Drought takes its toll in Eucumbene
  |  First Published: April 2014

Things are crook in Australia’s premier trout fishery, Lake Eucumbene.

The long drought has seen the water level drop to 40% of capacity; the water is overly warm and short on oxygen and the few fish seen are listless and uninterested. Rainbows are almost non-existent, for reasons we yet do not understand and most of the browns that have been caught look to be older fish getting to the end of their tether.

Finding fish to catch has been a major hurdle. Few have been seen in the shallows during the day and shore based lure, fly and bait anglers have had a hard time of it. Many anglers have returned after a three or four day trip with no fish, or one or two at the most. The only ones to score fish seem to be those fishing deep down in water well offshore or fly anglers fishing at two o’clock in the morning when the temperature drops a little.

The fish are certainly there. On the sounder they show regularly around 12-14m, especially amongst flooded timber, and they can be taken on Tasmanian Devils and other lures on five colours of lead core line or a downrigger fitted with a 1.5kg bomb. It’s hard fishing, but that’s what happens during a prolonged drought.

If you have a boat, the lake is worth a try. If you are shore-bound think yourself lucky if you land one fish. Many anglers have given the traditional fishing away and settled down to catch yabbies instead. They are easy to find and are great to eat. You are allowed five two-ring drop nets in Eucumbene and can bring up to 200 yabbies home.

Trout Streams Low

All the trout streams in the Canberra-Monaro region are also in big trouble. Few are still running and the trout have either escaped back to the lakes or are huddled in residual pools hoping for rain. Many will not survive the hot, deoxygenated conditions. It’s a grim scene.

Kids Galore

On the brighter side, it’s been great watching the numbers of mums and dads taking kids fishing in Canberra’s urban lakes this summer.

Apart from Murray cod and golden perch the lakes carry inordinate numbers of redfin and carp. And both are dead easy to catch; the carp on worms and corn, and redfin on worms and lures.

The carp vary in size but fish of 2-3kg are common and give the kids a great tussle. The redfin are mostly in the 20-30cm range with occasional specimens to 38cm. Both fish are pests but while they are here we might as well get some fun out of them and they are great fish for the kids to learn on.

In addition the sense of adventure and the bonding between mum, dad and the kids is great to see.

Natives Still Active

The trout scene has been grim but thankfully the native fish have been going gangbusters. There have been continuing good catches of golden perch in Canberra’s five urban lakes and in Googong and Burrinjuck. Best lures have been smaller spinnerbaits, Jackalls, Burrinjuck Specials, and a wide range of other small deep divers. Best baits have been shrimps, yabbies, scrub worms and saltwater prawns.

The top spot in Canberra has been the deep water at Black Mountain Peninsula on Lake Burley Griffin and in Burrinjuck the flooded trees up round Scrubby in the Murrumbidgee Arm. Most anglers can land two to five fish in a session and catches of 20-25 fish have been recorded.

There have been a lot of cod around and the average size this year has been very pleasing, no doubt because catch and release is now so common. Many fish over 1m have been recorded, mostly on spinnerbaits, big deep divers and especially surface lures used at night or on quiet, undisturbed water during the day.

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