The easterly winds have been horrendous over the holidays earlier in the year, but we are finally getting a little respite. Over the next few months, fishing in the Gippy Lakes will move into overdrive as the calm days of autumn should see most of us able to wet a line on nearly any day. It really is my favourite time of year and it’s a pity work gets in the way of fishing.
I talked at length with commercial fisher Matt Jenkins recently and he told me he’s had a bumper season on the prawns so far. He said the average size has been very impressive at 20 prawns to the kilogram. He reckons that the food in the lakes system must be phenomenal, as the prawns were shedding on the new moon and, in his words, “absolutely jumping out of their skins”.
The only down side for Matt was that all the holidaymakers had left town early to escape the threat of bushfires which left the local market flat. He could supply any amount of prawns but there were few people around to buy them. The great prawn season still has a while to run, and it’s been good to see many families out at night getting a nice feed of prawns.
If you love eating garfish then you’ll be in heaven fishing the Tambo and Mitchell rivers. Big numbers of gars are showing up all over the lakes too, and sandworm under a float is by far the best bait. All you have to do is berley up the fish then when they move in get ready for a busy session. Matt Jenkins also mentioned that in all the years he’s been working the Gippy Lakes, he has never encountered the number of gars currently running right through the system.
Bream have really spread out across the vast area of this huge estuary. I’ve put in a few long days with the lures and although only getting a handful of fish on each occasion the size of bream has again been very impressive. I caught a very fat bream pushing four pounds recently and it ‘only’ measured 44cm! It was one of the best-conditioned bream I’ve ever seen.
I would suggest trying the lower Tambo and upper reaches of the Nicholson River for bream from now on. Talking to commercial fishers always gives me an insight as to current bream numbers and sizes and Matt Jenkins mentioned a prodigious run of undersized 26cm bream. He returned 800 bream that were all around this size one morning and they all swam off to fight another day – except for one solitary fish that was attacked by a cormorant. Contrary to popular belief, mortality rates for released fish are extremely low for commercial fishermen, with over 99% surviving capture and release. This year class of 26cm bream will grow into an impressive stock of fish for all of us to target from next year on.
The whiting around Lakes Entrance have been thick but most fish are around 24cm with just a handful of legal sized specimens for the plate. The Hopetoun Channel has again seen a lot of fishing and the whiting have been happy to take mussel. My son Jack joined me for a morning chasing estuary perch and although he only caught one fish, Dad was proud to see his boy land another pretty perch on soft plastic, then release it.
Everyone here is hoping that the rains don’t cause severe water quality issues. With most of the Gippy Lakes water catchment affected by bushfire, the potential for our rivers to be inundated with choking ash will be a major concern. For the time being, however, salt water has pushed well up into the rivers and lakes with the lack of freshwater input. With it comes a whole range of estuary fish and also masses of jellyfish that can be seen floating around in huge numbers.Reads: 543