Before and after the coming of European settlers, Australian Aborigines fished for food using methods that were often similar to those of commercial fishers, including netting. However, it wasn’t until the arrival of migrants from Greece, Italy and Cornwall that commercial fishers started fishing with nets.
Netting is a species-specific fishing method and used mainly for school fish. When practiced by experienced professional fishers, netting results in very minimal rates of mortality for those fish returned to the sea.
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This small scale “Purse -seine” method of netting is used to encircle and pocket schooling fish.
Hauling nets are worked by hand or using hydraulics. The net mesh sizes or holes are regulated to allow undersized fish to escape. As the net is brought towards the boat, the catch remains free swimming until it is brailed or dabbed from the water. All undersize or bycatch are then returned back to the water, resulting in minimal mortality for those fish returned to the sea.
In South Australia, haul netting is used in sheltered water and in all State water’s less than 5 m in depth. It is often used for catching Garfish, Yellowfin Whiting, Australian Herring, Southern Calamari, Snook and Yellow Eye Mullet.
Small mesh net
A small mesh net is wall-shaped, with a headline of floats and a foot line of weights to hold it in place. Typically it is used inshore, in sheltered and State waters less than 5m in depth. The large mesh size or holes mean that small fish can swim through and large fish can bounce off. With the careful monitoring and management of an experienced professional fisher, it is an effective method for catching King George Whiting, Yellowfin, Yellow Eye Mullet and Mulloway.
Large mesh net
Depending on the species, large mesh nets or shark nets are either bottom or surface set for Bronze and Dusky Whaler, School and Gummy Shark. The large mesh size or holes mean that small fish can swim through and large fish can bounce off.
The beach seine method of netting can be used in very calm waters to encircle schooling fish from the shore. The net is released from a small row boat in a large semicircle. Once both ends of the net are secured to the shore, it is hauled onto the beach by hand or using a vehicle, allowing the fish to be landed and chilled very quickly. It is a species-specific fishing method for Yellow Eyed and Jumping Mullet, Australian Salmon and Mulloway, and results in very little bycatch.