The big dry continues
  |  First Published: April 2016

The Ballarat and District has really started to show the effects of well below average rainfall over the last few years. We are in the middle of another drought, our waterways are certainly stressed, and the fish are showing signs of the dry times.

Fishing has slowed as we move into the autumn months, which is one of my favourites times of the year. Cool nights and warm days; the water temperatures really start to drop and our trout and redfin start to feed up in readiness for the winter breeding months.

Lake Burrumbeet is another victim of the big dry at the moment, and only a few years ago the lake recovered from the last big dry. Like all lakes in Victoria, it was bone dry, but the drought broke, the lake filled with water, and fisheries released trout back into the lake. Unfortunately European carp survived in the Burrumbeet Creek and came back into the lake with a vengeance along with the redfin.

Lake Burrumbeet was one of Victorias best, if not the best, redfin fisheries in the state, and now once again is reduced to only inches deep. Even the carp are dying due to the low water levels and temperatures. The Ballarat City Council employed a local contractor to come in and clean up some of the rotting corpses of carp that lined the shoreline around the Burrumbeet Caravan Park, as the stench was unbearable with residents of the park complaining and threatening to leave. Over a number of days, the contractor, armed with pitch forks loaded dead rotting fish into a skip to be buried at another location. The contractor mentioned a lot of the fish were around the 2.5kg size and in total they removed approximately 7 tonnes of carp from just one small area. This is a sad state of affairs, but just another case of reality.

At Lake Wendouree, the fishing has quietened off recently, and I think this is mainly due to the water temperatures and all the recent boating activities that have taken place in the last month. There have been rowing regattas on every weekend and during the week the weed cutters have been running nearly 24/7 to keep up with the weed growth. I think all these things have taken a toll on the fishing. As we move into autumn, all these activities should stop and I think the fishing will improve.

During the autumn months, the fly anglers will look forward to the mayfly hatches, and every year there seems to be more mayfly hatching. It has taken longer in Wendouree for them to recover from the drought than in other waters, and I have been looking under the rocks that are around the shoreline for mudeyes recently, and under every rock there is plenty of mayfly nymphs, which is a great sign.

For anglers fishing bait, their catch rates will certainly increase with the cooler temperatures. Anglers casting lures will find it’s game on as the fish target the smelt or small baitfish that reside in the lake. Smelt will be the main diet as the insect life slows down.

Lake Wendouree is accessible to all angling forms with four boat ramps available and numerous jetties to fish from. There’s also around 6km of fishable shoreline.

Jo Howes is still getting among the fish in Wendouree. Jo loves fishing from either a boat or from the shore using mudeyes for bait suspended under bubble floats. Jo finds a shoreline that the wind is blowing off from and drifts her mudeyes around, and she has caught some good-sized redfin and recently, a personal best of 42.5cm!

I have spent a few sessions trolling lures in the rowing channel with some good results, recently landing some feisty rainbow trout up to 2.5lb, and overcast days have proven to be the best.

Newlyn Reservoir is the hotspot for anglers wanting to catch some cracking brown trout and redfin. Newlyn, like other waters, is very low, but if you are prepared to put in the hard yards like I have mentioned for the past few months, you will be rewarded.

Fishing buddies John Greengrass and Tom Nyugen are two guys who love the challenge of wading through weed and mud to catch a fish. Tom has snagged his first brown trout recently and then followed it up a couple of days later with a bigger 60cm brown, casting rainbow trout coloured Bullet Lures. John, not to be outdone, has snagged some big redfin well over the 40cm mark on the same lures.

Newlyn in the coming months is another water that gets a mayfly hatch, so once again the fly anglers are waiting for the hatches to begin. Other anglers who fish bait and lures, should be prepared to wade out and cast your baits, lures or plastics into the open weed free water to catch a fish, as there are some cracking fish lurking in Newlyn.

Tullaroop Reservoir is one waterway to really keep an eye on in the coming months as we move into the autumn months. The trout and redfin will move out of the deeper water and into the shallows in search of smelt, which is their main diet. The smelt normally venture into the shallow water in the coming months to spawn and the trout and redfin will follow.

Tullaroop provided some excellent fishing last year during the autumn, winter and spring months with some real trophy-sized trout being caught. I wait with anticipation of what might happen, as these fish will be bigger this year!

Photo courtesy of Lee Hadfield.

Photo courtesy of Jo Howes.

Photo courtesy of John Greengrass.

Photo courtesy of Tom Nyugen.

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