Hot spot for Fishing – Barwon River Geelong

A hot spot for fishing ! Neil Slater in this article tells us why the Barwon River in Geelong is a great place to wet a line and why it is a popular fishing spot for anglers.

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The Barwon River ambles deep and slow as it cuts Geelong in two, wanders over grassy plains and empties into Bass Strait between Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove. This deep river course from the Breakwater to Buckley’s Falls and beyond hold some quality fish and has excellent angler access as well. In 2013 a fish ladder was installed at the second breakwater. The ‘second break’ as it is known, is an adjustable dam that was always a barrier to fish that need to travel from salt to fresh for spawning such as estuary perch. This dam was installed almost 100 years ago to keep fresh water in the lower reaches for stock to drink. So the river can only go from strength to strength as the natural recruitment improves fishing. The river does get blue green algal blooms during hot still conditions so keep an eye out for the warning signs in summer. Warmer months see a few snakes kicking about the river banks and walking track so make sure you keep an eye out. Bank access is fantastic with many fishing spots not far from canoe ramps, fishing platforms, playgrounds, walking tracks and toilets all within a short walk from a road or car park. For this reason, the river is popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists and is just a great place to cremate a snag with family and friends on a nice day.ns1

The Barwon River is the place my grandfather kick started my fishing career as a six or something year old. I can remember that it was my job to catch live minnow in the shallows while he rigged up his very impressive fibreglass rods with light running sinker rigs. I used a ¼ of a cross section of cork as a float and a tiny piece of lead squashed over the line as a sinker while the hook was a small fly hook – probably about size 16. This was baited with small pieces of worm and ‘bobbed’ near the weeds where I caught our live bait. I also used a large home-made scoop net that was too heavy for a kid of my size and muscle. I can remember dropping this all metal beast in the drink and my grandfather had to fish it out. Yep, I was bricking myself but lived through it long enough to write about it. Nothing much has changed at all from those days as these bait and fish catching methods have now been passed onto my young son! As I graduated to a pushbike, I spent many days down there fishing with my mate Greg where we pestered the local eels and redfin population. It was only a short ride from his house near the end of Fyans Street so we loaded up plenty of kit. The end of Fyans street, has a decent gravel car park, slippery canoe ramp (you’ve been warned) and great bank access to wet a line. We were fishing one fine day not far from the Queens Park Golf Course when Greg hooked what we thought was a flathead. Further research tells us this was a tupong – an Australian native! Another Aussie native, Australian grayling are still caught by anglers on fly tackle near Buckley’s Falls when chasing trout. Both of these species are protected so if they are accidentally caught, they should be returned to the water unharmed.

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These days, non-native fish dominate the majority of the Barwon River in Geelong but that does not mean it isn’t a great place to wet a line! European carp have embedded themselves in the deep and slow waters of the Barwon and many locals specifically target them due to their relative ease of capture and size they can attain. Most carp caught out of the Barwon are in the order of 500 gram to six kilograms but there are a few that can go either side of ten kilograms on occasions. Best way to set up for a day’s carp fishing is with a light running sinker rig down to a size four to two hook and two to four kilogram line. They will take live minnow but are easily caught on artificial bait, bread, sweet corn kernels and worms. They can be caught all year but seem to bite best in the warmer months.

Eels also dominate the river – especially after dark with meat and worms the bait of choice among keen eelers. Again a running sinker rig or unweighted bait work very well and they are mostly not so fussy when it comes to light line and small sinkers. It is best to avoid a landing net if possible as they love to knot themselves up in one if used. Brown trout turn up from time to time as they were once stocked in the upper reaches. However, they are now becoming scarce since their releases ceased a few years ago. Buckley’s Falls was the place to find a trout or two and they are still being caught here from time to time. Most Barwon River trout are caught on lures as specialty baits such as live minnow and mudeye are gleefully scoffed by small redfin. On rare occasions, trout can be seen cruising the edges smashing baitfish but are just as happy patrolling the middle of the river so fan your casts out all over the place. All the trout I’ve caught out of the Barwon have been taken on shallow running lures such as small winged Tassie style lures and shallow minnows. ns

Redfin are another import that happily calls the Barwon River home and there are some quality models in there too. Redfin can be caught the full length of the Barwon River where it remains fresh and for that reason, they are one of the more popular target species by local anglers. Winter will see them school up in the deeper middle section of the river and summer sees them move into the weedy bankside areas where they hunt small shrimp, galaxia and gudgeon. A decent Barwon reddie will set you back 40 or so centimetres but I have seen them to 46. Some days it seems the river only offers tiddlers and you can catch a bag of 20 or so that are sub 30 centimetres. Quality bait such as galaxia, gudgeon and shrimp can be obtained using a cheap collapsible bait trap baited with bread and set near bank side weeds. Redfin and trout can be caught on these baits using either a quill float, running sinker rig or cast out unweighted. Soft plastic lures do very well as they can be kept close to the bottom where the redfin are most often found although diving lures still catch quality fish.

Greg and I still catch up for a fish on the banks of the Barwon from time to time. We can recommend it.

Neil Slater

About Neil Slater

Neil Slater grew up in Geelong Victoria and has fished local waters since he could walk. Neil has fished around the country and is always seeking new waters and eager to help anyone he can.

Neil has worked at CSIRO since 1989 and started writing articles for magazines around 2001. Publications ranged from computers to photography and camping plus co-author of a Land Based Fishing Guide for Corio Bay and the Surf Coast. Neil has shot a couple of weddings and has held the odd fishing club presentation but he has gravitated towards fishing articles and local reports over the last ten years.

Neil has amassed a wide variety of fishing gear spanning a few decades from light fly to 24kg spin tackle. “I’m always worried that if I did pass away, my dear wife would sell my fishing tackle for what I told her I paid for it! (I pinched that quote, but one of my favourites)”.

“I love a good joke, campfire and company. Cheese is good too. I love cheese.”

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