Highs and lows of urban lakes
  |  First Published: June 2013

Canberra's five urban lakes have fished well this year. Because of the recent prolonged dry spell, the lakes have remained clear and there has been good lure and bait fishing for Murray cod and golden perch.

The small Yerrabi Pondage has been the best location for cod, with fish to about 85cm taken regularly on lures, bardi grubs, scrub worms and yabbies. Burley Griffin has been the best for golden perch but Ginninderra, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong have all yielded good fish.

Ginninderra has been the focus of attention because it was the location for the recent Canberra Native Cup, in which nearly 50 anglers fished for three hours from 6pm-9pm for seven consecutive Thursday nights.

The winner was local lad Troy Wilson, who led from start to finish. He used bardi grubs, scrub worms and yabbies and caught all four species – carp, redfin, cod and goldens – on every night that he fished.

He fished in the same spot every night and, incredibly, nobody tried to jump his possie. He won a $1000 cash prize, a gift voucher from a local Compleat Angler store and a beaut rod and reel combo from Shimano.

He said that scrub worms were the best of the baits. His party trick, by the way, was to fish close to the bank. While other bank anglers were casting way out offshore, he simply put the bait into his right hand and with the bail arm open, cast out to the edge of the weed beds. A trick worth trying next time you are bait fishing in a lake.

Incidentally, during the competition Troy lost a large cod which broke the line and took off with his lip grip. He felt sad about it because he assumed the cod would die a lingering death.

Luckily, however, another angler found the grip a few days later in shallow water about 500m away. The cod had somehow dislodged the grip and that's pleasing information for those of us who use the device regularly.


It's amazing to watch the efforts some people who apparently can't catch a cod by legal means trying everything else. Set lines plague every one of the lakes, despite the best efforts of other anglers to remove them and educate people on the proper way to fish legally.

On several occasions people also have been caught trying to net, jag or spear fish temporarily trapped in stilling holes below each of the dam walls.

The fish often are clearly visible in the holes and quite vulnerable to attack. Caring anglers sometimes hook them quickly then return them to the safety of the lake.

I was delighted on one occasion to see an angler darting through heavy road traffic clutching a 25kg cod he was returning to Lake Ginninderra, accompanied by thumbs up from the drivers and toots of approval all round.

The very next day, a fellow was caught trying to jag and spear the remaining cod in the same stilling hole. Curiously, following a discussion with other anglers, he fell in the water and his gear was suitably disposed of.

Several weeks later, another spear-chucker was seen probing the stilling hole with a three-pronged spear. Surprisingly, he too fell into the water and his gear disappeared. Must be awfully slippery around there.

At Yerrabi Pondage a large cod was found dead in the spillway with a large, weighted, four-pronged jag hook in its head. It apparently broke the line after it was hooked, then subsequently died – a sad loss.

Burley Griffin also gets hammered. Illegal nets are commonly used to catch fish although, luckily, are mostly weighted down with unwanted carp.

Anglers recently found a large illegal chicken-wire fish trap in the lake. These traps, together with the banned Opera House yabby traps, kill native turtles, water rats and platypus, which we are proud and happy to have in our lakes. These traps are continuous hazards in the waterways.

One of the funniest incidents involving fish stealing occurred at Yerrabi Pondage. A colleague was fishing off the rock wall at the lake and had landed and released several nice golden perch, much to the chagrin of a group of gentlemen nearby who had not caught a fish.

When he hooked and landed yet another golden, one of the gentlemen obviously couldn't stand it so he went down to the water's edge, unhooked the fish and decamped with it. He was last seen running away into the distance, clutching his prize.


The organisers of the Canberra Native Cup have organised a new competition which puts a bit of fun into local angling and pits north against south. To find which area, Tuggeranong in the south or Belconnen in the north, has the best anglers and which lake has the largest redfin, the competition will be fished over two days and all the fish measured.

There will be a stack of cash and tackle prizes and two local Compleat Angler stores have stuck their necks out and offered a free lure for every fish of 25cm or better brought into their stores. From past results, they better get a few thousand lures ready!


Googong Dam has been the standout location for redfin. Thousands are gathered in the shallows, to the delight of those who enjoy catching and eating these love/hate European invaders. It’s less of a thrill to those who are trying to catch a cod or golden.

In some places it is impossible to get a lure past the redfin. Hordes of them descend on even the largest of lures and it is common to get two or even three of them on the one lure.

At Burrinjuck, the redfin problem is replaced by carp but lure and bait anglers are still managing some nice cod and goldens, especially late afternoon in the Main Basin and the Murrumbidgee Arm.

Bardi grubs, scrubbies, yabbies and local shrimps have all been useful and spinnerbaits, blades and deep divers worked in medium to shallow water have been highly effective.


In the mountains the waiting game for the run of pre-spawning browns continues. The fish have gathered in large numbers in the traditional locations, Creel Bay in Jindabyne and Providence Flats in Eucumbene and boaters report their sounders are black with fish in both places.

As soon as substantial rain arrives, large numbers of browns are expected to move into the Thredbo and Eucumbene rivers and the mad rush of anglers seeking trophy catch-and-release fish will begin. By the time you read this, the madhouse should be well under way.

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