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MULLOWAY anglers are continually attempting to break the enigma of the species. To cross paths with a fish that is shrouded in mystery and, to some extent at least, reasonably unpredictable can be quite a challenge. So when you get lucky and find yourself connected with a decent specimen you tend to derive some satisfaction from the moment, as on that particular occasion, you cracked the code! You also had the privilege to experience a snippet of that fish’s life story. But the full story, the prequel and sequel to that moment, remain a mystery – true to the mulloway’s nature.

On the 12th of November last year I hooked a 108cm mulloway in Brisbane Waters near Gosford on the NSW Central Coast. The third cast of the evening received a telltale knock on the lure, best described as a jarring enquiry. With the fish missing the hooks and no time to waste I lobbed the jointed hardbody minnow back into the same area. The diver had only just dipped below the surface when a vicious strike transmitted through the high-tensile 30lb braid.

Coming straight to the surface, the fish thrashed its head from side to side in an attempt to throw the lure and, in the process disturbing the large school of petrified mullet that had chosen that spot to school up. The fish was a strong fighter, as it ran parallel to the bank I was forced to scramble along the shoreline in pursuit. After a few minutes however it was soon subdued and guided to the waiting pair of lip grips.

With any fish intended for release, the angler’s actions over the next few moments are critical to its chances of long term survival. Leaving the mulloway in the water, we were able to measure it across a bragmat and lock a bright yellow streamer tag into its dorsal spines. We were then quick to lift the fish from the water for a few images before submerging it again.

The combination of a sturdy mainline to reduce fight time as well as keeping the fish submerged post-fight meant this mulloway was green and ready for release. I removed the lip grips and grasped the neck of its tail, taking a moment to admire the purple sheen along its flanks before enjoying the satisfaction of pushing it out, off into the night.

On the 22nd of February this year, the same mulloway was caught again by another fortunate angler, 80km from its original tagging location! It had migrated north along the NSW Central Coast coming out through Broken Bay and ending up in Newcastle Harbour, growing 2cm in length during that time. It may only be another little snippet of the fish’s life revealed, but it offers an insight into the growth, movements and post-release survival of this mystical species. What is even more impressive than this mulloway’s huge swim is that this fish is just one of many mulloway exposed by the NSW Mulloway Tagging Program (NEWTAG), to have migrated extensive lengths between river systems.

mulloway tagging

As the above table shows, there is a prominent trend for mulloway from Sydney and Central Coast estuaries such as Botany Bay, the Hawkesbury River, Brisbane Water and Lake Macquarie to migrate north to the Newcastle Region. Fish have been recaptured from the ocean front at Stockton Beach to as far up the Hunter River as Hexham.

Aside from offering information on movements and growth, the program has also revealed that mulloway are a viable catch and release species, with some fish migrating over a hundred kilometres, and others being at liberty for over a year between captures. Such information on where mulloway are heading to, and from, is valuable when it comes to organizing restocking operations. The success of the program however depends on the accurate recording of tagged fish recaptures.

If you catch a tagged mulloway record the...

  • Tag number
  • Measured length of fish
  • Date and time
  • Location

And contact either:

  • NSW DPI Gamefish Tagging Program (T: (02) 4424 7411, E: gamefish.tagging@dpi.nsw.gov.au)
  • NSW Research Angler Program (T: (02) 9435 4671, E: research.angler@dpi.nsw.gov.au).

It would also be great if the fish can be released to continue providing data for the program and putting smiles on angler’s faces. As catch and release proponent Lee Wulff said, “The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish you caught isn’t somebody else’s gift to you?”

The Newtag program is organised by Stan Konstantaras and results from a collaboration between NSW Fisheries and the NSW Branch of the Australian National Sports Fishing Association.

Research Angler Program: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/researchangler

Newtag website: http://newtag.org.au/tagged-mulloway-recapture/

Follow Newtag Facebook for live updates: https://www.facebook.com/Newtag-NSW-Tagging-Program-Mulloway-1620760708167884/?fref=ts

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