As we approach the start of spring, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan explores some of the Peel and South West regions’ quality freshwater fishing locations in this week’s edition of Scott’s Spots. From Waroona to Harvey, there are many terrific spots to catch trout just off the South Western Highway.
For many years, WA’s freshwater trout scene was dominated by Waroona Dam.
In its halcyon days, Waroona was a superb impoundment trout fishery that produced fantastic afternoon rises and some quality fish in prime condition – ultimately it was a joy to fish. It was so good it would draw anglers down from Perth just to fish the evening rise.
Over the years though, Waroona fell away as a fishery, partly due to the introduction of redfin perch into the dam, which meant major competition for food for the trout.
When Waroona was at its best, Harvey Weir – about 30km farther south – was a minor fishery. It produced some nice marron, along with redfin and the odd trout, although the Harvey River above the dam was a superb fishery for trout, with clear water and some big fish as it snaked its way up towards Stirling Dam.
All that changed in 2002, when work on the new Harvey Dam, which took in the old Harvey Weir, was completed.
A lot of the prime river fishing area was lost as a massive new 56-gigalitre dam became a reality, and with it was a born a new impoundment fishery that would replace Waroona Dam as the premier stillwater fishery south of Perth.
These days just about anyone keen on doing some impoundment fishing in the South West heads to Harvey Dam, although Waroona Dam, Logue Brook Dam and Drakesbrook Weir – the scene of Recfishwest’s annual Troutfest community stocking event – are still some of the more productive trout fishing dams.
When Harvey Dam was flooded, thankfully much of the timber in the newly flooded areas was retained to provide structure very important to its ability to sustain good stocks of fish in the form of a mix of trout and redfin with the odd surprise thrown in.
Harvey Dam, about 140km south of Perth, boomed as a fishery in its earlier years as these locations often do, when newly flooded areas provide a bountiful supply of new food that drives high growth rates and leads to exciting fishing.
Ultimately though that influx of fresh food slows down and thankfully Harvey Dam has managed to maintain a high standard of freshwater fishing experience for more than a decade since that initial boom.
Harvey Dam is heavily stocked every year with both brown and rainbow trout in various sizes and that drives the quality of the fishery. Each year some big ex-broodstock fish, both browns and rainbows, are released into its waters and these provide many of the trophy captures each year.
They are caught both in the main dam itself and also in the tributaries, including the Harvey River and Falls Creek.
Last year some 5,400 mature fish were released into Harvey Dam, plus another 20,000 fry into the Harvey River and Falls Creek.
There are a wide range of locations to fish on Harvey Dam for both shore and kayak or canoe fishers. Trout are caught right through the dam from the wall to the tail at various times and there have even been anglers doing well on small jigs near the former in recent times.
Trolling is a popular way to catch trout for canoe and kayak anglers, with bibbed minnows the most popular approach.
Weaving between the submerged trees as the eastern end of the dam is a good way to find cruising trout and some very good fish are caught this way.
Redfin are also prolific in Harvey Dam and while often small, some good ones can be caught.
If you have a sounder on your paddlecraft, you can spot schools of redfin and drop soft plastics or small vibes onto them with good results.
Remember, redfin are not to be returned to the water – but the great news is they are also excellent eating.
Shore fishers will usually work the shallow margins, particularly late afternoon where fish are moving into the shallows to feed.
Only light tackle is needed for fishing Harvey Dam and a 1.8m to 2.1m casting rod matched to a small spinning reel with 3kg line will suffice. A selection of small minnows lures and soft plastics is a good starting point for spin fishers, while fly fishers will mainly cast streamers, such as Woolly Buggers and Mrs Simpsons.
Falls Creek is a very popular spot for shore fishers who can walk the banks of the tributary and cast at good numbers of trout, both browns and rainbows, as they push up this tiny waterway when it’s flowing well. Some very good fish get caught here, although they do see a lot of anglers and get shy pretty quick. There is also only limited access to the length of Falls Creek.
You don’t often see a lot of surface action on Harvey Dam, but a warmish afternoon around October and November can often see a late-afternoon rise, quickening the pulse of the avid fly fisher.
Not surprisingly there are also some quality marron lurking in the waters of Harvey Dam and these can be caught during the season for these tasty crustaceans.
Remember that the only method of capture allowed in Harvey Dam is a snare. Access is easy at Harvey Dam and there are numerous spots where even the family car can safely reach, although the banks can get soft at times.
There is a boat ramp, but kayaks and canoes can launch at several locations on the southern side of the dam, all of which offer similar fishing opportunities.
Don’t forget you need a freshwater licence to fish Harvey Dam, and a marron licence if they are your quarry.
Spending a balmy afternoon on Harvey Dam, with insects buzzing and fish rising as the sun drips below the horizon in the west, is a pretty special experience and catching a nice trout is a great bonus.
Although many anglers missed out on the amazing experience that was peak Waroona Dam, Harvey Dam has provided a wonderful alternative.
Remember though, to leave the dam as you found it and take your rubbish with you as not everyone treats this location with the respect it deserves and to do so threatens our future access.