Darling stagnates
  |  First Published: February 2003

Well, it finally rained out west. It may have only been enough to settle the dust, but for some of us it was enough to reassure us that it can still rain.

The rain fell shortly before writing this article and it has subsequently become hot and dry again. The bad news for anglers is that the rains did little if anything for improving the levels of our waterways, be they river or impoundment.

The fishing on the Darling River has really begun to slow down as the fish feel the effects of a stagnating river. The fishing on the impoundment-fed rivers has, however, kicked into gear as warmer temperatures have resulted in more active native fish.

The lack of rain in the long range forecast puts a pessimistic slant on fishing over the next few months. It certainly makes it difficult to determine the quality of fishing, that anglers in western and central western NSW might expect this month.

Bourke to Tilpa

The Darling River remains low with reports on deteriorating water conditions starting to come in. Some sections of the river are starting to stagnate with anglers encountering some particularly black-looking water. Anglers who have kept fishing in the hot conditions have continued to take a few fish on lures. Fishing has been best up-river of Bourke, with a few solid golden perch to 2kg and the odd Murray cod to 15kg being taken.

If there is no new water in the river by the end of this month, it will be difficult to predict what type of fishing conditions will greet anglers. It is more than likely that fishing will continue to be restricted to wetting a line in the deeper holes. Deep-diving lures or baits of small yabbies and grubs should get some interest from resident fish.

Forbes to Hillston

The Lachlan River has maintained reasonable flow rates up to the time of writing. However, one would expect that flow should drop in February as irrigation demands dwindle. Anglers from Forbes through to Hillston have been reporting a few fish about of late.

As released water has warmed on its journey downstream, the natives have responded by becoming more active. Bait and lure anglers have taken fish, with golden perch up to a kilo Murray cod up to 10kg reported. Deep-diving lures in darker colours seem to have been the order of the day of late, as have baits of worms, grubs, shrimp and yabbies.

The uncertainty surrounding flow rates this month makes it difficult to predict what type of fishing conditions to expect. Lure- and bait-fishing the deeper holes, particularly through the darker periods of the day, will be a good approach for anglers beginning afresh on the river.

Dubbo to Narromine

The fishing on the Macquarie River surrounding the Dubbo area has been good. As the water has warmed up, the fish have become more active.

As a general rule, the closer anglers have fished to the Burrendong Dam wall the quieter the fishing has been. The cold waters coming from below the dam wall seem to have had the effect of shutting down the fishing. Anglers fishing further downstream, in areas where the water has had more time to warm up have encountered much more responsive native fish.

Anglers have taken good numbers of Murray cod to 35kg as well as some good golden perch, catfish and the odd trout cod. Good numbers of these fish have been taken on mainly darker-coloured deep-diving lures, although the bait brigade has also fared well on grubs and shrimp.

This month should see warmer waters throughout the system, although the river will more than likely drop early this month. The fish should be very receptive to well-presented lures or bait this month. If the river remains low, try targeting the deeper holes with deep-diving lures or baits of grub, shrimp, worms or yabbies.

We are nearing crunch time with regards to the wellbeing of our local native fish populations. Our impoundments are starting to run perilously low and our non-impoundment fed rivers are fast approaching oxygen levels too low to support fish populations. At times like this all we can do is watch how we ourselves use water at work and home and keep our fingers crossed for some good rainfall.

Photo Caption List:

Photo 1:

Geoff Rowan with a solid golden perch taken on bait. These fish are becoming harder to find as the Big Dry continues.

Photo 2:

James Campese with a 40cm Murray cod prior to release. There have been good numbers of these fish caught in the Macquarie River on large deep-diving lures.

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