty for 515 days, which is the longest period we’ve recorded so far. These three recaptures indicate a seasonal trend for Mulloway to move into the Glenelg River during late autumn.

In a first, we also recorded a Mulloway undergoing a ‘round trip’ from the Glenelg River to Browns Bay and back again. The fish was tagged in the Glenelg by Neil Humphries in December 2017 at 60 cm, then recaptured by Shane Murrell over a year later at Browns Bay when it measured 79 cm. At the start of the month, the fish was recaptured again in the Glenelg River near Donovans at 80 cm. This is quite exciting as it provides evidence of Mulloway leaving the Glenelg, presumably to breed out at sea during the summer months, then returning to the Glenelg in Autumn.

Movement map for Mulloway #222, which completed our first observed ’round trip.’ The fish was tagged in the Glenelg River in December 2018, then recaptured at Browns Bay in February this year, before returning again to the Glenelg where it was caught further up river near Donovans in May.

Further to the east, a Melbourne angler was lucky enough to catch a Mulloway he’d tagged in the Yarra River almost exactly one year earlier! The fish was tagged at 104 cm on 22nd May 2018, and recaptured only 1.5 km away, measuring 106 cm. This is obviously very minimal growth, so it’s likely the fish was of an older age (since growth slows down considerably in the older life stages).

There were also four Mulloway tagged in the Patterson River in March-April this year, that were recaptured between 17 and 72 days later in similar locations, highlighting that autumn-winter is prime fishing time for Mulloway in the Patterson. Finally, just last week, a fellow caught a tagged Mulloway at the mouth of the Yarra River (near the warmies) which had been tagged over a year ago in the Patterson River. The fish was at liberty for 427 days, growing from 66 to 80 cm. This is the second Mulloway to move from the Patterson River to the mouth of the Yarra River and represents the only ‘between estuary’ movements we’ve documented so far (i.e. when Mulloway move from one estuary to another).

Last week, a Mulloway which was originally tagged from the Patterson River in May last year, was recaptured at the mouth of the Yarra River. The fish was at liberty for 427 days, and grew from 66 to 80 cm.

In some exciting media news, one of our taggers (Jamie Coates) recently went out fishing with the guys from Australian fishing show ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ to target Mulloway in the Glenelg River. They had some success, and managed to tag two nice Mulloway. Thanks to Jamie, Nick, and Andrew, the tagging program got some great publicity which has already helped spread the word about the program. I’m sure any angler would get a kick out of catching one of these tagged Mulloway! Look out for fish #203 (70 cm) and #204 (75 cm).

Mulloway tagger, Jamie Coates (left) with Nick Duigan, from Hook Line and Sinker (right) with a 70 cm Mulloway they recently tagged in the Glenelg River.

Andrew Hart from Hook Line and Sinker with an 80 cm Mulloway that was tagged from the Glenelg River while shooting their latest TV show installment.

I’ll finish by kindly thanking the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority for presenting us with the Innovation Award for the Mulloway Tagging Program. The awards were part of the 2019 Glenelg Hopkins Environmental Achievers Award which were recently announced in Hamilton. I feel very humbled to have received this award and would like to recognise and thank all the anglers that have make this program possible.

Happy fishing!

Lauren Brown