Alpine antics flaunt death
  |  First Published: September 2005

The antics of some anglers and other visitors to the Snowy Mountains, especially in Winter, never fail to amaze me.

We recently had a massive drop of snow, with over a metre of the cold white stuff blocking roads, obscuring tracks and access points to the mountain lakes and resorts. The weather for several days was shocking, with gale-force winds, driving rain, sleet and the snow. Not fit for man or beast and especially for anglers.

It was so bad that the State Emergency Services were broadcasting appeals to people not to venture into the Snowy Mountains. That's a rare but, you would expect, telling message.

So what did people do? They flocked to the mountains in droves. In 2WD and 4WD vehicles, with or without chains, with or without adequate clothing, supplies or other life-support systems.

And what a mess they got themselves into! A colleague who had to venture up there the next day for special reasons said the scene along the roads was appalling.

There were vehicles off the road everywhere, bogged in snowdrifts, on their sides in roadside ditches, some smashed into fallen trees or large branches. Some had broken windows or serious structural damage.

He checked every vehicle he encountered. Thankfully, none of them was occupied but there was a lot of damage.

Eucumbene and Jindabyne were largely inaccessible and some people who had gone there before the snowstorm were trapped for several days.

He tested the road into Seven Gates at Eucumbene but it road was blocked by fallen timber, ice and deep snow. He had trouble even identifying where the road was because of the lack of marker posts along the edges.

Eventually he made his way to the lake along a more stable road at Old Adaminaby. In there he found six vehicles hopelessly caught in the snow and mud. One was a five-tonne truck occupied by two chaps who were so ‘merry’ he simply left them to it.

Another was a 2WD Holden Commodore occupied by a man and his two small children. They had been there all night and weren't too good. He towed them out and helped them out to the highway and safety.

Other vehicles were beyond his help. They were 4WDs that had driven well into the lake margins during the coldest weather when the ground was frozen and rock-hard. Later there had been a slight thaw and the vehicles had sunk in the snow and mud.

He advised them to wait until the next night when the ground might refreeze and provide an escape route.

All of this is pretty frightening stuff. As far as I am aware, there were no major injuries and no fatality but it seems that that was more because of good luck than good management.

For several days there was significant potential for a fatality which the Press no doubt would have reported as an ‘unfortunate accident’. This was a serious occasion and I hope that some people take note of it because it will happen again, even in the so-called Spring of September.

Take note of the fact that Winter can be a lot of fun and fishing can be very productive, but it is not worth this level of risk. If you are a potential visitor to the Snowy Mountains, do your homework beforehand and prepare yourself with adequate and appropriate food, drink, clothing, survival gear and, above all, a reliable 4WD vehicle fitted with retrieval gear, axe, chainsaw, shovel, etc.


There also was drama on and near the water. The snowfall was so heavy boats routinely filled with snow and had to be shovelled out before they sank or could be launched from the bank. Anglers returning to camp commonly found tents collapsed under the weight of the snow. During snowfalls visibility was so poor it was difficult to find the right track to home and safety.

One boat went down. It overturned when an angler stood up for a leak and the anglers were pitched into the icy water. All of the gear was lost and although two anglers were rescued quickly, one was in the water for a life-threatening 10 minutes.

The predicted survival time under these condition s is about four minutes so he was lucky. He suffered hypothermia and even now, three weeks after the event, is still having hot and cold flushes and something akin to panic attacks.

A close call, and for what? Bad publicity for the Snowy Mountains, bad publicity for anglers and a feeling of hopelessness among the people who live and work in the area and feel some responsibility for visitors to this otherwise wonderful prime fishing area.


When the weather is suitable, the mountain lake fishing has been brilliant.

The brown trout have by now mostly spawned and the rainbows are up in the feeder streams laying their eggs but there always have been plenty of fish on the move.

Trollers have done well with small and large Attack, Merlin, Predatek and Rapala minnows, on flat line and lead-core line. Slow tolling has been the most productive and the best areas have been Seven Gates and Anglers Reach at Eucumbene and Creel Bay and Kalkite at Jindabyne. The fish have been active right though the day.

One trick we have reintroduced to the mountain lakes this year is trolling a single scrub worm on a straight hook with lead-core line. We used to do this a lot years ago but despite the fact that it was very productive it simply got lost in time and has now been revived.

The best hook to use is a Mustad 34007 in size 4 or 2, which will not spin and twist the line while trolling. A single large scrub worm hooked in at one end with the rest trailing behind has proven to be a very enticing lure to the fish, especially the larger browns.

Anglers have also rediscovered another couple of old favourites. When trolled slowly, Flatfish get down nice and deep have accounted for some excellent browns and rainbows and the spoons, especially Wonder Spoon, Wonder Crocodile and Pegron Tiger Minnow, have reminded anglers just how good these can be as fish-catchers cast from the shore or trolled among the timber in the middle of the day.

Bait fishers, happy with their bankside fire pot or snug with their solid fuel-stick pocket warmers and thermal underwear, have had good fishing with PowerBait and scrub worms.

Best locations have been Seven Gates at Eucumbene and East Jindabyne on Lake Jindabyne. Fish have been taken right though the day although because it has been so cold, few anglers have fished at night.

Not a lot of fly fishers have ventured out but those working the banks for an hour either side of dark have found a few nice fish on Fuzzy Wuzzies, Woolly Buggers and Craig's Night-times.

Daytime anglers polaroiding the shoreline have had some heart-stopping fishing while stalking large browns in the shallows, especially on the western side of Jindabyne and Middlingbank and Rushy Plains Bay in Eucumbene.


Elsewhere, the lowland regional lakes have all risen following substantial rain in the catchments.

Burrinjuck is rising but is still murky and the fish are hard to find. Wyangala has yielded a lot of catfish and a pleasing number of small silver perch on worms.

Pejar Dam near Goulburn is a small mud puddle but the trout are still alive there. Googong is coming up, is clear and is looking decidedly fishy. Some nice trout were seen rising recently near the northern boat ramp and the cod and perch could be worth a look with spinnerbaits and deep divers in the near future.

Canberra's urban lakes are mostly quiet although a few redfin have been taken on lures and bait from the deeper waters of Lake Burley Griffin at Black Mountain Peninsula and Scrivener Dam.

A nice brown trout, rare in Burley Griffin these days, was caught on bait near the Canberra Yacht Club moorings.


So what happens next? The weather warms up from now on and it's all downhill with the opening of the Trout Season on September30, increased activity of Murray cod and golden perch in the low country lakes and generally more interesting, exciting and productive fishing.

We look forward to you staying alive, fit and well for the remainder of the Winter so you can join us for some fun in the Spring.

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