Big reds are still biting
  |  First Published: May 2017

Ballarat and district anglers have been scooping the pool over the past few months when it comes to catching quality big redfin in the district. Most of the reports I have mentioned over the last couple of months have been on Lake Wendouree. District anglers are now reporting catches in many of our other fisheries in the district. Wendouree isn’t the only water producing the goods.

Redfin (English perch) are an introduced fish species to Australia. They breed prolifically and can take over a waterway in plague proportions like the European carp, except they don’t do the environmental damage that carp do and the redfin are one of the best, if not the best, freshwater table fish to eat.

Redfin are classed as vermin. You are encouraged not to return them to the water when caught. Unlike some other species we fish for, redfin travel around in our waters in schools sometimes in the hundreds. If you are able to catch one, you can normally catch a bag full.

Redfin are caught using all different methods of angling. For anglers that fish bait I recommend worms, yabbies, shrimp and minnows (smelt). They can be used on a variety of rigs. The common old running sinker rig is the easiest to set up. Anglers using bait can target the redfin in lakes and rivers, they can be caught out of a boat, canoe or kayak or from the shore.

Redfin are a great fish to target when introducing new anglers to fishing. For anglers that cast lures or soft plastics, redfin find them irresistible at times and you can catch a big bag full in no time when you locate the schools of redfin.

I have been able to catch redfin on fly, so they are a great all-round freshwater fish to catch. Obviously the bigger they grow, the better sport they are and they really pull hard. As I have mentioned previously they grow to large sizes with 50cm being regarded as a trophy-sized redfin. I have only caught one that size over all my years of fishing, but you never know when the big one is going to come along. Last year I received reports of at least six fish that measured over that magical 50cm mark.

Cosgrove Reservoir is located approximately 10 minutes from the Ballarat CBD and is a small water storage, which is stocked annually with trout by Fisheries Victoria. The water is a land-based fishery with a rough walking track that follows the shoreline all the way around the reservoir. In some areas you nearly need to be a mountain goat, but the majority is easy walking Cosgrove has a resident population of redfin that are generally small in size. There are plenty around the 20cm size with the odd larger one thrown in as well.

Peter Voterakis, a good friend of mine, likes to target the redfin in Cosgrove over the autumn months and generally does really well casting soft plastics along the shorelines. This year has been no different to other years with Peter making numerous trips and bagging out on every occasion. Peter said this year he had quite a few bigger fish – bigger than in previous years with redfin in the high 30cm range not uncommon. Peter now has plenty of redfin fillets to eat throughout the winter months.

Cooper New, a very keen young local angler, has also been hitting Cosgrove on almost a daily basis, either riding his bike from Creswick or after his parents drop him off. Cooper likes to cast soft plastics or hardbodied lures. The deeper shorelines are his favourite areas to target reddies. Cooper recently snagged an absolute stonker of a redfin for this small water body. It was 39cm caught on a 5cm Redfin Bullet Lure pattern.

Mayfly time has arrived in the Central Highlands Region of Victoria, which includes waters such as Wendouree, Moorabool, Hepburn, Dean and Newlyn reservoirs. These are all fisheries where mayfly hatches occur. Flyfishers from all over the state will head to the Ballarat district to fish these waters. The hatches that occurred back in our spring months were the best for over a decade, which suggests to me that our ecosystems in many of our fisheries have totally recovered from the drought quite a few years ago. Lake Wendouree’s mayfly hatches are a standout.

Flyfishers will be looking forward to overcast or intermittent cloudy days with a little bit of wind. The mayfly hatch can start anywhere from around late midmorning to around 3.30-4pm, which gives the flyfishers plenty of time to catch a fish. Normally the biggest part of the hatch is around 2.30pm.

The mayfly hatch starts with the nymph stage where the nymph crawls out of the weed and heads towards the surface to hatch into the mayfly. The next stage of the hatch is where the nymph wing case opens to allow the wings of the mayfly to open out. Flyfishers initially use nymphs to replicate the first stage of the hatch.

During the next stage I have just mentioned flyfishers use emerger type patterns. For the final stage the mayfly totally hatch out of their shuck and fly above the surface of the water. Flyfishers at this stage use dry flies to replicate the hatch.

The whole mayfly hatch is fascinating to watch and understand. To give you the best chance of being able to catch a fish you need to know these stages of the hatch period. I really enjoy this style of fishing. Flyfishing for mayfly or dunn feeders occurs all over the world and we are very lucky to have it only five minutes from home. Trout certainly regard these small insects very highly if not top of their diet when they hatch.

Moorabool Reservoir I have mentioned over past reports as a place that should fire up. The action has finally started. Moorabool was heavily stocked during the winter months with both rainbow and brown trout sizes ranging from fingerlings to yearlings. The reservoir over the winter slowly filled, which allowed the fish to forage in the shallows and put on weight very quickly.

The water level in Moorabool is still very high due to a reasonably mild summer that we have had. The abundance of food is endless with both trout and redfin feeding extensively. The trout are starting to feed on the mayfly during the day and on evening they are feeding on red and black spinners for the flyfishers.

The next couple of months should make very exciting fishing. For the anglers who like to fish bait, mudeyes suspended under bubble floats will nail lots of trout and redfin. The ever-reliable garden worm is well worth trying and should result in some good catches as well. For those guys casting plastics and lures you should be able to snag a few as well. Moorabool holds some very big redfin going on previous year’s fishing reports. Also there are some very big trout lurking around, so be prepared to catch a trophy fish, because they are there.

I have saved the best for last for this month’s report. Lake Wendouree, or Lake Wendy as many fishers call it, continues to produce some of those big reddies that I have been talking about over the past few months. Anglers have been catching these big redfin from the shore, as in previous months most have been from boats.

What is great to see is a lot of young anglers are catching these fish. I refer to them as the young guns who frequent Wendy every chance they get after school, on weekends or any time that permits. A lot of negatives are put out there about the younger generation of today. Here we have all these kids fishing all the time, not getting into any trouble and having fun, enjoying the environment, practising catch and release and just generally enjoying the pursuit of their chosen sport – our next generation of fishers.

Young guns Riley Sternberg, Riley Makrai and Brock Reed have landed some absolute crackers ranging in size from 39-42cm on a variety of soft plastics and hardbodied lures. This is great to see. Rodney McNeight with his two young boys Justin and Thomas have been getting amongst the thumping big redfin that are lurking in Wendy trolling lures in the main rowing channel with the Redfin Bullet Lure bringing them undone. The boys have been bagging lots of smaller reddies as well. Over the next month I expect to see a lot more of these big redfin being caught as they start to go into pre-spawn mode and feed more aggressively. Lures and plastics will be attacked aggressively over this period.

I have spoken solely about redfin in this article. On Wendouree over the next few months we should see Wendouree’s rainbow and brown trout really fire up chasing mayflies. Trout also start to target the smelt/minnows that live in Wendouree. These small baitfish are one of the main food sources that they feed on for the next 3-4 months. I will mention this in the coming months when anglers need to match the hatch. We will need to use the bait, flies or lures that represent this food source.

Trev Crawford has been flyfishing Wendouree stripping Woolly Bugger fly patterns with excellent results catching and releasing some lovely rainbows. Exciting times are ahead of us anglers in and around the Ballarat district with many of our waters really starting to fire up before the winter slumber arrives.

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