February is not only the last month of summer; it’s also the last reliable month for cod fishing in the Wangaratta area. From March onwards we begin to see a more erratic and unreliable feeding pattern with Murray cod. On the opposite side of the coin, as the nights get shorter and average water temperatures start to cool down we start seeing a bit of an increase in trout activity in the creeks and rivers.
The Murray cod fishing has been fantastic all season. Most anglers who target cod have caught them consistently. The majority of the cod caught in the Ovens River catchment have been undersize, however a few larger specimens up around 70-80cm have been caught. My friend Graeme Anderson recently caught a 105cm Murray cod right in the heart of Wangaratta at Christmas time. Graeme is a former Wangaratta resident and was home for Christmas visiting his family when he decided to pop down the river and drown some bait. Graeme caught his fish on KFC popcorn chicken using 4kg-braided line. Unbelievable!
During February the fishing should remain consistent. If there is a really strong cold front followed by a series of cooler days with southerly winds, the fishing may slow down, but by and large every day in February will be worth a try.
Towards the end of February, as the days get shorter and the nights start to become a little cooler, the fishing will begin the typical autumn pattern of ‘hot and cold’ fishing. Anywhere along the Ovens and King rivers will be worth a try to target Murray cod – expect the King River to slow down earlier than the Ovens. I find it much harder to catch a Murray cod in the King River during autumn than I do in the Ovens.
Early in the month it will be extremely hot! The first two weeks of February is usually the hottest time of the year in Wangaratta with some reprieve by the end of the month. During hot spells look for flowing water, a bit of current, and especially if the water is broken by some kind of rapid. These areas carry the most oxygen in the water during the heat and attract fish, especially when there is deep water nearby.
The trout fishing will be slow in the region’s creeks and rivers, especially at the start of February – the heat cripples the trout fishery. There will be places worth trying, particularly in the high country. Places like Lake Catani on Mt Buffalo are worth a try during the heat as the altitude assists to keep the water cooler. Lake Catani, the reservoir, and numerous little creeks on the Mt Buffalo plateau are all packed with small trout. The fish up in the high country are usually smaller, but it’s a great place to head during the February to beat the heat and get a trout fix. The Ovens River upstream of Bright will be the best area to head. Located in the foothills of the high country, there is usually a stronger flow of water there.
The second half of February could go any way with the trout fishing, and is largely dependent on how much rainfall we receive. A decent February deluge and a cool change in the second half of the month could trigger a bit of a feeding frenzy with the trout in the creeks and rivers, while little or no rain will most likely result in terrible trout fishing.
Lake William Hovell will be worth heading to, as the water level slowly drops away and the redfin fishing starts to heat up. If it’s stinking hot you won’t find a better place to swim and cool down in between casts. Baitfishers should try using tiny yabbies, while lure fishers should try soft plastics and bladed spinners. Those trolling from a boat should do well with ultra deep diving small hardbody lures. I like the Luhr Jensen hotlips lures, but the 50mm AC invaders go well too. The Halco Crazy Deep in bright colours has been extraordinary trolled from my kayak. They’re a slightly cheaper lure to buy and have accounted for many redfin captures.
|Murray cod||55-75cm slot limit, bag limit of two in lakes and one in rivers. Closed season 1 Sep to 30 Nov.|
|Trout||No minimum size. Combined limit of five salmonids per day in lakes and impoundments (in small family fishing lakes, no more than two fish may exceed 35cm. See agriculture.vic.gov.au for a list of family fishing lakes). In rivers and streams, the bag limit is five salmonids, of which no more than two fish may exceed 35cm. The closed season in rivers and streams in 2016 is midnight 13 June to 2 September. It’s an offence to be in possession of a hook and line in, on or within 20m of tailrace rivers during the closed season.|
|Redfin||No minimum size, no bag limit. Anglers are encouraged not to release redfin because they prey on native species.|