A FRESH APPROACH
Australia is blessed with myriad waterways that provide challenging and rewarding fishing for a variety of freshwater sportfish. MICK FLETORIDIS reports…
Freshwater anglers have never had it so good. On offer in the eastern states is a rich mix of inland sportfish species. From introduced rainbow and brown trout in the south through to the mighty Murray cod of slow western flowing rivers, through to wild Australian bass in winding coastal streams, the sweetwater fishing opportunities are exciting.
Many inland waters are home to both native and desirable introduced species, such as trout. ‘Undesirables’ such as carp and redfin can (depending on your point of view) also provide sportfishing opportunities.
Highly sought-after native fish that offer great sport include golden perch (aka yellowbelly or callop) and the aforementioned bass and cod. These can all be caught using a variety of methods including bait, lure and even fly fishing – a pursuit more commonly associated with trout, but also a challenging and exciting way to target native fish.
Despite environmental degradation and associated pressures, Australia's native fish are still largely found in the rivers of their origin – thanks to restocking efforts that have boosted fish numbers in drought-affected areas. Native fish have also thrived in past decades in many manmade impoundments. Dams such as Wyangala, Burrinjuck, Glenbawn, Blowering and Copeton (in NSW), and Somerset, Boondooma, Monduran and Awoonga (in QLD), are examples of impoundments with booming native fish fisheries.
An exciting development in native fish breeding in recent decades has seen Australian bass successfully introduced to dams and lakes where an abundance of food has seen these fish grow to sizes rarely seen in the ‘wild’. The resultant excellent fishing has led to the establishment of a successful bass fishing tournament circuit – and brought with it many purpose-designed boats.
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
In freshwater, it’s often a case of the smaller the craft the better – especially in tiny creeks and streams where a canoe or kayak can allow you to explore waters that would be otherwise inaccessible.
Having access to a well-equipped sportfishing boat is great for fishing vast lakes and dams too, boosting the prospects of success and enhancing the overall experience.
The mobility of a boat provides anglers easy access into more bays and backwaters than fishing from the shore. Impoundments can be busy places in pleasant weather, especially when the fish are biting. A boat can have you quickly fishing far from the crowd, often in places where the fishing pressure is minimal – and where the fish are more eager to bite.
Although high-horsepower fibreglass bass-style boats have crept onto the scene in recent years, aluminium boats (tinnies) with small to mid-range outboard engines are most common among freshwater anglers. They’re lightweight to tow, economical to run and pretty much all that’s needed for fishing most freshwater impoundments and large rivers.
Lure fishing is an active form of fishing that works especially well from a boat. Casting and retrieving lures close to natural fish-holding structure like dead timber, rocky outcrops, drop-offs, weedbeds and the points of bays is a very effective way to trigger a strike from territorial native fish.
Lure casting is extremely effective when on a boat fitted with an electric outboard motor. Electric power adds a degree of stealth and allows the boat to be positioned for casting at a stretch of bank, snags protruding from the water surface, or cover from trees overhanging the shoreline. Controlling an electric motor is as easy as dabbing the motor’s foot control, or even pushing a button on a wristwatch-style remote. Many electric motors these days also have an autopilot feature, which virtually allows hands-free boat control while you fish!
For those who like to sit back while fishing, trolling is a very effective form of lure fishing that relies on boat movement to ‘work’ lures. It’s a great way to cover a lot of water and have lures targeting fish at the optimum depth for longer – all while you happily munch on a sandwich or sip a coffee.
Trolling is a particularly effective way to catch trout, especially in Snowy Mountains lakes such as Jindabyne and Eucumbene. World-class brown and rainbow trout can be effectively targeted by trolling lures at a variety of depths, depending on the time of year. A boat fitted with a quality sounder/fishfinder is also invaluable for this form of fishing.
GIVE IT A GO
The opportunities for freshwater fishing in Australia are virtually endless (we’ve not even touched upon fishing for barra and sooty grunter in the Top End). If you’ve never been freshwater fishing, you don't know what you're missing… give it a go!