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By-catch……or just a little curious?

By Iain ‘Listy’ Ellis and Dave Wood

For us fisho’s, the focus of our work is usually of the finned kind. Fish that is, and regular visitors to this site will have noticed a common theme to the articles on this site – they are mostly about fish. However, to catch those fish we employ a range of sampling techniques that also capture other aquatic or semi-aquatic creatures. We refer to these creatures as “by-catch”, and they may tell us as much about the waterbody under investigation as the target fishes, because:

  1. Fish may eat them,
  2. They may eat fish,
  3. They may eat people (I’m thinking of you top end fisho’s here and those big scaly things with sharp teeth)

So we thought we’d take five minutes to list a few of the creatures, both common and not-so-common, that we have come across as by-catch in our part of the world (the lower Murray-Darling Basin). We’ve included some pics for those of you who don’t like reading too many words. Please note that fisho’s are legally required (with good reason), to employ measures that minimise the risk of death to by catch in our sampling routine – such as fixing the ends of nets above the waterline for air-breathing things, or regular checking of equipment to remove by-catch. We at the Morays Lair endorse these precautionary measures in the interests of biodiversity and good practice. What we’d love to see follow this article is some funky by-catch pics from other interested nerds working across this big southern dust-bowl – so please send them to the Moraiys Lair. We can score them 1-10 in terms of intrigue, and if you get a 10 before June 30 you win a shirt!

Picture1 Fig. 1 Freshwater shrimps/prawns – sometimes lots of them.

 Picture2 Fig. 2 Other waterbugs – lots of water bugs. So many waterbugs sometimes. So many.

Picture3Fig. 3 Plankton – They are fish food to most of us fisho’s. Sometimes equally interesting are the strange prickly little scientists that study these strange prickly little creatures (invertebrate ecologists).

Picture4 Fig. 4 Yabbies and Spiny crayfish – mind your fingers.  

 Picture5 Fig. 5 Turtles – we get three species out here. One of these (Eastern long-necked) likes nothing more than urinating on the people trying to free them from a fyke net. Never smelt turtle pee? We recommend you don’t if you can avoid it.

Picture6Fig. 6 Frogs/tadpoles – always good company.

Picture7Fig. 7 Birds of a feather – ducks in this case but occasionally we get other water birds. One bloke once told us he caught an emu in a gill net. We don’t believe him.

Picture8Fig. 8 Water Rats – most the time these guys actually chew their way out, so actually seeing them is a highlight.

Picture9 Fig. 9 Snakes – I know I’m an environmentalist and all that, but I hate these things. They should by law be bright orange and have bells attached (Listy).

Picture10Fig. 10 Other rarities – believe it or not! That’s Dave and Chippy with the sheep, and Taylar and Braeden, on deck.

Editor’s note: Does the disrespect for macroinvertebrate ecologists come from the authors working on giant fish such as the Murray hardyhead or has this superiority complex evolved from deeper issues?