All is well again in the Canberra-Monaro district as conditions mostly return to normal after the heavy downpours and flash flooding of early and mid-Summer.
The floods did a lot of damage to bush tracks, access roads and bridges, stream banks and riverside vegetation. The streams and lakes were choked with debris and too murky to fish for prolonged periods.
That now seems to be over and while we are still getting rain, it is falling in more measured and modest quantities and without the high drama of the earlier part of the season.
Canberra's five urban lakes look interesting. There is still a lot of floating debris, particular in Lake Burley Griffin.
That stemmed mostly from a previous willow removal program. Thousands of unwanted trees were felled and left along the riverside.
They were washed into the waterways during the floods and despite pleas from local anglers that they should now be left in the lakes as prime fish habitat, the Government has decided that they represent a risk to swimmers, yachties, ferries and rowers and are unsightly and should be removed.
This narrow thinking is a retrograde step in developing and conserving fish habitat and is directly the opposite of resnagging programs being carried out in NSW waterways – a great opportunity forgone.
During the floods large numbers of carp, golden perch, redfin and Murray cod were swept out of the lakes and downstream. Some were killed in the process but others survived and added to the downstream populations, but it means additional lake restocking.
Several of the lakes already have been stocked with golden perch and Murray cod fingerlings. It's amazing that the same Government can do some things so well and other things so badly.
In most of the lakes the water has cleared nicely and fishing has been good.
Googong is full and has yielded some nice golden perch on lures and bait fished from the shore. Boating has been impossible for some time because the ramp is still underwater and because the management authority cannot guarantee to be able to launch their rescue craft should the need arise.
Shore fishing has been more than adequate as most of the fish are along the shoreline, foraging in the flood debris and bankside vegetation for worms, grubs, beetles and other goodies.
There are no carp in Googong but redfin are a problem. They are great fun to catch and good to eat but their immense numbers make it harder to attract quality native fish such as golden perch.
Murray cod have rarely shown in recent weeks. Anglers suspect they may be lurking in deeper waters, dining on an occasional redfin and not venturing into the shallows where anglers can reach them.
In the smaller lakes, there have been good catches on bait and lures of golden perch, cod to about 45cm and good-sized redfin in Yerrabi, Gungahlin, Ginninderra, Burley Griffin and Tuggeranong.
Best baits have been bardi grubs, live yabbies, tiger worms and scrub worms, with yabbies the standout for quality fish.
Lures have been effective, especially blades, spinnerbaits, bibless minnows and deep divers for the golden perch and occasional cod and blades and spinning-blade lures for redfin.
Anglers serious about catching a Murray cod simply cast or troll the largest deep-diver they can get hold of. With the immense amount of food available it takes a reasonable-sized lure to attract the attention of a cod, so bigger is better.
The Summer invasion of cicadas has been interesting. When they fall on the water and buzz their wings they instantly attract the attention of big carp. Often you can see four or five of them heading to the unfortunate insect which is wolfed down in double-quick time.
They also attract golden perch or more commonly a Murray cod and some anglers have caught cod on them fished on the surface alone or with a bubble float just after dark, when most of the carp have gone to sleep.
Burrinjuck is full for the first time in many years and fishing there at the moment is a dodgem-car contest of trying to avoid water-skiers, floating debris, tourists wanting to see the strangely-full reservoir, inexperienced boaters not looking where they are going, new-chum kayakers trying to set a record for the onset of hypothermia and veteran anglers battling to avoid a collision with somebody or something.
Luckily, there have been no incidents beyond a shaking of fists or the occasional strangled oath at the boat ramps and there have been plenty of fish to soothe the rattled nerves.
Golden perch have been easy to find on Burrinjuck Specials and other deep-divers, spinnerbaits, blades and bibless minnows and on yabbies, saltwater prawns, scrub worms and local live shrimps.
There also have been some large redfin on the same lures and baits but the small redfin have been an absolute pest.
Carp, too, have been taking any bait and even lures meant for better-quality fish. We recently landed five big carp on lures among a haul of 15 golden perch – not a good ratio.
Cod have been more difficult to find. Most I have heard about have been in the 40cm to 60cm although a few larger specimens have been taken after dark on bait or big splashy surface lures such as Jitterbugs or Nightwalkers.
Heavy Summer rain in the catchments put a lot of water into the mountain lakes and fishing generally has been excellent.
Tantangara went up to an unprecedented 37% and fish were feeding up on the grassy hillsides for weeks. It has since dropped back down but the fish are still frisky and there have been some great boat and bank sessions with fly and lure.
Lure fishers have fared best with small Celtas, Mepps, Imp spoons and small minnows.
Fly anglers have had a ball fishing Loch style with three dry flies from a boat or wet with a sink-tip or sinking line.
Most of the fish have been small to moderate-sized browns but there has been an occasional 2kg fish.
Jindabyne has been up to 80% and the water flooded all the shoreline and it was hard to fish in among the trees, rocks, shrubs and weeds.
Shore fishers found it difficult to get access and even more difficult to drag a fish in through the tangled vegetation.
Despite this some good fish were taken on PowerBait, Gulp, scrub worms and bardi grubs.
Trollers using lead-core line and downriggers with big minnow patterns that mimic the goldfish the larger browns commonly feed on took the better fish.
Eucumbene, despite being held artificially around 20%, has fished extremely well. Scrub worms, PowerBait, Gulp and bardi grubs regularly bag out on rainbows within an hour or two and fly fishers have had a great time during the day with hatches and falls of ants, black beetles, midges, caddis and the first of the grasshoppers.
After dark there have been good rainbows and some large browns on mudeye patterns, Hairy Dog, Woolly Worms, Woolly Buggers and Zulu.Reads: 840