Fishing a flooded river

Fishing a flooded river

I have fished a few rivers in flood before but I only do it when I don’t have any other options.

Recently I visited Broadbeach on the Queensland coast and a few days after we arrived we were hit by tropical cyclone Debbie.

The heavy rains and winds flooded the rivers and put a lot of rubbish in them…but I only had one chance to fish, so I took it…flood or no flood.

Flooded rivers can be a challenge but you can fish if you know a bit about how floods affect fish…

 In my case the river had risen a metre and a half and flooded the surrounding area…bench seats, low lying parkland, pathways and some roads were under water.

One thing to note is that heavy, but not flooding, rain will often bring fish on the bite…a lot of food is washed in and this stimulates the fish to feed…

…floods, on the other hand, stress fish because of heavy currents and a heap of changes to the water they live in…

…a flash flood usually puts fish off their feed as they look for areas to rest and stay safe… the problem is how to locate and catch fish in these conditions.

Flooding rivers change a fish’s home – currents speed up, visibility goes down, temperatures drop(usually) and water levels rise…and the fish move…so even if you know a river well, the fish might not be where you usually find them.

Most fish like to hang out in slow water, under cover and as near as possible to food…during floods smaller fish will hang together for safety and not move around as much.

If you can locate one of these holding spots you can have a great time…otherwise you will have to roam around looking for likely fish holding spots

The usual overhanging trees, undercut banks, weed beds and other structure might be covered by water in a flood…all this was the case with the Nerang River – the water went from crystal clear the day before to the colour of milk coffee this day and was way higher than it had been previously.

 Most of the structure I had seen and used the days before was covered!

One area that looked “fishy” was next to a bridge in a slower moving canal that flowed into the river. The water closest to the bank was slow and I knew there was a long rock ledge about 4 metres out that would offer cover to fish…

And another thing – you don’t have to cast too far in a flood…

 …if the water in the middle of the river is moving fast it won’t hold fish and will carry a lot of rubbish that will snag your line.

Once you choose your spot you need to use a sinker just big enough to stay where it lands…the fish will pick up a bait more readily if it’s not “nailed” to the bottom.

It is also important to keep as much line out of the water as possible. This will reduce the drag of the current and avoid a bit of the rubbish that’s floating around. It also helps translate “feel” to your rod so bites are easier to see and feel… this is done by fishing close to the bank or slow water and  keeping the rod pointed to the sky as high as possible.

 I brought some bread crumbs, chicken, fish, prawns, white flour and a few spices to make up my berley and  bait.

I cut the chicken into small pieces about the size of my little fingernail, cut some fillets from the fish(whiting) and peeled a few prawns.

I used bread crumbs as berley and added a little garlic spice to add a bit more attraction.

I also made up some dough from the flour and also flavoured it with garlic spice…all this was to make sure I carried more than one type of bait

..and all these baits are proven fish catchers and the extra flavours and smells would add to their attraction in the murky water!

I set up a two hook paternoster rig and a sinker big enough to hold it on the bottom. I used prawns as bait as they had worked so well before.

I threw in some berley to exactly where I was going to fish…then cast in right over that spot.

For about half an hour I threw in small amounts of the bread crumb berley till I ran out…I only had about 4 cup-fulls and used small amounts, about the size of a golf ball, to throw in every 5 minutes…

This is a great way to bring fish in from down stream – being attracted by the scent and small particles of bread crumb.

Finally I got a bite…no fish, but a bite. This was a good sign…at least there was one fish there!   

Since I had no breadcrumbs left, I used the dough. I rolled small balls, about the size of my finger nail and flicked them into the water upstream of my bait so they would float down and land near it…I kept doing this every few minutes…

…what I was doing was creating a bait stream, they same way boat anglers do when they are targeting snapper, reef fish and bigger predatory fish.

I got my second bite…and nearly lost my rod as a fish took the bait and swam out into the current. I was a good sized bream and a great fight on light line as I fought the fish…and the current.

I was really pleased. I’d caught a good fish in flood conditions…when most anglers (myself included) would normally NOT fish ‘cause it all looked too hard!

I kept flicking out the dough, and some of the other baits on a regular basis and got a fish, on average, every 20 minutes

…what a great outcome!

I ended the session when I ran out of bait.

I’d been there about 3 hours, caught 7 bream ranging from about 500 to 800 grams and had a ball…

…it just goes to show that you can catch in tough conditions if you work out where the fish are and stimulate them to bite.

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