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High temps, low water levels
  |  First Published: December 2013



Spring took a fair while to warm up in this area with regular cold fronts and snow across the Alps right into November. People were complaining about the constantly cold weather, and anglers were complaining about the unsettled weather leading to poor fishing. By January the weather is usually very settled, and very hot, and so should be the fishing.

Trout

January and February are the two toughest months of the year to catch trout in the Ovens and King River catchments; water temperatures are usually at their highest, and the water levels are often at their lowest.

The smaller, rural flowing streams are usually best avoided as the water is so warm that the trout will often lay low in the deep pools and barely move as they sit still conserving energy. Wait for a flush of cooler, fresher water such as that found after a decent thunderstorm.

Fishing for trout in such conditions can be red hot if you know the stream has a good number of trout, however the trout are usually in poor condition and not worth catching as they have not eaten for some time. A bit like myself, in poor condition through lack of food!

The higher altitude streams such as the Dandongadale River, upper Buckland, upper Buffalo and such will all be worth fishing. The water will still be warmer than the trout prefer, it always is at this time of the year, however provided the water flow is okay, the fast flowing water will remain well oxygenated and the trout will come out to feed, particularly of an evening when the hot sun is off the water and insects are hatching out.

Redfin

January is usually a great time to catch big numbers of small redfin, when the water is warm and there is plenty of food around.

Lakes William Hovell, Buffalo and Sambell will all be worth fishing for redfin at this time; Lake William Hovell is the best of the three. Lake Buffalo has lesser numbers of redfin than William Hovell, however it has a few better than average-sized reddies if you're willing to persevere.

There are redfin in many of the regions smaller creeks and tributaries, but they have been very quiet all spring. It is hard to imagine them fishing well during the heat of summer if they are quiet in November.

Yellowbelly

Very much to my surprise I saw a photo of a magnificent yellowbelly that had been caught right in the middle of Wangaratta back in November. Yellowbelly are not common in the Ovens River catchment anymore, and to see one show up in Wangaratta is just wonderful.

There was a new fish ladder put into the Ovens River behind the Sydney Hotel last year, maybe this has something to do with it? This was the first yellowbelly I have seen caught in the Ovens River in Wangaratta for about 4 or 5 years.

In January, try fishing the Ovens River anywhere downstream from Peechelba if you are targeting yellowbelly. The large deeper holes with slower dirtier water seem to provide better habitat for the yellowbelly and each year there are quite a few caught down there on bait and lures. As a rule of thumb, the closer you get to Lake Mulwala the more likely you will be to encounter a yellowbelly.

Murray cod

These are the fish that the Ovens River is famous for. The river is one of, if not the, best Murray cod fisheries in Victoria. It has a healthy population of Murray cod from Myrtleford, all the way downstream right through to its junction with the Murray River at Lake Mulwala.

While the numbers are great, the average size of the Murray cod isn't so good, with legal sized Murray cod being something of a rarity in recent years. When the size limit was 50cm we caught heaps of 48cm Murray cod, because as soon as they hit 50cm they got hit on the head. Now that the size limit is 60cm, we catch heaps of cod around the 58cm mark.

Therefore the Ovens River is not a trophy hunting Murray cod destination; those big fish are in the Murray. There are a few in the Ovens, but not many. I would like to see a review of size and bag limits on Murray cod to help them grow to a bigger size.

In January, walking the banks of an evening flicking surface lures or spinnerbaits will put you in the hot seat to land a Murray cod or two, and if you are lucky, possibly even a protected trout cod which must be returned to the water.

During the day, kayaking is the way to go and is ever-increasing in popularity as the Ovens and King rivers are both heavily blocked up with fallen trees in many areas making boating extremely difficult, if not impossible. Casting hardbody lures and spinnerbaits is the best technique.

If fishing the Ovens River during January, just be very wary of the bushfire potential, especially downstream along the river flats where the native grasses are currently close to 4ft high and will be tinder dry by January.

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