January is the most unbearably hot month of the year in North East Victoria with scorching daytime temperatures, long daylight hours and hot dry northerly winds being the norm.
This hot weather can be both detrimental and beneficial to the fishing in this area depending on which species you are targeting.
Trout are a cold water species and at the hottest time of the year the options to target trout can be limited. Despite this there is still plenty of good fishing to be found. Anywhere along the Ovens River upstream of Bright will be worth a look as the catchment is quite large and steep, meaning there is usually still a decent flow of cool water in January.
The far upper reaches of the King River will also be a worthwhile area to target trout. Right up high near the old King River hut site, or Pineapple Flat and everywhere in between should fish well. In the upper reaches of the Ovens and King rivers pay particular attention to the low light periods of the day when the sun is not shining directly on the water, and during the day focus on shaded sections of the river where the trout are more likely to be seeking shelter from the direct sunshine.
Black is my favourite colour for trout in January as a lot of the trout’s diet at this time of the year is black such as blowflies, crickets, cicadas, nymphs and so on, therefore a bladed spinner with plenty of black on it will be worth a try. Something like a dark coloured Rooster Tail with black feathers on the hooks, or a black Super Vibrax will be a good starting point.
Redfin should be biting very well in January, as they seem to get very active during the hottest weather, particularly in the larger waterways. Lakes William Hovell and Buffalo should both be fishing well for redfin. Both lakes are littered with small redfin however Lake William Hovell seems to be the most reliable with Lake Buffalo producing more decent sized redfin.
Try fishing a brightly coloured soft plastic such as a 3” curl tail grub close to the bottom in around 8-10m of water. There are plenty of redfin to be caught in shallower water however I find the bigger fish tend to be down deeper in these clear water lakes. I like to let my soft plastic sink, and then just bob it around on the bottom directly underneath my kayak. If I do not get any fish I will cast it out as far as I can, and bob it up and down along the bottom as I retrieve it back to the kayak.
Other areas to target redfin in January are Lake Sambell and Lake Kerford in Beechworth as well as the lower reaches of some of the areas small streams.
As mentioned in previous issues, yellowbelly are not prevalent in the Ovens and King rivers however there are a few to be caught. This spring has seen more yellowbelly caught in the lower reaches of the Ovens River than has been caught there for quite a few years. Why this is I could not tell you, but at a guess I would imagine it has something to do with the summer flooding of the last two years re-arranging the entire waterways and allowing fish to move more freely between rivers than they have been able to for quite a while.
In January try heading to the lower Ovens River downstream of Peechelba to target yellowbelly. Live bait such as small yabbies, shrimps and worms have all proven themselves as great yellowbelly baits over the years, and for the lure fisher try casting lipless crankbaits such as Jackall’s and small 3/8 spinnerbaits such as Mudguts spinnerbaits close to the submerged timber. The closer you head to Lake Mulwala the more likely you are to encounter a yellowbelly or two.
The cod fishing can go either way in the Ovens and King rivers during January. It can be red hot or it can be dead. Much of this lies in the hands of the weather gods. In previous years myself and some of my mates have found prolonged periods of stable weather and a high barometer tend to lead to better fishing whereas cold fronts, fluctuating barometers and unstable weather tends to lead to slower than normal fishing. In the heat of summer, a heavy downpour which often sends a flush of dark grey water down the Ovens River tends to really shut the cod down for a period of time.
So if planning a trip to the Ovens or King Rivers to target a Murray cod keep an eye on the weather and look for lengthy periods of stable weather.
If you are targeting large cod, head down stream closer to the Murray River. Although not always the case, the far lower reaches of the Ovens River tend to produce more frequent catches of larger fish than the faster moving clearer upstream sections. Baits such as bardi grubs and large yabbies fished close to any submerged structure will see you in with a god chance of catching a cod, while lure anglers should try large hardbodied lures and spinnerbaits.Reads: 1227