Blackfish and Crays Save the day
  |  First Published: August 2006

With no public access to notable impoundments in west and south Gippsland, the closure of the riverine trout season means trout options in this neck of the woods are limited. Where does a frustrated freshwater angler find some satisfaction?

Thankfully there’s no need to go cold turkey. There are two native species in Gippsland that provide great therapy for those with piscatorial problems. The first is the river blackfish.

Anglers can get a legal hit of these endearing natives up until the season closes at the end of August. Many of the renowned trout haunts (eg. Latrobe, Loch, Toorongo and Tarwin Rivers) hold blackfish, but often they are more prolific where trout are scarce.

Don’t be afraid to try less obvious waterways that aren’t first on your list for trout. To catch blackfish, take things back to basics. According to John Dalla-Rosa the most effective technique is an earthworm bait on a small hook beneath a running sinker.

Lob your worm into a quiet pool – and wait. During the day make sure you’re fishing close to cover because these are timid fish. In the dark it’s a different story; blackfish will roam all over a pool in search of food. Blackfish can make good eating but I’d be astounded if anyone had the heart to kill these little cuties.

The other species worth considering at this time of year is the spiny crayfish. Though freshwater crays are usually thought of as a Murray-Darling species, the rivers and streams of Gippsland are thick with them (though Gippsland crays are a different species to their northern cousins).

Crays can be caught in hoop nets, just like Murray crays. Gippsland crayfish often occur in shallow water and can be targeted using a baited string in the same way as you would catch yabbies.

This has the advantage of allowing you to get a bait right in close to cover. According to native fish expert Dave Shoesmith, crayfish feed on a native waterborne fungus and for that reason are more common beneath eucalypts (as opposed to willows).

Nevertheless baits of meat, liver or sheep heart are good. Most of the larger rivers in west Gippsland contain crayfish, but again, don’t be afraid to look for them in smaller, lesser known waterways where you might not try for trout.

So get out and have a go at these two oddballs. Check regulations regarding size and bags limits in your fishing guide first (or at www.dpi.vic.gov.au).

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