Native fish relocated

By Simon Ruppert

There’s something fishy going on in Lake Benalla — thanks to a partnership between Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) and the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA).

GMW and VFA were responsible for relocating hundreds of Murray cod and other high-value native fish to the lake last Tuesday.

The fish in question had been caught up in the East Goulburn Main Irrigation Channel and moving them into Lake Benalla is sure to bring a smile to the faces of local anglers.

Similar fish-relocating initiatives also took place at Broken Creek, Nathalia and Victoria Park Lake in Shepparton.

VFA chief executive officer Travis Dowling said the initiative was taking advantage of the end of the gravity irrigation season — and involved allowing the VFA and a contracted electro-fishing boat to enter the irrigation channel and undertake a catch-and-release program.

‘‘A similar exercise was trialled in 2017 and proved very successful with more than 550 valuable native fish — mostly decent-size Murray cod — relocated into a more natural habitat,’’ Mr Dowling said.

Murray cod and other valuable natives, such as golden perch and blackfish have shown they can adapt to life in the East Goulburn Main Irrigation Channel and its connecting spur channels.

However, they can also be at risk when GMW conducts regular lowering of channels for de-silting and weed spray programs.

The fish likely originated from Nagambie Lakes and unwittingly found their way into the irrigation network via Goulburn Weir.

Electro-fishing, often called the friendly way to fish, involves a boat equipped with electrodes, which are lowered into the water to attract and stun fish. They can then be netted, placed in a holding tank and transported for release into lakes and rivers.

GMW managing director Charmaine Quick welcomed the joint effort with the VFA as a ‘‘win-win’’ for local communities and the environment — not to mention the wayward fish.

‘‘The electrofishing boat is being funded by the VFA while GMW is providing some manpower, transport and site safety management, so it’s a true partnership of benefit to our local communities,’’ Ms Quick said.

‘‘Importantly, the timing and locations of the electro-fishing exercise also means there is no impact on our irrigation customers.’’

Electrofishing was expected to take place during two weeks from late May with another two weeks possible later in the winter.

The VFA is working with local fishing clubs and primary schools in Benalla, Nathalia and Shepparton to take part in the fish releases expected to result from the partnership.