I've been in the angling game for a long time but even after all those years I still have difficulty in understanding some people in the angling world.
A recent incident at Lake Yerrabi, a small urban lake in Canberra's northern suburbs, illustrates the point.
This delightful little waterway is a gem, full or birds, frogs, tortoises, lizards, water rats and other wildlife. It's also stocked with Murray cod and golden perch every year or two, using funds supplied by local Government and by hard-working local angling clubs.
The fish grow well, with the goldens now up around 3kg and the cod 12kg to 14kg. It's a pleasant place for adult anglers to drop in a bait, lure or fly but it's even more important as a kids’ playground.
It's a safe, open location where kids can learn the basics of fishing close to home and with every chance of catching a golden, a cod, redfin, goldfish or carp.
Recently a local angler took his grandson to the lake for a pleasant fishing/bonding session, as grandads do, but on their first cast they hooked up on a snag. On closer inspection they realised they had hooked an illegal gill net.
The net was set below the surface so it was hard to see from shore. Luckily, they were able to pull it in and, to their disgust, found it full of fish.
Caught up in the 10cm mesh were 14 smallish golden perch and 17 goldfish and redfin. Luckily, they were all still alive so the pair spent the next hour with a penknife freeing the fish and releasing them into the lake.
I can't help thinking what a dreadful impact this must have on a young, impressionable angler on what should have been a lovely outing with grandad. The best I could hope for is that he gets caught and is prosecuted, and if he does I will ensure grandad and the youngster are there to see a suitable penalty handed down.
I have encountered a few other stunts by anglers.
One fellow has been deliberately planting purloined shopping trolleys in favoured lure-casting locations in local lakes. After a week or so of watching anglers repeatedly break off their favourite lures on this hidden ‘snag’, he retrieves the trolley with a rope and grappling hook and pockets all the lures.
A variation of this is to plant a stolen bicycle out there and do the same thing. I recently sprang one of the perpetrators as he retrieved a bike from Lake Ginninderra, scoring 14 good lures. He freely admitted what he was up to but libel laws prevented me from publishing his name in the local newspaper.
On the credit side, some of the more astute local youngsters have worked out in each of our urban lakes where particular items of floating debris are most likely to come ashore. Each week they check out the spots to see how many lures, previously snagged but now floating free, are bobbing in the water close to shore.
That's what I regard as a legitimate harvest and for the price of a new set of trebles they have perfectly good lure to put back in the water again.
When regulations came into force in November 2010 requiring people in boats under 4.8m to wear life jackets at all times on Jindabyne, Eucumbene, Tantangara, Googong, Blowering and Burrinjuck dams, there were moans and groans everywhere. Pleas that it was commonsense and for their own safety fell on deaf ears and some anglers still refuse to wear them.
Unfortunately they will have to be prosecuted to force them to obey the law.
Equally worrying is the attitude of some anglers to safety in canoes and kayaks. Despite the need for considerable skill in safely fishing from these craft, some people treat them as if they were substantial, solid boats. They are not.
They require a different set of skills and considerable care to get the best out of them and we should ensure that we properly publicise this.
I recently met a young kayak owner who was insanely planning a mid-Winter trip to Lake Eucumbene. I pointed out some of the bleedin' obvious – that he was going on his own, nobody would know his final destination or expected time of return, he did not have an EPIRB, he had only recently bought the craft and was not yet really familiar with it and that he did not have a proper lifejacket.
On top of that, the overnight temperature in Canberra was – 6° and in Cooma – 10°, which meant Eucumbene would be about – 15°. Winds to 140kmh and heavy snowfalls were predicted – and he wanted to go fishing!
I talked him out of the trip, which probably means there has been one less fatality in the lake this year.
On the fishing front things have been predictably quiet. Canberra's urban lakes have mostly shut down, with just an occasional redfin, carp, cod or golden on bait or lure, but not many people are fishing in earnest.
The clear waters of Googong Reservoir have been more productive, with a couple of nice goldens on lure recently and cod of 104cm and 114cm in recent weeks. The goldens were taken on deep-divers and the cod on extra-large spinnerbaits.
There has been more action in the warmer waters of Burrendong and Wyangala, with reasonable reports of golden perch and catfish, but most of the trips have been only short because of the cold weather.
Some anglers have trekked to the Murrumbidgee beyond Narrandera and reported some reasonable cod. Others are searching around Wagga Wagga and beyond for crays and although they have found plenty, it has been hard to find those of legal size (9cm, limit 5, only 1 over 12cm).
Blowering has been a pleasant destination for redfin chasers and some anglers have tried cod at night on lures with some success.
The vast majority of anglers, though, have been fishing Jindabyne and Eucumbene, with great success.
There have been plenty of rainbows in the shallows on PowerBait, bardi grubs and scrub worms and recently they also have been feeding heavily on small yabbies. This is interesting because rainbows normally aren't that keen on yabbies.
Lure fishers also have done well, mostly with Tasmanian Devils and Rapala minnows trolled on flatlines but more successfully on three to four colours of lead-core line.
Many of the browns have finished spawning and are back in the lake, hungry and hunting for food.
This month the bulk of the rainbows will head off on their spawning migration but the fishing should keep getting better the closer we get to the opening of the stream season on the October long weekend.Reads: 1341