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New season looks good
  |  First Published: October 2011



Every year as the stream trout season opens on the October long weekend we look back at the spawning season just past and the fishing prospects for the coming year.

This year's spawning generally has been very successful. Late Autumn and early Spring rains enabled the browns, which always spawn first, to get well upstream to the required gravel beds in the two main rivers, the Eucumbene and the Thredbo, early in the season.

Even better, the continuing rain urged more fish than usual to move to the spawning areas.

Later, heavy Winter snow and subsequent melt and runoff continued the process and overall there was a pretty good spawning migration.

The early run of browns also meant that they could get spawning out of the way and then return to the lake to put on condition to provide some top-class late Winter fishing.

It also freed up the rivers nice and early to give the later-spawning rainbows a go.

These runs of browns and rainbows are an important source of recruitment of new fish to sustain the heavy angling pressure exerted on the lakes and rivers each year.

Hatching fish stay in the rivers for a short while, then migrate to the lakes where more food is available and soon grow to catchable size.

Not all of them make it, of course. There are numerous predators to contend with.

Browns, for example, are notorious for eating eggs, fry and fingerling of both browns and rainbows. And there are other predators including lots of birds and some we are not real sure about, including frogs, mudeyes, yabbies, snakes and introduced weather loaches.

ASSISTED STOCKING

In addition to natural recruitment, Gaden Hatchery staff trap some of the migrating pre-spawners and strip them for eggs to be raised in the hatchery.

The offspring of these, together with those previously kept captive at the hatchery, are used for stream stocking throughout the Monaro district.

Rainbows also are used for stocking Eucumbene and Jindabyne to help cater for the heavy fishing pressure in those waterways. Browns are not stocked in the lakes.

A token number of brook trout and Atlantic salmon, raised from brood fish in the hatchery also are stocked in Jindabyne.

In an interesting offshoot of the main spawning program, hatchery staff have been sending progeny of the earliest-spawning browns to Ebor Hatchery in a continuing attempt to develop a population of early-spawners in the New England streams.

If this is successful, one outcome could be an earlier opening of the season there each year, perhaps as early as September 1, because there would be no need to keep it closed to protect spawning fish.

SEASON PROSPECTS

Guessing what the opening month's fishing is going to be like is a lottery because it can change significantly with just one major weather event.

At this stage, things are looking good. Apart from the fish getting spawning over with pretty early, there has been plenty of water in the rivers and lots more in the sponge country and aquifers that keep the rivers going throughout the season.

Water tables are probably at the highest level they have been at for the past 10 years. And fish stocked in the streams in 2010 as the drought broke are now big enough to catch and should provide worthwhile sport.

Bait fishers, in streams where bait fishing is allowed, should fare well with tiger worms, scrub worms, bardi grubs and PowerBait and should concentrate on the deeper and slower-flowing sections.

A light running sinker rig is preferred but a bubble float can be used in relatively still conditions.

Some anglers prefer to keep on the move, fishing sections of faster water by floating a lightly-hooked scrub worm down rapids and into the deeper holes. This can be an exciting form of fishing, akin to proper hunting of the fish.

Lure anglers can try a variety of patterns, including Celta, Mepps and other spinning-blade patterns, Imp spoons, blades, small soft plastic grubs or shads and minnows such as Rapala and Strike Pro Pygmy and Smelta.

REDFIN, NATIVES

Despite all the attention on trout on the opening weekend, many anglers will want to chase other species.

Redfin are well and truly on the move, having mostly spawned in August and now hungry and trying to put on condition.

They will take all the usual flashy, noisy, shiny, spinning blade lures, spoons, minnows, small spinnerbaits, blades and ice jigs, as well as worms, small yabbies and sometimes bardi grubs.

The larger fish will be mostly in deep water but the smaller specimens could be spread out anywhere.

Natives are a mixed bag. It's closed season for Murray cod until the end of November but in many waters it's hard not to hook one. You can help avoiding them by not fishing in their known haunts and by not using the larger lures that they love.

But if you do hook one make, sure you release it straight away.

Golden perch are the big quarry for native hunters. They are coming out of the Winter doldrums now and they are hungry.

They happily take scrub worms, tiger worms, yabbies and sometimes bardi grubs and quickly home in on the sight and smell of these goodies and vibrations from the live ones.

They respond well to deep-divers, spoons, deep-diving minnows and blades. Best locations include Canberra's five urban lakes, Googong, Burrinjuck, Blowering, Wyangala and Burrendong.

It looks like we are going to have a great start to the season and with a bit of luck, and some rain throughout the year, a possible return to the productive and happy fishing we enjoyed back in the 1970s and ’80s.

Facts

FLY CHOICES

Fly fishers have an endless choice available for the opening. My favourites include my own Purple Nymbeet, the small red and black Matuka, Woolly Worm and various coloured nymphs.

If the first patterns don't work I try a stonefly nymph and a stick caddis and if that doesn't get me a fish, I start ferreting through the box for all the small wets I can find. Nine times out of 10, however, these patterns are successful and when in doubt I resort to that great early-season fly, the brown nymph. Try it au natural first, then as a beadhead if that doesn't work. – BP

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