By GRANT MAYNARD

THEY’RE called ‘fish hotels,’ and their construction is an initiative aimed at protecting and fostering the growth of young fish in our river systems.

Primarily they are being deployed to ensure the sustainability of angling as a popular sport for young and old across the nation, but they will also have a positive impact on the environment by ensuring the survival of a greater number of native aquatic species.

Early last year, a string of six ‘hotels’ were placed in Butlers Creek – part of the extensive Kings Billabong wetlands complex.

Now, a little more than 12 months later, there are plans to add another six.

The first half dozen hotels were the result of a community partnership. The hotels were constructed by members of the Sunraysia Men’s Shed and a group of SuniTAFE students, while the funding to cover the cost of materials came from a partnership between OzFish Sunraysia and the Mallee Catchment Management Authority.

Butlers Creek is referred to as an ‘off-channel Murray River habitat’ and is a nursery for a range of aquatic species. The ‘hotels’ provide shelter for the young, including angling favourites Golden and Silver perch, as well as cod.

They also become home for a while to some lesser-known, and sometimes rare, small-bodied fish species.

The ‘hotels’ resemble a square-stacked pile of firewood, held together with lengths of all-thread. The combined weight of the wood and the steel ensures they sink to the bed of Butlers Creek.

Funding for the six new hotels was secured by a grant via the Angler Riparian Partnership Program.

To be built by Sunraysia Men’s Shed members, the new hotels are expected to be placed in the creek in coming months.

CMA Communications Officer Environmental Water and OzFish Sunraysia president, Braeden Lampard, is passionate about the work that is being done in Butlers Creek.

Through his work with the CMA, and as a volunteer with the 25-member strong OzFish Sunraysia, he feels “closely aligned” with the desired outcomes of the hotel project.

He says promoting the survival and growth to maturity of native aquatic species, particularly the fish, was a win-win for both the environment and anglers.

“It benefits both,” he says.

“Native fish are important to the health of our waterways, while ensuring a sustainable fishery means that people can continue to pursue their love of fishing.”

The hotels fulfil an important role. During the 2017-2018 financial year, Sunraysia Ozfish was successful in securing another ARPP grant to habitat map Kings Billabong. 

One of the major jobs was to map the underwater habitat using a fish finder to determine if there was enough underwater ‘snags’ for fishing breeding.

Long story short they were found to be lacking.

The subsequent ‘hotels’ construction was a remedial action to increase the number of suitable underwater breeding facilities.

With six new hotels on the way, there is also a plan, Braeden revealed, to strategically place four large snags into the waterway in the future to complement the hotels, and bolster the breeding habitat.

The success of the hotels will be measured over time as Ozfish Sunraysia continues to monitor the Kings Billabong wetlands area.