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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Catch care

Western Australia’s coastline and inland waters support a fantastic array of aquatic species, providing superb angling and eating opportunities.​ 

Recreational fishing is a popular pastime for Western Australians and visitors alike, involving almost a third of the State’s population.​

By adhering to the recreational fishing rules and taking appropriate care at every stage of fishing, we can all do our part to help to sustain healthy and thriving aquatic ecosystems.​

Here are a few simple things you can do on your next fishing trip to ensure fish for our future.​ 


​Fishing gear


Choose appropriate hooks to increase survival chances of any undersize, protected or unwanted fish. Circle hooks reduce the chance of gut-hooking, and barbless hooks are easier to remove with minimal damage. If your fish is gut-hooked, it is best to cut the line as close as possible to the hook.

Use an appropriate weight line for the size of fish you are trying to catch to shorten the chase and minimise stress on fish.

Use a soft, knotless landing net to reduce the risk of injury to fish. 


​Releasing fish


Gently release undersize, protected, out-of-season or excess fish carefully and immediately, following these steps:

  • ​​Avoid ​​​lifting fish from the water to unhook them. But if you need to, use a knotless landing net or place a wet rag under the stomach to support the vital organs.

  • Use a wet rag or wet your hands prior to handling the fish.

  • Treat fish gently to reduce stress and injury to fragile scales and protective slime.

  • Do not hang the fish vertically by the jaws or gills.

  • Use a foam landing mat or wet towel to avoid bruising the fish. Place the fish on a wet surface, not a hot, dry one.

Download our handy guide for releasing fish.

Demersal finfish

Just like SCUBA divers, some demersal (bottom-dwelling) species, such as West Australian dhufish, can suffer decompression damage or ‘barotrauma’ when caught. These species suffer high mortality rates upon release. Approximately 50% of dhufish, 25% of pink snapper and 90% of baldchin groper die upon release.


Barotrauma image.png

You can help protect demersal finfish stocks by:

  • avoiding fishing during demersal closures. If you catch a demersal finfish from a boat or from the shore in this area during the closed season, you must return it the water as soon as possible.
  • avoiding targeting demersal finfish species for catch and release fishing. 
  • stopping fishing for demersal finfish once you have reached you bag or boat limit.
  • avoiding the practice of high grading your catch.
  • changing locations if you keep catching undersize fish or unwanted fish, or if sharks keep taking your fish.
  • if releasing an undersized, protected or out-of-season demersal finfish, using a release weight to increase the chances of that demersal finfish surviving.​ 

Shark depredation

Shark depredation, or bite-off, has been an issue of increasing concern to commercial, charter and recreational fishers in WA for some years. Shark depredation is a global phenomenon that has gained attention in high value fisheries and can result in economic loss and recreational amenity.

If you find that sharks are taking your catch, it is best to find a new spot. By continuing to fish, you are likely to contribute to the mortality of further fish.


Keeping fish

For fish you intend to keep, make sure you despatch humanely first.

For finfish, the most humane method is to first stun the fish with a blunt blow to the head, followed by applying a spike or sharp knife to the fish’s brain. The fish's brain is generally located behind the its eye, although the exact location varies by species. You can check the location for common WA species in this useful online fish finder​.

For crustaceans, the RSPCA recommends first stunning the animal by placing in an ice bath before quickly destroying the nervous system. For crayfish, divide the cray down the centreline. For crabs, apply a spike or sharp knife to the front and rear nerve centres – you can find these by flipping the crab over, lifting the abdominal flap and finding the two shallow depressions on its abdomen.

Bleed and ice your catch to keep it fresh and maximise quality. Fillet your finfish properly to get the most out of your catch. Other parts of the fish (i.e. wings, backbone, head) are equally tasty and they do not count towards your possession limit if filleting your fish. 

Pink snapper.jpgInkedCrab_LI.jpgLobster.jpg

Humane despatching - cut or spike at key locations for finfish, crabs and lobsters as indicated. 

Recreational ​fishing in the Kimberley

A Code of Conduct for Recreational Fishing in the Kimberley has been launched to ensure sustainable fish resources and minimisation of the human footprint on the region.

The code includes a number of positive actions and recommended strategies that gives recreational fishers some practical tips on maintaining world class fishing experiences of the Kimberley.​​

Last modified: 19/07/2021 2:52 PM

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