Fish return to Campaspe

By Country News

The Campaspe River downstream of the Eppalock Reservoir is fast becoming the place to go for the region’s anglers, with conditions some of the best they have ever been, according to North Central Catchment Management Authority.

The authority said anglers were reporting they were more likely to catch golden perch than carp or redfin, and have also spotted schools of critically endangered silver perch along the river.

Murray cod were recorded spawning in the river and the vulnerable Murray-Darling rainbowfish have returned — after being missing from Arthur Rylah Institute surveys — following last year’s high operational flows.

‘‘We lost a lot of vegetation recruitment with last year’s high flows, and the fact the rainbowfish are coming back, and they’re breeding, is evidence the repairs are working,’’ North Central CMA acting environmental flows program manager Genevieve Smith said.

‘‘Rainbowfish are not an angling fish, but they are a vital food source for the large-bodied native fish everyone loves to catch,’’ she said.

‘‘When the things at the bottom, or near the bottom, of the food chain are healthy and plentiful, it’s a good indication the whole system is doing well.’’

North Central CMA has a series of plans aimed at making the Campaspe River as healthy as it can be under river regulation.

‘‘We plan for a number of different water availability scenarios, depending on the conditions,’’ Ms Smith said.

‘‘Rivers are naturally supposed to have water in them over late winter and spring, but our irrigation system means more water flows during drier months.

‘‘So, we have to do what we can to deliver the right amount of water at the right time when we are able to, bearing in mind that the rivers still don’t get the full amount of water they would have naturally, even in wet years.’’

The Campaspe River watering plan for 2019-20 is aimed at keeping vegetation and fish healthy, connecting slow-moving pools and watering the river red gums that line the banks.

‘‘Coming into this winter and spring, we are planning for a dry season,’’ Ms Smith said.

‘‘That doesn’t mean no water at all, it means we have to operate with what is available.

‘‘We will aim for flows of about 100Ml a day until November, a number that may change as conditions do.

‘‘That figure is in the middle range of what the Victorian Environmental Water Holder allows for in line with its Seasonal Watering Plan, and it will help further improve the conditions for the river’s steadily recovering native fish population.’’