Graz and I spent the weekend at Wallaga Lake. As well as catching a few fish, it was great to get out on the water and get some sunshine after a few weeks of miserable weather in Canberra.
On Saturday morning, we got up early and hit the beach for sunrise. There was plenty of good structure, but the tide was very low and the salmon weren’t there. After a few casts in each likely looking gutter, we decided to call it and headed back for some tea, coffee and breakfast.
It was turning into a cracker of a day, so we decided to hook up the boat and head out onto Wallaga Lake to see if we could find a few fish. We figured that even if the fish had shut down due to the cooler water, we could still park the boat in the lake, near the south end of Tilba beach, and have a cast for salmon as the gutters filled leading up to high tide. We also threw in a loaf of nasty bread, just in case. I’ve found this to be one of the best contingencies when heading fishing, both in salt and freshwater environments.
As we launched the boat, a brisk westerly blew up, although moderated after 20 minutes or so. We decided to head over to Fisherman’s Bay, in front of Fairhaven, with the reasoning that it was north-facing, relatively shallow and thus might be slightly warmer than other areas. First drift and Graz hooked up and called it for a flattie. He was fishing a 100mm squidgy fish in the gary glitter colouration, which glinted nicely as the fish was brought alongside the boat. It looked like a keeper, and as I was grabbing the net, out popped the lure and we watched it swim off into the green depths.
Rather than be disheartened, we were actually pleased that we’d found a fish so quickly, as we had expressed some concern earlier that it might be a bit too cold for the flatties. Second drift and graz hooked up again, this time bringing a small 30cm dusky into the boat. After one more drift, this time without a fish, we decided to try another spot. I think the key to flathead fishing is to move around. Once you find a patch of fish, it can be hot fishing for an hour, but they might comprise 90 per cent of the fish you catch in a day on the water.
We went over to ‘Eagle Bay’ (recently named by Graz), which is a small bay opposite the Beauty point boat ramp. It was out of the wind, but the fish weren’t there. In saying that, Graz did hook and drop what appeared to be a very good fish, but it was fairly clear that they weren’t there in numbers.
By now, we were starting to consider all the options. Head to the beach? Chase mullet? Go searching for shallow/deeper water? However, I still had one spot up my sleeve, although I’m increasingly reluctant to give away the exact details! All I can say is that it’s near the main basin, is relatively shallow and has some tidal flow and adjacent weedbeds. On arriving here, I had a nice 45cm fish on the first cast, and Graz got one soon after. Over the next hour and about 6 drifts, we landed 11 good-sized flathead, with 2 over 50cm and threw back a few littlies. At times we had double hook-ups. For the middle of winter, it was champagne fishing. All fish were caught on 80-100 mm plastics on 3-5 gram jig heads.
After a relatively frenetic hour the bite slowed and we decided to have a look around the ‘front’ of the lake. When motoring across, we noticed thousands of bream, mullet and blackfish darting off from underneath the boat. We had brought the nasty whitebread with us, so decided to anchor up in the channel and start a berley trail to see if the fish were interested. After 10 minutes or so and a few slices of bread, there were NO fish in the trail. We were a bit miffed but Graz suggested we try some shallower water where the flow wasn’t as intense.
After motoring over onto some flats that were no more than 2 feet deep and throwing back some bread, it took no longer than 5 minutes for the mullet to find the trail. Nice work Graz!
I was fishing unweighted and Graz had a float, and both techniques were working well. The fish weren’t big – 25cm would have been the max., but mullet in that shallow water are a huge amount of fun. Added to their sporting abilities, the water was crystal clear, so we could see every boil, strike and take. We kept a few and decided to have a look at the beach, but there was nothing there.
On returning to the lake, we decided to call it and head home for a feed, but drifted through the channel back towards the bridge casting plastics. It was a nice, safe, economical way of navigating the shallows, and I even scored a nice trevally on a green 4inch squidgy fish to top off what was a great session.
That evening, we went for a quick cast down at Camel Rock to see if the salmon were cooperating. It looked FISHY, but they weren’t there in numbers. Graz did get one nice fish, however, by using the old ‘slow-down’ technique, which was pretty impressive. Basically he slowed the retrieve right down. What this can do is get the lure to sink down deeper into the water and essentially spends more time in the strike-zone. It can work a treat in low-light situations, and was the saving grace of the session on this occasion!
We went back to the Beauty Point boat ramp so Graz could clean the salmon and I decided to have a few casts. There was a bloke there taking his boat out of the water, so I asked him how he went. ‘Nah, nothing biting today mate, it’s dead’. Meanwhile I was pulling in a nice broad shouldered flattie. ‘Ah, you got a flattie eh?’ he asked me with a touch of surprise in his voice. ‘There must be fish feeding there because of the frames in the water’. I was going to ask ‘well why weren’t you fishing here then?’, but thought better of it. I don’t want to be a smart arse, but if you want to catch fish, think about where they will be and why!
We went back out on the lake on Sunday but the fish weren’t cooperating. The westerly had really picked up and it was a fair bit cooler than Saturday. Nonetheless, we still got three keepers, but had to work hard for them.
It was a really enjoyable trip in the end. It was great to find the fish in the middle of winter. They were aggressive and fat and were coughing up little whitebait all over the place. Despite the water being cold, these fish were obviously feeding vigorously and taking advantage of the food sources in Wallaga post flood flushing. The system has really come alive, and it’s great to be part of it. We thought the mainstay of the weekend would be salmon, but were wrong!