Springing to Life!

By Trevor Holmes

Once again the Wimmera is back off the canvas after being given a count of 9 and struggling to its feet after recent rains. Most of us thought that so many fantastic lakes would be lost following a disappointing winter/spring in 2015. Predicted rains didn’t arrive and the prospects weren’t good. The winter/spring of 2016 was tipped by many to be wet and they weren’t wrong!

Rainfall and runoff has seen many lakes transformed back to the glory days of full to overflowing. Visitors and fisherman are once again flocking back to the region to not only enjoy the spoils of these great rain events but to marvel at the volumes of water flowing through what would be normally parched and drying paddocks at this time of year. In some places rainfall has been up to 300mm above average which is testament to the change from the previously crippling El Niño (drought) to the La Niña scenario which has triggered these rain events. Many have spoken at length about the unusual season and how wet it is. Reality is that this is only a slightly above average event for this region. Similar to what we would have experienced some 20-25 years ago. Yes there is merit and speculation of climate change but in my eyes it is only climate shift….it’s now shifted back to where it once was and the wheel has turned.

With so many lakes and streams coming “back online” the fishing and health of the waterways at this stage has a medium to long term future with storages throughout the Wimmera sitting at a healthy 65% (bulk volume). Some lakes are full to overflowing and we still have the prospects of more valuable spring rains to come which are critical to farmers and anglers alike. Although the farmers have had enough they say they’re only a few warmer days away from having bumper crops/harvest but for some there unfortunately has been crop damage.

Stocking of fish this season has been a well-managed and thought out process with the guys from Fisheries doing a real juggling act, trying to spread their production far and wide given there are some fifteen odd waterways now back in the system which over the last few years weren’t a viable proposition. After careful consultation and gathering wise heads together of experienced anglers to decipher the lakes for stock plus the prospects of either browns or rainbows I believe that in this region a great balance and variation has been achieved.

Whilst I may have a biased opinion of Lake Toolondo, being a resident here, it was more than pleasing to have the current Labor Government announce on the 5th of October, a lifesaving allocation of 10GL of water to the lake. This announcement couldn’t have been better timed as I firmly believed that by Xmas we would have seen many fish deaths and the demise of the premier trout fishery in Victoria. Steered by the Executive Director of Fisheries Victoria, Travis Dowling and his management team, an event attended by Lisa Neville MP and Jaala Pullford MP also saw the release of 7000 fingerling brown and rainbow trout as part of the rejuvenation. With follow up stock arriving within weeks, the next 2-3 years at Toolondo are going to be very exciting times.

Some of the other potentially brilliant lakes in the region are already bearing the fruits of the Government’s work with Lakes Fyans and Wartook both becoming good performers. Rocklands Reservoir also firing up and producing some terrific fish. Taylor’s Lake just outside Horsham is also back firmly on the radar as a prolific native fishery as is the nearby Wimmera River. The Wimmera is still running a banker now and flowing strongly out to the North West into the previously dry Lake Hindmarsh near Jeparit. Green Lake on the Western Highway is another lake to benefit greatly from the rain event and has already experienced a flurry of activity with several anglers doing very well with redfin and also some terrific feeds of yabbies coming out. Greenhill Lake in Ararat, Lake Lonsdale near Stawell, Lake Bellfield at Halls Gap, Lake Wallace in Edenhope….the list goes on and to see these lakes full again has delighted many.

On the wider scale of things there are many lakes now full and overflowing, being stocked with fish and seeing a resurgence. Yabbies are abundant in all the lakes and swamps giving many hours of enjoyment and a great feed to all that chase them. I’ve only covered a few of the options here and with careful planning and management we look forward to years of enjoyable fishing and water activities throughout the Wimmera/Mallee region. Thanks must go to the Labor Government, Fisheries Vic, GWM Water, VRFISH, Wimmera CMA and all others who have contributed to restoring the Wimmera to its former glory!

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