Plenty of changes afoot
  |  First Published: October 2007

Since we last wrote there have been some significant changes in the weather and in stream and lake water levels. Firstly, we have had a bit of rain; not a lot and not necessarily enough to break the drought of the past six years but at least we have some water in some of the streams and dams.

The urban lakes in Canberra have been a bit too cloudy for lure fishing but an occasional capture have been reported and fishing should pick up later this month. Among the more interesting captures was a 4.5kg golden perch caught on a lure in Lake Tuggeranong and several small Murray cod in lakes Burley Griffin and Yerrabi.

Daniel walker also had an exciting 20 minutes landing a 7.7kg carp which took a bibless minnow in Lake Tuggeranong. I have written before about carp taking lures and I still remain concerned that they may be more of a predator of other small fish than we give them credit for.

Burrinjuck also has started to fire up. Some golden perch have started their Spring run up the Murrumbidgee Arm and were taken on bait at Bloomfields, where water had spread over new ground. This should be a prime fishing area in coming weeks.

Fishing has improved also in Wyangala with good captures of golden perch and a few silvers on bait from the bank. Pejar Dam, near Goulburn, also is over 50% full again and there is even talk of stocking it again before the year is out.

The mountain trout lakes have fished exceedingly well all through Winter and should continue through Spring.

In Eucumbene it has been easy to catch rainbows on PowerBait day and night at the dam wall and, at the other end of the lake, browns have been suckers for wood grubs and bardi grubs. Polaroiding along the banks has been modestly useful but the mud has made access difficult. Boat launching also is still difficult and not a lot of anglers have enjoyed trolling.

Conversely, boat launching has been easy at Jindabyne and trollers have done well, especially with larger Rapala minnows and Bombers. Polaroiding from the banks with cased caddis and other small wets has been exciting and productive.

Bait fishers using bardi grubs and PowerBait have done well along the East Jindabyne shoreline and next to the Kalkite boat ramp. Catches have been a mix of browns and rainbows with just an occasional small Atlantic salmon.

The stream trout season is just about to get under way and many anglers will desert the lakes for the more interesting challenges of the small waters, providing there are still trout in them.


NSW DPI Fisheries has made some interesting, and in some cases long overdue, changes to fisheries legislation and most anglers I have spoken to think they are more than acceptable.

Firstly, they got rid of set lines. If you want to fish bait now, you can have two rods and you must be in attendance, i.e., within 50m and in line of sight. Nice and simple, easy to understand and fair to fish and fishermen.

Set lines were an anachronism, part of a bygone age. When we were kids, set lines were a lot of fun. We were scallywags, like everybody else, and we had a great time setting endless numbers of lines in rivers and creeks. We would wait until later, then go around the lines with a great sense of anticipation, popping the catch into hessian bags we’d lug back to camp with a great sense of achievement.

As the years passed several things caused us to change our attitudes. Firstly, going around the set lines, especially late at night, was just plain hard work. Our enthusiasm waned the older and lazier we got.

We also started to develop some sense of responsibility towards fish stocks. Long before conservation even became a recognisable word, we realised we were catching one hell of a lot of fish initially but that the catch rate was dropping off. That's when we started to question what we were doing, and cut back the number of lines we were using.

We also – shock, horror! in those days –started releasing fish we really didn't want. We copped all sorts of uninformed criticism but stuck to our guns and did what is now considered a perfectly normal way to treat a fish.

We realised also the damage left-over set lines did to other wildlife, trapping birds, lizards and other animals as well causing prime fish to die lingering deaths.

As the years passed and we became more adept at various techniques we developed a sense of hunting, rather than killing, and learned to take photographs instead of dead fish as trophies, and to take only what we needed to eat.


Pleasingly, that is now the norm for many anglers and the new Fisheries rule simply reinforces what has become the modern attitude amongst fishers.

Admittedly, we did have some fun with other people's set lines. On one occasion we found one line baited with a quarter of a rabbit on each hook. We removed the baits, straightened out the 12/0 hooks with a pair of pliers and then replaced the line in the water. Can you imagine the story that would have generated in the pub later, with the story of the big cod that got away!

On another occasion we pulled in a set line in the Murrumbidgee River, took the bait off it then hooked on a dead red-bellied black snake we had found and tossed it back in the river. Another great pub story presumably eventuated.

Other things we mischievously added to set lines over the years include a paddymelon, a large rock, a lump of water pipe, the remains of a roast chicken and a road-kill wombat. To the owners of those lines, my fond regards for the fun you gave us and my apologies to the wombat for such an unseemly disposal!


Changes to the possession law also are welcomed. Previously, in general terms you could be charged with excess fish in possession only in close proximity to a waterway. That meant that people who sneaked home with excess fish could go unchallenged, even if the authorities knew about it.

Now, under the new law, fisheries inspectors can knock off a villain anywhere, whether near a waterway or not.

I was a great proponent of this law after having seen it working in Victoria and in some overseas countries where abalone, salmon, snapper and other fish that had been implanted with traceable microchips and taken illegally were later traced to individual homes, garages or warehouses miles from the place of capture and the villains were quite rightly knocked off.

With the new law, no villain with an excess catch can ever feel safe until perhaps all the evidence is eaten or otherwise disposed of. A great deterrent.


One of the most sensible changes was to bring the muddled mix of eight different types of trout waters down to two – artificial fly and lure waters and general trout waters. I campaigned for years for these changes, arguing that the rules were too complex for even the most dedicated angler to understand and obey and that all of us were at risk of prosecution unnecessarily. Now there can be no excuse for breaking the law.

Changing the legal length of Murray cod, initially from 50cm to 55cm, then eventually to 60cm, is also sensible. It reinforces the regard in which we hold cod and helps in releasing as big a proportion as possible of those caught.

Many people subscribe to the idea that cod are not fish that should be killed and this rule can do nothing but assist in propagating that view.

The other changes to freshwater fishing rules all seem eminently sensible and reflect attitudes anglers have shown in recent years. This is a good example of the Department taking a mix of public opinion, scientific opinion and commonsense and distilling them to come up with useful and meaningful changes to the laws. We and the fish will benefit.

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