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Lake rises fire up the cod
  |  First Published: December 2003



IT'S been a long time since we have had any good news in our part of the world but currently things are looking up. We've had a bit of rain and most of the mountain snow has melted.

The runoff has resulted in a little cleansing in some streams and has partially filled some reservoirs. More importantly, it has triggered the native fish into action.

One of the reasons for a closed season on Murray cod is that during their potential spawning period they can be pretty stupid. Our cod are no different, as exhibited by one around 15kg which took a tiny one-worm bait at Wee Jasper, and another which did the same thing at Good Hope, in the backed up waters of Burrinjuck Reservoir.

Several other anglers have reported catching them on bardi grubs, yabbies and lures and several other cod have been seen attacking hooked fish. One fellow I met had his eyes sticking out like the proverbial canine genitalia because a huge cod in the Murrumbidgee River had taken a last-second swipe at a little redfin he had hooked. It missed the fish but gave the bloke the biggest thrill he had since his wedding night.

Cod have also been on the chew in the local urban lakes. Among the highlight captures is that of father and son team Hans and Tom Haalebos. Avid and skilled anglers, they spend a lot of time lure-fishing Lake Burley Griffin and on one magic day Hans landed a 39kg cod on a Hot ’N Tot lure and Tom landed a 27kg fish on a Baby Merlin. Pretty good fish for a stocked pond in the middle of the National Capital.

I stress, too, that all of the cod caught have been handled very carefully, photographed and released to fight another day. We have great respect for our fish around here.

GOLDENS ON THE GO

The cod have been spectacular because of their size and rarity but golden perch have been the mainstay of our local fishery. As the reservoir levels rose the golden perch came to life within days, moving into the shallows to feed and moving upstream to greener pastures wherever possible.

Anglers caught significant numbers in Burrinjuck, Blowering, Googong and all of the urban Canberra lakes. The goldens don't breed in our waters for reasons we do not yet understand, so some are released to go on their way while others are eaten with gusto after they have been filleted, de-fatted and barbecued.

Most have been taken on scrub worms, tiger worms, small yabbies and bardi grubs but, as the waters cleared, increasing numbers were taken on lures, mostly deep divers and spinnerbaits. Soft plastics, however, are being used increasingly and as we develop new skills with these lures there should be continuing good catches.

Fly-fishers also are developing new skills with goldens. One angler we taught has been taking good fish on bead-head Woolly Buggers in brown, green or red and his best fish to date weighed around 3.2 kg.

As always, however, when there is a good run of fish on somebody always has to spoil it. In Tumut a local restaurant owner has been prosecuted for selling allegedly illegally obtained golden perch. The angler who sold him the 18kg of fish, caught in Blowering Reservoir, also has been prosecuted. The fish, no doubt to the delight of the recipients, went to a local old folks’ home.

CARP QUIET

The other good news is that European carp have been the quietest we have seen them for some years, vaguely suggesting there may at long last be some stabilisation of the local populations. Bait anglers searching for golden perch reported only modest numbers of carp in the reservoirs, although one angler did report seeing them a long way up the Murrumbidgee River near the Cooma weir. That puts them dangerously close to Lake Eucumbene – about 20km as the crow flies – so we hope no idiot decides on a little private translocation for some maniacal reason or another.

Having said that, the carp are spawning at the moment so by the time you read this the local population will have increased by perhaps several thousand million, which is food for thought as well as for all of the local fish, bird and other predators.

FISHERIES OFFICERS ACTIVE

NSW Fisheries has done well in recent months, apprehending a wide range of evil-doers who seem intent on stealing as much of the community's natural resource as possible. These greedy, selfish, thieving bastards are nothing more than dregs in the angling community and should be treated accordingly. In addition to the thieves at Tumut, four others at Wagga were fined $1050 each for possessing 18 undersized Murray River crays and 17 females with eggs. None of them even had a recreational fishing licence. To the east of us, an abalone thief copped a delightful one month in jail for taking 119 abalone, 117 of them undersized. Three other men and a woman also have been charged with stealing 553 abalone.

TROUT ERRATIC

The trout scene has been interesting. Streams generally have not fished well because the fish simply aren't there. They were killed because of the prolonged drought or the pollution resulting from the bushfires.

There have been a couple of promising signs. There have been lots of fish in the Thredbo River and far more than we were expecting in the Eucumbene River. Fly and lure anglers, and some illegal bait fishers, have been jostling for room on these streams but hopefully it will sort itself out in time as the more dominant types metaphorically or physically belt the crap out of the weaker mortals and everybody finally retreats to the lakes, where most of the fish are.

The lakes generally have fished well. Eucumbene is still low, about 44%, but Jindabyne is up to 80% and even battered little Tantangara is up to 27%. The general pattern has been good fishing throughout day trolling with three colours of lead core line, with some good fishing at night with PowerBait, bardi grubs or scrub worms. Fly-fishers have fared reasonably, polaroiding the banks during the day, especially in Jindabyne, or fishing Woolly Buggers, mostly in dark black, green, brown or purple, from a drifting boat.

Bass in our coastal streams also have been feeding well. One angler on an early morning safari, after managing to dodge in the middle of the road one cow, one horse, one noisy feral pig and an assortment of wombats, some dead and some still running around myopically, had a great day fly-fishing, taking numerous bass to 42 cm. It's that sort of fishing that makes you want to get up early again the next week, and enjoy another of nature's little aquatic wonder worlds.

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