Who put the Trout in the Sturt?
Trolling through Trove back in 2013, CVDNT member David Conlon’s attention was caught by a snippet of information.
On 8th February 1883 after a visit to Murray’s Jam and Biscuit Factory, Coromandel Valley, a reporter for The South Australian Register wrote:
“Through the centre of Craiglee, at the foot of steep, bald-headed hills, creeps the River Sturt, which is just beginning to earn a character for itself as a trout stream. Last week a ‘beauty’, eighteen inches long and two and a half pounds in weight, was seen in it, and the young fish were let loose only two years ago.”
Despite the fact that, as a boy, David had fished for and caught trout in the Sturt, it had never occurred to him that they were not native to our waterways.
Curiosity piqued, David had to find out who put the trout in the Sturt. More research was necessary.
The Acclimatization Society of South Australia
Established on 23rd July 1878, the Acclimatization Society had the objective of bringing non-indigenous animals, birds and fish to the new colony, thus creating greater diversity of wildlife and, perhaps, making the colony a bit more like the Mother country.
The Society’s Patron was Governor Jervois. Its President was The Honourable Chief Justice Mr (later Sir) Samuel J Way.
Plans were made to raise fish and stock local streams.
According to the Society’s 1879 Annual Report, brown trout ova arrived here from Tasmania in August that year. Three members, Messrs Magarey, Abrahams and Minchin, divided the ova between them to conduct trial hatchings. Two trials seem to have been reasonably successful, the other less so. Hot weather was amongst factors adversely impacting the trials, however it was agreed to try again following year.
The number of fry (baby fish) released into particular streams was recorded, but no mention was made of a release into the Sturt.
At the 1880 annual meeting Society President, Chief Justice Way reported that fish stock had been released into the Onkaparinga River in December 1879. He then he described “selfish and short-sighted conduct” by individuals who caused the loss of many fish by “the use of nets and explosives”.
A further 5,000 roe arrived and were passed for hatching to Messrs Magarey, John Dunn of Mt Barker and David Murray (who hatched his fish in Adelaide).
Again there was no mention of the Sturt River in records of the release of fry into streams, a situation repeated in 1881.
At the 1882 annual meeting, Chief Justice Way reported on the progress of the fourth annual release:
“Last Saturday he was engaged in distributing trout fry in the Upper Sturt at Coromandel Valley (…) Whilst turning out the trout a very encouraging circumstance was brought to his notice. Mr Murray, proprietor of the local factory, told him that 3 months ago, one of his men was crossing a bridge over the Upper Sturt when he saw in the water a trout, which afterwards proved to be eighteen inches long and weighing one and a half pounds. This was one of the off-spring of a few turned out by the Hon D Murray some years before”.
Although none of the Society’s reports mention trout being officially released into the Sturt, it seems reasonable to conclude that David Murray took a few of his 1880 hatchlings and slipped them into the river, probably near the biscuit factory.
One can also speculate on whether the trout sighting described by The Register reporter in 1883 was in fact that described to Samuel Way by Alexander Murray some three months previously. If so, the trout remained the same length, but had put on a pound in weight … but that’s the thing about fish stories.
Note: David Murray went on to become the Hon. David Murray MLC
Research David Conlon, 2013