Good news, there’s a touch of spring in the air. The days are getting slightly warmer and longer. Although cold fronts are coming through, with snow, ice, sleet and gale force winds, the general consensus is that the worst of winter is over. That’s great, but the even better news is we have plenty of water for a change. Persistent rain has filled all of the streams, and lakes that were perilously low a few months ago are looking near full. Burrendong, Burrinjuck, Blowering, Wyangala and Googong are all 90-100% full.
Eucumbene has slowly moved up to 44%, Jindabyne is at 85% and Tantangara is at an unprecedented 47%. Even Lake George, supposedly Australia’s largest natural freshwater lake, but dry for the past 20 years or so, has a vast sheet of water creeping over it and increasing each day. This means we not only have water available right now, but also enough in storage to carry us well into summer. Apart from what’s in storage, there’s an additional large supply trapped in the heavy snow mantle, which currently covers the Snowy Mountains and the saturated alpine bogs right throughout the high country, in the ACT and NSW.
The most important spinoff from the increasing water levels is that trout, golden perch, redfin and Murray cod are responding to the food washed out of newly flooded ground. They’re feeding around the edges where they can be most easily accessed by anglers. This has been particularly evident at Burrinjuck, which has moved quickly from 32% of capacity to over 90%.
Murray cod, golden perch and even redfin have moved from flooded trees and deeper water, where they were situated for the past year or so, to the edges of the lake, especially in the main basin. Bait and lure fishing from the shoreline has replaced trolling and jigging baits or soft plastics, around trees in deeper water. This will continue until the lake level stabilises. Fish will finish feeding in the shallows and spread out through different layers of deeper water.
There have been other interesting spinoffs too. At Tantangara, the stored water traditionally has been used to top up Lake Eucumbene, being sent down through the tunnel that exits at Providence Portal. Under new arrangements, this water will now flow down the previously water-starved Murrumbidgee River and create a marvellous new stream fishery when the trout season reopens.
High flows in the Thredbo and Eucumbene rivers have enabled the rainbow trout to more easily access their winter spawning grounds. From all accounts, the current spawning run is developing as one of the best for some time. Similarly, flows from Jindabyne down the Snowy River will assist bass and estuary perch to complete their spawning cycles further downstream. Water is indeed life to the region’s fisheries.
Canberra’s urban lakes are still cold and turbid. Consequently, they’re fishing slowly. A few golden perch have been taken on bait in Ginninderra and Burley Griffin, but you need to put in the hours to get a fish. Yerrabi, a small weed-infested waterway in Gungahlin, has emerged as the most successful of the urban lakes. It has a small urban and rural catchment and is clearer than the other lakes.
Good-sized golden perch have been taken on the now-famous Berkley 8cm black Minnow Grubs. These have been an unexpectedly good catcher in the region, during the past two or three years. We assume the fish see it as a soft, tasty and vulnerable fat tadpole, and swallow it down without hesitation. It’s been effective fished on its own, or dipped in attractants such as Berkley Gulp Alive, Squidgie S Factor, Stimulate Slam Recharge or Aniseed oil. The fish are mostly around 45cm, but a couple of thumping 60cm/4.5kg fish have been caught.
Those who braved the weather in the Snowy Mountains have generally been well rewarded. Good browns and rainbows have been caught in Eucumbene, especially at Seven Gates and Braemar, on wood grubs, scrub worms and PowerBait. Flyfishers have taken a few on Woolly Buggers and small black and red matukas, mostly around Yens Bay and Rushy Plains Bay. One flyfisher worked the deep water at the dam wall, with an intermediate sink line, for a nice rainbow. He counted the fly down to 30 before starting the retrieve.
In Jindabyne, good mixed bags of browns and rainbows have been taken on paddle-tailed soft plastics, worked around the rocky shoreline. The mix seems to be of hungry browns returning from spawning, and equally hungry rainbows, preparing to spawn. Many of the fish were stuffed full of yabbies and the remains of what appear to be goldfish and weather loaches. Other fish have been taken on PowerBait, especially chunky cheese and lime twist, and on lure and fly at Hatchery Bay. A few fish have been taken on lead core line, using Tasmanian Devils and dark-coloured blades.
We can await the opening of trout season, then cod season, confident that we have more than enough water in the streams and lakes to provide us with fantastic opportunities, to catch that fish we always dreamed about.
With continuing rain, rivers in the region are running high. Previous barriers to fish passage are now much easier for spawning and migrating fish to negotiate.
With the Murray cod season now closed for three months, it's time to let go any fish you catch accidentally. The result will be bigger and more fish in the future.
The now-famous Berkley black grub has proven to be a great lure for golden perch, redfin and Murray cod. Simple but effective, it can be used alone or with a variety of commercial attractants.
Plenty of trout are feeding in the shallows at Jindabyne and Eucumbene, searching for food flooded out of the newly covered ground.Reads: 483