I think we can all agree it’s been a pretty wet year; and the statistics back this observation up. Last year we saw great floods right across southwest Victoria in October, and since then the rains have continually fallen. The paddocks were green, the lakes topped up, and the rivers flowing well all through the summer of 2021. Over the last few months the floods have returned, resulting in some pretty difficult fishing conditions for anglers right along the coast and inland. So what to do when the rivers are like chocolate milk?

You’d have to be pretty keen to get on the rivers at the moment. The Merri River rises quickly after rains, and has been quite high since around May. The Hopkins takes longer to rise, but with all of the tributaries pouring in, there has been massive amounts of water coming downstream and roaring over the mighty Falls. Within a few weeks, we will be seeing a few changes to our rivers. The fish will have moved. Schools of bream and perch in the estuary will be following the saltwater to the mouth, with mulloway also following the dirty waters from the ocean up into the rivers. The lower reaches of the estuaries, near the mouths, will be the spots to target using heavy plastics and vibes. Trout will be pushed around with the floodwaters, and dispersed through the system, spreading fish out which is much needed in our stocked rivers locally. The base of falls and weirs rarely fail to produce following floods as fish move downstream, but can’t get back up. New snags will have been created from natural or human sources. Old stagnant sections of water choked with weeds and algae, will be flushed and refreshed. The banks will be lined with dead reeds, logs, trees and bushes, plus other lovely additions such as hay bales and dead cows. These provide nutrients for the rivers and habitat for the fish. In addition, fish such as mulloway respond very well to floods, and often only breed following floods, as seen in 2010/11. This should mean extra fish numbers over the next few years.

And how about the saltwater? Take a look at the Warrnambool or Port Fairy bays at the moment, or the mouth of the Curdies or Glenelg Rivers, and you’ll see a mass of brown water. Some species which tend to frequent the salt (such as squid, whiting and wrasse) will be moving to find the clear saltwater they enjoy. Other fish such as bream will be moving out of the rivers into the bays to feed as the freshwater concentration increases. And predatory fish, such as snapper, mulloway and sharks, love the muddy water washed out by floods, using it as cover to feed heavily on fish (such as mullet) washed out into the bays. Excellent land based action can be had using strong smelling fish baits in the bays during this time, particularly around beaches and bays adjacent to river mouths.

So whilst the fishing night now might be reduced a little, rest assured floods are a natural cycle and will be resulting in many benefits for both fish and anglers over the coming months and into the future. It sure beats drought!