I had some very encouraging news about estuary perch recently, and then a devastating report soon after. Firstly, the good news.
A group of anglers from Bairnsdale told me about some huge numbers of perch hanging on a couple of snags in the Mitchell River. They were all small fish under 30cm, and even down to 20cm. This is actually fantastic news because that means some successful breeding events must have taken place four or five years ago.
Interestingly, the boys called them ‘school perch’ because they congregate in massive numbers. The lads were able to catch a huge tally from each snag. What really made me smile though, was that these anglers wouldn’t dream of taking these fish for the table. They are part of an ever-growing band of anglers that practise catch and release.
They pointed out the plight of dwindling stocks of not just perch, but also bream in the Gippy Lakes. To keep their sport alive, returning fish is now almost mandatory.
Interestingly, these guys are by no means young anglers and have seen the glory days (or should that be the ‘sad old days’?) of years gone by, when any number of fish went home to the kitchen. To see these fellas change their whole angling philosophy is good news for future stocks and will help to secure a sustainable fishery for the kids of today.
It’s hard to believe now, but only a few years ago there was no bag limit on perch! The current bag limit for them is ten, with a mountain of growing support to get that down to two.
Professional fishers are also in the firing line when it comes to preserving our perch stocks. This brings me to the bad news.
Keen perch angler, Andrew Franks from Churchill, tells me about 70 boxes of estuary perch were taken from the Port Albert area last month. These fish were probably on their spawning run. I realise that this netting has been going on for decades, and it’s amazing that perch populations survive in the numbers they do today. But for how long?
Flathead are now well and truly on the march up all the three rivers. At the mouth of the Mitchell River, flatties are now on the go. As I mentioned earlier, perch are hanging on a few snags upstream, and if you happen to find them, guard the location with your life! Take it from me; it’s heart breaking when you see boats tied up around EP snags, with anglers filling up creels.
I dropped in on the Nicholson recently and although the water was a little discoloured it looked very fishy. Quite a few anglers were lining the banks, and with a dozen boat trailers in the car park near the ramp, this meant fish were definitely being caught.
The Tambo is also now firing for flathead. Michael Fennesy from Melbourne tells me that duskies to over 50cm were down at the mouth over the New Year. Up river, the water is still a little murky, but with the green water pushing further upstream every week, expect the fishing to improve.
Water quality has improved since December, but strangely the fish numbers haven’t. As a result, angler effort has been down. Conditions can change overnight in the Straits, so a trip is always worthwhile.
The flattie hot spot over the New Year was around Wattle Point where a lot of duskies were caught in water over a metre. This is a little deeper than normal but by searching in this depth, I’m positive the soft plastic brigade will get to land plenty of fish.
There are sure to be big numbers also present around Metung and Paynesville, and even anglers fishing local jetties should find a few. Remember the bag limit of 5 duskies in possession, per angler, still applies. (see the News section for an update about these regulations – Ed.)
Loch Sport had some pretty murky water in December but the summer easterlies have pushed the green water right across the area now. Expect mullet, bream and flatties.Reads: 1823