Saltwater fishers are doing their bit to help track the movement patterns of King George whiting in Victorian waters, thanks to a three-year research project funded by recreational fishing licence fees.
Victorian Fisheries Authority CEO Travis Dowling said the Melbourne University study involved volunteer fishers working as citizen scientists to tag, release and report the capture of King George whiting in Port Phillip and Western Port.
"We know whiting enter our bays when they're only a few months old and leave again at about four years of age to mature and begin spawning offshore. What we don't know is how juveniles move within and between our bays up until they depart," Mr Dowling said.
"Fishers have tagged nearly 700 whiting, the biggest 48cm, with 60 per cent in Port Phillip at places like Queenscliff, Geelong, St Leonards and Clifton Springs, and 40 per cent in Western Port at Somers, Tortoise Head and Middle Spit.
"39 tagged whiting have been recaptured so far and none have moved between bays or offshore, yet.
"In Western Port, one tagged whiting moved 20km from Somers to Dickies Bay (San Remo) over 11 months, growing 5cm from 35 to 40cm.
"Another showed the greatest short-term movement recorded so far in the study, swimming from Somers to Middle Spit in a bit over 3 weeks. That's about 24km!
"In Port Phillip, one tagged whiting was recaptured near Queenscliff by the same angler who'd tagged it, just 45 minutes after it had been released.
"The longest period between tagging and recapture was 16 months. The fish had grown 11cm from 33 to 44 cm! Like most recaptured fish, this whiting was caught close to where it was tagged.
"As fish get older and start to move out onto the coast, more recaptures from further afield are expected."
Mr Dowling said the project would reveal more secrets this coming summer and much of the credit could be attributed to just four keen fishers who have tagged and released 83 per cent of the whiting in the study.
"It's great to see passionate fishers so involved in local research, on a species they really care about."
If you catch a King George whiting carrying a yellow tag, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03 5258 3686. Record the tag number, fish length, date and location of capture, and ideally release the fish so it can further contribute to the project's learning opportunities.