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Fishing in the Kimberley Bush Blitz style


Fiona Jancey

I woke at Charnley River station base camp to the unmistakeable Kimberley sound of fruit bats in the nearby trees as the sun rose.

Camp life here has a clear routine; get up, have breakfast and make and pack lunch from the selection spread out with lots of yummy snacks and treats to survive a full day in the Kimberley sun. This is followed by the day’s short briefing where we must make sure all of our details of what team we are going with, where we are going and our expected arrival back at camp all written on the main white board. We all have to have a walkie talkie on our body each and make sure the survival box is packed just in case. Then the day’s adventure begins with all scientists and the teams heading out to their designated field site either by car or helicopter.

Today I was with the, ‘Fish Team,’ consisting of Michael from the Darwin Museum and Glenn from the Western Australian Museum. Both are, ‘Curators of Fishes.’ They were on the hunt to four different river sites to catch and document species of fish at Charnley Station.

I was a big help carrying the net. However, I was much more busy watching the process by which these scientists catch the fish. This is done by wading through the water with NO BAIT! Instead an electromagnetic device is used which sends a live current through the water to stun the fish and bring them to the surface so they can be identified. If the fish is not needed for further research it will recover from its electric shock in a few minutes and swim away. The electromagnetic testing makes the water electric for two meters either side of the fishermen, so for all of us watching and following along the creek bed, we had to be mindful not to walk in the water or, ZAP!!

Michael and Glen found Spangled Grunter, Greenways Grunter, the Western Rainbow fish the Bony Bream, Freshwater Shrimp, Freshwater Prawns, Cherabins, a Falsespine Catfish and a Hyrtles catfish- this one has three poisonous spines! This made them very happy with their long day of work.

They would have really liked an Archer fish which spits water. So we headed off to a last fishing spot at the majestic Dillie Gorge. We are here in the dry season, but we could easily make out where the tops of the waterfalls would be in the big wet! There was still lots of water in the river and some mini-waterfalls were around. This time we had to use real bait and a hand line as we were on the edge of the rocky gorge and there is no way we could walk in and stun them, and I also was not too sure about if there were crocodiles in the water or not!

We were able to see lots of Archer Fish on the edge of Dillie Gorge. They were easy to spot with their black and white stripes but none were interested in the hand line or bait. Michael and Glenn are going to try tomorrow and already have another place lined up to see if they can catch it. I wish them good luck.

Tomorrow I will be off to catch bugs with the bug team.

fishing in the kimberley bush blitz style 2