110 winterPresented from Issue 110, June 2014

Winter fishing in Tasmania is a funny thing, and as we all know it’s been written about many times over about places to go and what to use. If we look back over the years we will find the fishing has changed greatly year by year because of different things like environmental factors, stocking rates, weather patterns etc. So it may be an apt time to look at Winter fishing again.

Tasmanian anglers from all walks can be a funny bunch and pull the pin on freshwater fishing once Easter passes or because of the closure of most waters, simply ignoring or forgetting about the waters which are open to them year round.

I find the fishing during winter albeit cold can be fantastic. Fishing from May to July can bring some fantastic blue sky days and if you rug up can be rewarded with hungry rainbows trying to fatten up before spawning or browns trying to put condition back on after they have contributed to their population growth. It’s just a matter of picking the right weather, which is something we probably do during the season anyway.

Great Lake

My pick of the lakes open that are easy access from my home is Great Lake, usually before any great amounts of snow is on the ground. Just about anywhere in the lake can produce, but I really like Todds Corner, the shores leading into Lake Elizabeth and Cramps Bay and the weed bed off the area where boat launching occurs in Boundary Bay.

Standard hard body lures with a slow retrieve with red or orange in the color pattern works well for me as a pre or post spawn color here. Plastics in the usual popular colors will always catch fish. I also find waiting until mid morning before fishing can help letting the margins warm slightly if it’s a blue sky day. I like to sit off the edge about 30 metres or so and cast the plastic in towards the shore working it back to the boat, it wont take long and you’ll find fish are in a certain depth which then allows you to concentrate your efforts better. Trolling close to the bottom will catch fish using either lead line or diving lures appropriate to your depth. Watch your sounder and keep lures close to the bottom.

Slabby fish have been a problem in recent years but condition of the rainbows right now is awesome and the browns are being caught in better condition. It’s definitely worth the effort for a winter trip.

Lake Barrington

My closest water to fish in winter is Lake Barrington. In my opinion it has become very difficult to catch decent fish consistently over the last few years. If I go there I do so knowing I’m likely to only catch little browns that average perhaps 400 grams and rainbows which aren’t much better. Yes it is possible to catch bigger fish but I find it a rarity to do so.

It’s not the lake it was 4 or 5 years ago and many people wait for IFS to stock it with Atlantic Salmon before fishing here. It’s a pity really, as it’s protected in most winds and is a picturesque place. It’s almost a waste of time fishing Barrington in summer with the amount of skiing that goes on even up the river where it’s a 5 knot zone but there is rarely any authority here to police that so I don’t bother even trying to compete for water with a ski boat or Jet Ski. So winter and spring are the times to have a go.

I would like to see more stocking or a concerted effort from IFS on the brown fishery here as I remember it once used to be fantastic prior to Atlantic stockings. I still think there is an issue stocking Atlantics as I believe this water has suffered because of it.

I find drifting the edges using a Minn Kota electric motor to hold position whilst casting hard body lures to the edges the most productive way to fish here. Plastics fished off points leading into bays can also produce, but be prepared to lose jigheads. I don’t like trolling here as I think most fish are concentrated hard on the edges and you’re not presenting lures to majority of fish by trolling. If that is the way you want to fish though I’d troll at 10-15 feet as this seems to be where the thermocline sits most of the time.

Blackfish can also be caught at Barrington and some big fish have been caught here in recent years. I did hear reliable reports of fish to 3kg but have not seen pictures to confirm as yet. They are easily caught using worms fished on or close to the bottom.

Bait fishing at Barrington is an under utilized method. Fishing with natural baits either on the bottom or under a float a varying depths works really well and even though Barrington is mainly a steep sided lake there are plenty of options for the land based angler at Kentish park and the rowing course.

Lake Burbury

It’s a bit of a drive from Devonport but worth it. I make the journey confident I can come home happy having caught plenty of fish to about 1.5kg. I don’t seem to catch a lot of Rainbows but when I do they are usually fat as mud even the little fellas.

I find the Northern end in all the shallow water up there to be very consistent for fish heading in towards the Eldon River. There are numerous stumps and sticks in the water here which I think the fish find attractive. Drift spinning with shallow lures and even fly fishing here is great fun. It seems to fish better here with a slight bit of chop on the water but give it a go anytime. Coming back down the lake fishing with plastics between the islands can produce lots of fish as does trolling.

Stump Jumpers have worked this past season. I think the wide slow wobble has something to do with it. Most of my fishing at Burbury is down the bottom end fishing points and main lake edges casting to the lay downs. I don’t like fishing the backs of bays as I only seem to catch smaller fish there.

The Governor River and its bay I have found very tough in recent years so I rarely bother there for any length of time now. Not sure what’s happened there as it used to be awesome fishing.

A popular area for trolling is the large bay heading into the Nelson River, I fish the edges coming into the bay and plastics deep off the points here in up to 30 feet of water. All the usual plastics work. Funnily enough I think most of the best fishing is probably all within a kilometre or less of the Thureau Hills boat ramp. If we could get a more consistent water height average here this place I believe would explode with monster fish. The potential is there as my average size is probably 800gms to 1kg with the odd larger fish. The amount of feed in Burbury is unreal, it’s just the constant draw down that I think upsets the fish — like any lake or river.

Lure colors are irrelevant. I have caught fish here on just about every brand of lure and color. Trolling is by far the most popular method here and I find it odd that most choose to troll very wide of the edges. I’m not sure why but suspect people don’t like losing lures to the trees around the edges but this is where most go wrong as the bigger fish are on the edges not out in the middle of nowhere.

I realize there has been a long standing tradition amongst some Tasmanian anglers about having a closed season as it affords a build up of excitement waiting for the traditional opening etc. But I think times are changing and need to change. Anglers want more value for license fees and for their recreational dollar.

 110 winter cold
 Rug up for the cold

We all seem to be working harder or longer hours and want to maximize our time spent doing what we love so why not fish year round? Why wait for an open season?

In several mainland states all lakes are open year round with only spawning streams and rivers shut for a closed season. I suppose it begs a question if it works there would it here? I don’t know and won’t confess to having any answers but perhaps we all as anglers need to evolve and rethink what we see as traditional. Something to ponder on anyway. We have nine lakes open year round. Burbury,

Great, Huntsman, Meadowbank, Pedder, Craigbourne, Barrington, King William and Brushy. Become familiar with a couple rug up and be amazed at what winter fishing in Tasmania can produce. It’ll stop you going stir crazy and you don’t have to stop fishing. In fact in my opinion we should have quite a few more lakes open and would like to see anglers petitioning Anglers Alliance and IFS to have other waters like Arthurs, Lake St Clair, Echo and Bradys just to name a few opened to year round fishing.

I’m not sure if there are more good arguments for or against it really. I’m just the devils advocate wanting to get people thinking about it as I could only see it benefit anglers, retailers, tourism etc. Lets evolve as anglers and get fishing I don’t want to be a part time angler, do you?

Leroy Tirant

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