The drought has had a wonderful spin-off in Canberra, with uncharacteristically clear water in all of the urban lakes and some good lure and bait fishing for golden perch, redfin and especially Murray cod.
There have been good catches of redfin, mostly small but with an occasional fish up to 1.8kg, on all sorts of flashy lures and on worm baits.
Some nice golden perch to about 1.5kg are taking deep-divers, flashy lures meant for redfin and yabbies, worms and bardi grubs. One angler in Lake Tuggeranong recently landed 45 redfin in one morning and another angler in Lake Burley Griffin bagged seven golden perch in one day.
The spectacular Murray cod catches, however, have claimed all of the attention. During the annual Carp and Redfin Catch Day in Lake Tuggeranong, one angler bagged a 12kg Murray cod on a bardi grub. A week later, another angler took a 15kg fish on a lure from the same lake.
In Lake Ginninderra, which is some years older but still smack in the middle of the suburbs, cod of 35kg and 39kg were taken on lures on consecutive days. In Burley Griffin, in the centre of Canberra, Chris Lee and Adam Casha landed a 35kg cod on a lure and another angler caught one of similar size near Black Mountain Peninsula.
Graeme May topped this with a huge fish that I estimated went at least 42kg, on a new Double Downunder lure which he purchased for just a few dollars from a local tackle store.
I am delighted to report that not one of these fish was killed or even seriously injured. All were treated with great care and respect, released to grow and perhaps fight another day. Well done, chaps.
As the drought becomes more intense in the high country, more and more of the Monaro Acclimatisation Society’s branches are rejecting their annual allocation of trout fry or fingerlings for river stocking.
Facing the reality that the fish will not survive the low water, high temperatures and low oxygen levels, they have reluctantly advised Gaden Hatchery at Jindabyne that it would be pointless to carry out the traditional annual stocking in most of the Monaro streams. At the time of writing, only some of the higher streams and perhaps the western added-flow rivers, such as the Tumut, will be worth stocking.
No decision had yet been made on where or how the brown and rainbow trout stock in the hatchery will be disposed of but the lakes look to be the only viable areas. Even so, some groups, such as those which look after Burrinjuck Reservoir, have decided against stocking with trout this season.
There is a risk in overloading the big mountain lakes with fish, too. There is only a certain amount of food to go around in these lakes and they already have been or are to be stocked with the annual quota of fish. The annual 300,000 Atlantic salmon fry have just gone into Jindabyne and when the rainbows go in, there will be some fearsome competition for food. Overloading doesn't necessarily mean better fishing, just the very real possibility of stunted growth rates and poorer fish and fishing.
A couple of Canberra tackle shop workers enjoyed fishing the 2002 Snowy Mountains Trout Festival, held at Lake Jindabyne and Lake Eucumbene..
Brian Newcombe blitzed the field by capturing a massive 5.7 kg hen rainbow on the second day of the seven-day tournament. The fish was taken on a No 56 Tasmanian Devil, orange with black stripes, on lead-core line in deep water in the Snowy River Arm of Lake Jindabyne.
There was high drama when colleague Nifty Ivill went to net the fish and the landing net broke in halves under the weight of the big creature. As net and fish began to sink into the depths, he leaned head and shoulders into the water and grabbed it, just in time.
I understand that as he heaved the fish into the boat there were several rude oaths of relief from the males on board and even a ripper from the lone female present. Given the size of the fish, she is forgiven.
The fish won trophies for Best Trout of the Day and Best Trout for the Tournament. Brian's colleague, Andrew Morrow, also did well, winning the trophy for Best Rainbow on Fly. The fish weighed 1,2kg and was taken on a dark bead-head nymph, winning Andrew a delightful new Loomis rod.
The Lucky Draw prize of boat, motor and trailer generated a great round of applause when it was won by the local policeman.
I can't bring you the rest of the details of the Trout festival because once again nobody has bothered to supply us with the details of the catches, tackle used, prize winners or anything else.
In fact, we haven't even officially been advised that the event is on. Surprising as that may sound, that is the real situation. This event is supposed to be the biggest fishing tourist event in the Snowy Mountains area for the entire year, yet there was virtually no publicity. I know of no posters, publicity, entry forms, conditions for the tournament or other information that I would have expected to be sent on a routine basis to radio, newspapers, magazines, fishing journalists or others in Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra.
The festival might just as well not have happened, given the lack of publicity and lack of response. I understand a mere 400 people turned up for the event, which is a poor crowd given the supposed stature of the event, the numbers of sponsors and the publicity and interest the event has generated in past years.
While I appreciate that events of this kind are staged by non-professional people who donate their time free and who obviously have lots of other things to do each day, perhaps it would be better if they got their act together or scrapped the event. Given that I have people still asking today "When is the Trout Festival going to be on?" and being aggrieved, puzzled or just plain disillusioned when told that it has been and gone, I suspect the festival has lost more friends than it has made.
Having said that, and knowing that it will put a few noses out of joint, let me make it quite plain to the organisers of next year's festival – if you want a hand, just ask. Ask me and the other writers, business people, anglers – anyone –for a hand. Don't tuck the event away in your tiny little Snowy Mountains world then complain that not enough people came. Let the world know that the event is on.
Canberra angler Brian Newcombe with the massive 5.7kg rainbow that won the top prize at the Snowy Mountains Trout Festival.
Photo: Andrew Morrow.
Graeme May with a Murray cod, estimated around 42kg, caught on a lure in Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin. Hooked in daylight, landed after dark, then released to fight another day.
Photo: Tom Koprowski.
Sometimes you just can't win. Angler "Stretch” couldn’t catch a carp or redfin during the annual Carp and Redfin Day on Lake Tuggeranong but did land this non-eligible Murray cod on a bardi grub. It was returned to the water unharmed.
Phot: Jacqui Van Der Vlist.Reads: 1953