Summer had an erratic start in our part of the world, with hot weather mixed with violent short storms, quick reversions to winter, then back to warm weather. It still hasn't settled in mid-summer, but at least the fish behaviour has become a bit more predictable and anglers have reported some good captures recently.
Redfin have dominated the lure, fly and bait scene in the local lakes. As in previous years, the fish have built up into enormous schools, which can be seen busting up around the lake edges, herding small baitfish into the shallows where they can be eaten. The fish can be taken easily on fly, lure or bait, and anglers have racked up some pretty impressive bags lately. One angler fishing Lake Burley Griffin landed 56 fish in one session, while others at Googong have recorded cricket scores in just a morning or afternoon.
Most of the fish have been small, but some larger specimens have been taken. At Googong, drifting and bobbing with scrubworms in deep water or trolling with deep divers yielded some great fish to 2kg, and bags of 1.5kg fish were common.
The best of the deep divers were the Golden Child from the Smak company, Jackalls, and of course the Burrinjuck Specials. The Golden Child has a wide bib that gives it a broad swaying action, which for some reason is very attractive to larger redfin. Jackalls and Burrinjuck Specials are just innately great fish catchers.
Soft plastics have also been effective. The best of them have a highly mobile tail action, which attracts redfin of all sizes, from 10cm tiddlers to 2kg thumpers. Pink has been the preferred colour, but fish have been taken on a wide range of other colours.
Redfin are a superb table fish, better than any other freshwater species in the region. They are best filleted and skinned soon after capture to produce a firm, boneless fillet that is ideal for the smoker, griller, steamer or barbecue. If they are not prepared for the table quickly after capture, the skin mucous sets rock hard and the fish become exceedingly difficult to scale or skin. Take time to prepare the larger ones as you catch them, and the time taken will be well rewarded.
There have been some interesting sidelights to redfin chasing, too. Golden perch and Murray cod commonly hang around redfin schools, feeding on them as they desire. They often take a lure meant for redfin and recently an angler in Burley Griffin landed a 3kg golden on a tiny lure, and another angler did the same thing with a 7kg Murray cod in Lake Ginninderra.
One angler cashed in on the publicity I had given in previous columns about the attractiveness of redfin as an aquarium fish. He was fishing in Burley Griffin and had just landed a handsome 62cm reddie when a passer-by, a keen aquarist, offered him $50 for it. He pocketed the money, but was a bit shocked later when I advised him that it is illegal to sell fish without a permit.
Anglers should note too, that although redfin can be kept as an aquarium fish in the ACT without a permit, a permit is required in NSW where the fish is a declared noxious species.
It's obvious now that somebody is illegally stocking bass in Lake Burley Griffin. A healthy 25cm specimen was caught in the lake several months ago on a scrubworm, and another of similar size was taken on a lure recently in the same location. Both fish were in perfect condition and, remarkably, seem to have survived Canberra's fearsome cold winter temperatures.
Bass have never been officially stocked in the lake and it is assumed that some private individual has been stocking them on the sly. This practice is unwise, as it interferes with official stocking and study programs with native fish, but it does raise the possibility of officially stocking the fish as a genuine recreational species. They cannot breed in the lake and are unlikely to seriously compete for food with Murray cod and golden perch, given the already existing impact of carp in the waterway.
Short bursts of rain from intermittent summer storms have kept regional trout streams topped up and flowing at a reasonable level. Fishing has been proportionately good, with some nice browns and a few rainbows reported from the Moonbah, Gungahlin, Thredbo, Eucumbene, Murrumbidgee and Yarrangobilly rivers and some of the smaller creeks.
Best flies have been brown nymph, Blue Dun, Watson's Fancy, White Moth and dark beetles. Celtas have been the most useful lure.
Fishing has improved in Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara. The 2013 rainbow stockings appear to have been successful and hordes of 30cm fish are showing each day in Jindabyne and Eucumbene. They can be taken on fly, lure or bait, although bait fishing has been hampered by heavy algal growth in the shallows. Fly anglers have fared best, with Pheasant Tail Nymphs and Iron Blue Duns during the day, midge balls late in the afternoon, and larger Woolly Buggers and mudeye patterns after dark. Trollers have done well with Tasmanian Devils and small Halco, Rapala and Strike Pro minnow patterns. Bait fishers mostly have relied on scrub worms, but PowerBait is slowly coming back into favour.Reads: 939