The Yarra River is full of pleasant surprises and one of those is the Macquarie perch population.
The Yarra River is considered by many to have the strongest population of Macquarie perch left inVictoria, but it’s a problem population because they are an introduced species in the Yarra. In a world where so much is negative, this is one translocated population that is a boon for anglers. Whiling away a few hours catching ‘Maccas’on the banks of the Yarra at Warrandyte is a great way to spend a lazy evening.
The best parts about this fishery for me are that it’s accessible to almost everyone, and the techniques and tackle needed are not start of the art or complicated. In a nutshell catching Macquarie perch in the Yarra can be as easy as sticking a worm on a hook with a small sinker above it, chucking it out…and waiting.
Although you can catch Macquarie perch along much of the Yarra’s length, certainly from Dights Falls near the city up to Healesville. The strongest and most easily accessed population, however, is in and around the Warrandyte area. Warrandyte has myriad paths and parks up and downstream that give access to some sensational water. There are rock bars, deep gorges, shallow muddy stretches and plenty of timbered reaches. You can actually catch everything from big trout through to Murray cod in this area and the next ‘amazing’ capture to come from this stretch of water will not be the last.
I really like the Pound Bend area just downstream of Warrandyte because you can fish such a large area of the Yarra without having to drive or walk too far. Although the Pound Bend Reserve has its gates closed at dusk, you can still park your car on the outside of the gate and walk in to your favourite spot.
When targeting ‘Maccas’ I look for a stretch of river a rapid just upstream, which drops into a deeper hole, and which has a fair bit of timber along the edges. The bottom of these deeper areas is usually rocky, but this is often covered with a layer (up to 10cm thick) of fine silts and muds.
The warmer months of the year are by far the best for chasing Maccas in the Yarra because they school up for breeding and they are more active in the warmer water temperatures. The other reason the warmer months are a better time to target Maccas has nothing to do with the fish, it’s got to do with my own comfort. Melbourne winters are cold and nasty and I don’t fancy sitting around waiting for a bite from a Macca in 5 degrees with rain driven by a 20-knot wind. Give me a warm afternoon any day of the year.
The time of day is not that important to success, but I do most of my fishing from 5pm into the night.
So, the peak time for chasing Macquarie perch is on a fine evening from October through to April, which gives everyone plenty of time to get on the water.
Catching Maccas is pretty simple, which and is one of the reasons I like fishing for the little beasties so much. There are two main rigs I use, and both are variations on the running sinker rig.
Rig 1 is a running sinker rig separated by a sinker stop. The sinker stop is an important ingredient in this rig because it allows you to change the length of the leader between the hook and sinker without retying knots. It also means you only have one knot at the hook. Because you can easily change the leader length I fish a long leader in light current with few snags around and a shorter leader when fishing nearer to snags. I’m not even sure if this makes a difference but it makes me feel better.
Rig 2 is also a running sinker rig but I run the sinker all the way to the hook. This is the best rig when you’re fishing your bait in heavy structure.
Always use a sinker that just holds bottom. Often this is a sinker only the size of your thumbnail or less. You can actually get away with a pea sinker in most places, but where there is a bit of current your bait and sinker will get washed into the snags or a crevice in the rocky bottom if you’re not careful.
The hooks I use are only small as the Macquarie perch has a small mouth. I’ll most often use a size 4 chemically sharpened hook in a standard Octopus pattern without an offset, but I have gone to size 6 for small baits and up to a size 2 with bigger baits. The straight pattern helps minimise spinning of the bait in the current
Baits can be quite varied, but there is a lot to be said for keeping it simple. My first, second and third choice in baits are scrubworms. Most tackle stores carry scrubbies and a couple of dozen will see you through most evenings on the water. And don’t shy away from big, fat ones either – they work just as well as smaller scrubbies. You can also use wood grubs, maggots and small yabbies, but scrubbies have been my most successful bait.
Everyone owns a 2-3kg spinning outfit and this is ideal for catching Maccas. A rod that’s between 1.8 and 2.1m in length, has a soft tip and can take a bit of punishment is ideal. Reels can be of almost any quality from any manufacturer as Maccas do not run far or fast and the freshwater environment will not corrode the bearings and other moving parts. A 1500 to 2000 sized reel spooled with 2-3kg mono is perfect. I choose monofilament for Macca fishing because the way they attack a bait is very particular.
When testing a bait the Maccas inhale and exhale the bait several times and often in quick succession. If braid line was being used the Macca would feel the resistance a lot easier than with the mono that stretches a little. This feeding habit is also a good reason for running sinker rigs.
The other vital piece of equipment is a forked stick or a rod holder. You definitely do not want to be holding the rod or you’ll strike too early and spook the fish. You really want to watch the tip load up properly before striking or you risk pulling the hook and bait away from a fish.
While fishing for Maccas you will encounter many other species as the Yarra provides a diverse fishery. Eels are the number one by-catch and there are plenty of them in the Yarra. We like to fish until a time we call ‘Eel O’Clock’. That’s when the eel bites outnumber the Macca bites two to one. It’s normally right on dusk and you can pack up and get back home for dinner.
Murray cod are in the Yarra and are caught by Macca anglers. They range from small to scary and are a great by-catch. There are also a few golden perch in the Yarra along with trout, redfin and carp. All of these species will take scrubbies so you may end a session having landed half a dozen different species – and that can’t be bad!
So if you’re looking for a quick fishing fix and you’re near the Yarra, grab some scrubbies and a rod and reel and get on the water around dusk. You’ll have great fun and you could well tap into some sensational fishing.
Macquarie Perch Regulations
Macquarie perch can be taken only from Lake Dartmouth, the Yarra River and the Upper Coliban Reservoir and their tributaries. The taking of Macquarie perch in all other waters is prohibited.
Lake Dartmouth and its tributaries:
Minimum legal size: 35cm
Bag/possession limit: 1
Closed season: 1 Oct-31 Dec inclusive
Landed whole or as a carcass
Yarra River and Upper Coliban Reservoir and their tributaries:
Minimum legal size: 30cm
Bag/possession limit: 2
Closed season: 1 Oct-31 Dec inclusive
Landed whole or as a carcass