SIPS: A licence to fish

Welcome to Turf ‘n’ Surf, a podcast that tells stories in Queensland’s farming, fishing, biosecurity and forestry sectors.

Barramundi, Australian bass, golden perch and Murray cod are some of the most sought-after species for recreational anglers wetting a line in Queensland’s dams and weirs.

But there’s a problem. Most of our native fish species won’t reproduce in impounded waters formed by dams and weirs. Without fish, there’s not much fun in fishing.

How do you ensure that impoundments are stocked with fish to enhance the fishing experience and maintain fish stocks for future generations?

This episode of Turf ‘n’ Surf looks at how Queensland’s Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme, known as SIPS, supports the stocking of registered freshwater impoundments.

You’ll hear from keen recreational fisher Brenden Reid, President of the Pine Rivers Fish Management Association Noel Frost, and Fisheries Queensland’s Director of Management and Reform Kimberly Foster.

Learn how SIPS provides a sustainable fishing option that reduces the fishing pressure on wild fish stocks. It’s a licence to fish.

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Meet our guests

Brenden Reid Brenden Reid
Noel Frost Noel Frost
Kimberly Foster Kimberly Foster

TRANSCRIPT

Program intro: Welcome to Turf and Surf, powered by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: Barramundi, Australian bass, golden perch and Murray cod. They are some of the most sought-after species for recreational anglers wetting a line in Queensland’s dams and weirs.

But there’s a problem. Most of our native fish species won’t reproduce in impounded waters formed by dams and weirs. Without fish, there’s not much fun in fishing.

And, as the noted fishing writer Fennel Hudson observed, “Angling is a recreation. It’s supposed to be fun”.

So how do you ensure that impoundments are stocked with fish to enhance the fishing experience and maintain fish stocks for future generations?

Since 2000, the Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme, known as SIPS, has supported the stocking of Queensland’s registered freshwater impoundments.

Queensland has 63 dams and weirs, or impoundments as they are known, that are stocked with native fish specifically for recreational fishing under the SIPS program.

Anglers pay for a permit to fish in the stocked impoundments with revenue from the permits going towards maintaining and enhancing recreational fishing in impoundments and management of the scheme.

In fact, in the coming year, more than three million fish fingerlings will be stocked to provide access to some of the best freshwater fishing around.

I’m Brad Muir. In this episode of Turf’n’Surf, we’ll look at how SIPS provides a sustainable fishing option that reduces the fishing pressure on wild fish stocks. It’s a licence to fish.

Program segue: You’re listening to Turf and Surf, the official podcast of Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: Brendan Reed is a keen recreational angler who enjoys fishing in freshwater impoundments and regularly fishes in the Ross River Weir in Townsville and Tinaroo Dam on the Atherton Tablelands. Brendan has bought SIPS permits for five years, but has used the permit since he was a child.

Thanks for joining us Brendan. Many anglers love offshore fishing, the thrill and adrenaline rush of game fishing, but fishing in dams and weirs is quite a different experience. I’m keen to know what attracts you to fishing in stocked impoundments.

Brenden Reid: It’s the accessibility man. That’s probably the greatest thing about it, you know and being freshwater too it’s good on the boats as well to give them a run.

But yeah, it’s just easy especially here in Townsville having the weirs literally in our CBD. Trying to get the Ross Dam running now to have that also as a fully established stocked impoundment.

You know like it’s right near town. It’s just such an awesome avenue to go and do when you knock off work, or you know it’s just a good way to pass a bit of time as well.

Host: So the accessibility of stocked impoundments is a real drawcard for you. Having good fishing grounds nearby gets a big tick. What species do you target or particularly enjoy catching, and why?

Brenden Reid: Oh look, barramundi’s always number one man. It’s the main sports fish for estuaries in Australia. It’s becoming very popular in impoundments.

There’s a lot of impoundments across Queensland especially that have got some serious numbers of big barramundi in them nowadays. And you know little old Townsville it gets missed a lot.

There’s some big fish in those weirs there. You know over the last five years of living here it’s been awesome to see the calibre of quality that come out of all those weirs.

Host: So you really enjoy targeting barramundi. Have you got a story about a favourite catch?

Brenden Reid: Oh, look, probably, yeah. The end of last year we spent a lot of time down there. ‘Cause we had a massive flood event in Townsville, and as devastating as that was for all the people that lived in the areas that were affected, it cleaned out that weir something crazy.

There was no weir left, no nothing. So the fishing in there for the next 12 months was, it was completely different. The fish were very active and there was a lot more aggression about them we found.

And yeah one evening we ended up hooking a 120 in there, and the acrobatics of the fish was nuts. And it was right near the light bridge. So we were able to see all the ins and outs of it leaping through the air. A bloody big fish. And it’s cool to see them do that sort of stuff.

And you know everyone in Townsville gets behind it and has a good go of it. And it’s just good to see what it does for people.

Host: And do you have a story of the one that got away?

Brenden Reid: In the weirs. Oh, look, yeah we’ve lost a few over the years, but not really focused on that sort of stuff, hey. Fishing, you lost it, move on, try and catch another one.

Host: Brendan, you’ve bought SIPS permits for five years. Why do you support the SIPS program?

Brenden Reid: Oh it just goes back to a good cause. Provides avenues to carry out these activities. Just a good way for sort of expanding the sport. The enjoyment of it all. And it makes it, like I said, very accessible and it’s just good fun.

Host: Do you have any thoughts about how the program could be improved?

Brenden Reid: Not really, just got to keep doing what’s been happening. You know I’m part of the Townsville stocking group for the weirs here.

And just to get the money back in to places like that so we can keep stocking these impoundments and weirs and, likewise throughout Queensland, you know it just creates a whole new fishery for all of us anglers recreational wise to go and spend our time and have those areas, the camping grounds and the likes.

You know you go and spend weeks in some of these places and there’s some really record size fish to be caught.

Program segue: This Turf and Surf podcast is powered by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: On this episode of Turf and Surf, we’re looking at Queensland’s Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme which provides a sustainable fishing option that reduces the fishing pressure on wild fish stocks.

The SIPS program relies on community-based volunteer stocking groups who are responsible for stocking the dams and weirs throughout Queensland. Currently, 67 active stocking groups release more than three million juvenile fish, or fingerlings, annually into 150 waterways across Queensland.

Noel Frost has been a member of one of those groups, the Pine Rivers Fish Management Association, for 20 years and is currently the association’s president.

Thanks for joining us Noel. Your group has released Australian Bass, Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Saratoga and Mary River Cod into Lake Samsonvale and Lake Kurwongbah, just north of Brisbane, since 1993.

The thing that I’m most curious about is why is this necessary?  Why won’t our fish reproduce in the dams and weirs?

Noel Frost: Some native fish actually you need to move down to salt or brackish water to spawn.

And when dams or weirs were constructed this halts their annual spawning run and breaks the breeding cycle. Hence the need to re-stock the impoundments with hatchery bred fish to maintain the population.

Without this re-stocking recreational fishing in impoundment waterways would ultimately disappear. And the SIPS program was introduced to support stocking groups in this endeavour.

It also actually supported the development of an active hatchery industry and ensures that accredited hatcheries are used to supply quality fish to this program.

Host: Noel, why are you and your group involved in the SIPS program?

Noel Frost: Well the SIPS program provides a reliable means of funding for stocking groups such as ours so we can go and purchase those fingerlings to re-stock the waterways.

Prior to the SIPS program these groups had to rely on activities such as chook raffles to raise funds, whereas SIPS now, in addition to purchase of fingerlings, allows expenditure on items such as habitat enhancement programs.

As long as it’s directly related to improving the fishery. It also covers disaster recovery in extreme circumstances.

Host: You’ve touched on a couple of the things that your association does so I’d like you to talk a little bit more about that now.

What sort of work does your association do? And how does that help recreational fishers?

Noel Frost: Well Brad, obviously the primary work of the association is the re stocking of the waterways.

This directly helps recreational fishers by ensuring impoundments under the SIPS program are regularly stocked with fish species. Otherwise these would just die out in our impoundments.

Our particular association operates what’s called a boating access scheme, where we enable fishermen to access the local area through the purchase of permits. If this program wasn’t in place this particular part of Lake Samsonvale would not be accessible.

Part of our work also is enhancing the fishery by running a habitat enhancement program where we put artificial structures back into the lakes to replace the natural habitat that’s lost when the dam’s constructed.

Members get involved in monitoring the health of the fishery by recording growth rates of fish through a variety of means. And that’s an important part of the work we do to ensure that we get the best outcomes out of the SIPS expenditure.

Apart from the stocking and monitoring the fishery the PRFMA get very involved in junior fishing clinics, sometimes with kids groups with special needs. And working in conjunction with the likes of the Moreton Bay Council, local scouting groups and community groups we run those junior fishing activities.

We also get periodically involved in things like animal expos where we can promote recreational fishing in the area.

Host: Noel clearly the community gets quite a lot of benefit out of this program. How do you involve the community with your activities?

Noel Frost: We have considerable community involvement through our junior fishing program and the various expo-type events.

When we do release fish into the lakes, we invite members of the community to come along, along with local politicians and various dignitaries, and they help with the deployment of the fingerlings.

Kids in particular really enjoy this activity. They just love getting out there and seeing the little fish swim away and hide in the weed.

I mentioned the boating access program where fishermen can, or fisher persons can purchase a permit. We’ve got several hundred of those, and whenever we need to do any work on the access site or construct and deploy the artificial structures for the habitat program we call on those members of the community to come along and help.

Host: So how can people get involved with the fish stocking and other activities?

Noel Frost: The best way to do that is to join an organisation such as the PRFMA or their local stocking group.

In our case membership is only $20 a year. And details of that can be found on our website. In addition to the fish stocking activities, membership of a group such as this provides an opportunity for like minded people to share fishing yarns and knowledge.

And we find that people who join these groups get very committed to creating the sustainable fishery in their region. So joining groups such PRFMA has many benefits for the members.

Host: Noel apart from the obvious benefits to recreational fishers, what do you see as the other significant benefits of the SIPS program?

Noel Frost: The program directly enhances recreational fishing through the re-stocking of the impoundment.

In addition to providing a good fishery, there are environmental benefits in controlling pest species. Having members of the public out on the water to report noxious weed outbreaks, sighting of feral animals and that sort of thing.

And we find the involvement of kids in the program has important social benefits as well. Some of those may come from families who aren’t able to get them out fishing for a variety of reasons and just providing that opportunity to come out and enjoy the fishing, spend some time outdoors, learn about sustaining the environment, they’re really important social benefits that come from the program.

Host: Always good to get away from the screens and into the great outdoors for a little while. Noel where can people find out more about the Pine Rivers Fish Management Association?

Noel Frost: The best way to find out about the association is to go to the website, that’s www.prfma.com.au. That website will give a lot of information about the association itself, but also programs we run, such as our habitat enhancement program, tips and techniques for fishing, things like identification of fish species and the various activities of the association.

The website also has a link to a Facebook page. So I recommend just going to the website and taking it from there.

Program segue: You are listening to Turf and Surf, the official podcast of Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries shaping and protecting food and fibre for tomorrow’s Queensland.

Host: On this episode of Turf and Surf, we’re looking at Queensland’s Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme which provides a sustainable fishing option that reduces the fishing pressure on wild fish stocks.

Kimberley Foster is the Director, Management and Reform with Fisheries Queensland. Part of Kimberley’s role involves overseeing the SIPS program.

Thanks for joining us Kimberley. Let’s start with the stats that matter. How many SIPS permits are sold each year? And what do those permits allow fishers to do?

Kimberly Foster: We actually sell quite a few SIPS permits each year. More than 43,000 in fact.

SIPS permits let recreational fishers go fishing on one of our 63 stocked impoundments in Queensland, and also in regional Queensland. We have a variety of species that we stock, and they provide some really good recreational fishing experiences.

Host: Wow, 43,000 permits. That’s an impressive number of permits sold. How much revenue does the sale of permits raise? And how is that revenue used?

Kimberly Foster: We do raise about a million dollars in revenue each year from the SIPS permits. And the majority of that goes back into fish stocking activities in our regional communities.

We do use about 25 per cent of that revenue for administrative costs, like providing the permit scheme through Australia Post, promotion of the SIPS scheme, and just basic administration.

But the majority, 75 per cent at a minimum, goes back into putting fish into the waterways, doing education activities on the ground, and other monitoring and SIPS activities.

Host: So the SIPS program is about so much more than simply wetting a line and catching a fish. There’s obviously a trickle-down effect into the wider community. Can you tell us about that trickle-down effect?

Kimberly Foster: Most definitely. The SIPS program is really important to many of our regional communities.

It’s not just about fishing. Fishing is a healthy pastime for many Queenslanders. It’s also an important tourism part for regional Queensland. So we actually see quite a lot of people visiting regional Queensland, visiting our stocks impoundments and going for a fish.

Host: Fishing is already a fairly expensive pastime between a boat, fuel, fishing gear, bait. And I guess not everyone is happy with the concept of paying for a permit to go fishing.

Can you tell us what would be the consequences of not having the SIPS program?

Kimberly Foster: Without a SIPS permit program, funding stocking of fish and other community activities, we wouldn’t actually be able to provide those stocked impoundments for people to fish at.

And that has flow-on impacts for fishing generally, but it also puts some more pressure back on our wild catch fisheries as well. So the SIPS program, whilst there’s a small fee to buy a permit, the majority of that funding is going back into the program and back into our regional communities.

Host: And that’s a good point, it is a relatively small fee.

Kimberly Foster: Yeah, it is. For most people a yearly permit is $50. There is the option of a $10 weekly permit for those who just want short-term access to the scheme or in a small location. There’s also a concession fee of $36 for those parts of the community.

Host: Kimberley the SIPS permit is a licence to fish. And there are responsibilities that come with that licence. What rules and regulations apply to fishing in stocked impoundments?

Kimberly Foster: Yeah, all persons over the age of 18 are required to purchase a permit to fish our stocked impoundments.

They also must be able to provide information and a copy of the permit to our Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol staff on inspection. At the same time we also need to be compliant with our fishing rules.

So gear, size and bag limits. And make sure that you’re checking the rules for freshwater.

Host: What are common offences that fisheries officers look for?

Kimberly Foster: The main thing they look for is whether someone actually has a SIPS permit initially. They also look at the gear that people are using, and whether they’re complying with their size and bag limits.

Host: Just wondering, is there alternative to the SIPS program?

Kimberly Foster: Not really. The majority of the funding does return back to the community, and it provides like a continuous cycle of improvements and adding more fish to the impoundments going forward.

So I think that provides a really good value for money outcome both for the community, fishers and for government.

Host: Kimberley what does Fisheries Queensland do to promote the program and raise awareness of permit sales?

Kimberly Foster: Yeah, we’re super proud of the SIPS scheme, so we do a lot of work. We promote the scheme through Facebook, and over the last 12 months we’ve been doing our Hero Fishing shots on Facebook, captures from our stocked impoundments.

We do podcasts like this. We have signage at many of our impoundments. We hold stocking workshops and a range of extension activities with our regional community groups.

And this year we’re actually looking to develop a freshwater fishing trail for the stocking group to try and improve participation in the scheme.

Host: And where can fishers find out all they need to know about SIPS?

Kimberly Foster: Yeah, if you just jump on Google and look for Queensland Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme you’ll arrive at our Fisheries Queensland or the Queensland Government website which has all the information you need.

You can also ask at your local Australia Post outlet and buy your permit at the same time. Another good option is to talk to one of our local stocking groups, or talking to the Freshwater Fishing Stocking Association of Queensland.

Program outro: You’ve been listening to Turf and Surf. Turf and Surf is produced by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. For more information or to subscribe, visit our website at daf.qld.gov.au.