Spring has sprung and both Aussie anglers and Aussie fish have awoken from their winter hibernation. At this time of year it’s easy to pick up the newspaper and get excited after reading of captures of Golden Perch (yellowbelly) and Murray Cod. What the paper doesn’t report is all the people who threw lures around for a few hours and didn’t catch a cold!
In my experience, persistence is key with native fishing around Canberra; get your lure in often enough at the right place, at the right time and (perhaps more importantly) at the right depth, and you’ll be rewarded with some great native fish.
Lake Burley Griffin
Take Canberra’s biggest lake for example, Lake Burley Griffin. There are native fish in there – somewhere between the hordes of small redfin and the vast numbers of carp. A recent electrofishing survey turned up plenty of 1 year old Golden Perch (stocked 2011) and 6 year old Golden Perch (stocked 2005). Note: there were none in between 1 and 6 years old- thank goodness for the stocking program eh? The 6 year old yellas are now around 50cm long and are great fun if you can connect with one on light-medium spin gear. The survey also turned up a mighty Murray Cod over a metre long (fortunately this was put back and not taken for “dating”).
The right place?
A little bit of research of the regular fishing writers (past and present) like Rob Paxevanos, Bryan Pratt and Ben Caddeye and you’ll start to see a pattern emerging. Native fish are generally caught in the same areas:
- Rocky areas that drop off into deeper water,
- Areas flanked by reed or weed beds that provide habitat for smaller fish and yabbies
- Spots where you can cast into the old Molonglo river channel
The right depth?
My approach has been to head down to a couple of likely spots after work each day and keep varying lure selection and retrieve speed until I find something that works. In general terms, something that can be fished deep and slow. Spinnerbaits and bibless crankbaits are great as they can be fished at any depth. Both require good depth awareness and contact with the lure however- there are plenty of rocks and snags that can soon put a dent in the bank balance from a lapse in concentration. I usually start off with bibbed diving lures as they are a great searching tool and as soon as you feel the bottom, you can pause the retrieve and let the lure float free, before continuing.
On one occasion I was working a gold-coloured deep diver in about 8-10 metres of water when my heart suddenly skipped a beat. A big gold and black shadow emerged from the depths and chased the lure to my feet. The retrieve finished, so I had another cast and another and another. Finally the fish connected with the hooks and the reward was my first yellowbelly on lure.
This fish was around 2 kilos and obviously feeding well. Now, to be fair, that’s the short version. In reality there were plenty of hours of fishing that week before I struck gold(en perch). Since then though, our confidence has grown and Yellowbelly have become a more common catch. Lee and I have caught quite a few, especially smaller fish and usually on dusk.
The right time?
Native fish seem to have a window where they are particularly active. In our experience the 30 minutes either side of sunset is a great time to catch one. Josh n Jamie call this the “Magic Hour”. At one point we came up with the theory that if you could still see your fishing line at the end of your rod, it was still too early. Once the sun had truly set, these smaller fish would chase the lure all the way to the surface and hit it at your feet. Not recommended for those with a dicky heart 🙂
As for colour selection, “match the hatch” I say. Anything that resembles a juvenile carp (yellow / gold) or a juvenile redfin (Red / silver / black) has to be worth a try. Failing that just get a purple lure, for whatever reason they seem to account for dozens of native fish every season.
I certainly wouldn’t say we’ve cracked the native code and it probably receives the least attention of all our fishing pursuits. But there are some simple rules to maximise your chances. Fish deep-divers and spinnerbaits around structure. In summer, fish deep. At other times of year, maybe experiment in the shallower margins. Don’t be afraid to fish slow and more importantly fish often! You’ve got to be in it to win it 🙂
PS This style of net isn’t ideal (especially if you want to release your fish) as the string can easily cut into the fins of the fish. I have tied a knot two-thirds of the way up so that the fish is cradled in the net. I’ve also recently upgraded to a fish-friendly Environet.