Reddie Strategies
  |  First Published: March 2005

Redfin are one of those species I always thought were destined for extinction. I think their ferocity towards just about anything in the water is rivalled by no other freshwater fish. Let’s just thank the fishing gods they breed like rabbits.

The redfin is an introduced European species and many prudent anglers refuse to release any they catch. This stance carries a lot of weight as they have been blamed for the demise of native fish in some areas. As far as I’m concerned, the jury is deadlocked and to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what to do when I catch small reddies. I’ll leave you to decide and keep my decision to myself.

For many years, I had five redfin in a fish tank and observed them during varied weather conditions.

Their behaviour related directly to the prevailing weather patterns and I used this knowledge to make some very good catches in the Barwon River in Geelong, as well as Wurdee Buloc reservoir near Moriac.

Some days it would be blowing a gale, barometer on the way down, and the fish would be sulking on the bottom. The thing that really got them going was a rising barometer, no matter what time of year or water temperature. Temperature was nonetheless a factor, as they seemed more active in times of rising barometer and warm weather, compared with rising barometer and cold weather.

When I say “active” I mean they were swimming about the tank with their dorsal fin erect. By “inactive” mean they sulked on the bottom and any food source could swim straight over their forehead with no reaction. I regularly fed these fish for about 3 years and these patterns became quite predictable and very useful for targeting the species.

Some days, friends would ring up and say, “Let’s go fishing for reddies in the Barwon!” just because it was fine weather. I’d check my ‘fish tank barometer’ and call the shots by their behaviour. Sometimes I’d go fishing even when the ‘test subjects’ were sulking on the bottom and sure enough – no fish.

Other times it would be me making the phone calls. On occasions the ‘test subjects’ were bolting about the tank with their ‘hackles’ (dorsal fins) up and attacking anything. These were the times when we had our best redfin fishing.

Often there would be no pattern whatsoever but the most consistent ‘active’ behavioural patterns were when the barometer was rising during fine weather. During the 2 hours prior to violent storms, redfin would often go crazy and this behaviour was matched by the fish in the home tank. Sometimes it would only last 20 minutes, while other times it would go on for about 1-2 hours and then be followed by a severe case of the sulks when absolutely nothing (not even fresh worms dangled in front of their noses) would tempt them. These fish were hand fed worms and during the lead up to a storm (when the barometer is at its lowest) was the only time they would knock them back.

If you use this information, just remember that redfin don’t get big by being stupid, so don’t expect to go out and blitz a dozen 2kg reddies right before a hail. Also, if you are catching a sack load of small reddies, chances are the larger fish are hungry too!

If small fish become a problem, try another area or let your lure sink a little further. I’ve often picked up larger fish that waiting for something to fall though just under the school of runt fish, by letting the lure sink though them before beginning the retrieve.

Some times you may strike one of those ‘red letter days’ where nothing you catch will be less than 1kg. These days are few and far between so make the most of it if you find yourself in amongst them.

I can remember the very first time I took my future wife fishing in the Barwon River. It was a humid, overcast, 25° October afternoon that had followed a winter of very low rainfall so the Barwon was CRYSTAL clear. The river was blanketed with duckweed and I thought that trolling was a lost cause. I persisted and told my future wife if she felt the lure stop wobbling, it was probably duckweed and that if she ‘gave it a few tugs’, it would probably shake free.

Jo picked the ‘prettiest lure’ in the tackle box and I scoffed just because it was one of those lures you leave for visitors or that you bought because that’s what was slaying them at Rocklands 15 years ago.

Sure enough, I saw Jo’s rod fold in half and she proceeded to give it a real good flogging to ‘shake the weed off’.

Sure enough the rod lost its load and straightened back to where it was before the fish was on it. My hands went to my forehead and I told her that it had most likely been a very nice fish and she should hang on a bit longer next time before she decided to ‘shake it off’.

We had travelled only a little more than 10m before her rod buckled into the gunwale again with a ‘clank’ and she proclaimed “more weed!” and began jerking the rod like she was slashing barley.

I halted this hay making in time and before long we had a magnificent 1.5kg reddie grace the net. For Joanne’s first fish it was a real cracker.

After changing my lure four times I finally switched to the exact same lure she was using, a Rapala CD5 in rainbow trout, and boated my first fish (she had already boated three of similar size). This was met with much applause from the bloke who was bank fishing on the far side and had seen me receive a towelling from my missus! We ended up getting five fantastic reddies to around 1.6kg (not telling who got the most) and lost probably the same amount. To this day I have never again done so well in the same spot – and you can be sure I give it a hiding every time I am there!

I checked my reddies in the tank when I got home and sure enough, they were going nuts!

The best outcome of that afternoon was that I learnt a heck of a lot about weather and redfin behaviour. The second best thing was that I married Jo and had two lovely daughters!

If you plan an assault on the reddies this summer and are looking towards the heavens for guidance, watch for approaching storms and if it is safe to do so – FISH!

Clear water is definitely best for lure use and these conditions should be exploited no matter what the weather. Bright lures have done best for me when the water has a bit of colour and more natural colours have produced the goods when fishing in clear water or bright conditions.

If you find yourself with conditions that are less than favourable, then adaptation is the key to success. Don’t lose faith just because the wind is blowing or it is cold. When conditions are not comfortable, you just need to offer them something more realistic like live bait.


Reddies are fairly friendly to tackle so there’s no need to go overboard with heavy line or $800 outfits. Any 6–7ft rod suited to 2–3kg line, and a threadline (eggbeater) reel to suit does the job perfectly. Bait casting tackle is certainly good for trolling but can prove frustrating in inexperienced hands when trying to cast small lures.

Braided lines are great for lure use, but not absolutely essential, so mono is fine if your budget is tight.


Anything that is bright and flashy has done very well for me in the past. Redfin are aggressive and love to chase and eat their prey. They are considered a pest not only because of the diseases they carry, but also their ability to wipe out native galaxid populations.

Revolving blade spinners still catch a lot and are very good shallow water lures. They are best used with a plastic (or lead if you want depth) keel about 30–40cm in front of the lure to help prevent line twist.

Catches on winged cobra styled lures are rare but do occur. I’ve had my best success using minnow patterned lures such as Rapala, Merlins and McGraths.


Reddies love live bait. The very best bait for reddies is the local minnow population. Sometimes the local galaxid can be caught using a collapsible bait trap baited with bread or cat food, but other times they are pretty hard to tempt. When this happens, they can often be caught hard up against the weed using a size 18 fly hook baited with pieces of worm.

Worms are also great bait but you then start to factor in carp and eels, so I usually stick to the live minnows for bait.

Live fish should be hooked in the top jaw so that they can be retrieved without too much stress and last longer.

On the Plate

Reddies are fantastic eating and this has, without doubt, contributed to their popularity enormously.

They need to be skun as their scales are pretty tough and hard to remove. Filleted and deep fried in batter is an awesome way to enjoy them but they also grill well as they don’t dry out too easily.

Where to go?

There aren’t many waterways in Victoria that don’t hold a population of redfin.

They can withstand a decent range of temperatures and as a result are found in both alpine and lowland rivers and lakes. They prefer slow moving rivers or lakes and love deep, dark, snaggy waterways with plenty of weed growth.

Well known reddie haunts include Lake Wendouree, Ballarat; Cairn Curren Reservoir, Newstead; Rocklands Reservoir, Balmoral; Lake Wartook; Belfield and Fyans near Halls Gap; Lake Eppalock, Bendigo; the three Kyneton Lakes of Malmsbury; Upper Colliban and Lauriston; Pykes Creek Reservoir near Ballan; Barwon River of Geelong; Lake Bolac; Lake Colac; Bostok Reservoir; Goulburn River; Greenhill Lake; Lake Hume; Mulwala and the Murray River.

So, as you can see, in terms of angler friendly species, this one has to be right up there!

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