Runoff boosts native stocks
  |  First Published: March 2008

We've had some rain, nice gentle stuff that soaks in, rather than runs off. It’s just what we needed to recharge some of the groundwater systems and maybe provide for continuing flow in our streams.

It hasn't been a lot, mind you, but people are starting to suggest that maybe the drought is over. If it is, after six or seven years of extreme water deficit, it will be a welcome relief. So what's been happening?

Googong Reservoir, on the Queanbeyan River, has taken in a lot of runoff and has been supplemented by water pumped overland from the Murrumbidgee River. It is now over 50% full and still rising.

Fishing has been interesting. There have been hordes of redfin, mostly pretty small but at least they provide some fun and the larger ones are great to eat.

The usual pattern is to try around the banks until a school is located and then catch as many fish as are wanted. Best lures are small jig spinners, soft plastics, spinnerbaits and Hogback, Celta and Insect spinners with Galaxia and other minnows in the deeper water.

A few nice Murray cod also have been caught. Regular visitor Mun Ng fished where a creek runs into Shannons Inlet and was rewarded with a nice cod which he kept to eat. When he cleaned it he found in its stomach four bardi grubs, a redfin and a big lizard.

Another angler working a deep diver from a boat landed a big cod which, from the photo, looks to be around 30kg. It was in beautiful condition and was released.

Two other anglers had a different catch. They were tossing lures towards the bank as they drifted along, hoping for a cod or a golden perch. One cast saw the lure go too far and it landed on the bank. As soon as it landed it was grabbed by a large, very hungry brown snake.

The angler wasn't sure what to do but I presume his mate was yelling at him not to wind in! Eventually he broke the line and left the snake to it. The snake then wriggled around until it wrenched the lure free on a shrub and decamped.

And the lure? Well, if you want a slightly chewed, $16.50 deep diver, perhaps with a little added snake venom, it is still sitting on the bank at Googong – it's all yours!


Golden perch, normally a mainstay of fishing at Googong by now, are still strangely quiet. Very few have been taken, although anglers think they can see them, down deep on the sounder.

The only ones reported lately, curiously, were taken on Celtas by anglers looking for redfin.

There was one other incident, however, that has us concerned. Despite the fact that virtually nobody was reporting catching goldens, one day at the boat ramp there were skeletons of about 20 carelessly tossed about. Apart from the fact that the bag limit is five fish, it is an offence to dress out fish adjacent to a waterway and damn stupid to leave them in the mess that was there.

We suspect either an illegal netting or setline operation and the area is now being kept under better surveillance.

The trout population in Googong also received a welcome boost with 10,000 rainbow fingerlings stocked in the reservoir. These should reach catchable size in about 18 months although it is expected that there will be significant losses through predation by cod, golden perch and redfin. Another 10,000 fingerlings are to be stocked shortly.


Burrinjuck Dam also has taken in a lot of runoff to the Goodradigbee, Yass and Murrumbidgee rivers and has risen nicely.

Fishing has been interesting but patchy. A lot of cod have been taken, especially from the Murrumbidgee Arm and the Main Basin. Best area has been the Main Basin, trolling from The Bluff to McPhersons Inlet.

We saw a nice little competition there recently between the Trendy Young Angler and Dear Old Dad. The youngster trolled his beaut new, modern deep-diver and hauled in a nice cod of about 10kg which he waved triumphantly in front of Dad.

Dad, suitably unimpressed, then tossed over his old Aeroplane spinner and a few minutes later pulled out an 18kg cod. Score one for the older brigade.

Golden perch have been quiet, as elsewhere. They show on the sounder OK and occasionally grab a spinnerbait or yabby bobbed in front of them but mostly show surprisingly little interest.

We speculate that they are reacting adversely to the constantly changing barometric pressure that has characterised the weather this Summer but we are guessing. We just don't know enough about their behaviour to be certain of the reason.

Curiously, too, there have been a couple of bursts of activity among the smaller ones around Taemus Bridge and Good Hope, where the Murrumbidgee enters the storage. Anglers reported hordes of small goldens 20cm to 25cm long taking worm baits. They felt so guilty about accidentally killing or injuring the fish they moved away to other areas.

Another curious catch was of two large rainbow trout in the Goodradigbee Arm downstream from Wee Jasper. Anglers had assumed that most or all of the trout in the reservoir had been killed years ago during the drought so these two fish were a real surprise.

There are plenty of trout in the Goodradigbee River, of course, but a long way upstream from where these fish were caught.

Carp have been active right through the reservoir. They have been a pest for bait anglers and for lure fishers. They now regularly take lures, both deep-divers and soft plastics, and again raise the question that it they do that, how effective are they as a predator of other fish?


The Canberra lakes have varied from clear to turbid as rain showers come and go but have fished spectacularly well for redfin, a few nice cod, lots of carp and just an occasional golden perch.

Redfin have provided an enormous amount of fun for kids and adults. The usual pattern has been to walk the bank casting a lure out until a school is located, then to fish the school as hard as possible.

Fishing in this way it is easy to take 100 or more fish in a session and in case there is concern about possible overfishing, remember the best management for redfin populations is to fish them hard and often to keep the numbers down and the size up.

Most of the fish taken have been small but significant numbers of fish over 40cm have been recorded and the top fish to date is a 53cm fish taken by an angler on a Galaxia lure fished from a Hobie Cat in Lake Burley Griffin.

Redfin, of course, are delicious tucker and are about the only fish around here that are deliberately caught to eat.

Some nice cod also have been taken, mostly on spinnerbaits and deep divers, but with a few also on soft plastics. Phil Brumby worked deep water in Lake Burley Griffin for two nice cod on an artificial prawn lure in a morning session and another was taken on a bardi grub under Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, right in the middle of Canberra.

Daniel Walker also had a big thrill when a large cod snatched a hooked redfin from him in Lake Tuggeranong.

Local angler Duncan also had an interesting experience in Yerrabi Pondage. He saw something chasing ducklings and tossed out an AusSpin buzzbait which was immediately taken by a decent sized cod, which he then released.

Jim Sears, who runs a boat hire service on Lake Burley Griffin, also organised a giant fishing competition in the lake. The only eligible fish were carp and redfin and anybody who caught a native fish was encouraged to release it straight away.

He put up prizes of $1200 cash each for adult male and female winners and $500 gift vouchers each for junior boy and girl angler, with all the prizes based on mystery weights.

This ensured that every angler and every fish had the same chance of winning and skill wasn't necessarily a factor. In addition, 10% of the $10 entry fee went to charity – a great way to run a community fishing competition.

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