FISHING TAILS: Crystal bowl forecasts more barra catches

THE good news for those keen to cast a line into the Fitzroy River next year is that Barramundi and King Threadfin stock levels are up.

The bad news is that with the current El Nino conditions new baby fish for these species will be poor.

That's the latest "Crystal Bowl" prediction.

The "Crystal Bowl" is a unique process developed in Central Queensland for the prediction of Barramundi and Threadfin stocks, covering the Fitzroy River and Gladstone areas.

Infofish Australia manager and leader of the Crystal Bowl project Bill Sawynok said it was expected there would be an increase of 5-25% in the catch rate of legal-sized Barramundi.

"The increase in legal sized fish will largely be due to strong recruitment in 2013 with those fish reaching legal size now and the introduction of the Net Free Area for the river and Keppel Bay resulting in the removal of commercial netting effort," Mr Sawynok said.

He said as well as strong Barramundi recruitment in 2013, there was moderate recruitment in 2014 and strong recruitment again in 2015, thanks to the timing of Cyclone Marcia.

"These fish will gradually reach legal size from 2016-2018 so we are likely to see continued improvement in Barramundi stocks," Mr Sawynok said.

"From 2011-2015 the catch rate for King Threadfin rose significantly resulting in, for the first time, more Threadfin tagged in this year's Rocky Barra Bounty than Barramundi. It is expected that catch rates for Threadfin will increase again by 20-40% next year."

Despite the positive predictions, he added: "Our ability to predict fish stocks is still being developed and is not quite in the class of weather predictions but we are working on improving the accuracy and reliability of the forecasts over time."

Fish bites

It's predicted:

A 5-25% increase in the catch rate of legal-sized barramundi next year.

Threadfin catches will rise between 20% and 40%.

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