Trout cod fishery opens up!
  |  First Published: October 2015

October is a fantastic month to fish in the Wangaratta area. The rivers are all closed to Murray cod fishing throughout the month, however the other lowland species in the region begin to get active as the water starts to warm.

The lower Ovens River has plenty of carp, along with the odd yellowbelly, particularly down in the far lower reaches. Around Wangaratta there are stacks of carp with yellowbelly catches becoming more and more isolated each season.

Murray cod are a common by-catch around Wangaratta during the spring months. If I am fishing around Wangaratta during spring, I usually just use worms for bait in an attempt to avoid accidently hooking up to a larger breeding aggressive Murray cod as catching a cod during its spawning cycle can cause the fish abandon its eggs, leaving them open to predation from other fish.

If I do catch a cod by mistake whilst using worms, it is usually too small to breed anyway. All other species in the system will readily wrap their laughing gear around a well presented offering of garden worms rigged with a paternoster rig using the smallest sinker I can get away with.

The big news in this area is the opening of the trout cod fisheries in Lake Kerford and Lake Sambell, both at Beechworth.

In mid August, the Victorian premiere Daniel Andrews and a couple of his ministers, together with a heap of Victorian fisheries managers and other organisations travelled to Beechworth to announce the opening of the trout cod fisheries. I was fortunate enough to have been given an invite to the opening, which was quite a historical event.

Years ago, trout cod, otherwise known as bluenose cod were an abundant species of fish throughout the Wangaratta area. Over the years they declined in numbers to the point that they became extinct from the Ovens River system back in the 1980s, with the last known catch of a wild trout cod being in the Buffalo River in the early 1980s.

The decline in numbers can be attributed to a number of things including over harvesting, destruction of habitat (Pulling logs out of the river), and competing with introduced fish species for food.

From their extinction in all of their natural environments except 2 waterways, they have been bread in captivity and restocked en-mass to the point where they are now once again breeding wildly in the Ovens River catchment, and possibly other waterways.

In 2008 trout cod stockings commenced in both Lake Kerford and Lake Sambell in Beechworth, with the vision of one day opening a 'put and take' trout cod fishery, and that is what has just happened. Trout cod are still totally protected in all other waterways except Lake Kerford and Lake Sambell.

Currently there is no closed season on the taking of trout cod from Lake Sambell and Lake Kerford, and there is a bag limit of 1 fish per person per day. There is a slot size limit of between 40-50cm. Any fish caught under 40cm and over 50cm must be returned to the water unharmed.

So, here in North East Victoria we now have a cod fishery during the closed cod season, albeit only 2 small lakes.

I have caught trout cod in Lake Kerford whilst targeting redfin. I have not caught a lot as the trout cod tend to hang around different parts of the lake and have different feeding patterns to the redfin.

The best way to target trout cod in Lake Kerford is to walk along the rocky wall just on sunset, casting hardbody lures around the rocks. I find after sunset to be the best time, and well into the dark of night.

Personally, I have never caught a trout cod in there bigger than about 15cm. In saying that, I have only ever cast tiny minnows and soft plastics around chasing redfin. Perhaps a medium sized hardbody lure like a number 2 StumpJumper, or a medium sized spinnerbait like a Bassman Yellaman spinnerbait might draw in a larger fish. I do know that fisheries found trout cod up to 40cm long in Lake Kerford while conducting their electro-fishing surveys.

As for Lake Sambell, I would be trying the same thing, fishing along the wall and around any steep and snaggy edges I can find. I have not caught a trout cod in there myself, but have seen the electro-fishing results and know there are some in there over 40cm, in the ‘harvestable’ size range.

October is the best month to target trout in the region’s creeks and rivers as the water subsides, making wading safer and the water is still usually pretty cool. Towards late October some of the smaller creeks usually start to become a bit warmer, however it is not usually until November that the trout really start to slow down.

At that time of the year it is usually best to hit the larger waterways such as the Ovens River upstream of Bright where there is usually a decent flow of cool water pushing through.

In mid spring, I like shiny bladed spinners, such as the metallic super Vibrax. I also like small soft plastics, particularly tiny natural coloured soft plastics such as the Strike Tiger nymph, which mimics many of the insects in the area that begin their lives at the bottom of the river before emerging and growing wings.

If bait fishing for trout, you may be able to use worms for bait during October if we get a wet September. If we get a dry, warm September, then you may be able to get your hands on some mudeyes and try drifting them under a small float, or even just fishing them totally un-weighted.

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