Seasons of change
  |  First Published: September 2009

The Canberra-Monaro region comes out of Winter a bit later than much of the rest of Australia, reflecting the harshness of the season, but enjoys the Spring changes in fish behaviour just as much.

Redfin are the early movers in the urban lakes. During Winter the little ones mostly go to sleep and leave the big ones to occasionally take a worm or a lure. I saw some crackerjack fish taken during the latter part of Winter, including several well over 2kg.

They came on the bite mostly late in the afternoon and were hungry enough to chase lures right to the rod tip. Some were heavy in roe and undoubtedly will have spawned by now, providing a new crop of these love-hate English imports.

Now, hordes of juvenile fish emerge from their winter torpor to feed and soon will snatch at any lure or bait. Despite their bad attributes – predation on other fish, competition for food and carriage of the EHN virus – they are handsome fish and provide great sport for junior and senior anglers alike. They are in all of the local lakes, many farm dams and the local streams.

They do not build up numbers in the streams that they do in the lakes, nor do they grow very large in the streams, presumably reflecting shortages of food in these waterways.

The quivering action and tremors produced by vibrating blade lures is exactly what is needed to attract redfin and anglers using 1kg braid and a blade report that it is a very satisfying way to fish.


Right on schedule as the wattle came into bloom, Murray cod started to stir. It's closed season now until December 1. Anglers can assist in protecting the fish during the closed season by not using baits such as bardi grubs or large yabbies and by not using large or oversize lures.

Inevitably, some will be caught accidentally. It is not only a legal requirement but commonsense to release these fish as promptly and gently as possible.

That means supporting the fish properly with both hands to minimise skeletal damage and carefully removing hooks or cutting the line. Fish are much easier to handle if you use a decent lip grip and a good type of Environet to minimise mucosal damage.

We give full marks to a couple of Canberra youngsters who caught a nice cod about 12kg on a worm in Lake Ginninderra just before the closed season.

They wanted to release the fish but also wanted a photograph as proof of the capture. With no easy way of keeping the fish alive until Dad was summoned from home with the camera, the youngsters hit on the idea of using an abandoned supermarket trolley. They placed the trolley in the lake, parked the cod in it for the few minutes it took Dad to get there, then took their trophy pic and let the fish go.

A few other cod have been accidentally hooked in local waters.

A big one known to hang around the police jetty in Lake Ginninderra and which already has been caught and released at least twice has nailed yet another angler. He was fishing for redfin with a bunch of worms on light line when the cod, estimated over 20kg, took the bait. It eventually broke the line and escaped.


Increasing numbers of small trout cod have shown up in the Murrumbidgee River upstream from Canberra, taking worm baits and small lures.

We've been patiently teaching anglers how to identify them through the overshot jaw and the dark stripe through the eye. We’re gradually getting the message across that they are undersize and totally protected.

As always, there are some unscrupulous individuals who will kill and eat anything. Inspectors and big fines are a deterrent but education also helps.

Golden perch also are now out of the doldrums and eagerly chasing baits and lures.

They like scrub worms, tiger worms and small yabbies which are most useful at night or in discoloured water. In clearer water they are great goers on light tackle with spinnerbaits, smaller deep-divers and vibrating blades.

They feed heavily on small carp and redfin, which helps balance the equation a bit in the local waterways.

The perch don't breed in the local urban lakes and have to be stocked each two years to maintain a decent population. That's hard when there are millions of marauding redfin waiting to gobble up the newly introduced fingerlings and we have a sneaking suspicion that carp also are active predators, so it's good to see the reverse happening.


Carp have been slow to respond but that happens every year and the fish are deceptive. They keep their heads down until spawning time, due any day now, then erupt in large numbers with a great burst of activity.

In the next few weeks we expect to see hordes of the rotten things splashing in the shallows, chasing each other around as they pair up to produce many millions more unwanted mud marlin.

It would be nice to be able to drop lake levels at this time of the year and wipe out many millions of eggs in the shallows but unfortunately that is not a practical option.

We are stuck with them and the only consolation is that they are good tucker for other predatory fish and good fun to catch if you come at it with the right mental attitude.


The big delight right through the Winter, and still going, is the incredible run of trout in lakes Eucumbene and Jindabyne.

Everybody has joined in the fun, chucking bardi grubs, scrub worms and PowerBait off the shore or trolling Tasmanian Devils and Rapala minnows just offshore.

It has been common for even the most inexperienced to bag out with five fish within a few hours, and sometimes in minutes.

The fish have been pink, plump and in superb condition. The rainbows mostly have been from 750g to 1.5kg, with occasional fish over 2kg. The browns have been larger, around 1.5kg to 2kg and I have seen several around 4kg.

Fly fishers have been having a good run late in the afternoon and during the early evening, fishing the shallows with dark Woolly Buggers and other patterns.

Polaroiding during the day is now the big activity and the targets are the big browns that have returned from spawning and are cruising the shallows looking for food. Very exciting fishing.

Almost all anglers visiting the lakes have caught fish and missing out has been a rarity. One bloke who did miss incorrectly thought excess alcohol was the way to ward off the cold and he was last seen cartwheeling down the bank at old Adaminaby before retiring to sleep it off in the vehicle – and miss out on some good fishing.

Another visitor got to the lake at 8am and was bogged instantly. He was pulled out by lunchtime then went home tired, wet. dirty and fishless at 1pm.

These were the exceptions. The rest of us have been having a ball. And we hope it continues.

Those accidentally caught while they are spawning during their closed season.

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