Here’s to La Niña!
  |  First Published: April 2011

The great lady of the Pacific air flow, La Niña, continues to be kind. We have had good, continuing rain, some of it as gentle falls but at other times as thunderstorms with minor flash flooding.

All has been welcome because although there has been some significant bank and streambed erosion, all of the local lakes, reservoirs, farm dams, creeks and streams have filled and remain full.

The lightning has kept anglers with carbon fibre rods toey but most have shown commonsense and not fished during the highest danger periods.

It certainly does pay to be wary. During one especially vigorous thunderstorm we saw a massive lightning strike hit a hillside near Lake Burley Griffin, blasting to pieces a few trees and shrubs.

I'm glad I wasn't a 2m bloke with a 4m rod fishing in the vicinity. And if I had a mate like that I'd be chucking him the rod every time I heard a bang!

Our regional drinking water supply, Googong Reservoir on the Queanbeyan River, has been one of the angling hot spots.

Drought stricken for the past 10 years, it filled rapidly after heavy rain in early Summer and is still full and overflowing.

There is so much water going over the spillway that boating has been banned because of the risk of a tinny or canoe being swept over the dam. There are no retaining ropes or buoys at the spillway and in any case, the boat ramp is so far under water any rescue craft could not be launched if somebody did get into trouble.

Bank fishing has been popular and rewarding. The water has cleared considerably and just about anybody has been able in an hour or two to bag a load of redfin varying from tiddlers to fish of almost a kilo.

They are great fun on flashy, noisy lures such as blades, Celtas, Imp Spoons, small spinnerbaits or small soft plastics and provide a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn how to fish with lures.

They can also be caught on scrub worms and tiger worms and because there are no carp in the lake, a redfin is almost assured on bait.

They can be caught anywhere along the bank and the larger ones are superb for the table. The trick to preparing these is to fillet and skin them immediately after capture before the external mucus sets hard and makes them difficult to scale or cut into.

A quick brush with oil or margarine and a few minutes on the barbecue plate or under the griller and they become a tasty feed.

They may be troublesome, noxious fish that we could probably do without but now that they are here we should at least make some use of them.


Golden perch are another big prize at Googong.

They can be found along the bank, among the redfin, searching for food flushed out of the flooded soil or for yabbies and mudeyes creeping around in the weeds.

They can be taken on mid-sized spinnerbaits, deep divers, blades, spoons and a variety of other lures, as well as on yabbies, scrub worms, tiger worms and bardi grubs.

The goldens range from about 800g to 4kg and although they are good to eat, most anglers release them to fight another day after getting a trophy photograph or three.

There are some big Murray cod in Googong, too. They can be found mostly along steep drop-offs and most have been taken on large spinnerbaits, big deep-divers, live yabbies or bardi grubs.

The largest I have heard of in recent weeks was an estimated 35kg fish but we know there are larger ones there. As with the golden perch, most are returned to the water after the obligatory photo session.


Canberra's lakes Tuggeranong, Burley Griffin, Ginninderra, Gungahlin and Yerrabi are stocked with golden perch and Murray cod and all have self-sustaining populations of carp and redfin.

Techniques are the same as at Googong and the success rate varies with water clarity.

When the water is clear the lure fishing can be terrific but when it’s turbid from stormwater runoff, bait fishing takes over.

These lakes are so accessible for local anglers – kids after school and on weekends, people with a day off work or a weekend to kill, for example.

A colleague recently took a rod to work with him and spent his lunchtime tossing soft plastics into Lake Ginninderra, right in front of the fast-food outlets along the shoreline. He was rewarded with a lot of fun and 20 prime redfin, all within five minutes of where he works.

Just a few minutes farther away, there are large numbers of redfin, golden perch and at least two big Murray cod in the stilling hole below the dam spillway.

Numerous anglers have enjoyed the excitement of trying to catch them on lures at different times and those who have been successful have returned the fish to the lake.

It's a similar scene at the other lakes, where anglers with their secret deep holes and drop-offs catch and release good-sized redfin, golden perch and cod and specialist anglers chase huge carp with fly and bait.

Heavy weed growth is a problem for lure fishers in all the lakes because of the high nutrient status of the stormwater inflows, so anglers have had to devise techniques to deal with the problem.

Most use spinnerbaits that ride through or over the weed while others use blades which can be retrieved over the weed without losing their vibrating effectiveness.

Boats powered by oars, paddles or electric motors are allowed on all the lakes and are popular and effective.


Burrinjuck Reservoir, full for the first time in many years, has been clear and fishing exceptionally well for two months.

Carp and small redfin have been a problem for bait fishers using scrub worms and tiger worms but shrimps and yabbies have accounted for golden perch and cod.

Lure fishing has been sensational.

There have been lots of golden perch to about 3.5kg and numerous cod to about 30kg. Most have been taken on deep-divers and spinnerbaits – medium-sized for the goldens and ultra-large for the cod.

Some of the catches have been sensational. I spoke to two anglers who had just finished a trolling session in the Woolgarlo Arm for a heap of goldens and 21 cod to 99cm and they never killed one. That's fantastic fishing and great sportsmanship.


Trout have reacted predictably in the big mountain lakes by feeding heavily around the shore at night then going deep when the sun gets up.

Trollers have fared best, using lead-core line and downriggers to reach the fish.

You need at least four colours of lead core to reach the most crowded fish zone or set the downrigger to whatever depth the fish are showing on the sounder.

Bait fishing has been best on the steeper, sloping banks where the fish are resting below the main sunlight level.

Daylight fly fishing similarly has been best with a sinking line or at night with a weight forward floating or sink-tip line.

Fly fishing generally has been good with some spectacular daytime insect hatches and lots of grasshoppers plopping into the water to keep the fish active. May it go on forever!

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