Good season ahead despite fires
  |  First Published: July 2007

After a very good season, our alpine rivers are now closed to trout fishing and will not reopen until Saturday, September 1. Until then the lakes of the region are an option for diehard anglers, but most are snowbound and access is difficult if not impossible. Conditions are very cold too, so there’s not much joy there either.

Good lakes that one might seriously consider are the Mt Beauty Pondage and Lake Catani at Mt Buffalo. There’s also Lake Dartmouth at Dartmouth and the massive pondage below Dartmouth, Lake Banimboola.

More on lakes in a moment, but first I want to talk about bushfires, which seem to be occurring in the alpine region more frequently these days. As everybody knows, bushfires cause much devastation to the bush and to rivers and streams, not to mention towns along the waterways.

Victoria is one-third national park and as such has long been recognised as being one of the most fire prone environments in the world, due to a combination of climate, heavily treed wilderness areas and mountainous landscape features. As many will know, these features aptly describe most of the alpine region through which prime trout rivers, such as the upper Mitta Mitta, the Bundarra and the Cobungra, flow.

There are at least 14 rivers in the alpine region, but only about half of them provide good trout fishing on a seasonal basis. The rest have been affected by poor flows for one reason or another and are now artificially stocked with native fish that are doing very well and providing excellent fishing for anglers who chase them.

On average there are around 640 bushfires in Victoria each summer, with a third caused by summer lightning storms and the rest by accident or arsonists. But how do bushfires affect trout, and what is the impact on anglers?

There are lessons to be learned from the huge bushfires that occurred in 2002/03. Christmas 2002 was especially hot and people in the alpine region were on tenterhooks as the New Year began, well aware that conditions were ideal for a major bushfire to erupt at any time. Then a lightning storm broke out on January 7, 2003, starting 11 fires that quickly joined up into one big one and the rest, as they say, is history.

Many prime trout rivers were affected by the ash from the fires that washed into them, killing large numbers of bottom-dwelling invertebrates, caddis and dragonfly nymphs upon which trout depend for at least 85% of their food. In other words, the food chain that ultimately supports the trout was severely disrupted. To make matters worse the ash clung to rocks and hung around for quite a while, as below average snowmelts and spring rains over the next three years failed to sweep the rivers clean.

Clients of mine were again catching good trout as soon as the Easter following the fires, but nevertheless there was a definite downturn in the quality of the trout fishing. The following two seasons were noticeably poorer, but after that the fishing returned to normal levels – or even better than before the fires.

If we take 2002//03 as a worst-case scenario, we can be optimistic for the coming trout season. For starters the fires that we experienced here in the alpine region in 2006/07 were nowhere near as bad as 2002/03, and most were a long way from our prime trout streams. Added to that is that we have had good winter rain in the valleys and lots of snow on the peaks that will eventually melt and flush the rivers clean, affording trout a very good environment to grow and multiply. So, despite the fires, I am looking forward to what should be a very good trout season, hopefully one of the best for many years.


Rocky Valley and Pretty Valley reservoirs should be fishing well this month but are inaccessible to fishing because of high snowdrifts on the approaches and around the edge. Lake Catani at Mt Buffalo is producing a few rainbows to 900g that are rising towards dusk, but there may not be much action during the morning. Lake Catani is ideal for wading and holds a good stock of wild rainbow and brown trout that average between 750g and 1.25kg, with a few taken in summer in excess of those weights.

Dartmouth Dam is below 10% capacity but fishing remains very good and boat ramp facilities have been upgraded and car parking areas extended. All small streams and tributaries are flowing again. Releases down the lower Mitta Mitta River are restricted to 200 megalitres per day and the pondage (Lake Banimboola) is full. There are an average of 10 to 12 boats on the water most days with most reporting catches of two to three brown trout, mostly during the afternoon. Best areas include the Dart Arm with successful anglers trolling Christmas tree Tassie Devils and Brown Bombers at mid-depth.

Alpine fishing conditions can change very quickly whatever the season, so for the latest update phone Geoff Lacey at Angling Expeditions Victoria on (03) 5754 1466 or check out website www.anglingvic.com.au

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