This week, the south west rivers, as well as many other waterways across Victoria, rose almost overnight well over a metre in height. The Merri River here in Warrnambool, in the lower sections, swelled from a gentle flowing river, able to be cast across, into a massive wetland as far as the eye can see. So what are your fishing options, now, and looking ahead to the next few months with all this water?
The estuaries can fire up, but also shut down, with a big influx of freshwater. Mulloway will move down to the beaches at the river mouths, and some monster sized fish can be caught in the muddy floodwater where it meets the ocean. Large fish baits with plenty of blood and oil, and noisy lures, are the choice for this kind of fishing. In spring, estuary perch will move down river, almost to the mouths to spawn. Vibes and soft plastics fished slowly over schooled up fish will be the preferred method. In the Hopkins River, this area is on the southern end of the bridge. It’s important to practise catch and release, as these fish are down there to breed, so give the fish of the future a chance. Bream will also be taken in the same areas, on the same lures. Rivers such as the Curdies which have had an edge bite (fish caught next to the bank) all the way through to August will now fish better in the deeper holes and reefs. The main thing with estuary fishing in September with floods, is try near the mouths on a high tide.
What about freshwater fishing? It really depends on how much rain and the kind of water. Lakes will fish very well for trout following an increase in water, as the fish move right up onto the edges to feed on worms and insects now washed into the lake. Fishing unweighted baits of worms will do quite well on a rising lake. Fly fishers also will enjoy great fishing with wet flies in the same conditions. Rivers can be either horrible, or excellent in floods. Immediately during the flood rivers can fish well, but just after as the water drops the trout fishing will be fantastic. Focus on small drains and creeks meeting the river. Bass and estuary perch are also known to fish very well before floods, in the build up storms, but they can also fire during floods, in similar areas to trout near drains which wash food into the rivers. Focus on areas of still backwaters for these native fish.
Whilst the floods might seem an inconvenience for now and may put a dampener on the fishing for the time being, you have to consider floods as part of a natural cycle, which refresh and clean out the rivers of old water, algae and weeds, bring food into the systems, encourage breeding of fish, bring new structures into the river for habitat, and give our fish a few months of quiet time from anglers.