Recreational & Charter Fishing

  • Almost 3,600 charter fishing trips were undertaken.
  • 135 Recreational Fishing Trust projects, worth $23.8 million were approved in 2022-23.
  • Fish-stocking projects assisted in stocking almost 6 million fish into waterways across NSW.
A range of economic, social (health and wellbeing) and environmental benefits are generated through recreational fishers’ expenditure and associated activities and support regional communities.

Recreational and Charter Fishing Participation and Effort

Recreational fishing continued to be one of NSW’s most popular sporting and social pastimes. Understanding the effort, catch, and participation rate of recreational fishers is an important part of sustainably managing NSW fisheries. Routine monitoring of recreational fishing in NSW is undertaken by DPI via the Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program (RFMP). The data collected from the RFMP complements the information collected from monitoring other fishing sectors, which helps to provide a picture of the health of our fisheries and aquatic ecosystems. The current series of RFMP surveys of recreational and charter fishing commenced in November 2021 and ran until the end of October 2022.

This survey collected information on the number and type of fish and other species caught during the reporting period. Detailed analysis of the data will estimate the total number of fishing events undertaken, number of people who went fishing and fish caught state-wide.

Recreationally caught species are also monitored through the charter boat fishery monitoring program. Capturing information on catch, effort, fish measurements, fisher demographics and wildlife observations, the program requires charter operators to complete logbooks and host scientific observers. During 2022-23, 99 charter boat businesses operated in NSW waters, compared with 103 in 2021-22. Almost 3,600 fishing trips were undertaken, with around 24,000 anglers (down from 26,000 in 2021-22 and 44,000 in 2020-21). 98 The charter fishing sector recorded the capture of 140 different species of finfish, cephalopods and crustaceans in 2022-23. The top five species caught (by number) state-wide were Snapper (18,000), Bluespotted Flathead (14,000), Grey Morwong (9,000), Blue Mackerel (8,000) and Yellowtail Scad (7,000). 98

The Recreational Fishing Licence Fee and Trusts

All money raised by the NSW Recreational Fishing Licence Fee is placed into the Recreational Fishing Trusts and spent on improving recreational fishing in NSW. A total of 390,146 licences (three-day, one month, one year and three year) were sold during 2022-23. 99

The many projects run using funds from the Trusts funded are diverse, encompassing research, education, habitat rehabilitation, fisheries enhancement, stocking, facilities, access and enforcement. In 2022-23, a total of 135 projects worth $23.8 million were approved for funding from the Recreational Fishing Trusts. 99

NSW Recreational fishing licence types sold 2022-23 99

  • 3 Days
  • 1 Month
  • 1 Year
  • 3 Years

Projects approved for funding from the Recreational Fishing Trusts 2022-23 99

One of the key priority areas for funding under the Recreational Fishing Trusts is fisheries enhancement. Each year, a range of projects operate in coastal and inland regions to enhance fish stocks and recreational fishing opportunities. This includes fish stocking activities. Fish stocking involves producing fish fry or fingerlings and releasing them into NSW waters at approved sites to create new fisheries or enhance existing ones. In 2022-23, almost six million fish were stocked into waterways across NSW, including 239,026 marine fish species and more than 5.7 million freshwater fish. 99

Research is another priority area with the Trusts supporting funding for fish and recreational fishing research projects, many of which involve citizen scientists in observations and data collection. This research provides essential scientific information to help ensure the sustainable use of our fisheries resources. Two important long-term projects, that are funded by the Trusts are the Game Fish Tagging Program (GFT) and the Research Angler Program (RAP).

The Game Fish Tagging Program, provides valuable information on the biology of billfish, tunas, sharks and other recreationally important sports fish such as Mulloway and Snapper. The program is an integral part of the fishing activities of the NSW Game Fishing Association (NSWGFA), the Game Fishing Association of Australia (GFAA) and the National Sportfishing Association (ANSA). The data that has been gathered by the program and its participants, has been used in over 150 scientific publications and is recognised by fisheries researchers worldwide.

The GFT continues to play a vital role in educating anglers and the wider community about responsible fishing practices and the benefits of catch and release fishing, while also continuing to build strong relationships with research organisations, clubs, associations and other key recreational stakeholders. In 2022-23, more than 10,860 fish were tagged and their associated tag cards entered into the database, along with 460 reported recaptures. It was a particularly productive season for inshore black marlin, with over 2,950 being tagged and released. There were also 45 black marlin recaptures reported for the season which is the highest tally in over 22 years.

The Research Angler Program (RAP) enables anglers, as citizen scientists, to contribute to the scientific knowledge and stock assessments of key recreational species in NSW by donating fish frames to the Department. The frames are then processed, and the ear bones (otoliths) are removed and used to determine the age of the fish. Additionally, gut, gonad and tissue samples are removed from specific species to help provide data for collaborative research projects, such as Project Kingfish. The age data is used to help build a picture of the age structure of fish populations. This helps with understanding of the fish stock. Collecting this data over time can reveal how fish populations in NSW may be changing.

The RAP also continues to play an important role in not only gathering data but building long-term relationships with participating anglers and tackle shops. The program continues to work with fisheries researchers to determine data needs while also exploring new ways to get anglers involved in citizen science. Recently this has included anglers collecting fin clips for genetic samples of fish populations. This ongoing collaboration has also resulted in deep water species such as Bass Groper, Bar Cod and Hapuka, being added to the frame collection list in 2022-23. In 2022-23 there was increased angler participation in the program and over 1,620 fish frames donated.

Stronger Primary Industries Strategy

Operation Mulloway Assist

Strategic Outcome

Icon, a circle of leaves
Sustainable Resources and Productive Landscapes
  • 6.3 Regulate natural resource access now and for the future

Mulloway are an important species for recreational, commercial and Aboriginal cultural fishers, however stocks in NSW are currently classified as ‘depleted’. In late 2021 the Mulloway Harvest strategy working group requested that interim measures be considered to help with Mulloway recovery. These included strengthening compliance by the implementation of a statewide operation plan, a review of the compliance response matrix for Mulloway and increase community education on Mulloway fishing rules.

On 1 July 2022, NSW DPI Fisheries compliance launched a new statewide operation, Mulloway Assist. The mission of the operation is to detect and deter illegal take and sale of Mulloway; ensure lawful catch of Mulloway by commercial fishers is accurately recording in their catch and effort records; record instances of Mulloway bycatch across all fisheries; and educate across all fisheries the depleted status and measures to reduce mortality. In mid 2023, NSW DPI Fisheries became aware there were large numbers of juvenile Mulloway in many estuaries across the state, following elevated recruitment after three years of high rainfall and associated high estuarine flows. In response, NSW DPI Fisheries developed a communication strategy that provides tailored advice to commercial and recreational fishers to take all possible precautions to limit potential bycatch of undersized Mulloway or other non-target species.

In 2022-23, Fisheries Officers operating under Operation Mulloway Assist:

  • Detected 65 offences relating to illegal fishing of Mulloway
  • Issued $13,600 worth of fines
  • Commenced prosecutions against 4 commercial fishers' relation to illegal take or possession of Mulloway
  • Seized 471 Mulloway
  • Inspected 809 recreational fishers and 106 commercial fishers who were fishing for Mulloway; and
  • Inspected 77 Fisherman’s Cooperatives and/or other places in which fish are sold.

Operation Mulloway Assist is a fantastic example of the work done by the dedicated NSW DPI Fisheries compliance teams in ensuring that fish stocks are protected for current future generations. DPI Fisheries will continue to monitor the stock levels of Mulloway to ensure the effectiveness of the management arrangements, with Fisheries Officers continuing to inspect both recreational and commercial fisheries ensuring the rules being followed. DPI Fisheries will also continue to work closely with all fishers to ensure the future of one of NSW’s most prized fish species.