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Interesting spawning behaviour
  |  First Published: July 2012



It's interesting to observe how different anglers respond to the trout spawning run in the Eucumbene, Thredbo and other rivers.

It usually starts in May when the browns start to move out of the big lakes and work their way upstream to the spawning grounds in the highly oxygenated gravel beds. They keep on coming during June and July and tail off during August, when the rainbows take their turn.

The rivers are closed to all forms of fishing from the Queen's Birthday Monday in June until the opening in early October, but that leaves a window of fishing opportunity during late May to early June when the average angler has a chance of catching what well may be the fish of a lifetime; a trophy fish.

The bag limit at this time is one fish per day and it must be 50cm or better to retain it, not that many do. The fish are in no condition to be eaten and most anglers want them as a trophy for mounting or a great catch to be photographed, released and remembered.

Some anglers, of course, refuse to fish at this time, claiming it is unsporting to target vulnerable pre-spawning and spawning fish. Others say they are not hurting the fish and not unduly disturbing the spawning run; it all depends on your sense of values.

Those that do fish can use lure or fly, but not bait.

Lure anglers use a spinner, spoon, blade, minnow or other hardware drifted down to get the fish to take it out of hunger or, more likely, from annoyance.

Male browns in particular can't stand another fish, no matter how small, invading their territory, so they slash repeatedly at minnow patterns, especially those from 7cm-11cm long.

They also have a penchant for fish eggs, hence the success of the traditional weighted Glo Bug-and trailing-nymph rig.

Fly anglers mostly use techniques to get down deep to where the fish are lying, mainly involving weighted nymphs, weighted Glo Bugs and sinking or sink-tip lines or sinking leaders.

This year was interesting in that the fish preferred larger Glo Bugs but smaller nymphs; it varies year by year.

THE RATS

Some anglers do not play the game, preferring to steal fish by illegal means. Some use nets to trap and remove the fish, others use jagging techniques.

Some use illegal bait such as trout roe, PowerBait or scrub worms.

One fellow this year boasted about catching 40 fish in one day using scrub worms. He even had four big ones in a mesh bag in plain sight slung over his shoulder.

It was the cue for nearby caring anglers to summon a Fisheries inspector and the villain will no doubt have some explaining to do in court.

There were some other lovely moments this year involving law enforcement. One of the best was when an inspector wearing waders and casual gear carried a rod and reel and pretended to be just another fisherman.

He had a ball identifying and apprehending the lawbreakers, who kept on coming through the day, blissfully unaware of whom they were fishing with until he identified himself. A great effort and one which hopefully will cause some of the boofheaded fish thieves to think again before they try their rotten tricks.

A number of big fish have been taken this year but the best I have heard of was a female brown weighing 7.5kg, 86cm long and caught on a fly. It was photographed, weighed and sent on its way to the spawning grounds where it no doubt will produce a heap of new fish to add to Lake Eucumbene.

LAKES OPEN

Now that the streams are closed, anglers will turn their attention back to the lakes, which remain open year round. Fishing generally has been good, with the fish given extra pep by intermittent rain and lots of snow.

Fish have been feeding well around the margins, taking PowerBait, scrub worms and bardi grubs as well as lure and fly.

The best of the lures have included a range of Celta and Insect spinners, Tasmanian Devils in light or yellow-wing patterns, blades, long shallow-running hardbodies, small bibless minnows and old favourite deep divers such as the famous Burrinjuck Special.

Trollers have fared best with flatline in the shallows then with 1-3 colours of lead core line in the deeper water.

Most of the fish have been 600g-1kg rainbows with occasional browns around 1.5kg or larger. All appear to be in splendid condition, reflecting the enormous amount of food around this year generated by continuing rain and flooding.

We should see a continuation of the good fishing for those who can withstand what looks to be a cold Winter.

LOWLAND LAKES

Fishing is now reasonably quiet in the lowland lakes and should stay that way until Spring. That doesn't mean putting the gear away, it simply means you have to put more hours in to get a fish.

At Burrinjuck, Wyangala and Googong, for example, if you troll and cast spinnerbaits and big deep divers you will eventually find golden perch and Murray cod.

They might be more reluctant than usual to grab a lure but if you work the snags and pester the fish for long enough you will get a hook-up.

It's just a matter of doing all the right things and having a lot of faith. And if that sounds like a religion then that's exactly what it is, a fishing religion.

It's the same with bait fishing. Sink a live yabby, shrimp or scrub worm or a recently thawed bardi grub alongside a steep rock face or a flooded tree and sit back and enjoy the Winter sunshine. By the time you have finished a glass of Chardonnay, very likely a cod or perch has smelled out your bait and you are hooked up.

What better way to spend a day in the great outdoors?

Canberra's urban lakes have mostly been quiet but a few cod and perch are being taken.

Redfin have been the biggest disappointment. A combination of floods and murky water either kept them off the bite or unable to see lures for much of this year and that won't change until the rain eases off and the water clears.

In the meantime the Murray River crayfish season is open until August and many anglers will combine regular angling trips for a try at the clawed critters.

They are fully protected in the ACT but in NSW you can take five per day if they measure better than 9cm along the carapace. The rivers are the best bet and anglers should note that a former hot spot, Lake Blowering, is still closed to cray fishing to protect the remaining stocks of our white-clawed friends.

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