Townsville SOE home page

TCC and NQ Water working with stakeholders along the Ross River to develop and implement a Recreational Fish Enhancement Plan

Visit Fishwatch, a Townsville City Council Clean & Green Initiative

Enhancement Plan

Visit NQ Water home website

Ross River Recreational Fishing Enhancement Plan (RRRFEP)

The plan is to enhance recreational fishing on the Ross River system and to promote sustainable recreational fishing and sport-fishing as part of the Townsville lifestyle

The dynamic plan will include investigation and management of recreational fishing access and locations; ecology of sport fish and river health; environmental interpretation; and benefits of fish stocking and options

This plan complements the Ross River Management Planning Process (link soon) currently underway in partnership with Townsville City Council and NQ Water

Background on Fish Watch Committee and Research Priorities

The Townsville City Council Fishwatch Advisory Committee has been set up as a network for local fishers and community interests to discuss recreational fishing and environmental conservation of fish stocks in the Townsville area. The network consists of members from a wide range of community groups, organisations and government.

The objectives of the Fishwatch committee are to integrate scientific research and local recreational fishing as well as provide an ongoing network for discussion and implementation of local recreation and environmental initiatives.

NQ Water has accepted the offer for the Fish Watch advisory committee to manage funding worth $15,000 (per year for 2002-03 & 2003-04) as part initial funding for the Ross River Recreational Fishing Enhancement Plan (RRRFEP).

Consultation with Stakeholder groups and Agencies in regards to both the Recreation Fishing Enhancement Plan and overarching Ross River Management Plan includes:

  • NQ Water
  • Fishwatch Advisory Committee
  • Townsville City Council Environmental Management Services
  • James Cook University Esturine Ecology Group and other research workers from the School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture
  • Twin Cities Fish Stocking Society
  • Department of Primary Industries Fishing and Queensland Fishing & Boating Patrol
  • Sun Fish
  • Townsville Sport Fishing Club
  • Townsville City Council

Issues Identification

  • Community consultation and public awareness raising
  • Fish Stocking
  • Ecological Research
  • Fish Monitoring - Tag and release, surveys electrofishing, trapping, tagging, stock assessment
  • Access (boat ramps) pontoons, wooden piers, rubbish bins, safety
  • Fishways
  • Fishing competitions – tilapia removal
  • Aquatic Weed removal
  • Litter management
  • Water quality
  • Number and species of fish quality of fish (tasting) and size
  • Closed season
  • Tourism
  • Management and accountabilities and policing (permits, bag limits)
  • Impacts – water quality, increased disturbance to riparian vegetation
  • Future funding such as Envirofund and sustainability
  • Computer modelling
  • Charter Operations on Black Weir

Proposed Public Consultation and Awareness Raising Activities

  • A website established at


  • A brochure distributed to users including tackle shops
  • A 1800 freecall number could be established for verbal feedback
  • Awareness Raising including displays at Townsville City Council and libraries

Fish Stocking (background)

In recent years the Twin Cities Fish Stocking Society have introduced in excess of 100,000 barramundi fingerlings into the freshwater reaches of the Ross River

The Twin Cities Fishstocking Society Inc. submitted the proposal for capital expenditure of the $5000 NQ Water funding allocated to fish stocking. In summary, DPI&F permits allow barramundi to be released into Black Weir, Aplin’s Weir and Gleeson’s Weir. The recommended size for release is 70mm, with 10,000 fingerlings costing $7,000. The timing of release of the fingerlings will depend on summer weather patterns and availability of fish.

As stipulated in the Envirofund application, The Ross River has been regularly stocked for the last ten years with barramundi (Lates calcarifer) and more recently mangrove jack (Lutjanus agentimaculatus) and as a result has become a very productive fishery with a large biomass of large sportsfish. In the absence of 'normal' riverine conditions allowing fish movement for breeding and other life cycle functions it is difficult to determine the effects of fish stocking on the overall ecology and aquatic habitat of the Ross River

Without the installation of expensive fish ladders the most practical way to maintain the fishery in the Ross River for the future is to continue the stocking program. In order to do this a better understanding (scientific knowledge) is required before future stocking activities are undertaken. 

Ecological Research (background)

Consequently, $10,000 has been allocated per year (initially) to ecological research in the Ross Creek system and $3000 (per year) to the Ross Creek/Lakes system.

Utilising scientific expertise from nearby James Cook University the projects will gather the required information to gain an understanding of the ecological dynamics of the artificial wetlands of the Ross River to enable management requirements to be defined.

The project will also gather information on water quality and habitat condition to assist in identifying antecedent conditions associated with the major issue of fish kills. The information will be used for developing management options to assist in the prevention of such events in the future through maintenance of water quality.

The aims of the ecological study conducted by Ann Penny in relation to Ross River are:

  1. To investigate the fish community dynamics of the stocked impoundments along the Ross River including: relative species abundance; stocked fish size and age structure; mortality rates; fish condition; trophic (food-web) dynamics.
  2. To determine potential causes of fish kills in these systems and recommend measures to prevent future fatalities.
  3. To produce conceptual and empirical models of the dynamics of these systems which may be used as a predictive tool for future management.

Benefits ecological studies will provide include:

·        Provision of baseline information to assist in the management of the Ross River aquatic habitat.

·        Community capacity building through interaction with technical experts including workshops and involvement in monitoring activities (links with current Creekwatch activities).

·        Provision of information to inform the activities of the community based fish stocking group.

·        Movement towards the establishment of a sustainable industry based on appropriate management of natural resources.

·        Information to assist with establishment of natural resource targets for the Burdekin Dry Tropics NRM region.

·        Increased awareness of the management requirements for artificial freshwater wetlands in the Dry Tropics.

·        Promotion of Fishwatch and other community based aquatic monitoring programs.

·        Potential to translate findings to other stocked impoundments.

·        Encouragement of combined ecotourism activities and natural resource management

Access and Restrictions

Concern over poor access to the Ross Weir system by local anglers raises the issue of whether funds should be spent on improving access. This issue needs to be highlighted in the community consultation phase for feedback regarding whether low usage rates are a consequence of lack of access or other as yet unknown factors. The construction of environmentally friendly timber platforms has been suggested as a way of improving access to the three Weirs.

The access and ‘Fishability’ of the weirs will also be improved through the implementation of the aquatic weed removal program currently addressed by NQ Water and utilising the aquatic weed harvester.

Environmental Interpretation and Community Awareness

A Commonwealth NHT (Natural Heritage Trust) Envirofund application was submitted for consideration. This application included consideration of interpretation of aquatics; ecology; and river health of Ross River and the Lakes-Ross Creek catchment, and developing community awareness of river ecology, fish kills and recreational fishing.

In addition funding has been allocated under Ross River Parkway for environmental interpretation along the river (See soon - Gleesons Weir).

Suggested Strategies for Management

Several issues arise as a consequence of improved recreational fishing on the Ross River system. It is recommended that these be dealt with as part of the Recreational Fishing Enhancement Plan Ross River Waterway Management Strategy and Plan. The following strategies for management and consideration are:

1. Water quality
Water quality is a very important factor, and an integrated sampling program in addition to existing sampling and reporting, needs conducting on a regular basis at various sites to ensure where possible water quality is not adversely affected.

2. Litter
With the increase in number of users the issues of litter, e.g. discarding of fish guts and fishing lines/hooks etc will need to be addressed and a strategy to deal with these detailed.

3. Restrictions
Restrictions on usage, bags limits, closed seasons and fish size also warrant inclusion in the plan. Fishing off any of the weir spillways is prohibited (signage) and access restricted. Speed restrictions apply on much of the weir waters, which come under the authority of TCC (Aplin and Gleeson Weir) or NQ Water (Black Weir).

4. Powered Watercraft
A review of appropriateness of powered water craft and opportunities for encouraging use of non-powered or electric (low energy) may be required (can be considered within the proposed overall Ross River Recreational Management Plan).

5. Permits
A strategy for the management of users may include the issuing of or appropriateness of issuing permits.

6. Fish surveys
Fish surveys would need to be conducted at regular intervals using various methods such as netting, tagging, electrocution, trapping etc. to assess the numbers size and species. These surveys can tie into the current research studies and consideration be given to further funding.

7. Commercial Fishing and Tourism
Commercial fishing and tourism can be investigated with both councils, NQ Water and Townsville Enterprise Limited (TEL). Potentially significant economic benefits from a currently underutilised resource could be considered.

8. Minimum Water Storage Levels
Consideration be given to the maintenance of minimum water storage levels in the weirs and to the requirement for an environmental flow to sustain the fish population, deep water habitat and environmental health (note: consideration may also need to be given to future dredging requirements).

9. Education and Awareness
Consideration be given to the development of an education and awareness campaign (possibility building on the Envirofund application initiative) to promote the conservation and protection of the Ross River habitat and benefits and opportunities of recreational fishing.


  • Australian Government Envirofund Application 2003-2004

  • Ann Penny’s PhD tropical fisheries ecology research proposal (JCU Coastal Ecology Group)

  • Twin Cities Fish Stocking Society Inc. proposal for fish stocking (03-04)

Townsville City Council Home PageCouncil's Environment Management Services