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Floods will challenge hardy anglers
  |  First Published: September 2016



The rain back in July was the first classic East Coast low we’ve had for many years – a flood event similar to 2007. Although this flood was smaller, the two days of solid rain hit catchments that were already saturated from early downpours. It’ll take a few months for things to settle into normal bream, perch, mullet and flathead fishing.

Sadly, we were on the cusp of a big yellow-eye mullet run, with reports of huge schools gathering near the rivers prior to the deluge. It appears the fresh water may have flushed those fish out to sea. The good news is that plenty of hungry bream are eating bait, and keen anglers have already caught big fish in the clearing waters. Lure anglers are slowly catching up.

Let the rivers run

All of the five rivers feeding the Gippy Lakes went into flood – some touched major levels for a short time. The Avon did its usual trick and rose from a trickle to a raging torrent in a matter of hours. The Avon rises and falls quicker than any river I know and I hope the thousands of stocked bass hang in there. The Latrobe does the opposite, it gathers pace over many weeks and takes much longer to drop out. The Nicho, Mitchell and Tambo Rivers all filled to minor floods levels, within a day or two after the rains.

The results for anglers are dramatic. Unsurprisingly, fishing reports were dismal after being inundated with muddy water. Rivers are now clearing nicely and weird things can happen after big rains. For instance, in 2007, six estuary perch I tagged in the Gippsland Lakes were not only flushed out to sea, but also turned up at Port Albert. That represents a 200km swim from where I released them. There’s real proof that fish exit the system, but what happens as far as the Gippy Lakes recruiting fish?

I hope kingfish return to the Metung area in summer, and for the mulloway we found at Hollands Landing and Lake Wellington, I’m sure they’ll return at some stage, however many months away. Sadly, looking back into my fishing diary over the last 20 years, I noted that after floods like the last one, the Hollands Landing fishing can take at least six months for lure anglers to confidently target fish again.

Bait anglers rejoice

For the vast majority of bait anglers fishing the Gippy Lakes, times are good. For those who know how to fish flood water, winter rain has been a blessing. Tambo is best fished with scrub worms using a little sinker. You could find bream as far up as the highway bridge. The hotspot recently has been the Mitchell River from the area between the Cut, right along the Silt Jetties to the lake. Lower Nicho is fishing better than most areas. The best bait, by far, is live shrimp. I’ve received plenty of reports of bream up to 40cm, days after the high flows started backing off.

Lure fishing

The water is still clearing up and fishing has improved almost every day. Lure anglers got word of big fish in the Mitchell, and although catch rates are less than the bait anglers’, large bream have been caught. Most fish are sitting in deeper water, right near the bottom, so black blade lures like the Sting 37 in Cracked Black are doing most of the damage. Heavily weighted Z-man GrubZ are also working okay. Bright coloured, sinking hardbody lures have been my go to lure – the Hurricane Kaplunk in the pink colour has worked a treat. Black hardbodies will also work just as well. Historically in dirty water, dark lures can even outscore my favourite bright colours.

It may be a tough time of year to target fish in the Gippy Lakes, but most anglers enjoy the challenge. In fact, I get pictures from different anglers with more bags of bream around 40cm, caught on blades in the Mitchell and Nicho. Sometimes a flood event can get the bream biting hard. There’s no time to waste, I’m off to fish.

1

The author caught stunning bream from 35-41cm while working the dirtiest shallow water. He used a favourite old Squidgy Wriggler, with eyes used for weight instead of a usual jighead. In that chocolate water, who knows how the bream found a lure.

2

The muddy water after the floods is challenging all lure anglers. Bright coloured hardbodies will need to be worked deep and slow.

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