The month of February can be a hot one – surface water temperatures in the lower altitude native fish dams, such as Wyangala and Burrendong, are typically in the high 20s at this time. Higher altitude trout lakes, such as Oberon and Thompsons Creek Dam, will be a little cooler.
In a way, these extremes on the temperature scale can often make finding the fish a little easier. Trout naturally occur in northern hemisphere countries where colder water temperatures are more the norm, so finding these fish in our Aussie dams at this time of year is all about finding colder, oxygenated water. For the most part that means going deep.
How deep? That depends on a lot on local factors. A good quality depth sounder on your boat will shorten your odds on finding fish tenfold. At this time of year you will quite often see on your sounder a definite separation of cold water and warm water, and this separation is called the thermocline. It shows up as a smudgy layer, sometimes 3-4m thick in mid-water on the sounder.
Below the thermocline is generally cold, de-oxygenated water that is nearly lifeless. Above the thermocline is warm to hot water that the trout find very uncomfortable to be in for long periods. However, the thin layer of water in between can be full of life, with baitfish, water fleas, and other tasty morsels at this time of year. More often than not these thermoclines are located in the main basins of dams where the deepest water is.
Catching these fish can sometimes prove very difficult. To fish these depths, some anglers use specialist equipment such as downriggers, lead bombs, clips and so forth. Deep jigging heavy spoons can also work a treat at times, along with slow rolling heavy lead head soft plastics, full sink fly lines and streamer flies. Most of these tactics work best in combination with a drift drogue and electric motor.
And don’t discount this layer of water for native fish or redfin either. The next cod or golden perch caught out in open water down on the thermocline won’t be the last. Wyangala and Burrendong have plenty of potential for this style of fishing, but I would be having a good look around in both these dams before dropping the downrigger bombs. Plotting a path on the GPS would be the go.
Night time fishing is not for everyone, but at this time of year it can prove very productive. The days of carrying around the Dolphin torch while you fish are long gone, now that we have good head lamps to free up our hands. Only take the essentials with you, always fish with a mate, and tell somebody where you are going and what time you will be back.
Cooler temperatures and low light levels encourage fish to feed more actively after dark at this time of year. Cod move away from their daytime snags to actively hunt for food, so fan your casts across shallow snaggy flats in the dams and big open pools in the rivers and creeks. You’ll find you can get quite a savage response. It pays to do some scouting during daylight hours to check out the conditions, depths of water, structure locations weed bed edges and so forth. This way you will be a lot more familiar with your surroundings after dark.
The moon phase is something to take into consideration as well. A full moon can sometimes see the cod holding on structure just like they would during the day. Generally I like the lead-up to the full because it gives you enough light to see what you are doing but the fish are still encouraged to move about a little. No moon can be sensational but it’s just so hard to pick out the bank and structure.
Night trolling for native fish, especially cod, is going gang busters at the moment. Word spreads pretty quickly about big fish captures these days, and Wyangala, Burrendong and Windamere have plenty of potential in this regard. I have had some success at Wyangala but have yet to land a monster. This form of fishing does have a lot going for it, particularly the lack of water traffic (during the day out there it can be like being in a washing machine). Like any night time boating activity, check conditions, go prepared and do your scouting runs during the day.
Hope to see you on the water soon.Reads: 747