ANDREW McGOVERN takes a look at the most popular fish anglers are likely to encounter inland
SECTION: NSW feature
THERE are many introduced species of fish available in our freshwater rivers and lakes.
By far the most popular are those belonging to the salmonid family which includes brown, brook and rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon. Many anglers around the country have dedicated their lives to chasing brown and rainbow trout. Whether it is trolling, bait fishing or the highly addictive fly-fishing, trout are a great sport fish, good tucker and challenging to catch.
There are two other predominant introduced species, carp and redfin. The biomass of carp throughout the Murray-Darling system is quite staggering and one I believe that it is greatly under estimated by many anglers and non-anglers alike. The regulated river systems we have created and the fact carp have few enemies, and are susceptible to few diseases means they are going to be a regular catch by many inland anglers.
Redfin are a sought-after table fish in impoundments, where they can reach substantial weights. Their willingness to take a bait or lure and their aggressive nature make them a favoured target of many freshwater fishers, particularly lure anglers.
Brown trout are my favourite introduced species. Probably the main factor that attracts me to browns is that around south-eastern New South Wales, browns larger than 2kg are more common than large rainbows. Combine this with the amazing appearance of these fish and you can see why so many anglers in this country fish solely for trout.
Like most freshwater species, trout can be taken on a variety of techniques. Trolling, lure-casting and bait-fishing will all work, along with fly. I will talk about trolling and spinning later as the principles for these applications are broadly the same for all trout species.
Browns can be quite finicky compared with rainbows and anglers should consider this when preparing tackle, baits and rigs. Sure, there will be times when the fish will be on the job and you can catch them hand over fist on gear as basic as a half-dead worm on a big hook and a heavy sinker. Most anglers will have had several experiences like this and will then incorrectly assume that each time they go fishing the fish will be in that same frame of mind.
When the results are zip, these fishers are perplexed why they didn't clean up like they did previously. My motto when bait-fishing for trout, or any freshwater species, is to go to that extra effort in all facets of presentation. Fine-gauge hooks, quality nylon or fluorocarbon leaders and lines, minimal or no weight, and long-tipped, sensitive rods around 2.3 metres. This will all greatly enhance your success rate on brown trout and many other fish.
Rainbows are generally the more aggressive and when fishing impoundments you will find these trout in almost all areas. They are tough fighters which patrol wind lanes and shallow bays chasing insects and grubs. I have found by using the above principles of bait-fishing for browns that rainbows will become a welcome by-catch.
Spinning or lure casting is an active form for fishing because you can change the of water you fish and the depth at which you fish it with every cast. When bait-fishing, you wait for the fish to find your bait, while when lure-casting you are prospecting the water for fish – you are attempting to find them.
When spinning from the bank I try to concentrate my efforts around shallow, rocky or muddy points. These areas are frequented by trout and will allow you a shot at cruising fish.
If spinning from a boat, these areas are also worth a cast and you can also try bays with a high density of dead, submerged timber. For all spinning it is worth having a broad mixture of lure types and styles. Basically, several winged lures (Tassie Devils or Lofty’s Cobras); a few metal lures (small gold or silver spoons, Jensen Insects); and a few hard-bodied minnow lures (a mix of shallow and deep diving) will cover almost every scenario you may face.
Trolling is much more than just tossing a few lures out the back of the boat and mindlessly dragging them around a lake. If you keep things relatively simple and use some commonsense, I am sure you'll increase your capture rate.
There are three main types of trolling: Flatlining, trolling lead-core line and using a downrigger. For the purposes of this piece I will concentrate on flatlining and lead-core trolling.
Flatline trolling is simply trolling your lures with a rod, reel and standard mono or braided line without the aid of any other equipment. I believe there are two major contributors to trolling success: Lures and location.
Let’s look at lures. In most NSW impoundments each angler is allowed two rods, which is perfect when fishing a small tinnie with two anglers. Four lines allows you a nice spread of lures but at the same time is quite manageable when making tight turns and weaving in and out of bays or crossing wind lanes.
When selecting lures, if two out of the four lures aren't the winged Cobras, Tassie Devils or the like, I think you've got rocks in your head. These winged lures have consistently captured quality fish in good numbers for over 20 years. The other two rods should carry hard-bodied minnow lures with one swimming shallow (around a metre) and one at more than two metres (see fact box on boat set-up).
If there are fish on the sounder deeper than three metres, it is worth putting out a lead-core line with a winged lure or small minnow. Early mornings I like to troll close to the bank, hugging the contours of the shore, then I move to deeper water once the sun penetrates the water.
Many anglers turn their noses up at carp and when you are targeting other fish, it’s rightly so. However, carp are a fact of life for most Aussie inland anglers so we might as well make the most of them.
Carp are a great learning tool for introducing kids to fishing, particularly kids who live away from the coast. Coastal kids can wander down to the local jetty or boat ramp and catch a few yakkas, bream, whiting or maybe even a flathead. Freshwater fishers aren't quite as lucky – we don't have the variety of small species readily available so we have to be satisfied with carp and occasionally small redfin.
Carp grow big, are plentiful and fight well when hooked. My young bloke, Mitchell, 4, has been fishing only twice and both times he has had a ball catching and netting carp. For the really young ones, the more action the better – before they get bored.
Bait-fishing for carp from the bank is the best way to catch big numbers. Garden worms and corn kernels are the top baits but carp will also grab an artificial lure. Small minnow lures work well but if you want some real fun, try sight-fishing for them with polarised sunglasses and a fly outfit.
I have spent quite a bit of time polaroiding carp in some of my local impoundments and it really is good fun. A six weight outfit, 3kg tippet and a handful of large dark flies is all you need. My favourite flies are Woolly Buggers, Wooly Worms, Black Nymphs and dark brown yabby or shrimp imitations.
Redfin, or English perch, are excellent table fish and many anglers spend a large portion of their time targeting this species alone. Reddies are schooling fish and like to hold around structure and/or cover. Large dead trees, clusters of standing timber and submerged log piles are all excellent areas.
A very effective technique which may have been introduced specifically for redfin is bobbing. Bobbing, put simply, is positioning your boat above or next to some form of structure and dropping a bait down to the fish. The bait can then be moved or ‘bobbed’ up and down.
This method has many advantages but the most obvious is that you can methodically cover every level of the water column. Yabbies are the favoured bait of people bobbing, but some sinking lures are also very effective. Best lures for bobbing are ice jigs, The Baltic Redfin Bobber and small fish-patterned Rattling Spots.
Reddies can be taken trolling and will nail surprisingly big lures. They are a welcome by-catch when targeting golden perch on the troll with Bennett McGraths, Galaxia-2 Minnows, and Nipper Shrimps among my favourites.
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE FOR TROUT
1. Bait-fishing tips:
• Use fine-gauge hooks
• Use high quality, thin leader and main line
• Minimise the use of sinkers or any weight
• Use long-tipped, sensitive rods around 2.3 metres long.
2. A beginner’s lure pack
• Gold and silver spoons
• Pegron Minnows
• Jensen Insects and Celtas
• Tassie Devils and Cobras
• Minnow profiles (Rapalas, Down Unders, McGraths etc.)
3. Trolling set-up