Power handlines are used to catch finfish that live on or near the sea floor primarily on offshore seamounts.
Like rod and reel fishing, the handline operator can feel the line for bites, and will haul the line after approximately 15-30 minutes to remove the catch and re-bait hooks.
The depth which lines are set in varies depending on the target species but generally ranges from 250 to 600m, although power handlines can be used in much deeper water by simply adding additional line to the reel.
The primary species targeted by the power handline method include:
- blue-eye trevalla
- bass groper
How power handlines work
Power handlines use a thin braided line which remains connected to a hydraulically powered reel on the deck of the boat at all times. A large weight is attached to the end of the line, along with a series of ‘snoods’ connected at intervals of around 1m. Each snood is made of monofilament or cord and has an individual baited hook attached to the end.
Environmental impacts and management
Power handline fishing causes very little damage to the sea floor and is highly selective with very limited levels of bycatch.
As fish are brought to the surface slowly and are often alive when they reach the boat, the survivability for non-target species returned to the water is generally very good. Trials undertaken by CSIRO have demonstrated survivability levels of up to 93% for dogfish caught using the power handline method.
On certain seamounts operators are limited to a maximum soak time of 90 minutes and 25 hooks per line. In these special areas operators only fish during daylight hours to reduce catches of deepwater sharks like Harrison’s Dogfish. AFMA manages the impacts of fishing on deepwater shark species under the Upper Slope Dogfish Management Strategy through a network of area closures and gear specific requirements.