April 2018 update on King George whiting tagging project
A total of 260 King George whiting have now been tagged in Port Phillip and Western Port by recreational fishers. There have been 19 recaptures of tagged whiting, giving a return rate of 7% so far. The longest time between tagging and recapture so far has been 11 months for two fish in Western Port. All fish have been recaptured close to the location where they were tagged, indicating that the whiting in the bays are quite site attached. Fishers are still catching some large (40 cm +) whiting, but they are harder to find this year, most likely because some have now moved out onto the coast. As this movement offshore happens we are hopeful of receiving some recaptures from further afield in the near future.
Fishers are reporting that the whiting fishing has been pretty tough going this year, which is consistent with our predictions based on the number baby whiting (larvae – see picture) that we have monitored in past years. The large fish that have been around recently were spawned in 2013, which was a strong year for numbers of larvae. Numbers of larvae were down, however, in 2014 and 2015, and this is now reflected in fairly low numbers of fish in the 30 to 40 cm range. Fortunately, 2016 was a strong year for larvae, and we expect these fish to reach legal size over the next year. There are already reports of large numbers of whiting that are just under legal size in some areas. The number of larvae in 2017 was also strong, and so we expect excellent whiting fishing once these two groups of fish enter the fishery over the next few years.