Trout love winter in Ballarat
  |  First Published: July 2017

The big chill has set in around the Central Highlands Region of Victoria, including Ballarat. Freezing cold, wet and windy days have set in. Snow is coming down to low levels – that’s all part of the deal living in and around Ballarat during the winter months.

Trout love these conditions. This is when the true hardy fishers put their winter woollies on, battle the elements and reap the rewards for their time and effort. We deserve to catch fish when it’s freezing cold and we’re out, instead of sitting at home in a nice warm house watching the footy.

Waters in the Ballarat district have certainly fired up with the excellent catches being reported by those who have battled the elements. Angler numbers are up for this time of the year, compared to other years. There have been a lot more reports filtering through from waters like Moorabool, Newlyn, Wendouree, Tullaroop and Stony Creek Reservoir.

On a disappointing note, I have fished at all these waters recently and the amount of rubbish that has been left behind is appalling. Anglers must remember it is a privilege to be able to fish these waters, not a right. The water authorities can shut down or close off access to our fisheries if we don’t obey the rules and regulations that are set, so let’s do the right thing.

Most anglers who target the winter run of fish seem to use artificial lures and flies, with most baits being hard to get, except for the good old garden or scrubby worm, salted and smelly baits, or PowerBait. During the cooler months the main food source for trout will be minnows or smelt, so anglers need to think about this and match what the fish are feeding on.

Select lures and flies that represent smelt or minnows to gain the best results. The bait fishers using worms and salted baits fish them on a running sinker rig, as the fish will be foraging around looking for food; there will be no surface activity for them to feed on.

I have been mentioning Moorabool Reservoir quite a bit over the past few months, and I will probably keep doing this. It will be the number one fishery in the district for the next few months and into spring. The reason is that Moorabool was heavily stocked by fisheries last year and the high water level that was maintained over the summer months has meant there was an abundance of food. The fish have packed on the weight and are constantly feeding.

Kiel Jones likes to fish the Moorabool Reservoir during the winter months, especially when he can find the trout feeding on the local smelt or small baitfish. This can be very exciting fishing and also very frustrating, especially if the fish are in a feeding frenzy. They move so fast while chasing these small baitfish that they can be at your feet one minute and then 50m up the shoreline the next minute. If you get your fly – in Kiel’s case, a fly pattern called the Green Machine – in front of them, they’ll grab it with gusto.

Upper Stony Creek Reservoir is not water I had mentioned or ever fished until recently. It is located approximately 50km from Ballarat on the Ballan Anakie Road. Stony Creek is managed by Barwon Water and was only reopened to recreational anglers in December 2016.

Stony Creek has been stocked by fisheries with rainbow and brown trout. The browns are two-year old-fish, some around the 2.5lb mark. Stony Creek also has a resident population of redfin. The reservoir is a shore-based fishery with designated fishing areas. The shoreline is very easy to walk around for fishers casting lures, throwing plastics, flyfishing and bait fishing.

The trout are certainly on the chew there at the moment. I had a quick-fire little session recently landing two lovely gold coloured brown trout and missing a couple as well on a Bent Minnow. For anglers who are going to fish Stony Creek, overcast days are the best as the water clarity is crystal clear. Again, please obey the regulations when fishing this water.

Newlyn Reservoir has proved itself to be an ever-reliable winter fishery for anglers who like to brave the elements during the winter months. The main food source as I mentioned is smelt. Small baitfish are what the trout and redfin feed on. Tom Nguyen is one keen angler who doesn’t mind rugging up during the cooler days and heading out to catch a fish. On one of Tom’s recent trips to Newlyn he scooped the pool with a day that he will never forget.

Tom likes to cast lures as a general rule and this day was no different, until the rain came and the fish turned on. Tom bagged five lovely brown trout on a Pontoon 21 green and yellow lure in no time at all. Just like a switch, the fish went off the bite and the rain stopped as well. Was that coincidental? Anglers who will be fishing Newlyn over the next few months should do very well. It’s a very good winter fishery, whether you fish fly, lure or bait.

At Lake Wendouree the fish are still biting for those who are prepared to brave the winter chill. There has been a very noticeable drop off in angler numbers over the past month.

Quality redfin are still being caught. Tom Kulczynski is one keen angler who puts in the hard yards all year and gets the results. Tom has recently started to target Wendouree for the big redfin that he had heard so many reports on. He was not disappointed and landed a couple of big reds of 1.8kg and 2.1kg on one trip and a bag of six on another. Tom found that the Wendouree redfin took a liking to vibe lures cast and retrieved very slowly.

The trout in Wendouree have slowed down over the past month. They have turned their attention to spawning instead of just feeding. They will take a lure out of aggression, though. On a recent trip I was casting lures in the main rowing channel when I had a follow from a lovely brown trout who swiped at my lure and did not connect. I then decided to change the lure, put a cast into the same spot and whack! The brown smashed my Spawning Rainbow Bullet lure. I landed and released the lovely 4lb brown to fight another day.

The trout are not totally on the bite at the moment. A lot of fish, both rainbows and browns, are following the lures in and not grabbing them. This will happen a lot over the coming months, as they are not totally focussed on feeding.

Photo courtesy of Kiel Jones.

Photo courtesy of Tom Nguyen.

Photo courtesy of Tom Kulczynski.

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