It's trout time again!

Hydro Tasmania Senior Aquatic Scientist, David Ikedife
9 August 2017

One of the highlights of a chilly Tasmanian winter is the first day of trout season.

While many folks hibernate by the fire, some of us prefer getting knee-deep or deeper in some of the coldest water you’ll find… and feeling right at home.

After a three-month break, brown trout season for most inland waters starts this Saturday (5 August), and runs until late April.

Angling is part of Tasmanian culture, with about 25,000 people holding a licence to fish our inland waters last season. I’m one of those keen anglers who’ll be donning the Fly and Dry waders and wetting a line this weekend.

We’re spoiled for choice in Tasmania, so location can be a tough decision. I’m partial to the Western Lakes because I caught my first trout on the dry fly out there. But this year I’ll have my two young apprentices in tow, so somewhere closer (and warmer) is probably a wiser option.

I’m also lucky enough to be a Senior Aquatic Scientist at Hydro Tasmania, responsible for looking after the waterways we manage.

Hydro has closely studied those waterways for many years - particularly the shallow highland lakes and lagoons – to improve their water quality and ecology. In turn, that improves their performance as recreational fisheries.

For example, Woods Lake was once known for its turbid waters and low patronage. Hydro has taken steps to support the lake’s ecology, meaning the water is now much clearer, fish stocks are healthier, and the trout fishery is a consistently strong performer. Along with better road access, those improvements have transformed it into a popular fishery.

We’ve also installed artificial wetlands upstream of Penstock Lagoon, and fine-tuned inflows and water levels, which have helped make it a much better fishery.

Woods Lake and Penstock Lagoon were again ranked as the third and fourth most popular lake fisheries by the Inland Fisheries Service (IFS) in 2016-17.

While providing energy security is Hydro’s first priority, we also take pride in supporting the many people who enjoy our waterways. That includes anglers, kayakers, rowers, water skiers, tourism operators and irrigators. Many of my colleagues at Hydro and Entura love using our waterways, including a lot of devoted anglers who are looking forward to the trout season.

Hydro Tasmania manages more than 50 lakes and lagoons, including some very popular angling waters.

Eight of those lakes - Bronte Lagoon, Laughing Jack Lagoon, Penstock Lagoon, Arthurs Lake, Woods Lake, Little Pine Lagoon, Shannon Lagoon and Lake Augusta - are the centrepiece of our Memorandum of Understanding with the IFS. The agreement sets out water level management targets to support good fishing and protect fish stocks and water quality. There’s more information on the MoU at www.hydro.com.au/fishing.

Hydro also supports recreational fishing by working with Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) to improve boating facilities at popular sites.

Of course, meeting Tasmania’s hydropower needs means water levels fluctuate, which is not always ideal for fishing.

Inflows vary, and Hydro needs the flexibility to change operations based on localised rainfall, maintenance needs and environmental factors. Wherever possible, we try to provide good fishing conditions and strike a balance between hydropower operations, the environment, and the needs of other users.

In an ideal world, passionate anglers would prefer lake levels to be consistently good for fishing – which, of course, means different things to different anglers. While that’s not always possible, most anglers at least want some understanding about fishing conditions to help plan their trips. We aim to provide that.

There’s regularly updated information about lake levels and water flows on Hydro Tasmania’s website at www.hydro.com.au/water. You can also access the INFISH app for both Apple and Android on the IFS website at www.ifs.tas.gov.au/infish.

There’s information about boat ramps and other facilities at www.hydro.com.au/community/recreational-sites, as well as the MAST website at www.mast.tas.gov.au/facilities.

Given Bronte Lagoon’s popularity as an early-season fishing water - particularly for its tailing trout – there’s much anticipation about water levels on opening weekend.

I took the opportunity to head upstairs and talk to our water managers for the inside running on Bronte. While they can’t make any promises about expected water levels over the coming season, they’re keenly aware of preferred angling levels.

Water levels in Bronte Lagoon are dependent upon inflows. If there’s reasonable rainfall and inflows forecast over winter and early spring, water levels are lowered in advance to avoid spill. From October, inflows are generally lower and water levels are higher and more consistent, which is reflected in our water level Memorandum of Understanding with the IFS.

So in short, it’ll pay to check water levels online and plan your trip accordingly.

Despite a fairly dry autumn and winter, Hydro Tasmania’s overall storage level is very secure at 37.1 per cent (as of Monday 31 July). The IFS is very positive about the season ahead, with good fishing expected across a range of Tasmanian lakes.

Stay safe, enjoy the fishing, and I hope to see you out there!

David Ikedife
Senior Aquatic Scientist – Hydro Tasmania

An edited version of this opinion-editorial first appeared in the Mercury newspaper on Saturday 5 August, 2017.