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The pendulum swings
  |  First Published: February 2011



Australia is a funny country. For the past 10 years all we could talk about was drought. Rivers ran dry and the fish died, lakes dried up or dropped to perilously low levels and Hanrahan's famous phrase ‘we'll all be rooned’ was the dominant theme of all fishing conversations.

Now the pendulum has swung the other way. It started to rain back in October and it has kept on, thanks to the La Niña cycle operating in the Pacific Ocean.

Most previously dry rivers have flooded, lakes have filled and overflowed, subsoil moisture levels have been restored and south-eastern Australia is throbbing with new fish, animal and plant life.

It's a great reminder of just how dependent all life forms are on water. It's more precious than oil or any other material we derive from nature and it hammers home the need for us to be aware of those values and the need to protect, preserve and enhance our water supplies.

We have plenty of it right now but as conditions change and the water drains away, the short memories of profligate water wasters need to be jogged to ensure we plan properly how best to store, use, reuse and dispose of our water.

That means not allowing politicians to make stupid decisions based on party politics rather than science and commonsense.

Anglers can play an important part in that decision-making, but only if they remain active in the community and not lapse into complacency because for the moment we have an abundance of water.

LOCAL LAKES

All of Canberra’s lakes, Yerrabi, Gungahlin, Ginninderra, Tuggeranong and Burley Griffin, have filled and overflowed numerous times in recent months.

Vast volumes of water have come down the Queanbeyan, Molonglo, Cotter, Naas, Paddys, Gudgenby and Murrumbidgee rivers, leading to heavy flooding downstream. Our drinking water reservoirs, Corin, Bendora, Cotter and Googong, all overflowed and Burrinjuck actually reached 107% capacity.

At the height of the flooding most fishing was out of the question.

Because of the turbidity, lure and fly fishing in local waterways was mostly impossible but as the major flooding eased there was some reasonable bait fishing.

Carp and redfin were remarkably active, taking scrub worms and tiger worms in the shallows, and a few Murray cod and golden perch were taken on scrub worms and, especially, live yabbies.

Small Lake Yerrabi, tucked among houses in urban Gungahlin, was an interesting demonstration of how native fish can be stocked and raised in the middle of the suburbs.Anglers fishing from the dam wall and beyond the fringing weed beds caught golden perch to about 1.5kg and Murray cod to around 40cm. All this with houses just 100m or so away.

In the older Lake Tuggeranong anglers reported goldens to about 2.7kg and cod to 84cm on yabbies.

One angler persisted with a noisy bibless minnow on several occasions when the water appeared to have cleared slightly and was rewarded with two golden perch and an 8kg Murray cod, all of which took the lure right at the rod tip. It just goes to show how sensitive the fish are to noise and vibration.

The annual Great Carp Catch at Lake Tuggeranong was interesting. As in previous years the event attracted a good crowd, seeking to win prizes for carp and redfin but as in previous years the catch per effort was remarkably small.

This is an oddity I have noted previously. Fish any time through the week and you can catch stacks of carp and redfin, but come competition day the fish seem to disappear.

It's happened on other lakes and in some of the rivers where similar events have been staged.

I heard of a carp bash at Bourke the other day, where the river was teeming with carp, but only 20 fish were caught on the day. Perhaps it is because of all the activity on the bank but I would like to hear the results of other similar fishing competitions around the country.

BURRINJUCK

When Burrinjuck filled for the first time in about 15 years, crowds flocked just to see the water. The lake looked absolutely delightful, with water up into the trees, shrubs and grass and the landscape was a pleasant change from the barren surrounds of past years.

The fish responded quickly. Hordes of carp were first on the scene, grubbing around in the shallows with their backs out of the water.

A scrub worm tossed in was snaffled in seconds and it was hard to catch anything else.

Redfin also were soon on the scene, competing with carp for food and lures in the clearer water.

Then the golden perch arrived in big numbers and became the prime target with yabbies, shrimps and lures.

Murray cod were slower to respond but one angler then landed 11 in one day, working spinnerbaits along a deep cliff face. Another landed and release 10 to 120cm in one week using spinnerbaits and deep divers.

As the water clears the fishing will become more spectacular and there will be opportunities not seen for years.

One example is the reappearance of trout in the backed-up waters near Wee Jasper, on the Goodradigbee Arm.

Several browns and rainbows that presumably came down from the river have shown in the lake, taking lures and baits, and it is nice to see the fish back in what once was one of the better trout/native fish locations in Australia.

MOUNTAIN LAKES

Amid all the flooding and turbidity lakes Jindabyne, Eucumbene and Tantangara remained bastions of good fishing. They stayed clear but were refreshed by big inflows and fished well.

Bank fishers took plenty of rainbows to about 900g on scrub worms, bardi grubs and PowerBait in day and night sessions, with occasional browns to about 1.8kg, especially in Eucumbene.

The fish were all in superb condition, with firm, pink flesh that went well under the griller or in the smoker.

Trollers have being doing well with flatlines early mornings, then lead core through the middle of the day.

Jindabyne has provided bigger fish than Eucumbene, although more fish have come from the bigger dam.

There have been some spectacular browns caught, including one that weighed 3.8kg and others around 2.9kg.

Some fell to small minnows but others were targeted deliberately with monster-sized lures, especially in Jindabyne.

Fly fishers have had a good run, mostly late afternoon and early evening, using Mrs Simpsons, Craig's Nighttimes, Woolly Buggers and bead-head nymphs.

Loch-style fishers using three flies have had fun with plenty of smaller fish in Tantangara.

Restocking of the rivers is well under way and should provide good fishing later this year and next but in the interim, the lake fishing is more than satisfying.

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