Rain throughout the Canberra-Monaro catchment typically triggers major changes in activity amongst trout and native fish and anglers this month.
This is spawning time for brown trout; rainbow trout will have to wait until August.
At this time of the year the browns develop their bright crimson regalia and migrate in big numbers to the lower reaches of significant rivers such as the Thredbo and Eucumbene, then move upstream to the spawning grounds in June and July. The massing of fish attracts large numbers of anglers who see this an opportunity to take what will probably be their largest trout of the year.
The rules for these rivers are simple. The season closes on the Monday of the Queen's Birthday weekend and from 1 May until the closure only one fish, which must be over 50cm in length, can be taken each day. Not that many people want to kill any of the fish anyway, because at this time of the year they are soft-bodied, milky, flabby specimens with poor palatability. Most anglers prefer to catch their trophy fish, take the obligatory photographs, then release it to complete its spawning ritual.
Gear in these streams is limited to lure and fly only; no bait fishing is allowed. Lures in common use consist of minnows, Tasmanian Devils, Wonder spoons and any other models which get down deep to where the fish typically lie. Rigs of Glo Bugs with trailing nymphs, weighted with split shot, are very popular and account for some large fish each year.
Fly anglers also use the Glo Bug rig, often resorting to sink-tip or sinking fly lines to get down to the fish. Many of the target fish are clearly visible in the clear water and the technique is to cast upstream then manoeuvre the fly to the fish's mouth and make a firm hook-up.
A word of warning. Fishing amongst crowds of anxious anglers is not everybody's cup of tea. There are daily battles for the best fishing spots, constant friction between and among fly and lure anglers, as well as tangles and bust-offs. The weather is cold, usually well below freezing and diesel commonly freezes in the car tank, immobilising the angler until late in the day.
Some anglers take great delight in fishing under these conditions for that one trophy fish of the year, while others don’t see the appeal and prefer to fish elsewhere or not fish at all. It's all a matter of personal choice.
There will be some interesting fishing in the big lakes Jindabyne and Eucumbene this month. Despite the big migration to the spawning grounds there are still some good browns to be taken. Some are early spawners which have finished their sexual activity and returned to the lakes, feeding actively to put on condition, others are late spawners taking their time to move to the rivers. They are best targeted down deep, with lead core line or downrigger, using spoons, minnows and Tasmanian Devils. Fly anglers usually fish wet, using small weighted nymphs or large patterns such as Mrs Simpson, Hamills Killer or Craigs Nightime. Bait fishers could do well with scrub worms, PowerBait and especially bardi grubs.
Rainbows, too, would normally be active, but as we have reported previously they are mysteriously in short supply this year. Deep trollers, fly anglers with sink-tip or sinking line and bait fishers with scrub worms or PowerBait might get a fish but from recent evidence the pickings could be slim.
Native fish in rivers and lakes typically feed heavily at this time of the year, trying to put on condition for the coming winter.
Burrinjuck has been the prime location and the current hot fishing should continue for at least another month.
Murray cod have been the big attraction, with good fish coming from the Main Basin, high upstream in the Yass River Arm and amongst the flooded trees and rocky cliffs in the Murrumbidgee Arm. The best lures have been spinnerbaits and extra large deep divers but a pleasing number also have been taken on surface lures, especially the Halco Nightwalker, Taylor Made Cod Walloper, Kingfisher Mantis, Koolabung Cod Walker and the new Stumpjumper Flipper. A pleasing proportion of the fish have been over the magic metre mark, presumably reflecting the increasing popularity of catch and release fishing.
Golden perch have been especially active, at all times of the day. They have been taken in many different locations in the reservoir but the prime locations have been amongst the flooded trees in the Murrumbidgee Arm. Scrubby and Little Scrubby have been especially productive. The best baits have been live shrimps caught on site, small live yabbies and lightly weighted scrub worms. The best lures have included Jackalls, Atomic Fat Grubs, Burrinjuck Specials and various other bibless minnows.
NSW Fisheries is seeking comment from anglers on the future of fishing for Murray River crayfish. Currently they can be fished for only between 1 June and 31 August. There is a bag limit of two per day with four in possession and they must be at least 10cm along the carapace but no longer than 12cm.
In recent years there has been a dramatic drop in population because of habitat destruction and overfishing. To gather information and opinions on future management Fisheries have released a Species Impact Statement and Ministerial Order, which can be viewed at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries or www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au.Reads: 931