One of the great things about living Canberra is the access to some great fishing opportunities. We are lucky enough to have the coast and the mountains within a few hours’ drive, providing nearly endless fishing options. However, it’s the lakes and rivers close to home that make it a truly great spot for anglers, both casual and avid.
Lake Burley Griffin is Canberra’s largest lake and as far as fishing is concerned, seems to be going from strength to strength. There are four key species worth targeting: Murray cod, yellowbelly, redfin and (arguably) carp. While carp and redfin make up the bulk of the biomass, the natives fishery appears to be getting better, with 2016 shaping up to be one of the best ever for golden perch.
The fish you want to target should influence the choice of location, gear and technique. However, many people are just looking for a good spot to go, so here are a few options based on my observations and experience over the years.
‘Sullies’ is synonymous with carp. There are plenty of nice little spots in the creek below ANU that are filthy with carp. After rain, when the water is turbid, bait is the best option, but when the water is clear and you can see the fish, it’s hard to beat a little pheasant tail nymph or another slow sinking fly on a 4-6 weight fly rod with 3-6lb leader. Sullies also produces the odd native and redfin, but it’s first and foremost a magnet for the mudsuckers.
Bluegum point is a lovely little spot a km or so up from the Yarralumla Yacht Club. It juts out into the old river channel of the Molongolo, which was dammed to form LBG. Because of this, you can access some deep water from the bank. I haven’t sounded it up, but I reckon it probably gets down to around 15-20 metres in some spots. Bluegum point is certainly more of a natives spot, but there is also some good redfin fishing to be had at times. Big spinnerbaits fished super slow and deep are the go here, as you know that you’re always in the strike zone. I have been monstered by some unstoppable fish here, and it consistently produces good numbers of healthy yellowbelly and some lovely redfin.
This is a nice little spot that is perfect if you want to go and sit by the lake with a few beers and catch carp on bait. It also produces good numbers of redfin, but most of these are small. While this is quite a picturesque spot, the noise from the ‘music’ can be annoying and there are often lots of people around, all of which feel compelled to stop and have a chat. This can be nice, but isn’t really the sort of fishing that I like most.
This is an interesting little spot that produces lots of carp, redfin and at times, good numbers of yellowbelly. Most of the lake around Lennox gardens is bordered by a rock wall, which can make landing fish a challenge if you don’t have a net, but the artificial rock walls and numerous weedbeds provide good structure and produce good numbers of fish.
Black Mountain Peninsula
BMP is probably one of the most popular natives spots, as most of the accessible water follows the old river channel. The steep rock walls and ample structure produce good numbers of yellowbelly and cod, but you need to work fairly hard for them. The key to this spot is persistence. If you can, go down every evening for an hour and fish slowly and methodically. And then do this for a month, and you should have a few good sessions under your belt. My best lures here have been spinnerbaits, Halco Poltergeists and lipless crankbaits.
Yarralumla nursery bay
This is a lovely little spot tucked in behind the Yarralumla nursery. It provides some lovely flyfishing for carp. It’s not uncommon to see schools of 3-6 carp swimming around in shallow water, and presenting a little snack to them and getting an eat is a lot of fun. It’s also away from the crowds a little, but watch out for the angry cyclists on the back-cast.
There is a little stormwater drain that runs into the lake near the carpark at Blundell’s cottage. This is the spot that has produced the most large redfin I’ve caught anywhere. 2-3 inch lightly weighted plastics are the go. I’ve also hooked an unstoppable monster here, presumably feeding on some of the redfin.
Under the bridge
Under either bridge produces a lot of carp on bait, but the water is often turbid so flyfishing usually isn’t an option. Both bridges, and in particular the pylons, also produce natives, but it’s the blokes with the boats that usually do the best. The bridges also provide a little bit of cover on those rainy days when you just want to go fishing but don’t want to get drenched.
While not technically the lake, the Molongolo River is always worth a try, but to be honest, I have found it hard to fish in the past. It is deep and snaggy, making both bait and lure fishing challenging at times. Nonetheless, there are plenty of fish, with all four species being caught regularly in good numbers. Kayak is probably the best mode of fishing. In terms of specific locations, there is a little creek that runs in from Pialligo that produces good numbers of yellowbelly, with boats/kayaks providing the best access.
This is the bay in Yarralumla that has the police jetties. It’s generally shallow and weedy, but produces some of the biggest carp in the region. I have seen fish swimming around in this bay that are an easy 10kg. A piece of corn on an unweighted hook or a little carp-snack on a flyrod are the most fun options.
Weston Park can be hard to fish, as it’s generally shallow and weedy and the willows can provide limited access points. Nonetheless, I have had a few fun little sessions here catching redfin on poppers, and there are always carp swimming around.
Similarly to Lennox gardens, the national museum is bounded by rock walls, but there is some good structure and deeper water that can hold good numbers of redfin, cod and yellowbelly. The shallower areas near the weedbeds are also good for carp.
There are literally hundreds of spots I haven’t covered here, all of which will hold fish at times. The general rules of thumb are that choice of fishing location will depend on what you want to catch. Redfin are everywhere, but the big ones will generally be deep or associated with some sort of structure. Carp generally prefer the shallows. Natives will hug the deep rock walls, trees and weedbeds.
The easiest way to catch a fish in LBG is probably a little bit of bread dough or a couple of pieces of corn on a small hook with as little weight as you can get away with. The redfin are pretty easy and fun, but finding the bigger ones can be challenging. Natives are a more significant challenge, and will take persistence, timing and good lure selection to have some consistent success.
A question that people seem to search frequently is whether it is safe to eat fish caught from Lake Burley Griffin. There are cleaner water bodies around, but the research that has been done suggests that eating fish from LBG is absolutely fine. There were some concerns about the old mine at Captain’s flat, but one study from the 90s (?) suggested that heavy metal content in the fish tested was low and within safe limits. Graz has written a more in-depth review of the science here. In general, it makes sense to release the natives, but as it’s stocked keeping the odd one might actually do the fishery a favour. Redfin are delicious, and I’d encourage keeping a few. Carp, well, they aren’t my favourite fish but are popular with parts of the community, and that’s great.
Feel free to comment with your own tips, locations or experiences. Happy fishing