The Goulburn-Broken Catchment

Goulburn-Broken Fishery Management Plan 2011

Overview of the catchment

The Goulburn-Broken catchment in northern Victoria is part of the Murray-Darling Basin. The catchment covers 2,431,654 hectares or 10.5 per cent of Victoria and extends from the Great Dividing Range in the south northward to the Murray River; it is bounded to the east and west by the catchments of the Ovens River and the Campaspe River, respectively.

The municipalities of Moira, Campaspe, Mitchell, Murrindindi, Mansfield and Strathbogie Shires, Benalla Rural City and the City of Greater Shepparton are included fully or in-part within the catchment. Approximately 195,000 people live in these municipalities with rapid population growth occurring primarily in the centres within commuting distance of Melbourne and the City of Greater Shepparton. The population increases significantly during the fruit harvest season when itinerant workers move into the Shepparton Irrigation Region (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2003). The region is culturally and linguistically diverse and has an Aboriginal population that is approximately 1.8 per cent of the total (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006).

The region supports major agricultural, food processing, forestry and tourism industries and has an annual economic output of about $7.8 billion. Agriculture production is the primary industry and employs about 7,700 people (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006). Agricultural output is about $1.35 billion per annum and approximately 1.5 million hectares is utilised as dry-land agriculture and 210,000 hectares as intensive irrigated agriculture (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2005b).

While the major commodity produced is food, wool, timber, tourism and recreation are important to the regional economy. Easy access from Melbourne provides opportunities for tourism and recreational activities; the Murray River remains a strong tourist attraction in the north. Main tourism destinations include wineries, snow and water skiing, camping, four-wheel driving and fishing (Department of Planning and Community Development 2009).

Close to one million hectares of the catchments is public land that is managed according to a range of reservation types and which supports some of Victoria's most valuable National and State Parks, alpine resorts and forest industries. In 2009, the State Parliament provided approximately 100,000 hectares of land for the creation of four new and the expansion of several existing national parks on the Murray River between Lake Hume and the South Australian border. The newly established Lower Goulburn National Park and Barmah National Park lay in the region covered by this fishery management plan.

The Goulburn-Broken River catchment was once almost entirely covered in native vegetation: forests in the south and open woodlands in the north. Native vegetation has been retained in the mountains of the far south but clearing has been extensive in the valleys and plains. About seventy per cent of the catchment, or 1.7 million hectares, of native vegetation has been cleared since European settlement. Flooding is a natural phenomenon in the Goulburn-Broken catchment and replenishes wetlands, transports food supplies and triggers stages in the life cycles of many plants and animals. Floodplains can reduce the potential for channel erosion from high energy flows by providing natural overland flow paths and storage areas where floodwaters are released slowly as stream heights recede (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2003).

There are more than 9,849 kilometres of streams in the region of which approximately 8,200 kilometres and 1,700 kilometres lie in the Goulburn Basin and Broken Basin, respectively. There are three declared heritage rivers in the catchment: the Goulburn River below Lake Eildon and the Big and the Howqua rivers. The Acheron, Yea and Murrindindi rivers, which are tributaries of the Goulburn River, are in a ecologically healthy condition and are representative of naturally occurring Victorian waterways (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2003; 2005c). Two sections of the Goulburn River, between the Eildon Pondage and Alexandra and between Murchison and Loch Garry are designated as Premier Rivers. There are more than 1,800 wetlands in the Goulburn-Broken catchment that cover a total area of more than 82,000 hectares and include the Ramsar-listed Barmah Forest wetland.

The Goulburn-Broken fishery

The Goulburn-Broken fishery includes several popular recreational waterways including, but not limited to:

  • Tributaries of Lake Eildon and the Goulburn River upstream of the lake including the Big River, the Delatite River, Howqua River, the Jamieson River and the Goulburn River flowing into Lake Eildon, primarily trout fisheries in the cooler upper reaches with native fish, Murray spiny crayfish and redfin fisheries in the lower reaches
  • Lake Eildon, a mixed fishery from which large brown trout, golden perch and redfin, Murray cod and rainbow trout are taken
  • Eildon Pondage where stocked brown and rainbow trout are readily taken
  • The Goulburn River from the Eildon Pondage downstream to Lake Nagambie which contains good numbers of brown trout and rainbow trout before changing to a mixed and then native fish and redfin fishery in the downstream reaches
  • Tributaries of the Goulburn River downstream of Lake Eildon including the Acheron River, Stevenson River, Little River, Rubicon River, the Yea River, the Murrindindi River, King Parrot Creek where the predominant species taken are brown and rainbow trout
  • The Goulburn Weir and Goulburn River downstream to the Murray River including the Waranga Basin, primarily a redfin and native fish fishery that includes Murray cod, golden perch and Murray spiny crayfish
  • The Broken River including Lake Nillahcootie, primarily a mixed fishery for native fish, trout and redfin with brown trout predominating between the lake and Benalla
  • Tributaries of the Broken River and Broken Creek including Holland Creek and Ryans Creek which support a mixed fishery
  • The Broken Creek, primarily a redfin and native fish fishery that includes golden perch and Murray cod.

Lake Eildon, Lake Nillahcootie and Waranga Basin are three of Victoria's main water storages. Their primary function is to harvest and release water for irrigation and riparian purposes with a small proportion used for town, rural domestic and stock supplies. Water releases from Lake Eildon are directed through a power station to generate electricity. All three storages are recognised as valuable recreational assets for boating, fishing and other water-based activities and attract visitors from across Victoria and interstate.

Lake Mokoan was historically a focus of recreational fishing in the Goulburn-Broken region. The impoundment was decommissioned in 2009 and will be re-established as the Winton Wetlands.

Additional information on waterways within the fishery is available in A Guide to the Inland Angling Waters of Victoria (Department of Primary Industries 2010b).

Goulburn River basin

The Goulburn River basin extends for 200 kilometres from steep hills and mountains in the Hume Range and Great Dividing Range northward through the Murray Plain. There are extensive forests of very tall mountain ash and mixed species in the mountains south of Lake Eildon where the rivers are clear, cold and fast-flowing with gravel and rubble substrates are described as typical trout streams.

The Goulburn River is approximately 570 kilometres long, flowing from upstream of Woods Point to Echuca at its confluence with the Murray River. Lake Eildon captures most of the flow originating in the southern mountains of the basin. The Goulburn River is regulated by the Eildon Weir at Eildon and the Goulburn Weir at Nagambie and has a mean water flow of 3,040 gigalitres per year or about fourteen per cent of Victoria's total discharge to the Murray River. Corresponding to regional agricultural water requirements, the lowest flows generally occur during winter/spring and the highest flows during summer.

Broken River basin

Compared with the Goulburn River Basin, the Broken River Basin is relatively small. The Broken River rises in the steep forested hills of the Wellington-Tolmie highlands south of Benalla before flowing to Lake Nillahcootie. Further downstream, the weir at Benalla forms Lake Benalla. The river then flows through flat farmland to join the Goulburn River near Shepparton.

Downstream of Benalla, the Broken Creek breaks from the Broken River and flows to the Murray River near Barmah. The main tributaries of the Broken River include Holland, Ryans and Lima East creeks (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2005a). Lake Nillahcootie stores most of the run-off from the surrounding mountains resulting in low winter flows in parts of the Broken River and Broken Creek.

Key fish species in the region

Recreational fishing species

Approximately twenty-eight species of fish, of which about nine species are introduced, inhabit the Goulburn-Broken catchment. Many of these species, including Murray cod, golden perch, redfin, rainbow trout and brown trout are targeted by recreational anglers(McGuckin 2002; O'Connor and Amtstaetter 2008; Pollino et al. 2004). Trueman (2007) provides a detailed historical account of fishing for native species in the Murray-Darling basin.

Several native fish species, including Murray cod, Macquarie perch, trout cod, silver perch, freshwater catfish, flathead galaxia, mountain galaxia, barred galaxia, river blackfish, rainbowfish and Murray spiny crayfish are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 or the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. The Lowland Riverine Fish Community of the Southern Murray-Darling Basin which includes the lower Goulburn River is listed as a threatened community under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

The primary species targeted by recreational fishers in the Goulburn-Broken catchment are Murray cod, golden perch, redfin, brown and rainbow trout and spiny crayfish. European carp, a declared noxious species under the Fisheries Act, is targeted by some anglers.

The conservation and recreational fishing status in the Goulburn-Broken region of key recreational and other fish species is summarised in Table 1.

Murray cod

Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) is Australia's largest native freshwater fish and occurs naturally in the rivers and lakes of the upper reaches of the Murray-Darling River system. Murray cod are generally found in or near relatively deep water and prefer habitats including rocks, large wooden snags, smaller woody habitat, under-cut banks and over-hanging vegetation.

Although there are still good populations of Murray cod and their range has remained relatively constant, the species has undergone an extensive decline in abundance since European settlement. Causes for the decline include habitat loss and degradation, pollution, barriers to fish passage, water flow regulation, cold water releases from dams, predation of young fish and fishing (Department of Primary Industries 2007e). Anecdotal reports suggest that Murray cod populations have recovered in some areas despite environmental pressures and increasing popularity within the recreational fishing sector (Department of Primary Industries 2008g).

Murray cod is a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Actwith a conservation status of endangered and a vulnerable species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Department of Sustainability and Environment have completed an action statement and a national recovery plan has been prepared for the species (National Murray Cod Recovery Team 2010). Murray cod is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2009). Subject to bag and size limits and a closed season, recreational take of Murray cod is authorised in Victoria under an Order in Council (Victoria Government Gazette 2009a).

Murray cod is a key species in Victoria's annual fish stocking program. Between 2006 and 2010, approximately 1,040,000 Murray cod were stocked in the waterways of the Goulburn-Broken region of which more than 650,000 were stocked into Lake Eildon (Appendix 3).

Golden perch

Golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) occur naturally in the Murray-Darling basin. The species prefers warm, turbid slow-flowing streams but is also found in fast-flowing streams, rivers and backwaters (Department of Primary Industries 2007c).

Golden perch is a significant component of the department's native fish stocking program and large numbers are produced at Snobs Creek native fish hatchery or purchased from commercial fish farms to stock rivers and lakes to restore existing populations and to establish new recreational fishing populations. Between 2006 and 2010, almost one-and-one-half million golden perch were stocked into the waterways of the Goulburn-Broken region (Appendix 3). Aggressive stocking of golden perch into Lake Eildon (more than 614,000 fish since 2007) has resulted in the development of a healthy fishery for the species. In 2009 and 2010, 200,000 golden perch were stocked each year into the Nagambie Lakes as part of a five-year stocking program to develop a world-class native fishery there.

Silver perch

Silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) were once widespread and abundant throughout most of the Murray-Darling basin except for cooler high altitude streams. The species has declined to low numbers and disappeared from much of its native range. The decline of silver perch in Victoria is most likely a result of barriers to fish passage, river regulation, introduced species, alteration of temperature regimes and loss of aquatic vegetation (Department of Primary Industries 2007f).

Silver perch is a threatened species under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a conservation status of critically endangered. Subject to bag and size limits, recreational take of silver perch in the Goulburn-Broken region is restricted to lakes and impoundments under an Order in Council (Victoria Government Gazette 2009a).


Redfin (Perca fluviatilis), or English perch, was introduced to Australia from Europe during the mid-nineteenth century by fish acclimatisation societies and occurs in a wide variety of habitats including lakes, dams, billabongs, swamps and the slower-flowing reaches of rivers and streams across Victoria. Redfin prefer lakes and slow-moving rivers with abundant weed, vegetation or other cover such as rocks and fallen timber and provide for a popular recreational fishery in the Goulburn-Broken region and many other parts of Victoria.

Table 1. Key fish species, their conservation or other status and their availability to recreational fishers in the Goulburn-Broken region (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2007).

Readers should refer to the Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide for specific details of fishing regulations. FFG: Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988; EPBC: Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Native speciesStatusRecreational fishing status in the Goulburn-Broken region
Murray codEndangered (FFG) Vulnerable (EPBC) Critically endangered (IUCN)Recreational take allowed Take subject to closed season
Macquarie perchEndangered (FFG) Endangered (EPBC)Recreational take allowed only in specified waters No recreational take in the Goulburn-Broken region
Silver perchCritically endangered (FFG)Recreational take allowed from lakes and impoundments only
Golden perchVulnerable (natural populations; FFG)Recreational take allowed
Trout codCritically endangered (FFG) Endangered (EPBC)Fully protected in Victoria No recreational take allowed
Freshwater catfishEndangered (FFG)No recreational take in the Goulburn-Broken region
River blackfishNot applicableRecreational take allowed
Murray river spiny crayfishNear threatened (FFG) Vulnerable (IUCN)Recreational take allowed Take subject to closed season
Introduced speciesStatusRecreational fishing status in the Goulburn-Broken region
RedfinNot applicableRecreational take allowed
Brown and rainbow troutNot applicableRecreational take allowed Take subject to closed season and water-specific regulations
European carpNoxious aquatic species (Fisheries Act)Recreational take allowed May not be returned alive to Victorian waters

Brown trout and rainbow trout

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) are native to the cool waters of Europe and were introduced to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century from Scotland. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are native to the Pacific coast of North America and were introduced to Australia in the late nineteenth century from New Zealand where the species had previously been introduced from California. Both species were introduced to satisfy a sport fishing market.

The ideal habitat for brown trout is cool, well-oxygenated waters such as rivers and streams with moderate to fast flows. Suitable habitat generally occurs in mountainous areas and feature adequate cover including submerged rocks, undercut banks and overhanging vegetation. Lakes where suitable water quality, habitat and food exist generally support self-sustaining brown trout populations (Department of Primary Industries 1998). Trout are especially vulnerable during the spawning season to fishers and require special protection during this time of the year (e.g. closed seasons).

Rainbow trout tolerate slightly higher water temperatures than brown trout and are more successful in lakes. When brown trout and rainbow trout share common habitat, brown trout are generally more abundant. Like brown trout, rainbow trout are widely distributed in the cooler waters of the Goulburn-Broken catchment (Department of Primary Industries 2008d).

The Victorian trout fishery is a major social and economic contributor to regional communities with nearly half of all trout harvested annually in Australia being caught in Victoria. To support this important recreational fishery, between 2006 and 2010, Fisheries Victoria stocked more than 66,000 brown trout and more than 344,000 rainbow trout into waterways in the Goulburn-Broken region that do not support self-sustaining populations of the species (Appendix 3).

Murray River crayfish

The natural range of the Murray River crayfish (Euastacus armatus) extends from central and southern New South Wales to northern Victoria. Murray River crayfish generally prefer well oxygenated water and are often found in cooler, faster flowing mountain streams and rivers. The species inhabits upland streams and impoundments at altitudes over 700 metres and low altitude environments including in the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.

The Murray crayfish is considered the second largest freshwater crayfish species in the world. Adults commonly exceed twenty to thirty centimetres in length and weigh up to two kilograms. The species is long-lived, slow growing and reaches sexual maturity at about nine years.

Murray River crayfish is listed as a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a conservation status of near threatened. The Department of Sustainability and Environment has produced an action plan for the species (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2003). Murray River crayfish is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2009).


Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are native to Asia but have been translocated to all continents except Antarctica. The species is widespread and common in south-eastern Victoria and the waterways of the Murray-Darling system. Carp are not found east of the Snowy River.

Carp is an omnivorous species that can adapt its feeding behaviour and diet to feed by a sucking action, straining bottom mud for insects and detritus or taking insects and other food items including small plants from the water surface. This behaviour has led carp to be a major contributor to the decline of native fish populations in inland stream systems (Department of Primary Industries 2009a).

Carp is a noxious aquatic species under the Fisheries Act and cannot be possessed or transported live in Victoria or placed alive into Victorian waters without authorisation. This includes using carp as live bait.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment has primary responsibility for the management of aquatic pests. The department performs a supporting role through the use of various fisheries management tools depending on the circumstance.

Non-targeted fish species

The take of the following species is currently prohibited in the waters of the Goulburn-Broken region. Where Fisheries Victoria undertakes stocking of these species, it is with the intention of establishing new angling opportunities in the future.

Macquarie perch

Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasica) inhabit the waterways of the Murray-Darling River system. The abundance and distribution of Macquarie perch has been reduced by dam construction, changes to river flows and temperature regimes, silting of spawning streams and the impacts of introduced species including trout and redfin (Department of Primary Industries 2007d).

Natural, self-sustaining populations of Macquarie perch in Victoria are found at Lake Dartmouth and the Buffalo River in the northeast of the State; a translocated population of Macquarie perch in the Yarra River is considered to be self-sustaining. In the area covered by this management plan, small self-sustaining populations of the species are found in the Goulburn and Yea rivers and the Sevens, Holland, Broken, Hughes and King Parrot creeks with a possible remnant population in Lake Eildon.

Macquarie perch is a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and has a conservation status in Victoria of critically endangered. It is also an endangered species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. At the time of this writing, a national recovery plan was being prepared for the species. Recreational take of Macquarie perch is only authorised from Lake Dartmouth and the Yarra River.

Fisheries Victoria recently expanded its fish production capabilities at the facility at Snobs Creek and is undertaking an ongoing Macquarie perch breeding and stocking program.

Trout cod

Trout  cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) were once widespread in north-central and north-eastern Victorian streams flowing into the Murray River; the species has suffered a population decline over most of its former known range and is in danger of extinction. The only known self-sustaining population of trout cod in Victoria is in the Seven Creeks system near Euroa; populations in the Ovens River in northeast Victoria have been re-established under the National Trout Cod Recovery Plan but their breeding status at the time of writing is unknown (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2008b).

Trout cod is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a conservation status of critically endangered. The taking, possession or trading of trout cod is prohibited in Victoria.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment has been conducting research on trout cod for several years and the department  is breeding the species at its Snobs Creek fish hatchery. The department is stocking trout cod into Lake Sambell and Lake Kerford in north-eastern Victoria.

Freshwater catfish

Freshwater catfish (Tandanus tandanus) is distributed throughout Murray River and its tributaries upstream to Echuca and has been introduced into the Wimmera River at Horsham and Victoria Lake in Maryborough and reported in the Yarra River in the Eltham area. While common in some areas, its historical distribution and abundance are diminished (Department of Primary Industries 2007b).

Freshwater catfish are listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a conservation status of endangered. Take of the species is prohibited in all parts of Victoria except the Wimmera Basin.

Family Fishing Lakes and Premier Waters

The Family Fishing Lakes Programprovides recreational fishing opportunities for fishers of all ages and abilities at locations within or near population centres throughout the State. Under the program, 150 to 200 gram ready-to-catch trout are stocked into family fishing lakes at times that maximise fishing opportunities (e.g. second or third term school holidays, fishing weeks or junior fishing clinic events).

Family Fishing Lakes in the Goulburn-Broken catchment include Arboretum Lake (Euroa), Cummins Lake (Yea), Eildon Pondage, Marysville Dam and Mooroopna Recreation Reserve Lake (Figure 1).

Some Family Fishing Lakes are designated as Premier Lakes and managed for enhanced recreational fishing outcomes. Premier lakes feature family friendly facilities including toilets, BBQs, picnic tables and playground equipment.

To cater for more experienced anglers, sections of three Victorian rivers are being developed in partnership with local stakeholders and promoted as Premier Rivers. The Premier River in the Goulburn-Broken catchment is the Goulburn River.

Commercial fishing and aquaculture in the catchment

Commercial fishing activity in the Goulburn-Broken catchment is limited to the take of bait and noxious aquatic species (e.g. European carp). All other forms of commercial fishing in inland waters are prohibited.

Commercial bait licences allow for the harvest and sale of specified bait species using commercial fishing equipment specified on the licence. Bait licences and noxious aquatic species permits are issued and operated in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and in a manner consistent with other legislation and policy.

The primary aquaculture industry in the Goulburn-Broken region is in the Murrindindi Shire where salmonids, primarily rainbow and brown trout, are produced using the cool waters of the Goulburn River and its tributaries downstream of Lake Eildon. The aquaculture industry in this area is rebuilding following substantial stock and infrastructure losses that occurred during the bushfires of February 2009. At the time of writing, Murray cod, silver perch, eels and barramundi were also produced in the region.

Commercial fishing and aquaculture licences are issued in accordance with the requirements of the Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 2009. Commercial fishing and aquaculture are managed under a variety of arrangements that include government legislation, licence conditions and translocation policy and protocols and are therefore not considered in this fishery management plan.

For information go to aquaculture in Victoria or call the Customer Service Centre at 136 186.

Challenges facing the Goulburn-Broken catchment

Longstanding post-European degradation of natural infrastructure resulting from inappropriate land use and poor land management practices, including soil erosion, rising ground and surface water salinity, pest plants and animals and emerging pressures and trends such as climate change and socio-economic and demographic changes will continue to have a significant influence on the health of the Goulburn-Broken catchment. Major natural resource management issues in the region include water quality, waterway health, pest plant and animal management, protection of native vegetation and biodiversity, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and adaptation to climate change (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2008; Victorian Catchment Management Council 2007).

In 2010, south-eastern Australia which includes the Goulburn-Broken catchment was in its fourteenth year of sustained drought. It is expected that climate change will mean hotter and drier conditions for most of Victoria. Rainfall events are forecast to become more intense, but less frequent. The risk of bushfires may increase and droughts become more intense and frequent.

Over time, such impacts can alter the sustainability of fisheries and fishing practices. Fisheries Victoria adapts its management strategies to maintain sustainable harvest and to ensure that fish are available now and into the future. Fishery status reports provide stakeholders with detailed information on Victoria's fisheries.