Gippsland the new bass destination
  |  First Published: April 2014

This summer has shown us that despite the trout issues Victoria is facing at the moment, the bass seem to be doing very well and giving anglers an alternative during these hot months.

The Glenmaggie catchment has been fishing great and the bass have proven very resilient considering the issues this catchment has had in the past five years. The bass are ranging anywhere from 15-38cm and considering 2014 will be the fifth year of consecutive stocking, the 35cm+ specimens are most likely from the original 2001/2002 stocking. This means these bass are very hardy and strong fish and have survived some atrocious conditions!

The hot afternoons have been the best times to chase the bass and surface lures, such as stick baits or poppers have been very good in this catchment, both upstream in the Macalister, the dam itself and the lower Macalister. During the day, spinnerbaits, deep divers and soft plastics fished deeper have been the best lures to use.

The local streams have also been producing bass, especially the tributaries of the Latrobe River and early mornings and evenings have been the times to fish. Hardbodied bibbed lures have been the best in 3-5cm models. Basically any hardbody you would use for trout, will smash the bass in the creeks and rivers.

Ideally over the next few years we can get even more bass stocked into our small streams, not only in greater numbers but hopefully in many more access points. I would love to see all our common Gippsland fishing locations that have good bank access for anglers to be teaming with bass.

The keen Gippy trout guys would have to agree that most of our rivers have been going downhill since 2011 when it comes to trout fishing. Fisheries also agree with this and say that this isn’t just a local occurrence but in fact it is statewide and there is some unknown environmental factor that has occurred in the last 2 years that has drastically reduced trout numbers Victoria. Obviously there are certain small streams not fished quite as hard that still have small trout in them, but most would agree nothing like pre 2011.

Likewise, the main streams we all fish in the area have been terrible compared with pre 2011. Water levels can’t be the answer as streams such as the Tyers and Upper Tanjil and tributaries have maintained a good water flow and trout are getting caught in these streams, but not to the quantities as usual.

The Strzelecki streams are where the decrease in trout numbers can be seen the most. Pre 2011, water levels over summer were no different to the past couple of years, yet you could still find plenty of trout schooled up in the deep holes, but now there are barely any in these holes either. So there are definitely some other factors.

We have some good discussions in the shop and I can to hear lots of different opinions and one that keeps coming up are the cormorants. I wonder if a study has been done or needs to be done comparing the cormorant and shag population with trout numbers per catchment. Wouldn’t this settle the argument? Why are the bass doing so well? Is it because they are native or is it because they have been regularly stocked into our rivers for the past 4 years? But the Strzelecki streams are not stocked. In the past year, 80,000 bass have been stocked in Gippsland verses approximately 20,000 browns and 20,000 rainbows in our Gippy rivers over the past year. Would there be as many trout being caught as there are bass in the other streams if equal numbers of trout were stocked? These are important questions that need answers if we want to see out local trout fishery back to what it was a few years ago.

I realise this is easier said than done as funding for these type of projects and manpower are at an all-time low according to the Fisheries people I have spoken to. Despite the different opinions, I am glad that Fisheries have conceded there is some sort of environmental issue happening affecting trout populations at the moment!

Anyway back to what’s being caught! There are some streams that haven’t been stocked with bass that are producing good numbers indicating that there are some escapees. I think it is almost certain that bass are escaping out of Blue Rock Lake and Lake Narracan. Pretty soon we may have bass in nearly all our Gippy streams and, I tell you what, I have no problem with that at all.

Blue Rock Lake is fishing really well at the moment, and the upcoming Hobie Bass Tournament should go really well, and I can’t wait to hear the results. Spinnerbaits have still been producing bass to 26cm consistently in the snags and also a few bigger specimens to 39cm. Small hardbodied lures and floating lures are producing plenty of bass during the evenings around the bank edges. Sorry once again, that I haven’t discussed the trout that much, but there’s too much going on with the bass to let it pass.

• For more information, contact Will at Allways Angling in Traralgon on 5174 8544. You will get expert advice and great deals on fishing bait and tackle. Tune into Rex Hunt and Lee Rayner’s Off the Hook on 1242 to hear Will’s report on what’s going on in Gippsland!

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