At Miles, Qld, a fishing club is rescuing an inland waterway from a noxious pest.

Story Bruce McMahon   Photos David Kelly

On the banks of Dogwood Creek, bands of bright red bottlebrush flowers are complementing a grey-green cypress forest and improving conditions for yellowbellies and eel-tailed catfish.

The 1500 bottlebrush seedlings have been planted by volunteers close to the creek at Miles, some 300km west of Brisbane. Part of the Murray–Darling system, the creek flows into the Condamine and then the Balonne River. It’s hoped the extra vegetation will help stabilise banks and overhang the water to shade the creek. Insects will drop from the branches, providing more food for native fish and giving them a chance against hordes of pest carp.

Freshwater carp are pests targeted by amateur and expert conservationists across the country. Introduced from Europe for sport and farming, the noxious import became a major pest in the wild in the 1960s and now dominates the Murray–Darling Basin, making up an estimated 80–90% of fish biomass. Carp disturb and degrade inland waters to the detriment of native fish populations, turning clean waters turbid, destroying plants that provide food and shelter for natives, and out-eating the natives. 

“On a fishing trip you might get one or two good yellows, but you’ll get 40–50 big carp, 5–6kg,” says Miles District Fishing and Recreation Club president Peter Delaforce. 

Peter says the club’s rehabilitation of this stretch of the Dogwood was prompted when neighbouring regions boasted about “Murray cod, big yellowbellies and heaps of this and heaps of that”. “We found that our backyard was the hardest place to fish and the last place people would come to because you couldn’t catch them. We were fishing the Dogwood and were coming back with one or two fish from 20 or 30 people, so we started asking the question, ‘Why?’”

This story excerpt is from Issue #147

Outback Magazine: February/March 2023