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Campaspe River bouncing back

Up close shot of hands holding a medium-sized Murray cod with a river in the background
22 May 2023

The Campaspe River is recovering well from the 2022 floods, with preliminary fish surveys showcasing the waterway’s resilience.

As well as having devastating effects on towns and farmland, last year’s floods damaged some sections of the Campaspe River, stressing native fish, platypus, and rakali (water rat) populations and altering the in-stream and riverbank vegetation they need to survive.

The latest fish surveys from the Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Action’s Arthur Rylah Institute have revealed just how quickly the river is bouncing back.

“The Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring and Assessment Program (VEFMAP) surveys have shown similar numbers of golden perch to what were caught in the past two years,” North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Environmental Flows Project Manager Darren White said. 

“We have also seen Murray cod captured in all three reaches, ranging in size from 57mm to 802mm, including multiple young-of-year fish.

“That all points to a resilient fish population and a recovering river.”

Mr White said the vegetation took a big hit in the floods but was also improving.

“Vegetation coming back means waterbugs are improving, which are really important this time of year for platypus and rakali,” he said.

“Platypus will be moving into breeding season soon, and they need to get as many calories onboard as they can.

“Floods can decimate populations of baby platypus, so a good breeding season this year will help rebuild their numbers.”

The coming winter/autumn low flow is another step in the river’s restoration.

Up to 200ML a day will flow down the river from the Eppalock dam until the end of November.

“This environmental flow is really important, especially this year,” Mr White said.

“It will be at the time of the year the river would have flowed naturally.

“Without these flows there’s a danger of the pools becoming disconnected, saline, and deadly to fish.

“We also want to ensure the vegetation gets a chance to grow, and with it the water bugs which are great platypus and fish food.

“The river is doing pretty well as a result of a water for environment program that built resilience and allowed it to bounce back quickly after the floods.

“Now we need to keep it that way and help it cope with what’s ahead.”

The river rise will be minimal, but campers and anglers are advised to keep an eye on conditions.

Water for the environment flows are authorised by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) in line with its Seasonal Watering Plan 2022-23. 

Updates of water deliveries will be posted on our Current Flows page.