Strong KG whiting numbers predicted in Victoria's bays from next year

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Small juvenile King George whiting sampled from Port Phillip Bay seagrass beds in spring. Image: Fisheries Victoria
Small juvenile King George whiting sampled from Port Phillip Bay seagrass beds in spring. Image: Fisheries Victoria

HIGH numbers of juvenile King George whiting have been recorded in recent fisheries surveys of Port Phillip Bay, which is great news for recreational anglers.

Fisheries Victoria executive director, Travis Dowling, said this new strong year-class of whiting would grow quickly and be a catchable size from spring 2018.

“The annual surveys have been undertaken around the bay since 1998 and are a reliable predictor of future catches. The bumper whiting catches enjoyed by anglers in recent times are the result of exceptional juvenile whiting numbers detected in the 2013 survey,” Dowling said.

Rec fishos will welcome the latest results given low juvenile whiting counts in 2014 and 2015.

People fishing outside the bays along the coast can expect increased catches of larger whiting over the next few years as these mature fish move out to spawn during winter, most likely off far western Victoria and eastern South Australia.

Mr Dowling said the tiny whiting larvae drift eastward for approximately three months before entering Port Phillip Bay and other sheltered bays and estuaries in spring, when Fisheries’ scientists conduct the surveys in seagrass beds, which are the favoured habitat of these small fish.

“Westerly winds help drive the currents that bring the whiting larvae into the bay, where they take about two years to reach the legal minimum size of 27cm.

“At about four years of age, most whiting have left the bays to complete their life in coastal waters.

“Because whiting only reside in the bays for a few years of their life, these fisheries naturally fluctuate depending on the number of tiny larvae that entered the bays several years prior.

The high numbers recorded in the most recent survey were once again consistent with a 2016 winter-spring climate characterised by frequent and strong westerly winds.

Dowling also reminded anglers that a daily bag limit of 20 King George whiting applies per person and encouraged people to keep an eye out for tagged whiting, which are part of a new research project funded by recreational fishing licence fees.

The project is exploring the movement of adult whiting leaving our bays and trying to confirm their spawning locations.

Anglers who catch tagged whiting are asked to report the tag number, location, and size of the fish to whitingtag@gmail.com or by calling (03) 5258 3686.

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