The drought still has us all in its iron clasp and the local lakes are low and dropping fast.
Lake Hume is currently at 16% of capacity and will probably have dropped to less than 10% by the time you read this. Dartmouth Dam is expected to be as low as 15% by the start of Autumn.
Most of the rivers and streams in the area are very low and sluggish with high water temperatures. These conditions have an adverse effect on the fish and fishing generally but there are still plenty of good opportunities if you are keen enough.
I believe the cod season will be one of the best for a long time. The low water levels will see a concentration of anglers on Lake Mulwala and the Murray River, which will be full with irrigation water. This means many more fish caught and talked about than usual. Lake Mulwala was drained last year so maintenance work could be carried out on the dam wall and hydroelectric systems. Since the lake was refilled, there have been many good reports from fishers targeting yellowbelly. I think this will also be true for the cod.
There are always a lot of people about at this time of year and there will probably be more than usual so you will find it hard to find a quiet patch to fish by yourself. There is plenty of room in the lake to fish if you stick to the timber and troll very slowly or drift and cast lures.
Stumps and logs are plentiful and so are the fish that use them as homes. Expect to be caught up occasionally and don’t worry about slowly bouncing the hull over a few snags, either. If you are drifting or trolling slowly, you should not damage an aluminium hull.
The northern shoreline of the lake is my favourite area for the drift-and-cast method. There is plenty of fallen timber and willow trees that provide cover and food for fish. There are also good weed beds which are a favourite with yellowbelly prowling for shrimp.
Spinnerbaits are an excellent choice around this part of the lake. Retrieve them very slowly and work the rod tip to give an irregular motion. The design of spinnerbaits makes them very snag-resistant.
The traditional minnow-type lures are also great to use but expect to get hung up a little more frequently. To minimise snagging, work the lure as slowly as you can. Usually a couple of fast cranks on the handle will get the lure down deep enough, then slowly retrieve with the occasional flick of the rod tip.
Don’t be put off by fishing in the shallower areas. Most fish are caught in less than three metres and plenty of them come from around one metre. An electric motor is ideal for moving quietly among the snags and is a distinct advantage on windy days when you can’t get the drift line you want.
Fishing around the channels and open areas is best left for first light and evenings, when the lake has settled from the hordes of ski boats and cruise boats.
On the rivers it is hard to find a stretch that doesn’t have ski boats screaming up and down all day so fish early or through the night. When there is a lot of boat traffic it is probably better to find a good-looking snag and fish with bait.
Lure loss is a part of cod fishing. A lure-retriever is essential. There are many types around, costing $15 to $20. Choose a sturdy one and use a cord with at least 75kg breaking strain. You are using big, heavy lures designed to hold big fish and they will get stuck. Slow retrieves and trolling speeds will minimise the severity of a snag-up, making retrieval a lot easier. I recommend carrying split rings, pliers and spare hooks to repair lures after snagging or catching fish.
Use locally-designed lures, as most have a degree of built-in snag-resistance. Stump Jumpers, Oar Gee, Knol’s and McGrath are among the best on the market and readily available in the area.
Lake Hume will be very low but the redfin should be about in numbers. The public ramp at the Lake Hume resort is useable down to about 11% capacity. It is on the main basin and no more than a few minutes travel by boat to anywhere else on the lake. Well worth using if you don’t have a four-wheel drive or a wife that won’t use a shovel.
For those chasing trout there is not a lot of opportunity. The Kiewa River is low but I recommend very early or evening when larger fish are sure to be feeding. Fish wet flies in the larger pools. Bait-fishers should use live grasshoppers or black crickets unweighted. Better fishing may be had on the dams at Falls Creek. The Mitta Mitta River is still running a screaming banker with icy cold water out of Dartmouth Dam and not really worth looking at until water flows drop.
You can email me for up to date reports if you are heading down this way and I have some more waterproof maps of Lake Hume available.
Noel Arnold and friend of Irmpyle with a cod around 16kg caught in the Murray River on a McGrath wide-body lure.Reads: 551