There is not much time left to target our West and South Gippsland stream trout before the season comes to an official close at midnight on June 14.
Some anglers are suggesting that the season has unofficially come to an end as trout are settling on their breeding grounds to spawn much earlier than previous years.
With this in mind, the prospects are looking very exciting for the next season as we could expect increased offspring given the improved conditions.
The drought has had an impact on past trout breeding seasons due to lack of rainfall needed to top up the catchments and trigger trout into moving upstream to spawn. The little rainfall we have had has been just enough for trout to spawn but the rates of offspring survival have been small.
In the past, May has been the time of year when stream flows increase just enough to improve oxygen in the water triggering the mass movement of trout upstream. Along their journey, they are active and aggressive therefore providing a lot of fun for anglers on soft plastics, hardbodied lures, spinners and baits. As they hit their breeding grounds, trout become less active and body condition is dropped as their focus shifts from feeding to spawning.
This year has been a very different story around this region with solid rainfalls throughout summer and one could almost say that we have finally had a half-decent autumn break prompting trout to move upstream much earlier than May.
I caught and released a number of female fish around 1kg in late March – early April that were already carrying eggs. From the same holes I was also hooking into some thumping male fish around 2kg which indicated the fish were already moving upstream to the spawning grounds and were still at the stage of being active and aggressive.
One month on and I found it hard to even get a sniff from some of the larger fish I could see in the rivers. My target soon shifted to smaller trout that were probably around a year old as they tend to move with the bigger fish but aren’t fully developed to spawn, therefore still chasing lures and baits.
My mate, Neil Leggett was one of the success stories to finish off this trout season as he braved the elements one wet afternoon to fish the Tarago River. Declining his invitation to join him, I pointed him towards some of my hotspots. A text message came through from Neil later that evening asking me how long he needs to cook a 2kg trout in the oven. He landed this monster fish on a brown Squidgy Wriggler and was his first ever fish on a soft plastic.
If you are planning on sneaking one more fish before the trout season closes, the upper stretches of the Latrobe, Loch and Toorongo Rivers are worth a shot around Noojee for trout averaging 500g. If you feel like adventuring beyond Noojee, then the Tanjil River near Tanjil Bren is a beautiful spot with both brown and rainbow trout averaging 400g.
There are some lower stretches of the Tanjil River that are 4WD accessible and can have some big fish coming out of Blue Rock Lake. The upper extensions of the Tarago River are once again desired by anglers for the big fish that come out of reservoir.
Below the reservoir is still a worry as controlled flows have impacted trout populations, which will have a domino effect on breeding. With the Bunyip River flowing so well, hopefully trout from the Tarago River will abandon their normal spawning grounds opting for the upper sections of the Bunyip River.
With the season closing on June 14 and re-opening on midnight September 3, the couple of months in between are good times to target blackfish, which are a nice alternative to trout. You can use the same gear as you would do for trout but the tackle and technique is much simpler.
Blackfish are often caught on worms floated in slow flowing pools close to structure. They are considered ambush predators so they do live around boulders and timber structure in deep pools. Attach a bubble float with split shot about 60cm above a small baitholder hook. In deeper pools extend the leader so that you are getting the bait to sit just off the stream bed. Garden worms, scrub worms and small yabbies are all fair game but blackfish have been known to be caught on soft plastics and hardbodied lures but are generally a by-catch to trout using these techniques.
They exist in all the streams and rivers throughout West and South Gippsland and there are some big specimens swimming around those harder to access deep holes along the Latrobe, Bunyip, Lang Lang, and upper Tarwin Rivers.
Feel free to send me a report or photo particularly if you have any blackfish reports and please email me any questions.Reads: 1446