This is a good time to be chasing fish in the Canberra-Monaro region; the weather is neither Summer nor Winter but a nice mixture of both. Bushfires and bush flies are gone, the ankle-biters are all safely back at school and water conditions generally are satisfactory because the downstream irrigators have had enough and called it quits.
On top of that some of the fish tend to be pretty obliging as they slowly change seasons.
Canberra's urban lakes have been pleasantly clear for some time, except for the usual Autumn algal growth, and some nice fish have been taken on lures and bait. Murray cod and golden perch usually about now put on a feeding burst, presumably to build up body mass with a long, cold Winter ahead of them.
They tend to stay deep in the water during most of the day but can be reached with deep divers such as Custom Crafted, Deception, Downunder and Storm Hot N’ Tots and heavy flashers such as spinnerbaits.
Sometimes the fish move into shallower water just on dark, looking for yabbies and small fish among the rocks and weeds, and anglers sometimes get a pleasant surprise when a fish takes their lure right at the rod tip. Cod in particular will keep chasing lures well after dark and anglers have been experimenting this season with splashy surface lures and sub-surface buzz baits with modest success.
One of the great delights is to see someone take their first ever specimen of cod or perch in one of the five urban lakes, Burley Griffin, Tuggeranong, Ginninderra, Gungahlin and Yerrabi, which are stocked every two years with golden perch and Murray cod. I recently met a youngster who has been trying for a cod on lure for nearly three years.
He finally cracked it for his first, a cod measuring 57cm, on the dam wall at Ginninderra last week and the grin is still there from ear to ear. He took a lovely photograph and carefully released the fish and we are all proud of him because he represents the new brigade of caring catch-and-release anglers in this country.
Redfin have been the mainstay of the urban lakes. They are present in all lakes in huge numbers and breed so prolifically that we have to encourage anglers to practise catch-and-kill to keep the numbers under control. They are excellent to eat and the latest craze has been to put them through the smoker instead of grilling, steaming or baking them. Most of them of course are too small to eat but every now and then a larger specimen is caught.
Dairy Flat Bridge, on the Molonglo River, has been one regular hot spot and a 1.9kg fish was caught there recently. The largest fish reported to date weighed 2.5kg and came from Burley Griffin, where anglers have developed a technique of fishing drop-offs from a drifting boat with spinnerbaits, Celtas or other flashy lures worked right on the bottom in about 15 metres.
One of the good things about redfin is that often you can catch them from almost anywhere around the shoreline. Simply toss in a small jig spinner, Hogback or Celta and you are likely to get a hook-up. This is a great way to introduce youngsters and other newcomers to angling, especially lure angling.
Fly fishers also have a lot of fun with redfin. One group fishing alongside the boat ramp on Black Mountain Peninsula on Burley Griffin after work each day regularly catches 35 or more redfin on flashy flies such as a BMS, Jersey Herd or Jindy Special.
Googong Reservoir, on the Queanbeyan River, has not fished as well as we had hoped this season, mostly because of low water levels and continual closure on bushfire ban days. The level has improved recently as water is pumped from the Cotter River across to the reservoir but the fish either don't like that or have just decided they are not going to take lures the way they have in previous years.
Looks like we will have to wait until next Summer to see how it fishes because the resident cod and golden perch will soon go into their Winter torpor. Thankfully, too, we have gone yet another year without European carp showing up in Googong, although the area has developed a massive population of redfin which interferes with more serious lure, fly and bait fishing.
Burrinjuck was fishing well just a few months ago when the water level was well over 70%. Then the irrigators took control and the level plummeted in just a few weeks to 32%. Fishing dropped away alarmingly and even boat launching became a major chore.
In recent weeks as the level has stabilised a few cod have been taken in the Main Basin, mostly on huge silver or copper STM spinners worked slowly and deeply, but mostly they have been hard to find. Golden perch have been a bit more obliging and some nice ones were taken near Cave Island on scrub worms and small yabbies.
A crafty local from Yass also scored well using a Hogback with a trailing scrub worm up near Scrubby on the Murrumbidgee Arm. He landed two golden perch, 4.1kg and 6.8kg, let them both go and went home well satisfied.
Carp have been a real pest. They have eaten almost all of the available food on the bottoms of the lakes and rivers and left behind a seeming desert of sifted mud. They have turned to taking lures and two of us caught six in one day on deep divers intended for natives. They are great goers on light tackle but of course bloody useless to eat.
Some of the carp may soon be in for a bit of a shock. A private fishing company, Payvotts Mill in Somerset, England, has announced plans to import huge numbers of carp from Australia to stock their pay-to-fish dams. Pommy anglers apparently relish fishing for these despicable critters so they are welcome to take as many as they can with our blessing. As long as it's a one-way trip; once they are gone we don't want the bastards back again!
Wyangala Reservoir, on the Lachlan and Abercrombie Rivers, has continued to fish well with reasonable bags of golden perch and occasional silver perch and catfish taken on worms from the bank. Cod have been hard to find but some smallish specimens have been taken on yabbies fished overnight and occasionally on spinnerbaits during the day.
Local DPI Fisheries inspectors have done well in apprehending netters recently. One Yass local was fined $4225 for netting in the Murrumbidgee River and two regional locals were caught with five nets at Wyangala. They will face court soon and will face stiff fines if the offences are proven.
Trout fishing is improving in the mountain lakes after a bit of a lean spell. The level in Eucumbene dropped alarmingly in early Autumn to under 50% and fishing was pretty quiet.
Trollers resorted to lead-core line and downriggers to reach the fish showing on the sounder seven to 15 metres down but generally the fish were reluctant to take most lures. It has improved in the past week as water temperatures dropped and the last of the grasshoppers moved through the area and should get even better as the fish move back towards the surface.
Bait fishers have taken small to medium-sized rainbows during the day and some better rainbows and browns at night, mostly on PowerBait and bardi grubs. Mudeyes, curiously, often have been ineffective, even when fished alive.
Fly fishers are starting to take some nice fish at night and this should improve with the onset of colder weather. Best patterns have been larger wets such as Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer, Craig’s Night-time and Taihape Tickler. Hopper patterns and Humpy flies, sometimes with a trailing nymph in brown or grey, have been worth a try during the day.
Jindabyne has been quiet although the water level has stayed steady for some time. Fly fishing has been productive on the western side of Kalkite and around Hayshed Bay, with some browns already moving towards the river mouths. Look forward to some top fishing here in coming weeks, especially at night.Reads: 593