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Sunraysia shines through winter
  |  First Published: September 2011



As I write, we are experiencing the coldest and wettest Sunraysia winter in the six years I’ve been up here.

Locals tell me this is what traditional, pre-drought winters are like up here, but I’ve never experienced them and many of the locals have forgotten them! The cold is a real culture shock to the town, which is gazetted to get more sunshine than southern Queensland.

The levels of our mighty Murray River have finally fallen to a more normal height, however the clarity of the water remains ordinary. Upstream dams are rising and falling and the irrigation season is soon to start, however with our local weir pools these should have a negligible difference to us around Mildura.

The fishing locally has been a worry, the Murray cod fishing anyway. With the ‘black death’ which swept through our region earlier this year, many brood stock Murray cod were killed, unable to cope with the toxic conditions they were forced to live in. It’s a well known fact that the big, breeding Murray cod are often the most fragile in the system, hence the introduction of some timely and sensible handling and catch and release recommendations for those lucky enough to tangle with one.

What percentage of these big breeders have effectively been knocked out remains unsubstantiated, however from recent reports it looks like a fair proportion of the larger brood stock are no more. I have to say this is the worst Murray cod season on record, with no confirmed captures of big bruisers, and comparatively few captures of the smaller cod in the system.

Suffice to say it’s not a good look. The Robinvale, Mildura and Wentworth regions are renowned as offering some of the best Murray cod fishing in the country, but no more. To the best of my knowledge this tragedy could have just as easily been avoided. Those responsible will probably never be held to account, but I sincerely hope the water and catchment management have learned some pertinent lessons from this debacle, even if they’ll never admit to it.

Murray River

Thank goodness for the golden perch! As I write the golden perch still haven’t realised it’s gotten cold and anglers brave enough to weather the cold are being rewarded with some very nice fish to 1kg or more.

As the weather and water cools, bait seems to be the best option. By September the river shrimp will be almost unobtainable, so that leaves the ever reliable scrub worms as the best bait going around. The lure fishers are still getting amongst the perch, with smaller spinnerbaits being effective, as well as the ever-popular bibless, rattling crankbaits. Working the lures in and around the edges of the river seems most effective. As recently reported, the water is a touch warmer in these areas and the fish a little more active.

The golden perch are still fairly widespread, and have been taken from beneath the weir and lock within the Mildura township, right down to Merbein and beyond. The Murray River in the Nangiloc, Colignan and Red Cliffs areas too has settled down nicely, and there have been some nice fish taken in this more intricate water as well.

It’s really pleasing to hear of the amount of catfish that are once again active in the system. These lovely little fish are entirely protected in this part of the Murray River, so please put release them as soon as possible. If numbers are to build up again, we may be able to take them again in the future, who knows.

Less pleasing is the explosion of European carp in the system right now. Breeding conditions have apparently been fairly close to perfect for this destructive pest fish in the past 6-12 months, and they are literally everywhere. If you have a couple of hours off, take the kids down to your favourite backwater and have some arm stretching fun.

Once caught, humanely despatch them and return them to the water to benefit other water life. No, a dead carp cannot reproduce and they are far better back in the drink than stinking up the bank – just make very sure they are dead first.

Wentworth

It’s below the Wentworth weir and downstream where anglers have been taking the odd Murray cod. The further downstream, seemingly the better your chances which fits with the eventual diluting of the poisoned blackwater by the flowing Darling River joining with the Murray.

Golden perch anglers too have been well served in this area, with the occasional angler even bagging out when a nice patch of fish has been located. Once again, bait rules supreme in the dirty water, but don’t ever discount a noisy lure like a Jackall, a metal vibe or a clanging spinnerbait. All will attract the attention of a hungry perch if cast in the right area.

Forecast

By September the Murray cod season will be closed. It seems to be somewhat of a moot point, but should you be lucky enough to tangle with a green fish carefully release it back as soon as possible. We need as many of these fish to remain in the system as possible, if the region is to return to the cod fishing Mecca it once was. The golden perch will hopefully continue all the way through, and with the onset of the warmer weather the annual spring perch run is imminent. How will you know when it starts? Be out on the water whenever possible.

That’s it

The September column sadly brings an end to my tenure as Vic/Tas Fishing Monthly’s Mildura reporter, as my day job necessitates a move from the region. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Rod McKenzie and Gus Storer for initial encouragement to start the venture, and Neil Grose and Steve Booth for giving me the opportunity. Thanks to all readers for emailing me your reports and pictures, and I offer a grateful thanks to my faithful suppliers of local reports, fishing friend Wade Vincent and Got One Mildura’s team of Alan, Ross and Nicole. Thanks all.

Next month you’ll be greeted with a column by well-known local angler and reporter John Menhennett, and I guarantee as an angler and a writer he makes me look like a total amateur. Thanks to all my readers for your support over the past couple of years, and I’m sure you’ll offer similar support to John. See you on the water, Darky.

My best fishing mate Tom Dark with a great golden perch, affectionately known by him as ‘yellow tummies’. This one grabbed a little Goulburn Lures Codger, without doubt a prime golden perch lure for any region.

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