I hear plenty of stories from anglers that I take with a grain of salt.
Tales of giant fish, bigger than anyone has ever seen before, caught on impossibly light tackle, usually after a long and heroic tussle that unfortunately nobody else was there to witness.
Captures of massive numbers of fish from an area where few or virtually no fish have been detected previously by other anglers, but with no witness or photograph to back up the claim.
Strange fish caught in locations where that species has never been recorded and where science categorically states that the species simply could not exist. Stories of the one that got away, usually with the fish putting on immense amounts of weight as the story gets told and retold to an ever-expanding audience.
Some stories, however, are confounding because they involve everyday, sensible anglers who weren't drunk, had a good view of and involvement with the event and who had no reason or desire to seek publicity about the incident.
I had one of these recently from two anglers fishing in Googong Reservoir, on the Queanbeyan River about 35 minutes’ drive from Canberra.
In a shallow, weedy bay, in broad daylight and with good visibility the anglers saw an animal swimming on the surface about 30m away. On several occasions it dived and swam underwater for some considerable time but then returned, seemingly to look at them and their boat.
Initially they assumed it was a platypus or water rat, both of which are reasonably common there and which they see from time to time.
Then they realised it was too large and that from time to time it was swimming or floating on its back, perhaps with its front legs or paws resting on its chest. Flicking through the memory banks with all the things they are familiar with, they then ruled out ducks, cormorants, lizards, snakes, tortoises, eels or any land creatures such as a possum, dog, fox, cat or wallaby.
The best they could come up with was an otter, even though they knew there aren't any otters alive in Australia except in zoos and animal parks.
They are insistent, though, that that was what it looked like and doubting their own sanity, they even asked anglers in another boat what they thought it was. They, too, thought an otter.
The animal later swam away and has not been seen since.
When I invited comment through a local newspaper column and had some intriguing responses. Local author and hunter of mystery animal tales Tony Healy reminded me that John Gale, publisher of the Queanbeyan Age newspaper early last century published several reports of strange ‘water dogs’ seen in the Queanbeyan River.
Another reader noted that an animal park near Merimbula had been broken into recently and some animals stolen. An American alligator later turned up wandering through a South Coast camping ground.
Could it be, the reader surmised, that an otter also had been stolen and later disposed of in Googong?
Any information that would help solve this mystery would be appreciated.
All local lakes have responded to cooler Autumn weather and fishing generally has been good.
Burrinjuck has been heavily fished and has been consistent for golden perch, carp, redfin and occasional cod but the fish are well fed and have been choosy. Some of the best fish have been taken on locally-caught shrimps, with aniseed soap the top bait.
Others have been caught on green prawns that the fish obviously don't realise or don't care come from saltwater.
The best fish on bait, however, have fallen for the old trick of gently floating a single scrub worm or a small yabby on light line down into the flooded timber. Bays where old flooded trees abound have been the most productive.
Other fish have been taken on spinnerbaits, deep-divers and bibless minnows. Best lure fishing locations have been in the Main Basin, around Cave Island, Wade Island and the stretch from The Bluff to McPhersons Inlet.
The upper reaches of the Murrumbidgee and Yass river arms, especially in the steeper, rocky areas, also have been worth a try.
Lake Ginninderra has produced plenty of redfin, including some schools with all fish over 30cm which have developed a large following from those who appreciate them as table fish.
Best baits have been scrub worms and tiger worms and the best lures small spinnerbats, Celtas and Hogbacks.
Lake Burley Griffin also has been productive, with plenty of redfin and a few Murray cod and golden perch that managed to beat the redfin to the lure or bait.
A big crowd fished the annual Burley Griffin Carp Catch with $10,000 worth of cash and prizes for mystery weights chosen by pushing a button on a computer. There were groans of disbelief when the winning fish turned out to be a redfin weighing just 27g! Such is the fun, honesty, levelling of angling skills and democracy of a mystery weight competition.
Keen local fly fisher Nathan Walker has been working Lake Tuggeranong for plenty of redfin over 30cm and also finally landed his first golden perch on fly. The fat little fish fell to a well-worn olive Woolly Bugger on a sinking line fished from the shore.
Some of the best captures have been made in Googong, the one waterway in the region carp have not yet invaded.
Several big cod have been caught and released, with the best lures spinnerbaits worked deeply and slowly, or massive deep-divers mostly too big for the redfin to tackle.
One group had a sensationally funny and productive day experimenting with deep-divers and poppers from the shore.
They caught seven golden perch, including a 4.5kg fish that was so anxious to get a feed it snatched the popper when it was only a couple of centimetres from the rod tip. In its haste to get away, it ran headlong into a log and knocked itself out.
The angler then calmly netted the unconscious fish and claimed it as a fair capture!
Water levels have continued dropping in Eucumbene and Jindabyne and things aren't expected to change until there is substantial rain or snow. There has been little rain and only light snow on the higher peaks.
Night temperatures have fallen considerably and it got down to – 2° even during March.
Fly anglers have been doing well on grasshopper patterns and other big dries such as White Moth, Hairwing Coachman and Royal Humpy during the day and mudeye patterns at night.
Beadhead nymphs worked in the wind lanes during the day also have been productive.
Bait fishers have consistently bagged out on rainbows fishing PowerBait, scrub worms and bardi grubs from the shore, especially around Buckenderra, Seven Gates and Old Adaminaby.
Trolling with yellow-wing Tasmanian Devils has been especially productive, particularly with lead-core line, and has yielded some big browns as well as lots of the smaller rainbows.Reads: 11917