Post-release mortality of angled sand mullet (Myxus elongatus: Mugilidae).
Broadhurst, M.K., Butcher, P.B. and Cullis, B.R., 2011. Post-release mortality of angled sand mullet (Myxus elongatus: Mugilidae). Fisheries Research, 107: 272–275.
At least five species of mullet are targeted by recreational fishers throughout Australia. There are no recent estimates of the total numbers caught, although a 12-month survey done 10 years ago calculated a national catch of nearly four million fish; approximately half of which were angled. Owing to minimum sizes and/or bag limits in most states, at least 25% of these fish were let go, with a large proportion of the released catches in NSW comprising sand mullet. Such release rates are positive, but their ultimate benefit requires that most fish survive.
This study sought to validate the above assumption and/or identify ways by which survival could be maximised. The work was done in the Wooli River during January 2009 using 11 anglers to catch a total of 125 sand mullet. Data were collected on the angling, handing and response of fish before they were released along with 50 controls into floating cages and monitored for four days.
None of the controls and only five of the angled fish died, providing a 96% survival for the latter group. The few deaths were mostly explained by the length of trace (between the float and hook) used and bleeding during release. More specifically, all deaths were limited to fish caught on traces =50 cm. Further most of these fish sustained sufficient injury during hooking to cause bleeding. These results were explained by a stronger hooking response to such rigs, owing to their more natural appearance during fishing.
We conclude that while sand mullet appear quite tolerant of catch and release, their welfare nevertheless could be improved through simple changes to fishing strategies, including using short traces and maintaining tension on the line during fishing. Doing so would minimise injury and virtually eliminate the short-term mortality of this species.