Trout ease, natives heat up
  |  First Published: December 2011

We have had one of the best spring time trout fishing seasons I can remember.

Trip after trip we are seeing decent-sized trout turn up and n recent weeks I have caught a 56cm brown trout and a 53cm brown trout, as well as quite a few around the 40cm size.

By January many of the smaller streams up here in North East Victoria have warmed up considerably and the trout fishing can get a bit slow. If you are fishing a stream and finding the trout casually following your lure in but not attacking it, this can be one of the reasons why and there is not a hell of a lot you can do about it.

One of the best ways to combat this problem is to fish early in the morning after the cool of the night when the trout are likely to be most active, or late in the evening when many dead insects fall onto the water and the trout use any energy they have conserved during the day to feed on these dead insects. This particular time of the day is often referred to as the evening rise.

In saying all this, not all streams will be warm and not all trout will be lethargic. Usually the plug has been pulled out of Lake William Hovell by January, or sometime in January and when this happens the water being released from the bottom of the lake is usually much colder and as a result the trout fishing can really fire in the King River between Lake William Hovell and Whitfield.

Other rivers such as the Ovens River upstream of Bright are naturally cooler due to the areas they run out of. The Ovens River comes straight out of some of Victoria’s highest mountains, including our second highest peak, Mt Feathertop and as a result the water can still be quite cool in January. This area is well worth a fish during the hottest time of the year. All techniques should work well, especially dry flyfishing and spinning/lure casting.

Bait fishing will also work very well provided the angler is using the right bait, and the right bait is whatever is in the system. If the water level is low as is often the case in January, then there is no point drifting worms, because they are not in the system. Have a look around you and see what is about. Crickets? Grasshoppers? Cicadas perhaps? If they are in the area, put one on a hook.

I remember my grandfather telling me a funny story years ago. Back in the 1970’s he was fishing the King River near Whitfield and had ran out of grasshoppers and was about to give up and go home. He got bitten by a March fly, so he swatted it. The March fly wasn’t completely dead, so he put it on the hook and caught a 2lb brown trout on it! So if you’re using bait, try and use what is occurring in the area naturally.

Cod and Yellowbelly

This area is not known for its yellowbelly fishing. There are a few in the Ovens River, but they are more so down in the far lower reaches towards Lake Mulwala. I have caught most of my yellowbelly from Peechelba downstream. I do encounter the occasional yellowbelly up closer to Wangaratta, but there isn’t enough up here to warrant targeting them.

Cod on the other hand are a different story. The Ovens River has some very good cod fishing around Wangaratta. The average size of the Murray cod in this area is not huge, however there are some good numbers of fish. People wanting to specifically target the big 100cm+ Murray cod should head downstream to the Murray River or Lake Mulwala where they are a bit more common.

Every year a few large Murray cod over 100cm are caught in the Ovens, but this is not common and these fish are quite rare. I have been fishing the Ovens and King rivers heavily for 30 years and still have not caught the elusive 100cm cod here.

I came very close back in 2008 though with a lovely 98cm model.

Just a reminder that if any anglers do happen to catch one of these iconic Australian fish over 100cm, they must by law be returned to the water. Murray cod have a maximum size limit of 100cm in Victoria.

The Ovens River downstream of Wangaratta is a fantastic sport fishing destination for Murray cod. It is challenging, with many trees lying across the river from bank to bank, and plenty of tiger snakes on the bank to contend with when walking around these fallen trees, however for the serious kayak and canoe angler the rewards are there to be found for your hard work.

I like casting large hardbodied lures as close to the logs and snags as possible. Murray cod are a very aggressive fish and will often strike a lure out of aggression rather than hunger. Using this theory I almost always use large lures with a fair amount of ‘intimidation factor’ about them. Spinnerbaits are also excellent in that you can fish them vertically. Murray cod will often hit the spinnerbait as it is sinking!

If targeting these Ovens River cod with bait, bardi grubs, yabbies and freshwater shrimp are all excellent bait.

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