Emerging from Claws of Winter
  |  First Published: September 2005

Even though September officially heralds the beginning of spring, winter’s grip usually holds on for quite some time in the southwest. It’ll probably be a while before anglers start getting excited about the new season’s angling options.

Winter cold water methods and species are still in vogue throughout September. In fact in recent years, some of the heaviest rainfalls have occurred at this time of year. This coincides with the opening of the trout season and can provide some truly great fishing.

After being restricted to the lower Merri over the past few months, trout anglers will have a large number of streams in which to pursue their quarry from early September when the season opens. There may be considerable legwork involved, with many blind casts made into dirty water, but the quality of the trout certainly makes it all worthwhile. Most fish range between 1 and 1.8kg, with enough 2kg-plus fish to make things interesting. The Hopkins, upper Merri and Mt Emu Creek are the most well known, but there are also several smaller streams and creeks all capable of producing fish. Large wet flies, paddle tail soft plastics and shallow running hard bodies are your best bet.

On the saltwater scene, winter species such as salmon and trevally will still dominate catches. At this time of year, land-based locations such as Port Campbell pier, the Warrnambool breakwater and the Moyne River produce good catches if conditions are too rough to launch a boat or fish from the surf.

Fishing the estuaries will be highly dependent on the condition of the water. Dirty water tends to see the fish towards the mouth of the estuary; clearer water sees them heading upstream, preparing to spawn. Adjust your techniques to suit the conditions you encounter.

At the time of writing, things are pretty quiet angling wise. The big issue in this area has been the condition of many local river mouths. The Curdies, Hopkins and Fitzroy have been blocked for different periods, making for difficult angler access. With more water in these blocked systems, there’s more water in between the fish. Combined with low water temperatures, it’s not all that easy for anglers.

The tragedy in the Surry was reported in last month’s VFM. As so often happens, a small vocal minority acted without thinking about the rest of the community. With its close proximity to the Narrawong caravan park, the Surrey was a fantastic family fishing destination that now appears ruined for an extended period of time.

The month of July saw some pretty terrible weather most weekends that restricted anglers somewhat. As yet, there hasn’t been enough rain to get the rivers flooding, which often fires up the trout in the lower Merri and concentrates the estuary species at the mouth.

There have been some good bream and trout taken from the Merri but anglers are working hard for their fish. One advantage though, is that with the cooler conditions, the metabolism of bream slows. A big fish that may have busted you off on coral in the warmer months, may not have the fuel in the tank to do so in winter. If you are lucky enough to get onto some big bruising winter bream, remember how long it’s taken the fish to reach that size before you knock too many of them on the head.

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