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Cod fishing in Ovens cooking
  |  First Published: April 2015



April is a magnificent time of the year anywhere in North East Victoria. We usually get quite stable weather during April with cool nights and mild days. Frost can become a common morning event during April higher up in the valleys.

The fishing can be all or nothing, with red-hot bites or shut down fish. It is hard to predict exactly when the fish will bite, but one thing for certain is that during April, they will be on the bite at some stage!

Murray cod

Murray cod are the hardest fish in the Ovens River catchment to predict at any time of the year, especially during April. Long periods of stable weather can lead up to some really good cod fishing, whereas unstable weather with cold fronts crossing the region usually turn the cod completely off.

Early in the month when the water is still that little bit warmer is probably the best time to fish for cod, as the colder water towards the end of the month can really slow their metabolism right down and lead to really quiet fishing. This is all hypothetical and subject to change, but is a basic rule of thumb. It’s funny how I find April to be a really hard month to catch Murray cod around Wangaratta, yet at the same time some of my best fishing sessions have occurred at this time of the year.

Of the two main rivers in the basin, the Ovens and the King, I prefer to fish the Ovens during April for no other reason than because I have had more success in the Ovens in the autumn months than I have the King. The Ovens River upstream of Wangaratta should be flowing really clear and will be ideal for lure fishing. That is provided we do not get too much rain before then. Looking ideal and fishing ideal are two different things, and April is a very ‘hit and miss’ month.

Downstream of Wangaratta it should be a similar story. The Ovens River should be low and reasonably clear. The fishing in this area will also be hit and miss throughout the month.

I find bait fishing in the lower reaches of the Ovens River to be more productive than lure fishing during the autumn months. A bunch of worms will usually catch you something, whether it be a small cod, big cod, carp or even a yellowbelly if you are really lucky. Freshwater shrimp can also be a very good bait. In the past, I have found shrimp harder to come by during April, yet at these times they seem to be a better bait. I remember years ago when the Ovens River was stocked with yellowbelly, they always bit well during April and shrimp were the best bait. I would love to see fisheries start stocking yellowbelly into the lower reaches of the Ovens River again. I really miss those glory days, and I really miss having any type of bread and butter fishing in the Ovens River.

Trout

April can be a wonderful time of the year to target trout in the Ovens River catchment. The water temperature is always ideal. Water levels can fluctuate a lot though as these streams are all very dependent upon the weather.

The hardest part of fishing for trout anywhere in North East Victoria at the moment is actually finding the trout. With so many fishless trout streams these days it is hard to find a creek or river that still has a few trout in it to target. Surely some of our fishing license revenue could go towards topping up the likes of the Buffalo, Buckland and King rivers with a couple of thousand trout each year?

The Ovens River may fish OK as it has been stocked. It is the only trout stream to be stocked with trout in the entire Ovens River basin.

There are trout in some other creeks and rivers, but they are like Indian trout, Apache here and Apache there. Only dedicated trout fishers catch trout in North East Victoria these days as they are the ones willing to climb down steep banks, get scratched to death by blackberry bushes and wrestle hungry tiger snakes to do what they love the most, fish for trout in a mountain stream.

Redfin

Lakes Buffalo and William Hovell are the two standout redfin fisheries in the Ovens River catchment if you are looking for somewhere to head and go chasing redfin during April. April is the best time of the year to chase them in my opinion.

In Lake William Hovell, I like to fish quite deep. I find anywhere between 20-30ft to be good during April as the redfin seem to like the deeper water. My theory is that with the cooling evenings, the water surface temperature gets quite cold and the water down deep may be a bit warmer.

I also attribute the deep water to the insanely clear water in Lake William Hovell. Over in Lake Buffalo, where the water is still very clear, but not that clear as Lake William Hovell, I like to fish in around 15-20ft of water. I have always found this to be a good depth in that particular lake.

Both lakes will fish well for redfin during April. Small fish will make up most of the anglers’ catches, however if you are persistent enough you may find the bigger ones. Bigger redfin do exist in both lakes, but it can sometimes take a bit of work to find them.

Try bobbing soft plastics under the boat or kayak, or casting them from the bank if you are land-based. If bait fishing, it is very hard to go past very small yabbies, they are dynamite redfin bait.

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