NSW Research Angler Program

The recreational fishing sector is very important in NSW and targets many of the state's most popular fish species. For key species like Mulloway, Snapper, Yellowtail Kingfish, Dusky Flathead and Tailor, DPI needs as much information as possible for monitoring stocks so they can be managed efficiently and effectively.

The NSW Research Angler Program relies on the enthusiasm of the estimated one million recreational fishers in NSW to collect vital biological information on the fish they catch. The program enables recreational fishers to be involved in assessment and monitoring of their favourite species by donating the frames (skeletons) from fish they catch.

What species can I donate?

The program started in 2013 with one of NSW's most iconic recreational species, the mighty Mulloway. In addition to Mulloway, the program is currently seeking the donation of frames (or heads) from four other big recreational species: Snapper, Yellowtail Kingfish, Dusky Flathead and Tailor.

All these species are under considerable fishing pressure in NSW due to their importance to both recreational and commercial fisheries. There is therefore an urgent need for biological data to monitor the health of their stocks.

How do I donate my frames or otoliths ?

A snapper frame bagged following examiniation

Donate your Mulloway, Snapper, Yellowtail Kingfish, Dusky Flathead and Tailor frames to any participating tackle store drop-off point throughout NSW. Frames can be donated fresh or frozen. If you are unable to keep the entire frame, you can just donate the head as long as information on the total length of the fish is included. If you don't have a measuring tape, brag mat or similar, a good way to do this is to include with the head a length of fishing line the same length as the fish.

You will also need to provide some details on the capture including:

  • Who caught the fish – your name and contact details (phone number, postal and/or email address) so we can provide research feedback and enter you into the monthly prize draw
  • When the fish was caught – date
  • Where the fish was caught – location name or latitude/longitude if available so we can determine whether the fish was caught in an estuary, from shore (rocks,beach or breakwall) or offshore

We will keep all 'when' and 'where' information strictly confidential so you can continue to keep your favourite fishing spots secret!

For your donated frames to be useful for research and for your name to go into the prize draw, the above capture information must be included with the frame. This information can be written on a piece of paper in pen or pencil.

The frames or heads can be wrapped in plastic bags, cling wrap, foil, or other methods but the frame and capture information must be included in the same package.

What do we do with your frames?

Removal of otoliths in the laboratory

Donated frames are processed in the laboratory. Length, sex and reproductive state are recorded and by analyzing the earbones (otoliths) we can determine the age of the fish.

This is done by cutting a very thin slice (called a section) right through the core of the otolith and then viewing it under a microscope. We then count the number of rings in the section which estimates how many years the fish has been alive.

Age data from collected fish is then used to build a picture of the age structure of the overall population. These combined data detail how many fish there are of each age in the stock, which helps us evaluate the health of the species. By collecting this data over time we can also see how the structure of fish populations in NSW may be changing.

Research feedback

Every angler who donates a frame will receive a certificate detailing the biological information collected from the fish they caught as well as updated program information.

"Keen Angler Diary" project

To complement the excellent biological data we are collecting from the frame donation component of the NSW Research Angler Program, we are also collecting data from recreational anglers who chase mulloway on a regular basis via the keeping of a voluntary "Keen Angler Diary". The old saying that "90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the fishermen" is probably more true for mulloway than almost any other species, so by targeting the most proficient and productive mulloway fishers, we hope to be able to get a better idea of the numbers and sizes of fish caught in the recreational mulloway fishery in NSW.

All Keen Angler Diarists are provided with a 20 page waterproof diary to record information from 200 mulloway fishing trips along with a custom-made extra long 160 cm NSW Research Angler Program fish measuring mat. Each time our Keen Angler Diarists fish for mulloway, all we would like to know is "when" and "where" each session occurs along with the lengths of any mulloway caught (retained as well as released).

We are still seeking interest from recreational mulloway anglers in participating in this project so if you regularly chase mulloway and would like to contribute some crucial data on the recreational mulloway fishery, please contact us and we will send you out a Keen Angler Diary pack (T: 02 4916 3827, E: research.angler@dpi.nsw.gov.au).

NSW RAP–ANSA pilot tagging project

A tagged Mulloway ready for release

As part of the NSW Research Angler Program, Fisheries NSW is collaborating with the NSW branch of the Australian National Sportfishing Association in a state-wide pilot mulloway tagging project. The project uses traditional external "pelagic-style" streamer tags which are inserted beneath the dorsal spines of mulloway larger than 60 cm.

This component of the NSW Research Angler Program is a pilot study and participation is currently limited to a small team of dedicated mulloway anglers and fishing guides. If you would like to express interest in getting involved, please contact the NSW Research Angler Program (T: (02) 4916 3827, E: research.angler@dpi.nsw.gov.au).

If you are fortunate enough to catch a tagged mulloway, please record the tag number, measure the length of the fish, follow the instructions on the tag and contact the NSW DPI Gamefish Tagging Program (T: (02) 6691 9602, E: gamefish.tagging@dpi.nsw.gov.au) or the NSW Research Angler Program (T: (02)  4916 3827, E: research.angler@dpi.nsw.gov.au). The crucial data collected by this project will help us to learn more about the movements, growth and post-release survival of this iconic fish.

Stay tuned for regular updates on the tagging project in our quarterly NSW Research Angler Program newsletter.

Monthly prize draws

Every frame donated entitles the donor to be entered into a monthly prize draw to win a $50 gift voucher donated by MO Tackle in Coffs Harbour, for use in store or online.

The lucky monthly NSW Research Angler prize winners for winter were decided by randomly drawing one frame donor from each month.

Congratulations to the following Research Anglers:

December David Birt (Newcastle)
January Mike Hollis (Sydney)
February Neil Cooley (Newcastle)

Future winners will be published in upcoming newsletters and on this webpage. Don't forget to include your contact details (phone number, postal or email address) on the label accompanying your donated frame to ensure your chance of winning!

NSW Research Angler Program newsletter

Past issues

Past issues of the NSW Research Angler Program newsletter are available on the DPI web publication archive.