Scott’s Spots – Pemberton, your South West escape

Nestled among the dense Karri forest, the picturesque town of Pemberton offers a unique freshwater fishing experience for Western Australian anglers, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan in the latest edition of Scott’s Spots. 

We aren’t blessed with a whole lot of inland fishing options in WA, especially in the South West, but Pemberton is the heart of freshwater fishing in this State and the nearby rivers, stream and dams offer stunning bush environment in which to wet a line. 

Trout are bred at the Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre.

The town is the home of our freshwater hatchery, established in the 1930s, which still breeds the brown and rainbow trout that are used to stock waters of the South West each year to create what is a very different trout fishery from elsewhere in the world. 

The Pemberton Freshwater Research Centre (PFRC) is the largest freshwater hatchery and research facility in WA and is located on the banks of the Lefroy Brook, one of the State’s best trout streams.

Faster-growing sterile ‘triploid’ trout are produced at the centre and over the years the hatchery has become famous for a unique genetic line of temperature-tolerant rainbow trout that has attracted the attention of international research institutions. 

Trout production and stocking continue to be the research centre’s primary function, but a number of other research initiatives are taking place there, including a captive breeding program for the critically endangered ‘hairy’ Margaret River marron, and research into endangered native fish. 

A stunning waterfall on the Lefroy Brook.

A range of trout is stocked in WA waters each year — including big ex-broodstock, fingerlings and yearlings — and many of those go into the waters around Pemberton. 

The Lefroy Brook runs right through the middle of Pemberton and has long been noted for offering superb rainbow and brown trout fishing. These days it also offers redfin perch, and its waters are home to good numbers of marron. 

Many fish from the hatchery are stocked into the Lefroy, which fishes well from town right up past the hatchery. 

Indeed, some of the best water is alongside the hatchery, on the Rainbow Trail which used to allow vehicles to follow the brook all the way to Big Brook Dam. 

Sections well worth trying include the mouth of the Lefroy, Cascades and Thompson’s Flats, which is at the bottom of town.

There are also hidden gems for those prepared to put in some leg work and brave the blackberries that often line the Lefroy. 

The Lefroy is as close as we get in WA to a classic trout fishing experience, with sections where wading is possible and fly fishing can be done in traditional fashion.   

Matt Lilly with a nice brown from a small stream.

Spinning with lures is often a good option around Pemberton, due to dense bush around the waterways that makes casting, especially with a fly rod, challenging. 

The Warren River, into which the Lefroy runs, is also well-stocked with trout, but it is a much bigger body of water and therefore tougher to fish. 

Nevertheless, there are several locations along it which fish well and good trout come from the Warren each year. 

It is also home to some massive redfin perch, which are fantastic eating and will respond well to a variety of lures. 

Paddling a section of the Warren in a canoe or kayak, fishing as you go, is a good way to find some big redfin. 

In season, the Warren is also a very popular marroning location. 

There are many nice rainbow trout found in the Warren River.

Other tributaries of the Warren that can fish well for trout include East Brook and Treen Brook, both of which are small but can hold good rainbows. 

The Treen is also noted for holding some very good brown trout, especially given the size of the stream. 

Big Brook Dam is easily accessible and has been well stocked in recent years, offering some quality fishing for both trout and redfin perch.

The nearby Donnelly River is home to some excellent trout fishing, and in recent years has also started holding redfin perch. 

Like the Warren, it has several tributaries which fish well for trout, and it is the one location in WA where the fish will run all the way to the mouth. 

Many trout have been caught in the lower reaches of the Donnelly and they have even been caught from the beach there. 

Although most locations can be accessed in the family car, casting a line at some of the better spots to catch a fish around Pemberton is not always easy due to the dense bush that can often make accessing sections of the streams and rivers tricky. 

Nonetheless, there are some nice trout waiting to be caught and the scenery and serenity often more than compensates for any of the access difficulties, while the best fishing rewards are often reserved for the adventurous. 

Casting a lure or bait into a clear, bubbling run below a set of rapids under the canopy of the forest, with no sounds but that of the running water and chirping birds, is a great way to escape from the stresses of modern life. 

There are a number of accommodation options in Pemberton and some have their own private fisheries stocked with trout. 

Scott Coghlan, with a solid brown trout, enjoys fishing at Pemberton.