Spring into freshwater fishing with the help of an angling expert

Whether it’s at dams, rivers or streams, Recfishwest Operations Officer Sam Russell is among WA’s almost 8,000 freshwater fishing licence holders who love chasing trout across the South West.

With spring – the traditional start of the South West’s freshwater angling season – fast-approaching, we spoke with Sam to discuss how fishers can successfully target trout in the months ahead.

Rainbow trout are Recfishwest Operation Officer and freshwater angling fanatic Sam Russell’s favourite fish to catch.

Recfishwest: When did you start freshwater fishing, Sam?

Sam Russell: Having grown up in the South West freshwater fishing was the first real fishing experience I had. Without access to a boat, I spent a lot of my time chasing redfin perch in the waterways around the town of Collie.

RFW: What do you enjoy most about the South West’s freshwater fishery?

SR: For me the scenery plays a big part in why I love it. Chasing fish amongst the South West’s pristine bushlands is an incredibly enjoyable experience.

The South West’s great trout fishing is backed by a comprehensive stocking program run from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Pemberton hatchery.

Recfishwest, alongside our Freshwater Fisheries Reference Group, is involved in the stocking process to ensure trout are released in the best locations to maximise the quality of trout fishing across the region.

I’ve always loved fishing for trout and that’s grown tenfold since I started at Recfishwest and got a further understanding of the great role the Reference Group plays each year to help stock trout.

Check out where this year’s trout have been stocked.

This brown trout from Waroona Dam is one of Sam’s more interesting catches.

RFW: What is your favourite spot to go freshwater fishing?

SR: While I fish a wide range of locations from Dwellingup all the way down to about Walpole, my favourite spot would have to be Pemberton.

With impoundments, streams and rivers, Pemberton offers up unreal diversity when it comes to different fishing opportunities in a relatively small area.

Pemberton offers plenty of easily accessible spots where you can camp and fish nestled within the towering Karri forests, it truly is a special part of the world.

RFW: What lures do you carry in your tacklebox when you’re fishing for trout?

SR: In my opinion the best way to target rainbow and brown trout is using small, bibbed minnows.

In terms of colour, rainbow, and brown trout patterns both work well due to the cannibalistic nature of the species.

I’ll also carry a couple of darker coloured lures for overcast days and low light conditions – it might seem counter-intuitive, but black lures create a prominent silhouette in the water in these conditions. Soft plastics can also be the go.

If I’m fishing in tight streams and rivers with a lot of structure, an unweighted, weedless rigged plastic will often keep you snag-free and get you the bite.

Small 1” to 2” minnow style plastics with a paddle or grub tail in natural colour patterns will work.

For Sam, the Warren River is one of the best locations to fish for redfin perch.

RFW: Do the lures you use change depending on if you’re fishing for trout in a dam or stream?

SR: Yes definitely, I’ll do most of my stream fishing with shallow diving minnows and small unweighted soft plastics.

The dams will often have deeper banks that fish will push up against foraging for food, so a medium to deep diving minnow can be effective.

Fishing soft plastics with heavier jig heads can also work well especially when fished around structure like rocky drop offs and weed beds.

A bonus of fishing this deeper water is that you’ll also pick up redfin perch. Click here for more freshwater fishing tips!

RFW: On the subject of redfin perch, how do you target them?

SR: When fishing for redfin I almost exclusively fish with soft plastics.

I’ll use a weedless jighead ranging in weight from about 1/16th – 1/8th of an ounce depending on water depth and flow.

Combine this with a 2-inch grub tail or marron imitation soft plastic and you’re in business.

When looking for likely spots to catch redfin I’ll look for two distinct things – deep water and structure.

Redfin love hiding deep within snags where they can ambush their prey so fishing plastics hard up against any structure is a good way to find fish.

A slow retrieve with a couple of twitches every now and then will normally get the bite, especially if your plastic still has a bit of action on the drop.

Sam is hoping anglers who haven’t tried freshwater fishing in the South West give it a go this spring.

RFW: What’s your most memorable freshwater catch?

SR: Probably fishing down at Harvey Dam. I’d found a recently flooded section of the bank which looked really fishy.

After prospecting the area for a couple of minutes I spotted a nice sized buck rainbow feeding in the shallows.

A quick cast and a couple of twitches of the lure immediately grabbed the attention of the fish.

Shortly after the nice trout charged down my lure and I was on. The fish put on an impressive ariel display before finding its way to the net.

Being able to sight cast to this fish as it buzzed around feeding made it a special encounter.

RFW: What advice would you give to someone who is new to freshwater angling?

SR: Don’t be afraid to give it a go, fishing for trout really isn’t that hard. Just grab a handful of small lures, a light spinning setup and go exploring.

There are countless freshwater streams, rivers and impoundments in the South West that will all hold fish, you just need to put in the time to find them.

  • Save the date! We’ll be running this year’s Troutfest in partnership with the Shire of Waroona at Drakesbrook Weir, near Waroona, on Saturday 2 October. Help release trout into the dam, have a crack at fly fishing and much, much more at this family-friendly event.
Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland before releasing rainbow trout at last year’s Troutfest.

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