Hazelwood fish stocking on hold for dam wall assessment

Hazelwood pondage. file photograph

Hazelwood pondage. file photograph

Recreational fish stocking programs at the Hazelwood Ponadge have been put on hold while energy company ENGIE assesses the structural condition of the dam wall.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority has confirmed it would no longer stock the pondage with trout or barramundi until further information about the future of the pondage is available.

Victorian Fisheries Authority chief executive Travis Dowling said they were still maintaining land-based fishing access along a section that was opened up to the public to fish for barramundi.

The tropical species had found a warm channel fed by artesian water since the Hazelwood Power Station was closed and the pondage cooled off.

"Recent monitoring has shown a continued healthy population of barra in this section of the pondage," Mr Dowling said.

"The barra will provide exciting fishing for residents of the Valley and across Victoria this spring and summer."

Fisheries had also put cold water species into the pondage to lure recreational fishers.

ENGIE has been releasing water from the pondage to take pressure off the dam walls while it waits for a structural engineering report.

Michael Burgess, chief executive of recreational fishing peak body VRFish, said it would be unfortunate for the region if the stocking programs could not continue.

"This is a benefit to the local community and we hope this is a short term issue that can be dealt with," Mr Burgess said.

"We hope ENGIE and VFA are keeping ahead of this, to see if the water lowering is suitable for fish and what works ENGIE is doing."

Mr Burgess said he had been keeping an eye on the barramundi in the pondage which had given Victorians a good alternative species to catch.

"I went down there last summer – the barramundi had done alright, but it will be interesting to see how many will have survived over winter and are active into summer," he said.

"I hope there will be survival rates and some fish to catch this summer."

An ENGIE spokeswoman said fish stocking was a state government initiative and the fisheries authority was in charge of the status of the fish and the future of the government program.

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