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Pacific oyster has gone from villain to saint

IT'S slippery, it's salty, and some slurp rather than chew. Then, bling, you are transformed into Casanova or Cleopatra. But not all oysters are loveable. Take the feral Pacifics staking a claim to Sydney Harbour.

IT'S slippery, it's salty, and some slurp rather than chew. Then, bling, you are transformed into Casanova or Cleopatra. But not all oysters are loveable. Take the feral Pacifics staking a claim to Sydney Harbour.

A Lane Cove local who has been traipsing the foreshores for 60 years recently stumbled on what appeared to be a clutch of mutant oysters.

They were clinging to a PVC pipe in Woodford Bay. And I've not seen anything like them before. So I called a marine biologist of note in Noosa who called a colleague in the Northern Territory, an expert in Tassie and another in Port Stephens. Without doubt, the oysters pictured were the introduced Pacific variety.

The Pacific is feared for its fecundity and fast growth rate. It can blanket our hapless native Sydney rock oysters and take over the foreshore like triffids, as it has done in parts of Port Stephens.

But here's the irony. The Pacific oyster has gone from villain to St Peter, patron saint of fishermen and oyster farmers.

Since the QX virus wiped out stocks of Sydney rocks in places such as the Hawkesbury, a non-breeding form or triploid Pacific oyster has been introduced to their leases. Subsequently, the Pacific has been the dying industry's saviour.

But now the tide has turned and the hardy Pacific is suffering some form of mortality syndrome from another unknown virus. While the oyster virus is harmless to humans, the oysters are up against it.

Experts say don't translocate the feral Pacific oysters. The ones I saw pictured in the Lane Cove River probably emerged from spat washed down from Port Stephens. Let's hope they don't displace our superior Sydney rocks in other locations.

At last, we have hot summery weather and warm water to boot. Little wonder our favourite species have made a comeback. Leading the charge is the prized kingfish.

Marauding kingfish are about Pittwater, with some decent specimens shadowing the more common rats. Hawkesbury guide Ron Osman had a 70-centimetre specimen in the boat on Friday, with a pack following him up.

The kings are also around Sydney Heads, The Wall at Long Reef, and I'm betting the Colours and Jibbon. You'll need squid to catch them, although they are taking surface lures every now and then.

A few bonito are being taken on the troll, while Aussie salmon schools are easy to find. Tailor have also been chopping about Cowan Creek, where the flathead are sunbaking on the flats.

Josh, the Brooklyn fishmonger, says the prawns are running in the river - hence all the trawler action - the jewfish have arrived (always after the Melbourne Cup), big whiting are near the wreck of the Parramatta and trevally are in plague proportions off Patonga.

Osman adds that big luderick are still about, bream and trevally are in the berley trail and flathead are upstream around Dangar Island and Mullet Creek.

Locals tell me there's a run of huge mud crabs, some weighing two-three kilograms, in the tributaries to the Hawkesbury. Lobsters are about in big numbers in Broken Bay.

But if you're heading to the river expect plenty of competition this weekend. The Hawkesbury Classic is expected to attract hundreds of anglers, with the weigh-in at Pitt Town Fishing Club. See pitttownfishingclub.webs.com.

Offshore, the current has picked up from the north. If you can hold bottom there are snapper to six kilograms, decent morwong and plenty of flathead. Kingfish are on the close reefs off the central coast.

Narrabeen Bait says the whiting have started on the beaches Palm, Mona Vale and Warriewood have been good. Live worms are a must. Tailor to a kilogram are along Narrabeen at night, with big bream mixed in with them. Try the back of the ocean pools.

A local kid took a 14-kilogram jewfish from Narrabeen Lake on Wednesday. Last month, a 12.4-kilogram jewfish was taken there. Another local took two six-kilogram jewfish. And the prawns have started running.

david.lockwood@bigpond.com


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