Winter whiteness
  |  First Published: July 2014

At this time of the year in Canberra the view of the nearby Brindabellas and more distant Snowy Mountains commonly is dominated by whiteness. The snow season has arrived and that means any anglers who want to continue fishing during the coldest part of the year have some serious thinking to do.

Spawning Runs

Because of perceived problems with trout populations in Eucumbene and Jindabyne, especially rainbows, all the attention this season has been on the spawning runs of browns and rainbows up the Thredbo and Eucumbene rivers and the opportunity to do a head count of the fish.

The browns have already made their big run, although there are still a few stragglers to come, and the numbers to date look quite satisfying. Huge numbers of fish, many in the 2-4kg range but with occasional specimens over 6kg, made their way up to the spawning grounds in late May and June, and July is yet to come. Anglers had a lot of fun catching them on fly and lure, mostly with the Glo Bug and nymph rig, then releasing them to go on their way. The fish generally were in excellent condition and that augurs well for the future populations in the reservoirs. Browns of course are self-sustaining and none need to be stocked in the lakes. By the time the stream season closed in June anglers were well satisfied that overall there were no serious problems with the browns.

It may be a different situation with the rainbows. We know from experience during 2013 and 2014 that something has gone wrong with the rainbow population in both lakes. Quite simply they weren't there, or if they were there anglers mostly couldn't catch them, and nobody knows why. One way to find out if the numbers really have dropped, as many anglers believe, is to do a count during the spawning run. Rainbows generally make their major spawning run in August and September with stragglers in October, so we are all waiting to see the count for both the Thredbo and Eucumbene Rivers. Keep your fingers crossed that there will be enough fish to trap and strip for Gaden Hatchery to then produce enough fingerlings to do their annual stocking of the lakes. Rainbows are not self-sustaining and require stocking every year in order to maintain a suitable population for recreational angling.

Lake Fishing Prospects

Bait, lure and fly fishing in the main body of Jindabyne and Eucumbene has been hard lately and is unlikely to improve until the hungry browns return from spawning and scatter around the lake. You could put in the hours with lure and fly but expect the pickings to be slim. Catches will mostly be browns, and the rainbows probably will remain mysteriously hard to find. Bait fishers may fare best, especially if they use baits with plenty of odour, such as scrub worms or bardi grubs, and use attractants such as aniseed oil or various commercial preparations.

Urban Lakes

Fish are mostly quiet in Canberra's urban lakes but an occasional Murray cod, golden perch or redfin can be taken on lure or bait.

The best lures for cod are big spinnerbaits, big deep divers and surface lures. The spinnerbaits produce a lot of flash to attract the fish's attention and the bulkiness of the lures may prove enticing enough to result in a strike. Surface lures are still a bit of an enigma but are well worth a try. They are great to use in weedy lakes where there are problems with sub-surface lures, and although the hook-up rate is generally poor the great splash and noise of a boof are a reward in their own right. Surface lures are most successful at night, especially between 2-4am, but it's hard to climb out of the cot at 2 o'clock in the morning when the temperature is around -5ºC and the edges of the lake are crackling with ice.

Anglers also are reminded to take heed of health warnings issued in relation to blue-green algal blooms that have affected Canberra's lakes this season. The problem has been especially bad in Burley Griffin, and one angler fishing there developed a bout of severe nausea and vomiting, possibly from direct contact with the algae or from ingesting encrusted algal material on the bank. He is seeking appropriate medical attention.

Wyangala Variable

Wyangala Reservoir was patchy but well worth a try early in the winter. Bait fishers around Grabine reported plenty of small golden perch on scrub worms, but with incessant numbers of carp. Conversely, just up the Abercrombie Arm anglers reported the sounder being black with large fish and they landed impressive numbers of goldens to 3.5kg on dark Predatek Boomerang deep divers. This area could be well worth a look right through the rest of winter.

Burrinjuck Success

Burrinjuck has been the standout fishery in our region this season, with excellent captures of Murray cod, golden perch, redfin and the occasional trout.

Most of the cod have come from the Main Basin, with a few from the Murrumbidgee and Yass River arms. The best lures have been large deep divers and spinnerbaits, trolled or cast and retrieved, and many of the fish have been over 1m in length. Bait fishers have taken some nice specimens also on live yabbies and shrimps and on bardi grubs. Bardi grubs are highly effective because they are self-berleying with a great odour that Murray cod in particular find irresistible. They should be the top bait during the rest of winter.

Golden perch have shown in large numbers around flooded trees in the reservoir, especially up the Murrumbidgee Arm. Good bags have been taken on Jackalls and other bibless minnows, and on deep divers such as Burrinjuck Specials and deep-diving Rapala minnows. Bait fishers have done extremely well with bobbed shrimps, yabbies, scrub worms and green saltwater prawns. A reasonable proportion of these fish are likely to remain active during the remainder of winter.

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