The trout season is well and truly closed now in this region, and we look excitingly towards the re-opening on Saturday 4 September.
But trout are not the only fish that this beautiful region has to offer. Many, if not all, of the streams that flow out of the forests and meander through farmland hold river blackfish and short-finned eel.
River blackfish is the main target species for anglers in the local region that aren’t quite ready to hang up the rod for a few months while the trout do their business. Like trout, the size of our local blackfish varies considerably depending on its environment. Small specimens up to 400g are caught readily throughout the catchment - no waterway is too small or too large for blackfish; like trout.
Hard to access locations and deep dark pools or holes along a stretch of river can result in a big blackfish easily weighing more than 1-1.5kg. Blackfish are also carnivorous like trout and will eat insects, worms, small crustaceans and small native fish like galaxiids and gudgeons.
The tackle you use is also similar to that if you were fishing for trout. A light rod and reel outfit is necessary as well as light tackle to accompany. Yet the major difference between trout and blackfish angling is fishing technique, how they feed and where exactly you can find them in a stream.
By far the most successful technique for blackfish, which also happens to be the simplest and easiest form of fishing, is to set up bait under a float, cast and wait for the bite.
Fish a size 4 baitholder hook using a scrub worm or 3-4 garden worms as bait and use your judgement as to where to place the bubble float, aiming to have the bait about 20-30cm off the streambed.
The best time of day for blackfish is in the late afternoon and throughout the evening. Many keen blackfish anglers brave the winter elements fishing at night under torchlight. Saying this, blackfish can often be caught on overcast winter days where you are fishing a stream with plenty of vegetation surrounding.
Blackfish are ambush predators so patience is required. Unlike fishing for trout where you are constantly on the move hunting down a fish with polaroids, blackfish prefer dark water so you can’t see them, you’ll just learn to know that they are there.
Blackfish like darker water. Deep pools or slow flowing runs often hold blackfish and the more structure or cover the better.
So with that in mind, blackfish don’t move around a lot so drop your baits around structure like fallen timber, boulders or small under cuttings in the stream bank to increase chances.
So which rivers to fish for blackfish? All the freshwater streams of West and South Gippsland hold river blackfish. Ray from Bisho’s Bait and Tackle reported that a customer had recently caught a big blackfish around 1.5kg near Labertouche using garden worms.
The Latrobe, Toorongo, Loch, Tarago, Bunyip, Lang Lang, Moe and Upper Tarwin rivers are all well populated with blackfish. Keep in mind the tributaries (including small farm streams) running into these major rivers would also have blackfish.
All is not lost when the trout season closes. Yes, there is a moment when stream trout anglers feel a little lost at this time of the year but thankfully the blackfish are a good backup.
It is our largest freshwater native species in the region (post European settlement) and is great fun to catch and they do put up a decent fight on light gear. Blackfish angling is also a terrific sport for young freshwater anglers who would like to try catching something other than trout, redfin or carp, so get your Mum or Dad to drop you off at one of our many local rivers with a rod, reel and a punnet of garden worms.
Remember to practice catch and release and only take home what you need, as the blackfish is an extremely important species to our ecosystem.
Feel free to send me a report or photo particularly if you have any blackfish reports and please email me any questions. Happy fishing!
Last of the trout for this season – Trent Kruger from Pakenham caught and released this pre-spawning 7lb brown trout on a hardbodied lure making it a personal best.Reads: 8985