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Best prospects in years
  |  First Published: April 2010



We aren't sure if the drought has broken yet but in the Canberra-Monaro region we have had the best rain for over 10 years.

Most of it came from a series of monsoonal lows that drifted south from Queensland and the great thing about the falls is that they came in a measured, steady pattern over several days, instead of heavy, destructive flash flooding.

The soaking rain lifted groundwater levels and provided excellent short-term and long-term runoff to streams and lakes.

The progressive falls also meant that after the initial inflows of dirty water, most lakes and rivers quickly became pleasingly clear and lure and fly fishing, as well as bait fishing, was only adversely affected in the short term.

Exceptions were the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo rivers, which drain a lot of urban and disturbed agricultural land. They ran high and dirty for some time and were generally unfishable but are now back to normal.

The rain provided flow in some streams that that had been dry for many years. I heard of good water coming down the previously dry Numeralla and an angler actually catching fish in the Badja River, which recently had been just a series of pools.

These important watercourses are indicators of many once-productive trout streams in the region south of Canberra and east of Cooma that have been dry and fishless for years. We may just be looking at a return to their once-fabled status among the best trout streams in the country.

It all depends on whether we get good follow-up rains during Winter and Spring.

If we do we will all have smiles on our faces and be busy arranging restocking with trout fingerlings from Gaden Hatchery. If not, we will revert to the drought status of the past 10 years or so.

The rain also provides a real stimulant for the fish. As it falls, the water absorbs a lot of atmospheric oxygen and the fish love it. The influx of added oxygen also compensates for the loss of oxygen that occurs when bacteria multiply to decompose newly washed-in organic material and take up oxygen otherwise available to fish.

The rain also cools the waterways and the subsequent flows stimulate upstream and downstream migration by fish and other animals.

All of this is important to maintaining balance in aquatic ecosystems and the success of our stocked and naturally-sustaining fisheries.

GOOGONG DAM

There is some good fishing coming up from now on as we head towards the colder part of the season.

Googong is more than 50% full and reasonably clear. Lure fishers report some good golden perch on deep-divers, bibless minnows and spinnerbaits, mostly along the rocky shorelines. Some also have been taken on yabbies and scrub worms.

Occasional fish also have been targeted in the shallows among weeds and shrubs on newly-flooded ground by polaroiders carefully walking the shoreline. This is an exciting way to fish which requires careful, slow walking and intense concentration to avoid spooking the fish. It can be very rewarding and a single fish taken on fly or lure is regarded as a trophy win.

Murray cod have responded mostly to spinnerbaits, shaker blade jigs (like the Cod Botherer and Mumbler) and deep divers. Most have come from rocky outcrops in deep water.

There have been a few surprises. Four anglers recently were casting lures from a drifting boat without success when a large cod came up and snaffled a yabby left dangling over the side. They had the fun of watching the whole thing happen in front of them and were still laughing when they released the fish.

One big problem in Googong is the immense number of redfin that have proliferated since they were introduced a few years ago. They attack anything most days and incapacitate a lure by latching on to it, blocking it from the attention of golden perch and cod.

Anglers have responded by using super-large lures such as spinnerbaits and deep-divers but even those are sometimes attacked and disabled by the pernicious redfin.

Googong is the only waterway in our immediate area that is still free of carp and it is a controlled waterway is open to day fishing only. It is locked and guarded at night to ensure water quality – it forms part of Canberra's domestic water supply –is not compromised.

URBAN LAKES

Canberra’s urban lakes – Yerrabi, Gungahlin. Ginninderra, Tuggeranong and Burley Griffin – are overflowing and clear enough for lure, fly and bait fishing.

Carp have provided good sport. A big group from the Melbourne and Sydney coarse fishing clubs again selected Burley Griffin for an inter-club match and recorded some big bags. They gain enormous satisfaction from their chosen sport of catching and releasing carp and their complex and high-tech methods of fishing always attract a lot of attention.

There also have been two community-based carp competitions on Burley Griffin that yielded multiple-tonne bags of redfin and carp. There were some handsome cash and tackle prizes and a welcome sense among participants that in some way they were being involved in possible long term management or control of these pest species.

Redfin appear to be refreshed by the rain and cooler conditions and are biting their heads off. Anglers commonly report bags of 50 to 100 fish a session and although most are too small to be of use, the larger ones are superb for the table.

They can be caught easily from the bank or a boat on scrub worms and tiger worms or on any bright, flashy lure. There is no bag or size limit and it pays to fish them hard to try to hold the population in check.

Golden perch and Murray cod responded quickly to the rain, moving down to the outflows of each of the lakes to start their annual downstream migration to Burrinjuck Reservoir.

Large numbers built up near the spillways and although they attracted a lot of angler attention, few were caught by legal means. One angler landed two golden perch on fly at Tuggeranong and several other big ones came from the spillway at Ginninderra.

Unfortunately, a few were jagged illegally and one young fellow wielding a long fish spear had to be hunted away on two successive days.

THE MOUNTAINS

The mountain trout scene is looking better day by day.

Big mudeye hatches have brought browns and rainbows into the shallows in big numbers in Jindabyne, Eucumbene and Tantangara and fly anglers with mudeye patterns such as Taihape Tickler and Craig’s Nighttime are catching limit bags after dark.

Trollers are doing well, flatlining and lead-coring with yellow and green Tasmanian Devils.

Some rivers are fishing well, with good reports especially from the Eucumbene, Thredbo, Moonah, Murrumbidgee, Gungarlin, Indi and Tumut rivers.

All in all, a pretty satisfying picture. And all because of the rain.

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