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Review of the brown trout 2016 prespawning run
  |  First Published: August 2016



The massive run of prespawning brown trout in the Thredbo and Eucumbene rivers this year was one of the largest many anglers can remember and has given rise to an unprecedented number of trophy fish photographs for fishers to admire in future years.

Fishing in the streams finished when the NSW trout season closed in June and fishing will not reopen until the October long weekend. For many anglers there was almost a sense of relief when fishing ceased, because it has been hard going. At the end of the season temperatures had plummeted to around minus 9°C at night and were not much better during the day. The water was so cold that ice had formed on much of the bankside vegetation and the edges of the streams. Intermittent alpine gales added to the difficult conditions. Woe betide anybody who fell in or simply ventured too deep in their waders, as one of my colleagues did. Twice.

Bankside conditions, too, had become a bit chaotic. On one occasion there were 145 vehicles at Denison on the Eucumbene River in a single day. Many of them made an awful mess of the river banks and associated areas, carving more and deeper tracks through the soft and wet soil. Those that became bogged created even more destruction of the original landscape. Obviously anglers cannot go on treating a National Park like this for much longer and moves already are afoot to restrict vehicular access beyond the Denison camp ground.

An interesting feature of this year’s run was the large size of the fish. General opinion is that the fish for much of the run were much larger this year than in previous years, as evidenced by captures made by two of my flyfishing colleagues. On their first foray to the Eucumbene River they landed 20 and 10 fish respectively, fishing overnight. The smallest fish was well over 2kg and the largest around 4.5kg.Other anglers landed fish to 5.5kg. This is good news because the big, hefty trout are regarded as good breeders.

This begs the question, however, as to where these outsized fish are for the rest of the year. They are rarely caught by anglers despite the huge numbers that obviously exist.

The answer is probably that they stay deep in the lakes for most of the year, feeding on yabbies and other bottom critters, below the depth at which most anglers fish and only emerge during the spawning run. There’s an obvious lesson for us there – if you want big fish work the deeper layers rather than the shallows and go really deep.

Another feature of interest during this year’s run is that the behaviour of anglers seem to have improved slightly. Sure there were instances of poor etiquette such as at the Thredbo River bridge pool when a fly fishermen was invaded and overwhelmed by five lure fishers who simply cast right over his line, forcing him to abandon the location. In many other instances, however, anglers collaborated with each other to allow each to have a chance at landing a trophy fish.

Instances such as simply moving out of the way when an angler with a hooked fish had to pass through were common and often there was a genuine sense of camaraderie along the crowded shoreline. It’s easy to forget how excited some anglers get when confronted with the chance of catching the trophy trout of a lifetime and sometimes manners and even common sense go out the window temporarily.

It was interesting, too, to see how few fish were killed this year. The law allows an angler to retain one fish per day if it is 50cm or better, with a maximum of two in possession. Despite that, few fish were taken and on one particular day at Denison not one fish was seen to be killed despite several hundred fish being landed. The only angler I heard of who blotted his copy book was a Canberra identity who was caught with two fish instead of one, with one of them undersized. His fine was $270. Otherwise everybody played the game according to the rules. The continuing presence of two NSW Fisheries Inspectors probably helped, too.

Fishing Elsewhere

Those who weren’t fishing the spawning run found some good rainbows in both Jindabyne and Eucumbene, using Power Bait, wood grubs and scrub worms. At Burrinjuck both the cod and golden perch have slowed but are still catchable on yabbies, shrimps, scrub worms and lures. The Main Basin, the lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee and around Wade Island are still the best places to try.

In Canberra’s local lakes a few golden perch have been taken on bait, especially live yabbies, although one angler did well using chicken breast to land some nice fish.

Murray cod in the region are still active and big-fish expert Sam Hancox landed a nice 113cm specimen on a lure during an early morning session in Secret Spot Number 46.

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