Predictable weather and fish
  |  First Published: February 2009

One of the nicer things about February is that the weather, and thus the fishing, is more predictable than other times of the year.

In recent months, for example, we have had record snowfalls at the end of November, bitterly low mountain temperatures during what should have been early summer and screaming gales emanating from as far away as Central Australia and far North Queensland. Then a few pitiful showers late on what were steaming hot, thundery and stormy days that promised downpours but produced very little except a few drops and massive insect hatches. The trout didn’t know whether they should be feeding or hibernating.

It’s gradually all changed, however, and we are now in fair dinkum summer and things are much more predictable. The first real change began when Murray cod season opened, back in December. The big event was the Yamaha Cod Classic, fished on the Murray River at Lake Mulwala in southern NSW.

A lot of anglers from the Canberra region joined in the fun, adding to the 2673 anglers who fished the event. Organiser Tony Bennett reported that it was a great success despite a howling gale all weekend. The catch included 130 cod above the new legal limit of 60cm, together with hundreds of smaller fish. The largest cod was 98cm in length, with number two 97cm. Anglers also caught 250 golden perch to 59cm and 350 carp to 74cm.

Burrinjuck Success

That success has since rubbed off on Burrinjuck, where things had been ominously quiet for some time. Cod anglers had been having trouble finding fish but all of a sudden they decided to bite. A trickle of nice catch-and-release fish was followed by a 44kg cod caught by some children bait fishing from the shore with a handline. Unfortunately, in the excitement and the kids lack of experience the cod died before it could be released but at least they tried to do the right thing and they did get the thrill of a lifetime with their giant fish.

Following that there have been some splendid catches. Local yabby farmer Ian Greenwood and his son Brad, keen Burrinjuck fishers, heard of cousin Steven’s 15kg cod taken on a lure in the Main Basin so they gave it a try and landed four cod 62cm to 82cm, using spinnerbaits around Cave Island.

Other anglers reported some nice fish on live yabbies and lures and it was pleasing to note that just about everybody these days is happy to let their fish go, to grow bigger and perhaps to provide another angler with some fun. As a society we have advanced greatly in this respect.

Suburban Lakes

There have been a few nice cod also in Canberra’s suburban lakes. Lee Goldspink, tired of being “the bloke who couldn’t catch a cod” took our advice and trolled a giant 15cm deep diving AC Invader along the old Molonglo River bed in Lake Burley Griffin. When the lure was 12 metres down it was engulfed by a big cod which he played out then photographed and released. From the pic I put the fish at around 22kg and it was a splendid catch. The fish had a big deep belly and spat out a large redfin when it was in the landing net.

By contrast, Nathan Walker was casting from the shore in Lake Tuggeranong with a small Jaz bibless minnow when a big cod grabbed the lure at his feet and took off. After a long tussle on light line Nathan finally got the beast to shore where he climbed into the water to support the fish for a photo and to get the hook out. Again, from the pic I would estimate the fist to be at least 25kg and possibly 30kg and I’m delighted to report that it is still swimming around in the lake.

Another keen cod chaser, Phil Brumby, also did well in Lake Tuggeranong. Trolling and casting hard bodied deep divers from his canoe, he hooked and landed four cod on a mid-week outing. The fish ranged from 9-15kg and when he had the big one on he delighted in ringing colleagues who were at work and insisting they listen to the drag screaming on his light tackle outfit. They were suitably impressed, I’m sure.

A number of smaller cod have been taken from the other urban lakes, Ginninderra, Gungahlin and Yerrabi. Popular lures have included bibless minnows, spinnerbaits and the good old fashioned copper flash, or Hogback. It’s funny that we still call it copper flash, because in fact it comes in copper, silver or gold colours and all are successful, but perhaps old habits dies too hard to call it anything else.

Googon Reservoir also yielded a few nice cod. One was caught by Mun Ng, who for once didn’t have a camera with him. Fortunately another angler nearby had a camera and ran off a few pics. Unfortunatley they forgot to swap contact details and we spent some weeks tracking down the photographer through my local newspaper fishing column. Eventually we found “the bloke in the green canoe” and Mun has his pics. Such is the lovely friendship and camaraderie that exists among anglers.

Other Fish Active

A lot of anglers have reported catching golden perch, mostly in the urban lakes and at Googong, Burrinjuck, Blowering and Wyangala. Most have been taken on lures, especially spinnerbaits, Hogbacks and deep divers but quite a few have been taken on bait.

Best baits have been scrub worms and live yabbies. The best yabbies have been small ones.

I have been running an interesting experiment with yabbies on my tame 3kg golden perch in a 1000L tank he shares with a catfish and two tortoises. He gets fed every day on yabbies and green prawns and quickly eats his fill to the point where he will not eat any more. Except for a small yabby that is. When he is full he will not eat any more prawns and will inspect but not swallow a mid-sized or larger yabby. On most occasions, however, if you drop a small yabby in the tank he eats it straight away, no matter how full he is. That could be a good pointer to use in bait fishing in the wild –stick to smaller yabbies and you should increase your chances of a hook-up, even on a fish already stuffed full of food.

Redfin Active

Redfin also have been at their most active. They have provided a lot of fun for anglers of all ages and experience because they are prolific, they run in big schools and they are relatively easy to catch on lures and bait. The trick to catching them is to locate one fish then hold it in the water until all of its’ mates turn up. Then it’s often a matter of taking as many fish as you want, for fun or a feed. Filleted and skinned they make a delicious meal in the kitchen or on the barbecue.

The disease caused by the EHN virus, lethal to redfin and which dramatically reduces the population each year, has just shown up. Affected fish, especially small ones, commonly appear disorientated, swimming in confused circles near the surface and later die. It’s a naturally occurring form of population control.

Trout Alive

Trout fishing in the mountain lakes continues to please most visitors. Despite the low water levels the fish are active and it is easy to take three or four rainbows from the shore on Power bait, scrub worms or bardi grubs in an afternoon or evening session. Trollers can expect better-sized browns on Tasmanian Devils and small minnows on lead core line or a downrigger. Fly fishers mostly will benefit from using large wets and mudeye patterns at night and big dries, including grasshoppers, during the day.

There’s always room for a big surprise too. An angler fishless and on his way home after a long day working over rivers, dropped into Old Adaminaby on Lake Eucumbene for a final toss with a Celta. He was rewarded with a massive 87cm rainbow that weighed in at 4.8kg. A great fish that proves there is always room for one more cast.

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