Making ferals fun
  |  First Published: February 2005

We've had a great round of carp catches in Canberra recently.

Firstly, there was the annual Great Carp Catch staged at Lake Tuggeranong, on the south side of town. This is a competition for all age groups, and especially families, in which any tackle – lure, bait or fly– is allowed in a quest to see who can catch carp or redfin (the only two eligible species) closest to a mystery weight for each age group.

The idea of the mystery weight is that any fish of any size might be the winning fish and that makes all anglers, irrespective of their skill, equal.

The event was staged over four hours in glorious weather and a stunning total of 532kg of carp was weighed in. That's 133kg per hour and about 1.6kg per angler for the event.

Most were caught on corn but worm-drowners landed a few and also accounted for about 6kg of redfin. The heaviest carp weighed 10.5kg and the heaviest redfin just over a kilo. The smallest redfin, incidentally, weighed just 2g but perhaps should have been disqualified because that was the weight with a bush fly on the scales!


After that it was the turn of the more skilled or dedicated coarse-fishing brigade, fishing the NSW Open Coarse Fishing Championships on Lake Burley Griffin. Forty-five anglers from around Australia and New Zealand contested the six-hour event and accounted for 405kg of fish, averaging 9kg per angler.

These are remarkable catch figures, especially when it is considered that each angler is assigned a fishing spot or ‘peg’ by ballot and has to fish only in that spot for the duration of the match, competing with other fishers on either side. The trick, of course, is to bring the fish to you with copious amounts of berley – all of them secret recipes handed down from father to son over many years – then to hold the fish in the ‘swim’ until you have finished.

It was interesting to see the array of techniques – pole, waggler and, of course, the method – being used to tempt some pretty wary carp. It was also interesting to envisage how useful some of those techniques could be on trout and native fish. We have a lot to learn.

Teams from New Zealand came in first and second and Victoria was third.


The two-day Canberra Classic coarse-fishing event was fished on the same venue immediately following the NSW Open and this time 55 anglers in 14 teams from Australia and New Zealand took part.

From the outset the impact of the previous day's berleying was evident. The carp came in thick and fast and there were dozens of break-offs from fish simply too large to handle. One angler told me that he landed only four of eleven monsters that he hooked.

Despite this, a staggering 1540kg of carp, at an average of 28kg per angler, was landed.

NSW won the event but a scratch team from the ACT, comprising Dave Arnold, Mark Bryant, Steve Scott and Danny Brown, came second and Victoria was third.


A different type of event was staged at Lake Eucumbene when the Diplomatic Corp staged its 16th annual fishing contest. Eighty anglers from the embassies and missions around Australia participated and the event was keenly contested despite with icy winds and rough water.

Thirty-two fish, the heaviest from each angler's bag, were weighed in and averaged 762g. Trolling was the most successful technique, accounting for more than two-thirds of the fish caught.

The winners were the team from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, followed by Mexico, then Australia. The heaviest fish was a 2.7kg brown. Mexico won the fly section and the Embassy of Afghanistan the junior event.


A round of the Amateur Anglers Association year-long tournament involving the ACT and Far South Coast division of NSW, also fished at Lake Eucumbene, yielded plenty of rainbows around a kilo and browns to 2.8kg. Most were caught trolling Tasmanian Devils with Coppermine Bay a fertile field. Queanbeyan won the event with Batemans Bay second and the ACT third.


Murray cod have dominated the news in the local lakes. Firstly there was the hilarious story of a Murray cod found flapping in the back seat of a BMW sedan police divers hauled from Yerribee Pondage, a small local lake on Ginnindera Creek in north Canberra. The car allegedly had been dumped in the lake, with the windows wound down, as part of an insurance fraud.

A straight-faced police officer told me the cod was in the back seat, as befitted its status as king of the Australian waterways, but he wasn't sure who was driving. It was gently but regally returned to the water.

In Lake Ginninderra, also in north Canberra, an angler swears a big Murray cod swiped his downrigger bomb. He said he was trolling with the 1.5kg bomb five metres down in eight metres of water with no snags evident on the sounder.

Something large gabbed his bomb and made off with it, breaking the brickie's string used to tether it. He recovered the release clip and his lure and is going back for another try for the fish. I suggested he put a big treble on the bomb this time.


Googong Dam has been difficult to fish because the boat ramp has been closed as a result of falling water levels. A few golden perch and redfin have been taken from the bank but anglers are itching to get boats on this waterway. Heavy rain falling while I am writing may change that situation within the next few days.

We have our fingers crossed also for Wyangala and Burrinjuck reservoirs. Levels have dropped alarmingly in recent months as the irrigators take what many anglers believe to be more than a justifiable share of the water and rain is urgently needed to replenish the storages.

Pejar Dam, a domestic supply reservoir for Goulburn, also has been critically low and urgently needs water.


So where do we go from here in the next month or two?

Firstly, in the mountains the trout will feed well close to the surface and to the shore at night and during the early morning. That will mean good fly fishing at night or just after dawn, or perhaps later in the day when the grasshoppers start plopping on the water.

Throughout the day the fish will stay deep and lead-core line or a downrigger will be required to reach them.

Bait fishers will depend heavily on night and early morning fishing with scrub worms and PowerBait.

Trout streams mostly will fish poorly because the fish simply aren't there. Exceptions could be the higher country streams attached to the larger reservoirs.

Native fish will be at their peak. Where the water is clear, trolling or casting with big deep-divers for cod and with smaller patterns for golden perch will be most productive.

Bait fishers should do well with scrub worms, tiger worms, live yabbies and live shrimps.

Dead shrimps, notoriously useless as bait, may well be worth a try if you follow the example of Burrinjuck veteran Les Jones. Unable to catch a fish for several days because of poor water and weather conditions, he sprayed a dead shrimp with garlic and was immediately rewarded with a fat golden perch. Could be one to try.

Reads: 2013

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