More rain does wonders
  |  First Published: April 2008

We've had more rain in the Canberra-Monaro district, good, gentle stuff that recharges the groundwater and provides a continuing long-term flow to rivers and lakes.

It has pepped up a number of local trout streams and done wonders for the fish. A bit more of it and we may even say the drought is over.

In some areas the rain, though welcome, has come too late. Many of the trout streams dried up or collapsed into series of isolated pools during the past six years and we lost all or most of the fish.

Now is the time to consider restocking, using browns and rainbows from Government and private hatcheries, but it should not just be a process of blindly chucking fingerlings into every regenerating waterway.

We have to evaluate each stream on its merits. Will it have a long-term flow, for example? How much erosion is occurring in the catchment and how much bushfire residue is still in the bed of the stream to hinder plant and insect regeneration and fish growth?

What is the food supply like now and expected in the future? How much damage can we expect from sheep and cattle in adjacent pastures? How hot and possibly oxygen-deficient will the waterway become in Summer? What are the implications for undesirable impact on native fish and other native animals such as frogs?

What is the likely predation or competition impact of populations of carp and redfin already in the waterway? What is the level of public access expected to be?

All of these are questions must be assessed before a stocking goes ahead, and even after that the survival, growth and development of the fish must be monitored.

That's why we need fisheries biologists and their lay partners, the tireless workers from the Monaro Acclimatisation Society and other clubs and societies who carry out much of the stocking and post-stocking monitoring. Without them the stocking program could be largely a hit-and-miss operation and not necessarily the best return for the taxpayer's dollar.

With their co-operative effort, however, we just might regenerate a healthy stream trout population for anglers without undue conflict with other conservation issues. A nice future to look forward to and a sensible use of money from the sale of inland angling licences.


Selected streams throughout the Monaro already have had an injection of browns and rainbows from Gaden Hatchery at Jindabyne and early observations suggest that the fish are surviving and growing well.

Lakes, too have been stocked. Googong Reservoir has 10,00 rainbows with a further 10,000 to come, although no browns will be stocked there because it is feared they could predate on critically endangered Macquarie perch there.

Pejar Reservoir, wiped out during the drought, could be a new success story. It is around 50% and rising and has just been topped up with 10,000 rainbows and 5000 browns which hopefully will grow quickly to the size of the trophy fish we had there before.


Things are looking better in the big mountain lakes. Jindabyne got up to 60% of capacity at its peak but will continue to fall as water is bled off for power production and downstream irrigation.

Fishing has been good in the early mornings, late afternoons and evenings on lure, fly and bait. During the brighter and hotter parts of the day the fish move into deep water but still can be caught on lead-core line or downrigger.

Best lures have been Tasmanian Devils, Rebel and Rapala minnows, Baby Merlins, Attack Minnows and Flatfish but some superb trout have been taken on large and extra-large lures fished deeply and slowly. I've seen some beautiful fish to around 3kg, mostly browns, caught on gold Bombers, large Nilsmasters, Predateks and Halco lures worked in 7m to 10m.

Eucumbene also is showing a resurgence. Boat launching has been possible at several sites with two-wheel drive vehicles and at many locations around the shoreline with 4WD. That has opened up a lot of new opportunities for boat anglers and trolling has again become popular.

There was a problem for a while with dry grass blowing into the lake and fouling lures but rain has since flattened the growth around the shore.

Some nice trout have been caught on PowerBait, scrub worms and yabbies with a few fish taking mudeyes. Grasshoppers have arrived in force and have brought a lot of fish to the surface and close to shore.

Fly fishing has been good with hopper and midge patterns sometimes during the days but has been especially good late in the afternoon and just after dark.

Some fly anglers also bagged out fishing in the pre-dawn along the banks where groups of hoppers had washed ashore during the night.

There have been good reports from Tantangara, Tumut Ponds, Tooma and others and although it can be tough battling the bush flies and European wasps, the rewards are pretty good.


Native fish have finally shown the activity we have been waiting for all Summer.

Golden perch have been the biggest challenge. For unknown reasons they were late showing this year but are now pretty active with some big specimens taken on lures and bait at Blowering, which has developed into an increasingly well-patronised fishery this year.

Boating has been popular but good fish can be taken from the bank and in addition to the golden perch there is always a chance of a cod or a big redfin.

Burrinjuck has been strange. There have been lots of cod taken but the golden perch have been more elusive than normal. They show on the sounder at around 9m to 12m but until lately have been strangely indifferent to lures and even bobbed yabbies and shrimps. Recently a few have been taken and we assume this is the start of the normal run.

The perch were also late starting in Canberra's urban lakes but now seem to be stirring. Scattered individuals have been caught on deep-divers, spinnerbaits and live yabbies in lakes Tuggeranong, Burley Griffin, Yerrabi and Gungahlin.

In Ginninderra last week three anglers in kayaks landed and released 14 golden perch in one day on spinnerbaits and Hot N Tot, Viking and Custom Crafted lures. One angler even had the dream hook-up, with a golden perch on one rod and a fat cod on then other, at the same time.


The big success story in Canberra's lakes has been the redfin fishery. They have shown up in vast numbers in all local lakes and anglers of all ages have had a ball.

Because they are schooling fish, once a single redfin is located it is possible to rev up the whole school and many anglers have stood in one spot for hours, racking up cricket scores.

It's not uncommon to hear an angler talking about catches of 50, 60 or a 100 fish in session and one angler claims to have caught several thousand this Summer.

Most of the fish are tiny but a smattering are of edible size, over 40cm, with some close to 50cm and one monster that went 55cm.

They are superb fish to eat and the best way to manage the population is to fish them hard and keep the numbers at a level commensurate with the food supply. That ensures that there is a mix of sizes in the fishery and not just a massive population of stunted fish.

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