First water, now fish return to Lake Bolac

MAIN: Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh wades into the task of releasing estuary perch at Lake Bolac as part of the state’s first large-scale marine stocking.
MAIN: Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh wades into the task of releasing estuary perch at Lake Bolac as part of the state’s first large-scale marine stocking.

CLAD in wader overalls, Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh was equipped to return Lake Bolac to its former glory.

Strong winds and choppy waves yesterday did not deter the minister from helping to release a few dozen estuary perch fingerlings into the inland lake as part of a historic ecological replenishment.

Mr Walsh said yesterday’s fish stocking was a historic moment for the lake after several years of drought caused the natural resource to evaporate.

More than 7000 fingerlings — young fish that have developed to the size of a finger — were added to the lake in the state’s first large scale marine life stocking.

“Few estuary perch have ever been successfully bred and used to create a new recreational fishery, so Lake Bolac is really at the forefront of this development,” Mr Walsh said.

“There have been plans to stock estuary perch for a fair few years now but it’s been difficult to breed them reliably.

“Lake Bolac is a popular fishing spot in the Western District and it wasn’t so long ago when it was just a dry lake bed after the drought. Now things are back on track.”

Mr Walsh said the breakthrough came in November when some of Victoria’s best estuary perch anglers caught 31 ripe broodfish from the Hopkins River.

“The broodstock were taken by chartered aeroplane to a leading bass farmer in New South Wales, which led to successful spawning and the growing of larvae in purpose-built saline plankton ponds,” he said.

The inland fishing spot was only a shadow of its former self with water levels well below the acceptable range during the latter part of the past decade. One of the state’s largest-ever eel culls took place in the drought-stricken Lake Bolac in April 2007.

Department of Primary Industries recreational fishing improvements manager Brian Mottram said the fish stocking was a “fabulous achievement” for recreational fishing in the region.

He said the lake had been remarkably resilient, with birdlife flocking back to the lake since the end of the drought in 2010.

Lake Bolac Angling Club president Ray McLeod said the lake could soon be a sensational fishery if the stocked estuary perch performed well.

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