In the following piece from The Weekly Times anglers accuse the environmental policies of the Victorian government for “ruining the state’s trout fishing areas in the high country”.

According to the Times,

“Anglers say the past season was disastrous in terms of lost brown and rainbow trout populations, and fear famous trout rivers are now years from recovery. “It was the worst trout fly fishing season in living memory,” Greenwells Fly Fishing Club at Albury president Des Walters said.

Many blame the widespread removal of non-native willows and poplars on public land under government environmental policy as the chief cause.

The loss of habitat and food, plus a rise in stream temperatures from the loss of shade, has been identified by experts as the likely killer of trout.

The Government is developing a response plan and has established a trout reference group to tackle the problem.

Mick Hall, past president of the Australian Trout Foundation, said “no one is 100 per cent sure what is wrong” but the blitz on willows “seemed the most likely”.

“We are pleased with the Government’s response, their promises of quick action because this is such a valuable fishery to Victoria,” he said.

Willows are a highly invasive weed species that chokes watercourses (and trout are, of course, also an introduced species). A question here is whether the removal of the willows has been ‘badly handled’ as is claimed by Mansfield and District Fly Fishers president Graham Godber in the article, or whether the situation is more complex. The article goes on to quote Former Fisheries Victoria recreational fishing manager Ross Winstanley, who:

blamed climate change “exacerbated by the removal of willows” for the loss of High Country trout.

“We are fighting against nature,” Mr Winstanley said.

“The best we can do is hold off the impact of climate change, reduce it or slow the impact.”

He said temperature records showed a pattern of rising stream temperatures “for a long time”.

There is a poll on the TWT site asking whether the government is right to be removing the willows.