With salinity levels at an all time high right throughout the Gippy Lakes, there are some truly amazing fish turning up in unusual places. With very little water flowing into the lakes system via the rivers, it looks like we will be fishing an almost marine environment for a long time to come.
The lack of rain has also impacted on the bar at Lakes Entrance and it continues to fill with sand, causing problems for the offshore commercial fishing fleet. They are finding it hard to navigate the entrance without bottoming out. This build-up has also affected the water level in the estuary, with levels up to 30cm higher in all the rivers and lakes.
Every once in a while I hear of a freaky catch in these parts, but the following story has broken all records. Marty Jackson from Longford decided to wet a line recently, fishing the bream and flathead filled waters of the McLennan Strait. Using smig for bait, Marty hooked the fish of a lifetime and landed a snapper weighing 4.45 kg! Not only are snapper unheard of in the Straits, but to land one over 4kg is just bizarre! Marty is a keen ‘Victagger’ and returns most fish, but this one he decided to keep. The snapper will be part of a scientific study, after the Jackson clan have had a feed, as the frame is going to MAFRI at Queenscliff.
The catch was made even more remarkable when Marty discoveredthe fish had several hooks in its mouth, as well as a swivel attached to a length of line being ejected from its backside!It seems other anglers had done battle with the big brute only to be broken off.
I’ve done a bit of homework since this bizarre and exciting catch and there have been a few smaller snapper landed in the area over the last few months, with most of them around 30cm. Anglers can only hope that we could be seeing the making of snapper fishery of the future.
Another fish starting to make more frequent appearances right across the estuary are luderick. I was walking the shallows of Lake Victoria at night recently, looking for prawns. I saw quite a few bream, eels, tupong, garfish and mullet, but the luderick out-numbered all those fish by ten to one. Most were juvenile fish of 10–15cm, but I did see a few larger models that looked around 40cm. When all these luderick mature, we should start seeing them caught in big numbers.
Fellow VFM scribe, Steve Haughton e-mailed me recently with a fishing report that already proves big tallies of luderick are being landed. He was using shrimp and sandworm near the Johnsonville boat ramp on the Tambo River with his girlfriend and a mate. Between them they landed around 80 luderick from 26–34cm, only keeping 15 between them. Not bad for a river that is hardly recognised as a luderick stronghold.
The great run of whiting continues with a lot of big fish to 42cm. Lake Victoria is one of the hotspots for these great table fare and anglers fishing near Loch Sport are catching plenty on sandworm and pipis. The mullet are also turning up alongside the whiting and in my opinion these ‘yellow eyes’ are just as good on the dinner plate.
Steve Haughton was also successful landing a few nice bream, with one very good fish of 1.2kg caught at night. I’m getting some secretive reports of a lot of good bream taken in the Tambo on soft plastics and hard-bodied lures. The successful anglers are keeping quiet and are not saying exactly where or how, but fish up to 45cm have been returned with plenty of bigger bream sighted but not willing to play.
Speaking of lures, I tried using tiny 3cm hard bodies recently and landed five bream and six perch on them during a 5 hour session. All the fish were 36–43cm. I was impressed to see that these little lures sank at a nice rate and I look forward to using them again. The bream season is really starting to hot up now, with my last last three days on the water yielding 42 fish to 44cm. All these were caught on hard-bodied lures, along with 13 perch and a few flathead.
The winter flathead run has now peaked and we saw only a fraction of fish encountered in years gone by. The regular hotspots, like the Tambo and Mitchell, are still producing duskies but the going is slow. The upshot is that the fish caught are of great quality and Mick Gned from Traralgon landed and released a ripper of 80cm. That’s a great river fish and was easily around 4kg.
Chris Ware and his better half Sue had a great session on these river flatties, landing over 30 and returning nearly all of them. They are a couple of soft plastic fishing junkies and have got the flathead sorted out using this method. I caught up with them on the water recently and they are two of the keenest anglers I’ve met for a long time. It was nice to see them pushing the catch and release ethic.
Recently, I caught a few flatties for DPI research scientist Jeremy Hindell, who is involved with tracking bream and duskies in the Gippy Lakes. He inserts $600 acoustic tags into the flathead, which give off a signal to listening stations throughout the system. We met at Hollands Landing but the flatties had all but gone from that area and it took me an exhausting six hours to get him just eight flatties to tag. I always seems the case that when you have to catch fish, you can guarantee they won’t cooperate!Reads: 3345