Golden Times (Story & Photos by Vicki Lear)

Commonly known as Yellowbelly this fish has many other names such as Golden Perch, Callop or Murray Perch.  They hit a lure hard and put up a great fight with their reputable trademark of constant head shakes as they try to drag you back to the area they just came from.

Fishing for Yellowbelly has become popular on the tournament scene.  We were lucky enough to attend Australian Yellowbelly Tournament held at Burrinjuck Dam in October this year.  Bruce Anderson, whose motto is “seriously social”, runs these tournaments.

“Seriously Social” was what it exactly was.  It was fantastic to see many wives fishing with their husband’s/partners. They fished hard and then kicked back for an evening to socialise.  But what really inspired me was to see so much excitement in the number of juniors (mostly boy’s, where are the girls?) to get on the water and mix it up between casting and trolling for their fish.  It was a real family affair and was great to see a tournament series support our future generation and watch them grow in their skills as they move up through the ranks.

These tournaments cater for beginners right through to the seasoned tournament angler.  The split sessions give you a great break out of the sun in the middle of the day, a relaxed briefing where everyone catches up and plenty of prizes not just for the winners.

Learning to fish and target a new species keeps the brain ticking over and your fishing skills on alert.  In the week’s leading up to the tournament the fish were very hard to find.   Two day’s leading up to the tournament were constant sunny conditions which saw the water temperature increase to a balmy 22-24 degrees Celsius.

Yellowbelly can handle water temperatures from 4 degrees to 37 degrees Celsius but the their ideal temperature range is 23 degrees to 26 degrees Celsius.  At this temperature range they will spawn up river between spring and summer.  They will spawn at night as long as yabbies (their staple diet) are available.

Scott was able to have a few days before the tournament to look around and try and strike a pattern.  We learnt that they stack up on the sounder like any other perch species.  For example like bass or estuary perch if you have had the pleasure to spot these on your sounder.  Scott threw everything at them and came to the realisation that they were biting on “Jackal” mask vibes in what some describe as mars bar colour but I think it’s official name is Ghost Black Red Belly.  They preferred the silent approach rather than the rattles.  We had a lot of Yellowbelly follow the lure all the way to the boat rather than smashing the bait.  I am assuming that perhaps being in spawning mode may have attributed to the silent approach rather than a vibration lure.

Most of the time they would either take the lure on the drop or on the pause before the next hop.  It was great fun working out a new species and I am sure that their feeding patterns and locations in the system will vary throughout the year.  Next year the tournament will be held in April so it will be interesting to try it all out again.

Dave Welfare and Steve Duff were luckily enough to put their bream rods away and take the honours with first place.  They narrowly beat the “Freshwater Specialists” being Wayne & Sharon Dubios whom won it at Burrinjuck last year.  Dave & Steve also qualified for the $10,000 grandfinal to be held at Windamere Dam on 26th & 27th November 2011.  We all know this is Dave’s favourite place to fish for Yellowbelly.  There are 40 teams in total whom have qualified for the Grandfinal and the chance to win $10,000.  Goodluck to you all.

Once you start catching Yellowbelly above 50cm they become really thick and the best way to describe them is like a football.  Typically the baitcast outfit I like to use is a G-Loomis 783 rod teamed up with a Chronarch 50mg reel, 8lb braid and between 14 to 20lb leader.  This outfit is so light and comfortable that it makes it easy to cast Jackals or Spinnerbaits all day.  If trolling I have found a Squidgy Starlostix  Flats Spin 7102 rod with a 2500 Stradic reel ample.

You can target this species in a number of locations such as weed bed’s, trees, snags and rocky walls.

They are not terribly fussy with Jackals and Spinnerbaits being the preferred lure but they will also take vibes and hardbodies.  Andrew Pullbrook and Damo also had success with 3rd place and their technique of jigging soft plastics, Berkley Gulps on trees.

You can find out more information on these Yellowbelly Tournaments by visiting the website http://www.yellowbellychampionships.com or join their facebook group Australian Yellowbelly Championships.

Vicki Lear

Vicki Lear is a self confessed fish-a-holic and works as a real estate agent to support her habit. Far from being a “one trick pony” she excels at many diverse styles of fishing from land based game fishing to offshore gamefishing. As well, she kicks most guys butts at Bream and Bass fishing

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