action-story | 17th Feb, 2012

Wally Cubbin: Healthy Rivers, Healthy Fish

ActionStory_Wally Story“I didn’t do much fishing as a kid. About 1958 my future wife’s father and I made a couple of spinners out of copper pipe, flattened it out and drew a fish on it and cut that out and put a hook on one end and a ring on the other and tied a line to it and started catching. They were deadly.

One time I made an aluminium boat. It leaked but it was alright. It used to get six inches of water in it and there’d be fish we caught swimming everywhere and when we finished we’d pick out the bigger ones we wanted to keep and throw the rest back. Then we just fished the rivers and creeks and channels around the Shepparton area but around 1963 the carp started coming in. Terrible smelling fish – there’s no way I’ll let them in my boat.

In 1976 a few of the people who lived in Nagambie decided they should form an angling club. They had a meeting at the pub, and a few more meetings, and more and more people wanted to join. Fishing was good back in them days. In 1979 the angling club decided to have a raffle to raise some money we raised $12,000 and bought $12,000 worth of fish. We had to get a permit from Fisheries to do that. We put the fish in – 38,000 yellow belly, 5000 Murray cod and 5000 silver perches and they all started to grow which was good and 1986 the water decided to go down one new year’s eve 3.2 metres which was disastrous for the fish and very disastrous for the river.

A good clean river produces good clean fish and healthy fish produce a healthy river. If a waterway is running properly you catch a healthy fish. I always used to say the environmental and ecological damage that was done to the river was disastrous and back then it turned it into the biggest drain in Victoria.

After the audit Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) changed their ways of working the system here at Goulburn pool. They only time they the water down is about 30 centimetres and that’s to allow for excess rain in case they get a bit of a flood. The weir was built to distribute water for irrigation. You can see MGW’s view on that. But people have got to drink this water, people swim in it because that’s a natural thing for people to do in towns that are on water. And if they have environmental flows at the right time, which the last two years we’ve had, if October and November you get a flow going through a river system you have minor flooding, and that’s when all the fish go out, they’ll breed and come back in again and that keeps the cycle going. They [GMW] say I used to be a little bit hard to get on with but now I’m actually praising what they’re doing because they’re doing it properly. And it has to happen to the whole state, not just here.”

By Ian Kenins, Environment Victoria, February 2012