River black fish, very slimy….but very tasty!

River black fish, very slimy….but very tasty!

Not a lot of anglers chase our river black fish and they are missing out on a real treat.


The river black fish is an Australian native. It likes inland rivers and creeks and I’ve always associated it with waters in farmland….because that’s where I’d always caught them.


Black fish like structure…. they really like to hang in hard to get at areas. If you find a creek full of rocks and fallen branches that makes it almost impossible to fish – there’ll probably be blackfish there!


Some years back I fished a tiny creek in Maffra, Gippsland, using small plastic lures. It was really hard to cast cos of the snags….they were everywhere!


I got one short cast next to a large log and landed a funny looking fish. It was long like a Murray cod but much darker with one long dorsal fin. It turned out to be a 700gm blackfish.


This was the first time I’d seen or caught one and it was a real surprise. It looked a bit strange, fought hard for a real short time then came in easily and it was caught in the tiniest little creek.  I took it home for dinner and after that I made it a target species….it tasted beautiful.


Some anglers nickname blackfish “slimy” and if you ever pick one up you’ll know why – they feel a bit like a greasy sponge!


Black fish are ambush predators and feed on small fish, yabbies, insects and worms. They fight quite well for their size and, I am told, they can get pretty big – over 5kg.


Blackfish are considered a nocturnal fish but can be caught in low light and evenings… and if there’s been a bit of rain lately they can really go on the bite!!


They tend to stay in the same spot rather than move around so their territories are small as they wait for food to come to them.


A good river or creek can hold quite a few big ones that will hide, by themselves, in the deeper holes or under snags.


I’ve only ever caught them in fairly clean water. In my experience any water with lots of silt won’t usually have any.


Gear to use is the same as for redfin and trout.


A lightweight rod of 2-5kg and a 2000 to 2500 reel is about right. You don’t need heavy gear but blackfish can explode a bit once they’re hooked.  Fishing in water with plenty of snags means you can lose a few…but if you fish with too heavy gear you won’t get bites.


One older angler I knew, who was a blackfish specialist, would use a rig with a thin pencil float. He would find the slack water near a hole or snag and drop his bait in…it was mind blowing how he could look at a stretch of water and pick a spot to fish. He’d usually get a bite…or a fish within about 20 minutes.


After catching a reasonable sized fish he’d move on to the next spot some meters down and do the same thing again….he caught a lot of fish.


One of his favourite spots was along the Latrobe river in Gippsland and if you’ve ever seen that water you’d know it’s great for trout… and for blackfish.


Blackfish like the slower water so try undercut banks and areas where snags and rocks break the flow of water. If you can find those darker holes in the deeper water you can pull out some really big fish.


While blackfish like a range of baits I had most luck with worms and small yabbies. This seems to be pretty standard baits for these fish.


The other thing to note is the way they bite. They don’t seem to aggressively take the bait. When I’ve caught them they have been taking little bites of the bait. Other anglers have told me the same thing – that they tend to mouth the bait. It seems the best way to hook them is to let them hook themselves. Once hooked….then the can really fight!


One experienced angler uses a soft jigging method when he fishes. He uses worms and yabbies as bait and after dropping them in, will gently lift and drop the bait around the spot to trigger the fish to bite.


Blackfish seem to like taking the bait on the drop. Once you’ve moved your bait around and explored the spot, if you’ve got no fish, move on…

…you can fish a lot of water doing this.


Blackfish are interesting and a great target in rivers and creeks normally fished for trout. When trout season closes, why not have a shot at the “slimies”? Just try those hard-to-get-to spots that you don’t normally fish and you could end up landing a few of these fascinating Australian natives.


…and one final note…while river blackfish aren’t protected, they are becoming scarcer due to changes to farming practices, silting of water and general changes to the environment. I always recommend only taking a fish or two and release the rest to fight another day.



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