Trout make way for blackfish
  |  First Published: June 2008

Despite good rainfall during summer and early autumn, the local streams have been looking very thirsty but with the much needed rain we’ve received in late April-early May, the fishing is alive and well!

During April I took advantage of the reduced stream flow by slipping into some waders and tackling what I suppose I would call West Gippsland’s wilderness river, the Latrobe. Some may laugh, but if you head to a local place known as Hawthorn Bridge off the Latrobe River Road, Neerim East, then you will know what I’m talking about.

This section of the Latrobe River runs from Noojee, through the Noojee State Forest, and opens up to farmland near Willow Grove. The Latrobe offers a wide river with plenty of structure, rapids and deep pools. The lack of rainfall allowed me to wade a long stretch of the river, and during one outing I was able to catch and release 14 small brown trout. My techniques ranged from using a 5 Gillies Spinna and an F5 Rapala Minnow, as well as casting a scrubworm upstream (with a split shot above the hook to help with casting).

I also fished the Tarago River, upstream of Tarago Reservoir, which offered some exciting yet ultimately frustrating fishing after I dropped a superb brown. I reckon it is an underestimate to say this specimen weighed 1.5kg.

Even though the salmonid season is coming to a close on Monday June 9, at midnight, there are still a number of species worth targeting for the keen angler.

Regular correspondent Nick Iwanov fished the Bunyip River around Labertouche throughout April using a simple method of a garden worm under a ball float. He caught and released a number of small brown trout as well as landing a few nice eels. As he has recently purchased a fish smoker, he was able to practice smoking eel, which he reports back as being very tasty.

Eels are plentiful in the tributaries of West and South Gippsland. I remember many years ago feasting on smoked eel my Opa had caught in freshwater streams around Gippsland. After hearing of Nick’s recent culinary adventures, I too will now go and get myself a smoker and practice on local eel.

To catch eels you really only need the basic fishing equipment like a light 1.8-2m rod with a reel holding 2-4kg monofilament line. The best technique is to fish bait on the bottom or under a float. I’ve always found that the most productive time for eel is at night or early in the morning. The best baits are garden worms, live crickets and maggots.

The other target species during trout closed season is blackfish. They offer a great alternative to trout providing you use light equipment. Blackfish are a very shy fish and are best fished for at night, late in the afternoon or very early in the morning. Techniques vary from fishing worms on the bottom or under a float, but I wouldn’t discount using a lure or soft plastics. You may remember that in May I reported the capture (and release) of a very nice blackfish on my F5 Rapala minnow in a redfin pattern in the Tarago River.

The Tarago, Toorongo, Bunyip and Latrobe rivers are certainly worth a try when targeting blackfish. Unlike trout, you won’t find them feeding in the rapids. They are found hiding under shadows and structures like fallen timber and rocks, or in the deeper pools. A handy hint is to look for whitewash against structures, and be patient.

Good luck with targeting trout up until the start of the closed trout season, and please don’t hesitate emailing me any photos or reports.

Caitlin Maplestone from Warragul fishing the Latrobe River in Noojee. She reports that a short while after the photo was taken she caught her first brown trout, which weighed around 300g.

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