Thank god March is here, or about to be here. Summer has been much hotter and drier than many of us, including I could have ever anticipated.
As a result the fishing was very tough throughout the hot weather, especially for those targeting trout.
The good news for March is that as the water begins to cool the fishing should really pick up. Even by early March the worst of the heat is over. The nights are cooler and longer which equates to cooling water and more active fish. The key to success will be rainfall. An influx of fresh water should see all forms of fishing throughout the Ovens and King river systems really fire.
As mentioned, the trout fishing has been very tough all summer, particularly in the smaller streams. Prolonged dry conditions have led to very low water levels with some creeks completely stopping by mid January. When this happens the trout will often lay low in the deepest pools along the creeks and rivers where they wait until conditions improve, which usually starts to happen in March.
At the time of writing this report it is hard to know exactly which areas will fish the best as nobody has a crystal ball to see when and where the rain will fall. If conditions remain dry, then your best bet would be to look for streams that usually have a higher flow, such as the Ovens River upstream of Bright and the King River upstream of Lake William Hovell. Inactive fish throughout the hotter months will begin to become active and come out to search for food as the water begins to cool.
In March that food source is often dominated by black crickets. If bait fishing for trout in March try using crickets, and if lure fishing try with a black bladed spinner of some description.
If a miracle happens, and we get a decent autumn break of rain which gets the streams flowing properly, try heading to some of the smaller waterways such as the Rose River, Buffalo River and Buckland River. These three rivers are very low at the time of writing and a decent flush of water will breathe life back into them and the trout fishing should really fire.
Even the Murray cod fishing has been pretty tough through the hotter months. My mates and I have been catching plenty of cod, but have really been working hard for them as the low river flows and warmer than usual water has seen the Ovens and King rivers become more like lagoons in many areas with water trickling in one end of the hole and trickling back out the other with the middle of the hole appearing quite warm and stagnant.
During March as the water begins to cool the cod in these pools will be keen to line their stomachs, so should be about ready to go on a feeding binge. As with the trout, a decent drop of rain would really help and could really kick off a decent Murray cod bite.
Murray cod are a native fish and have evolved over millions of years to adapt to our harsh climate, therefore they handle it better than the introduced trout and redfin do, so even without the rain, I am expecting some kind of an improvement in Murray cod fishing during March.
If the rivers remain very low, surface lures such as Koolabung Codlwakers and Z-man 4” Pop FrogZ should work very well, particularly during the low light periods, and even into the night. The usual large hardbodied lures, spinnerbaits and large soft plastics will also be worth trying, along with the tried and proven baits such as bardi grubs and shrimps.
The two main lakes in the Ovens and King catchment will both be worth fishing during March with redfin being the main target species. My personal preference in both lakes is to use small soft plastics such as the 3” Strike Tiger curl tail grub in whitebait pearl colour fished close to the bottom. I like to rig them with a reasonably heavy jighead somewhere around the 5-7g weight so that they sink quickly, and can be just bounced up and down off the bottom. I find this is a dynamite technique in both lakes for redfin.
Anglers preferring to fish with bait should try tiny yabbies no more than about 40mm long. Redfin love these tiny yabbies and will hit them all day. Worms also work very well however I have a preference for the small yabbies as I find they tend to catch bigger redfin.
Towards the end of March as the water cools down even more, Lake William Hovell may be worth fishing for trout as well. In late March I find the conditions for trout are marginal at best, however late in the day, in the shadows of the steep hills along the western side of the lake trout can sometimes be picked up.
I prefer the really small Tassie Devil lures of around 7g trolled behind my kayak in the shaded areas. Casting blades such as 7g TT switch blades can also work well, with the dull colours tending to produce more fish.Reads: 1033