I reached a personal fishing milestone in my beloved Gippsland Lakes recently. Over the years I’ve caught plenty of nice bream to 40cm on soft plastics and lures, with quite a few fish around 45cm and up to 1.8kg. Breaking the magical 4lb mark has been a long time coming, but finally my luck has changed. Actually it’s more perseverance than luck, having made thousands of casts and putting in long hours to find that elusive big one.
I struggled to fish my hard-bodied lures on a very windy day recently while targeting estuary perch and bream. Although the going was tough, I’d tagged and released a few nice perch to 42cm. The next fish hit the lure with that typical bream ‘tap and stop’. Perch tend to smash and run when they attack lures but bream have a distinctive, and often less aggressive, style of hook-up. I was able to steer this big bream to my kayak fairly quickly and when it rolled on the surface I knew it was going to be close to my biggest ever. Sure enough, at 46cm and 4lb 4oz it was a new personal best. I tagged and released the fish but sadly, without a camera, have no pictures to look back on.
Five days later, I was back on the water. Having already released five perch between 41 and 45cm, I was just about happy to call it a day. Incredibly, I hooked another thumper bream. This fish was pulling like a truck and really took some coaxing. When the bream finally came aboard I couldn’t believe my luck. It measured 47cm and after checking its weight on two sets of calibrated scales, this fish also weighed 4lb 4oz. I’d matched my personal best in the same week! And this time I had my camera.
The upper reaches of these catchments had significant rain a few weeks back and all three rivers flowed with some very dirty fresh water. Up to 80mm fell overnight in some areas. Many catchments have had some of the best rains in nearly four years during last winter and this spring.
The lower section of the Tambo has fairly clear water with just a few small bream and mullet landed. The upper reaches are clearing and spawning bream should show up soon.
The Nicholson also flowed hard for a while and as usual for this system, didn’t take long to clear. The fish are certainly taking time to move back in though. At the time of writing, there haven’t been any reports of significant catches but I’m sure anglers in the ABT bream fishing grand final will have changed that by the time you read this. We’ll hear more about the outcome of that competition in December’s issue of VFM.
The Mitchell received an even bigger influx of freshwater than the other two rivers. Combined with the added snowmelt now coming down, this has taken its toll on catch rates. Things will definitely improve over the next few weeks though, and the perch will move back upstream after spawning down in the lakes.
The Strait has avoided much of the dirty water. Most of the recent downpour was caught in the Thomson Dam, and there was only minor flooding in the Macalister River, most of which ended up in Lake Glenmaggie. The LaTrobe River has been in minor flood, running hard and discoloured.
However, the water down in the Strait has remained quite clear. Unfortunately, the fishing has been slow to improve. Anglers are getting a few keepers around Seacombe and Hollands Landing but this is probably because there are so many people on the water. Expect plenty of bream to start moving back into this area. The mullet will probably head back down to sea.
Interestingly, the dolphins have been up and down the Strait each day. This usually means there are plenty of fish around for them to feed on. Many people believe they put the fish down and make it even harder for anglers to catch a few. I’ve found that this is true only if the dolphins are actively feeding, so don’t pack the rods up and go home just because they are in the area. Sadly, big numbers of carp have moved into the Strait. This is a signal that plenty of freshwater is about, which tends to cause the bream fishing to slow right down.
The usual big run of tailor in these lakes has not shown up this year. Bruce Robinson has been chasing tailor in the lakes for many years and says that even the pros are not getting them. There have been many changes to fish populations in the Gippsland Lakes over the last three or four years: some good and some bad. Bream, tailor and perch numbers seem to have dropped drastically, while luderick and flathead populations have soared.
Flathead are still being caught right through the system. This certainly backs up something I said about two years ago. I commented on the huge numbers of juvenile duskies in the lakes, and declared that the Gippsland Lakes could well become the “flathead capital” of Victoria! Yes, I’m aware of Mallacoota’s renowned dusky population, but I am continually amazed by the sheer number of flatties I see in the shallows of Lake Victoria. I saw duskies to around 10lb recently, and while I failed to hook a single fish, at some stage these flathead will fire again and provide some great sport for anglers.
I notice Queensland’s regulations on size limits for dusky flathead have had a very positive effect on their fishery. Only dusky flathead between 40 and 70cm are allowed to be kept from their waters. As a result, the amount of fish caught over 6 and 7lb has apparently gone through the roof. This slot limit on legal-sized fish is something Victorian anglers should also be happy to accept. It protects our big spawning females, and also gives the smaller fish time to mature and breed.Reads: 550