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The year that wasn’t

Well after arriving home from a week of solid fishing at Harvey Dam I am sorry to report nothing but bad news. It seems there has been a stocking incident resulting in the loss of the prestigious and highly sought after Brown Trout the area has been so famous for over previous years. Apparently they all went belly up in the release tanks during a hot spell before they could be released into Harvey Dam. Oops! Western Australian fisheries did manage to release around 1100 brood stock, rainbow trout into the dam successfully however these fish seem to be extremely difficult to find and catch this season?

Opening day of the 2015 fresh water season saw Harvey Dam literally covered with competent fresh water anglers of all shapes and sizes, shore based anglers lined every likely location as deep water sections were scanned and searched by all manner of water craft imaginable. With opening day this year falling on a Monday it was extremely surprising to see so many lucky anglers venturing away from their work places to target trout. It seems half of Perth managed to chuck a sickie? It just goes to show you how popular a decent fresh water fishery would be received here in the west. Dare I say it again AUSTRALIAN NATIVES!!!

With many seasoned and competent fresh water anglers now scouring every nook and cranny of the dam it soon became evident that this year’s fishing was going to be poor compared to the previous? After speaking with many seasoned anglers and hearing the same disappointing results it soon became clear that this year’s season was shaping up to be a real dud. Like most other anglers I managed around a dozen yearling rainbow trout from 26 – 30cm and a heap of redfin perch around the same size range during each trolling session but alas no decent sized trout. Although these smaller fish were quite plentiful and moderately entertaining the satisfaction of hooking and landing that one good fish unfortunately eluded me for this trip.

There were however plenty of good trout to be found around the local feeder streams and rivers leading to and from the dam itself but unfortunately I was there to film a trolling for trout segment and these fish were not going to help my cause. Stand out lures for the trip included Halco RMG Scorpion 35 and 52 in classic rainbow trout and gravy train patterns. These two lures out fished anything else I put in the water during the week long period by far and are now my go to trolling lures for Harvey Dam, thanks again Halco.

These lures were fished over short, ultra-light graphite rods coupled with 1000 – 2500 class SHIMANO spin reels loaded with 4 – 6lb braided lines attached to around 1 – 2 rod lengths of 6 – 10lb fluoro carbon leader material. With local fresh water anglers restricted to trolling with one rod per person it helps to also have a mate in the boat to allow the use of two separate outfits. One is usually set back at around 30 – 40 meters with a small, shallow running lure (HALCO – RMG Scorpion 35, 1.6m sneaky suspending diver in classic rainbow trout pattern) and another closer to the boat at around 20 – 25 meters with a larger, deeper running lure (HALCO RMG Scorpion 52, 2.5m diver in gravy train pattern). Staggering lure distances not only avoids tangles during strikes and turns but also allows anglers to cover much more of the water column in search of their prey. This technique has worked extremely well for most fresh water anglers over the years with most rainbow trout taken on the smaller, shallow running lures and larger brown trout and red fin perch preferring the deeper running lures closer to the boat.

Harvey Dam is strictly an electric motor only option and does not allow the use of petrol engines at all! Most electric motors have around 5 speeds with the most popular speed for trout trolling proving to be the number four setting which produces a boat speed of around 2-3 knots depending on the vessel to which it is fitted. It does sometimes help to vary your boat speed to induce strikes when fish become lazy due to extremely calm or warm conditions.Gel cell batteries are a key factor in maintaining motor power for a good days trolling and need to be charged with a specified gel cell battery charger run by a decent 1 – 3 KVA generator system.

Echo sounders also help in locating fish and structure; once you have located good showings of fish in a certain area simply troll your lures around and through them until you start achieving results. Echo sounders with temperature readings are also handy for finding thermoclines; trout will often sit in a certain temperature of water rather than hanging around structure. Once the favoured temperature of water is located simply attach a lure capable of swimming at this desired depth/temperature range. Landing nets are also handy when fishing for trout from a boat and not only aid anglers in the landing of their fish but also prevent hooks in fingers, a fairly common occurrence when trying to hand lift lively trout attached to treble hooks.

Barometric pressure plays a very important role in fresh water angling and generally determines whether fish will be feeding of not. High, steady barometers are preferred for most fresh water angling situations, this generally occurs during warm, sunny conditions. Fish will often sit deeper in the water column or in shaded areas during these conditions. However calm, overcast conditions are also ideal for tempting trout into shallow cooler waters.

I’ve been fishing Harvey Dam for quite a number of years now and have enjoyed watching the fishing steadily improve to the point it was at a couple of years ago. Large, healthy brown trout to the magical 10lb mark used to be a real possibility back then and after having released so many of those beautiful fish over the years I am now left to wonder what became of the fish I was once so hopeful would remain there thrilling anglers for many more years to come? Now I do fully understand that Harvey Dam like most of our south western fresh water impoundments is stocked with brood stock trout and that it is respectively a put and take fishery system only. But it still to this day leaves me wondering where do all those trout go each year? Surely some must survive the angling onslaught and remain, grow and become semi wild? Why would this ever improving fishery suddenly take such a downward spiral? These are the questions that need to be addressed to ensure our Western Australian freshwater fisheries remain protected and improve. Perhaps some funds invested into building fish ladders to retain our trout in the dams to which they are released would be a good start? Rather than having them take off up the cooler, oxygenated feeder streams running into and out of the stocked dams to end up in areas totally inaccessible to most anglers paying good money for a freshwater fishing licence.

Trolling for trout is a relaxing and enjoyable form of fishing that is slowly growing more and more popular with the fresh water angling community, fingers crossed our fishery here in the west improves with age offering Western Australian anglers the diversity of fishing for some of Australia’s most popular and iconic fresh water species. Fingers crossed!

Calm seas, clear skies

Nick Hocking

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