Time to Take Back Our Waters

Tullaroop Reservoir near Maryborough is a great trout fishery, whether you’re targeting brown or rainbow trout, you’re likely to leave pretty satisfied. It receives a healthy stocking rate with around 48,000 trout stocked over the past year giving anglers the chance to hook a trophy trout. It also found its way on the priority stocking water list in the Victorian Fisheries Authority ‘Revolutionising Inland Fish Production and Stocking in Victoria’ plan which was recently put out for comment.

Unfortunately, if you want to put in boat or canoe to get out on the water at the reservoir for a fish – forget about it! Amazingly, there is no boating allowed at the reservoir and currently all fishing access is land based. It doesn’t make any sense to us restricting fishers who want to fish from a boat so it’s time for change. Improving access by allowing electric motorised vessels, canoes and kayaks on the waterway would increase fishing opportunities and tourism in the area. In our view, the lack of on-water access is holding back Tullaroop Reservoir to become a major fishing destination.

In 2015, boating restrictions were lifted at Blue Rock Lake as part of the Target One Million plan which aims to get more Victorians fishing, more often. It has proven to be a successful change as the area has become one of Victoria’s best bass fisheries while also bringing economic and social benefits to the Gippsland region. This is a prime example of the benefits of increasing fishing access to a waterway, like Tullaroop, as there are flow on effects to the local community.

Tarago Reservoir is another example problem waterway raised by fishers. It’s closed to fishing and boating altogether! Again, its time we remind government and decision-makers that these reservoirs are community assets, being drastically under-utilised and we are being unjustly excluded from throwing in a line. The list goes on.

Access is arguably the biggest issue facing recreational fishing. There are a multitude of government agencies, pseudo-government agencies, industry and private landholders that all have a stake whether we can set foot, dive, launch or cast on a patch of Victoria. Some don’t appear to understand we need access to water to fish and specific facilities to launch a boat.

Talking from experience, clawing back our basic rights to go fishing is not an easy proposition. Our members, supporters and sector leaders spend literally years fighting for the basic rights of fishing access. We have seen some success recently with Devilbend Reservoir and Dartmouth Pondage but that success it still only partial and much volunteer time, sweat and tears have been devoted to these campaigns. This year we devoted our limited resources to protecting your rights to camp and have a campfire in our parks and continue to strongly advocate for the necessary governance and funding reforms for boating infrastructure. Stating the obvious, there is still so much more that needs to be done.

As part of the VRFish Election Policy we released in June, we have identified some waterways such as Tullaroop Reservoir that we believe can be simply resolved with a stroke of a pen but also asked for a dedicated access program within VRFish so that we can be better resourced to fight for better access, and importantly protect what access we have. We are also not remiss in acknowledging that protecting our access also involves supporting and leading complementary programs that deal with issues like litter, conflict with other user groups, promotion of responsible fishing and encourages greater environmental stewardship.

We trust there will be some positive announcements for increased fishing access. In the meantime, VRFish as a strong and independent peak body for fishing will continue to stand up for the rights of Victorian fishers.

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