Angling in impoundments can generate significant social and economic benefits to regional communities; but unfortunately all dam fisheries are not of the same standard, but there are methods for improvement. To maximise the economic potential of impoundments it is important to improve the reliability and quality of fishing to attract repeat visits by anglers and to increase visitation rates.
A major factor limiting the quality of impoundment fisheries is fish habitat. Dams with great fishing have substantial, structurally complex fish habitat in common. Most impoundments are not designed, built or operated with fisheries as a major consideration, and structural habitat is often lacking. Structural habitat is vital to support strong fish communities and angling opportunities. Strategically placed structures have great potential to improve angling by aggregating fish.
Historically impoundment fisheries management in Australia has focussed on stocking and bag limits. There has been surprisingly little work on freshwater fish attracting structures in impoundments. There is convincing evidence from the USA that strategic habitat enhancement has positively influenced their impoundment fisheries and become a primary tool for fisheries managers. The fishery in many USA dams has been significantly improved, or even completely revitalised through strategic use of fish attraction structures (FAS). This has led to significant increases in the number of angling tourists visiting or utilizing these impoundments and resulted in flow-on socio-economic benefits to local communities.
Installation of FAS is capable of significantly improving productivity, carrying capacity, growth rates and stocked fish survival. The installation of structure to aggregate fish can also help manage conflicts between waterway user groups and improve fishing for shore-bound or mobility limited anglers. Regional councils are keen on this idea and are currently willing to co-invest in this project to improve tourism. Improving angler catch rates and subsequent visitation rates is critical to this.