Crater Lakes desperate for a downpour
  |  First Published: February 2016

I reside in the centre of a trophy trout lake triangle, made up of Bullen Merri, Purrumbete and Elingamite. Unfortunately two of these three waterways are out of action with the third beginning to be affected by dropping water levels.

Due to below average yearly rainfall and a very warm summer, most of our freshwater lakes and rivers are in dire straits. We in the South West are no different to many other parts of the state but we have a communal worry for the future of our waterways.

Lake Elingamite was only open to small tinnies in September (and a tad longer for canoeists). Sadly only 300 browns (out of several thousand fish) managed to be released in restocking programs.

Lake Bullen Merri is severely affected by blue-green algae, and although some anglers fishing from the bank have caught the odd decent rainbow, the fish certainly should not be brought home for the table.

That leaves Purrumbete. Unfortunately, the water levels are receding here also and it’s become increasingly difficult to launch from the caravan park. If you want to fish Purrumbete, fish it now and leave the bigger boats at home. It’s only small tinnie territory at the moment. How long it will stay that way is anyone’s guess.

It’s not all doom and gloom, thank goodness! On Boxing Day we received over an inch of very welcome rain, plus a few days of cooler weather. This will certainly freshen up our lakes and rivers somewhat, even if only temporarily, and hopefully extend the boat-launching window on Lake Purrumbete. The rain may make an important difference to the Gellibrand River, which flows out of the western edge of the Otway Ranges and empties into the sea at the small hamlet of Princetown.

The curious case of disappearing juvenile blackfish

At the start of the Christmas holidays the mouth was still closed and the river very full. So full in fact, that no boat could pass under the road bridge to access the upper reaches. The Boxing Day rain event may well be enough to put a flow back into the river and open the mouth naturally.

New Years Day saw the reopening of the river blackfish season and the ‘Gelli’ is considered to hold a solid population of trophy sized ‘blackies’ compared to elsewhere. However, the recruitment of smaller fish seems to be on the wane. The minimum size limit is only 23cm, but in recent years hardly any small fish have been caught. Nearly all fish taken are mature, and to catch a blackfish in excess of a kilogram is no great hardship here.

Some sort of private breeding program is underway with the hope of restocking the river with juveniles but the question remains – what has happened in the river to cause the disappearance of small blackfish? Restocking is a good idea, but in reality only a bandaid solution until the actual cause of the disappearance is discovered and addressed.

The blackfish are responding well to scrub worm as well as bait sized yabbies. They can also be taken on soft plastics that give off a strong scent, with worm patterns a popular choice. The plastics have to be fished slowly. In fact, fished just like static bait in order to attract interest.

Apologies for the doom and gloom regarding our freshwater scene, but I fear things will worsen on the fishing front down here long before they improve.

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