Capital native fishing
  |  First Published: October 2008

By a small rocky point on Lake Burley Griffin, a series of ripples on the water indicates activity from European carp. I start flicking an Eddy’s Dam Buster out past the origin of the ripples.

After the third cast the line goes taut and, several short but powerful surges later, a 4kg Murray cod surfaces near my feet, closely tailed by a much larger cod well over 20kg.

I quickly unhook and release the smaller cod, change my lure to a size 1 StumpJumper and cast again.

Canberra has some of the best native fishing in Australia due to the plethora of lakes and rivers that hold large populations of native fish in and around the region. Nevertheless, this article will focus on Lake Burley Griffin, specifically land-based options around the lake.

Although in the centre of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin can at times offer incredible fishing.


Burley Griffin is a rare fishery because its native fish come on the bite in mid-August and bite well right through to late May. But I have caught fish all year round.

I have found the peak times to fish the lake are early September to mid-October and then again in mid-February to late April.

During these peak times it is truly remarkable how many fish come to the net, with captures of six or seven golden perch and two to three Murray cod a session quite normal. Copious numbers of redfin and carp will always turn up at some point during a hot bite as well.


Lake Burley Griffin is a substantial body of water and deciding where to fish can be a daunting task, especially to those visiting Canberra for the first time.

I recommend beginning at Nerang Pool, along the bike path towards Regatta Point. Access is off Commonwealth Avenue just north of the bridge.

Contained within the large pool, which is fed directly from the lake, are golden perch and large redfin with the occasional Murray cod also falling to the angler willing to put in the time.

All of these species will take a slowly retrieved deep-diver or spinnerbait with StumpJumpers in the bumblebee pattern the lure of choice for many anglers.

There is an enormous number of carp in the pool, which offers kids a good introduction to the sport. The carp will readily take flies but seem to hit bread and garden worms with real gusto.

Nerang Pool is best fished in the late afternoon when the carp move to the surface to feed after the heat of the day has passed. This activity seems to excite the native fish because golden perch and Murray cod seem also to bite best in the afternoon at this location.


Scrivener Dam, which forms Lake Burley Griffin, is perhaps Canberra’s best-known location among locals for native fish. Access is off Lady Denman Drive, which actually runs across the dam wall.

Captures of Murray cod up to 30kg are regular occurrences at the height of Summer.

An angler last season was fishing on the bank near the dam wall and hooked a large golden perch. As he was reeling in the fish, a 40kg cod took the yellowbelly and the lure, resulting in a long battle and two fish landed rather than one.

This may seem like a fluke occurrence but many local anglers have similar stories about fishing the dam wall.

Spinnerbaits work best at this location because the water is very deep and there are two very large weed beds running parallel to the wall. However, lipless crankbaits in recent years have proved very effective, especially those with a loud rattle which seems to stir the cod into a frenzy.

Large schools of redfin congregate around the dam wall and these mean that the native fish are very well fed, resulting in often massive golden perch to 7kg.

Scrivener Dam is located next to the National Zoo and Aquarium and fishes well right through the season for redfin, yellowbelly and cod.

Recent rain (a rarity!) tends to get the fish biting, as does a humid night followed by an overcast day with a slight wind across the water. Several trout have been landed at the dam wall in recent years, proving that there are still trout in the lake.


Blue Gum Point, off Alexandrina Drive at the entrance to Yarralumla Bay, is a location often ignored by many anglers but it is easily accessible by car or bike and there are barbecue facilities overlooking nearby Spinnaker Island.

There are often a lot of families picnicking down at the Point, but during the late afternoon you quite often have the place to yourself, especially of a weekday.

Cod, yellowbelly and redfin congregate at this point in large numbers and from Spring to late Summer, these fish can bite with incredible ferocity.

Some of the best native fishing I have experienced has been off Blue Gum Point, some of which have produced mixed bags of over 40 fish.

My lure of choice in this location is the Storm Hot n’ Tot in the metallic gold finish but bait works well also.

Yabbies fished off the bottom using a running sinker rig are very effective, as is a bunch of Garden Worms fished off the bottom.

Clearly, Canberra has some superb fishing options with Murray cod being the ultimate prize for any angler visiting the region and, indeed, most local fishos.

These locations are best fished from the bank. It is farcical to think that many Canberrans feel that boat fishing is the only option when fishing Burley Griffin.

I recommend trying a variety of techniques at these locations and be prepared to use bait when lures are not working. I guarantee the fish are there.

– Toby Grundy

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