Clarrie Hall Dam.
Clarrie Hall Dam.

Dam bass may be jack fodder

THAT Clarrie Hall Dam mangrove jack study is for twice as much money as was reported here a few weeks ago.

A Southern Cross University application to breed and stock jack fingerlings into the dam to "provide NSW anglers with an exciting new high quality recreational fishing opportunity" has received $81,200 from the Recreational Fishing Trusts (our licence money), according to the trusts' draft outcomes report of July 17.

The project must address the risks of stocking outside the species distribution and impacts on other species, according to the report.

And given the predatory nature of jacks, the bass that have been stocked in the dam for close to 20 years through the Australian Bass Association could well be in for a hard time.

The group has been stocking Clarrie Hall under the auspices of the dam owners, the Tweed Shire Council, making it one of the most productive - and definitely the most scenic - bass impoundments in the state.

An ABA member said yesterday that, to his knowledge, the university had made only brief contact several months ago and at that stage had no funding for the scheme.

"A lot of people who like fishing for mangrove jacks could be excited about this if it works out, but it could also mean the end of Clarrie Hall as a bass fishery," he said. "Any bass fingerlings we stock would have a big chance of ending up as jack food."

Apart from the bass themselves, there isn't a huge amount of food in the dam for mangrove jacks, which can grow to 20kg in the wild.

The bass association isn't likely to keep battling to raise money to stock the dam with bass fingerlings that would be doomed to become jack fodder.

Other food sources in the dam include tiny feral gambusia mosquito fish, native firetail gudgeons, native eel-tail catfish, frogs, insects and zooplankton - hardly enough to feed a 2kg jack, let alone a 10kg red devil.

And given the dam's propensity to spill over regularly during autumn floods, taking many fish downstream forever, most of the stocked jacks are going to end up in the Tweed River with their wild brethren.

For that kind of money, you could employ another Fisheries compliance officer for a year to help ferret out and convict some of the black marketeers that have ostensibly forced Fisheries managers to slash recreational bag limits.

I'd love to be proven wrong, but to me the whole scheme smells like something cooked up in the uni staffroom at playlunch…

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