Trout fishing on the mend
  |  First Published: March 2015

That's another summer done and dusted, and what a poor excuse of a summer it was!

We experienced some awesome Murray cod fishing around Wangaratta during December, but then once the new year arrived so too did a series of rain events and cool southerly wind changes, which led to a major slowing down of the Murray cod fishing. On the flip side, the trout fishing picked up and we had some pretty good trout fishing during January, something that is not overly common in this area. It's amazing how much Victorian freshwater fishing can be affected by the weather!

By March we should start to see some lengthy periods of stable weather, broken up by a couple of cold fronts. It is during these lengthy periods of stable weather that we are the most likely to experience good Murray cod fishing in the Ovens and King rivers.

The cod fishing can become quite fickle during March. Each year we see a similar ‘all or nothing’ trend with the cod fishing. In other words, you may catch a whole heap and you may catch none! Hardbodied lures and spinnerbaits can both be productive lures in March, and I have a personal preference for brighter colours. I am not sure why this is, but as the water begins to cool down a bit the cod seem to respond well to bright lures.

Both the Ovens and King rivers are likely to be very low during March. This is the time of year where they are usually at their lowest, and kayak fishing can become quite difficult, particularly in the King River, which is much smaller and narrower.

Boat fisherman will be best off heading right down into the lower reaches of the Ovens River around the North Boorhaman reserve area. This area is backed up by Lake Mulwala and is quite easy to navigate by boat. Care needs to be taken when boating in this area though, as there are a lot of logs and stumps lying just under the waters surface. It's advisable to motor slowly anywhere along this stretch of the Ovens River, even if it appears to be wide open and clear.

In these lower reaches, try trolling ultra deep diving lures. You could never buy a lure that is too large for Murray cod, so the largest, deepest diving lure you have will be your best shot. Lures like the large 150mm JD Python, the ultra deep diving stump jumper and large AC Invaders are all good.

Around Wangaratta, which is where I do most of my fishing, number 1 StumpJumpers are ideal as they cast great, dive very steeply and are proven Murray cod lures. Upstream of Wangaratta in the clearer water, I still love the large StumpJumpers, but prefer a more natural colour in really clear water when fishing with hardbodied lures.

Spinnerbaits will work well in autumn. Last year around Wangaratta I had a lot of success on the Bassman DT spinnerbait in bright orange colour.

Surface lures can still be very effective anywhere along the Ovens and King rivers during March. This season has not been the best season for surface luring Murray cod. I have caught a few on surface lures, but not nearly as many as I have in recent years. Hopefully things turn around in March. Surface lure fishing for Murray cod seems to be quite a seasonal thing. There is a clear link to using them in areas where Cicadas abound, and one of the best seasons I ever had surface fishing in Lake Mulwala was a few years back when there was a mouse plague. Hopefully this March we see some great surface fishing for Murray cod. Some things are hard to predict, so it is much easier to close our eyes and prey!

On the trout front, things may be looking up. We had the amazing 2011-2012 trout season after the flooding rains, then we had a completely dead 2012-2013 season followed by an improvement in 2013-2014. This season has not seen the trout fishing take a step backwards. If anything, it has improved slightly on last season, but only very slightly!

In Early February, I fished two creeks, one in the King River catchment and one in the Ovens River catchment. One fished very poorly with just one trout sighted, and two small blackfish landed, and the other creek fished well with quite a lot of trout hitting my lure. The problem was the creek was that overgrown with blackberries that I finished up looking like a giant pincushion by the end of the day! On a side note, it is always a welcome sight to catch a small freshwater blackfish.

So the trout are out there in patches. I am not going to name exactly which sections of which creeks have the best populations of trout, as I believe that if anglers have to work harder to find their trout, they will appreciate how vulnerable they are at the moment and may be more inclined to practice catch and release.

I am not one to push catch and release on anybody, but with very limited numbers of trout being stocked into very few creeks and rivers right now, if we wish to have a trout fishery in the future now is the time we really need to consider looking after our streams by releasing our trout. If you want a feed of trout, head to the lakes where they are stocked each year. Lake Eildon and Lake Hume are great places to grab a feed of trout. The Eildon pondage is an absolute ripper, which gets stocked with very large trout on a regular basis. These are all great places to keep a feed of trout and can sustain quite a lot of trout harvest because they are stocked.

Despite what some people may tell you, most of the creeks and rivers are not stocked and we are relying solely on the trout to spawn to re-stock themselves as our fishing license revenue no longer goes towards ensuring healthy populations of trout for us avid stream fishers.

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