Catch and release before stream trout season ends
  |  First Published: May 2016

This is the last full month of stream trout fishing as the trout season closes on midnight Monday 13 June and doesn’t reopen until midnight Friday 2 September. This is as good a time as any to remind anglers that the streams and rivers of the West and South Gippsland region are not stocked with trout but rely solely on natural spawning so it’s important to practice catch and release, particularly to release those healthy breeders back to fight another season.

It’s been a very dry season, with below average stream flows and the start to autumn wasn’t any different. It’s difficult to predict whether trout will begin moving upstream early as a natural instinct to previous wet years or whether they will wait for conditions to become more favourable for spawning. Either way they will become more difficult to catch as their behaviour changes from aggressive feeding to focusing on producing offspring for the next season. As the fish back off from feeding, live baits and more natural flies or nymphs will out-fish lures. In any case, whatever you cast at them needs to be put right in front of their mouths and there are still no guarantees. This can often be frustrating when sight fishing. As an angler that appreciates trout, not just for the eating part, but for the sport of catching, it is rewarding to just watch and learn as they go about their business.

Not all is doom and gloom with the wind up of the stream trout-fishing season for another year. Eel and blackfish are still good targets in all of the streams around West and South Gippsland, and provide a lot of fun for anglers of all ages using light gear. Blackfish are an exciting winter target species in streams and can be caught using the same techniques used to target eel. A 6-7ft rod with a 1500-2500 class reel spooled with 2-3kg line is a good all-round outfit.

In slow moving water, fish bait off the bottom of the streambed using a size 6 or 8 baitholder hook with a running sinker held about a foot from the hook. In slow flowing pools, and if there are plenty of snags in the section of stream you are fishing, have your bait suspended just off the bottom using a float. Both eel and blackfish prefer slow flowing to still water and love structure like logs and rocks. Eel in these streams commonly grow 60-70cm and blackfish are typically caught around the 250-400g mark with larger specimens to well over a kilo being caught in larger bodies of water. Both species can be targeted late afternoon into the evening and can also be targeted all day if there is little sunshine about in the hills. Best bait by far for both species is live garden worms and put as many as possible on your hook.

Blue Rock Lake will still fish well over winter. Drop baits down deep to target bass; redfin and large eel will provide a bit of fun as by-catch. Early winter is a great time to troll up trout. Lures on a downrigger outfit work well up the river arm whereas out in the lake plenty of small pan-sized trout can be caught flat-line trolling.

Feel free to send me a report or photo, particularly if you have any success stories over the Easter holidays with the family. Please email me any questions. Happy fishing!

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