by Jarrod Day •
A two hour drive southeast of Melbourne, Lake Eildon is situated in the mountain ranges that make up the Eildon National park. The township of Eildon is laid back, but with the lake supporting such a wide diversity of fishing methods for various species, and throughout the year it can become quite busy.
The lake itself was originally designed to meet the needs of expanding agriculture throughout the area. It was originally dammed to support 377,000ML in 1935. Over time, this wasn’t enough to support local farming, so a second wall was built to hold 3390,000ML with an average depth of 24m (79ft). No wonder the Murray cod can be hard to catch.
Today, the lake is a hive of activity throughout the year, from those who want a relaxing weekend on a houseboat soaking worms, to water skiers and avid anglers keen to strike it rich.
The lake covers an area of 138.3 km², all of which is fishable throughout the year, apart from the timber-lined areas. That is unless the water is let out for irrigation purposes, but during the following winter, substantial rainfall will top it back up again. This is a common event now, and the fish and fishery recover without a hiccup.
The lake is quite interesting to fish given the different tactics that can be used and the various locations that can be fished. In a boat, you can be downrigging a lure for a cod in 70ft of water along the dam wall, or casing 50mm shallow diving minnow hardbodies to tailing trout over the shallow grassy flats north of the Bonnie Doon Bridge.
The lake is known for its sensational fishing, but it’s not all just about that. It’s amazing, it’s quiet and it’s peaceful. Just a short drive from Melbourne, there’s nothing better for the weekend than to pull up by the bank, roll out your swag and build a campfire. Just cast a line, sit back and wait for the reel to scream.
LOCAL RIVERS AND SURROUNDING AREA
Eildon is notably known for the lake, but there’s also a good handful or rivers and streams that run into it. Of all the rivers, the main feeders are the Delatite, Big, Jamieson and Howqua. These extended from the mountains above the lake where snowmelt in winter flows through and down into the lake.
Other nearby rivers and creeks such as the Rubicon, Acheron, Stevenson and Little Stevenson offer amazing trout fishing with fly, lure and bait methods guaranteed to succeed. Year round, these rivers offer amazing angling opportunities for both brown and rainbow trout, and of course the dreaded European carp. However, there are times that fish better than others.
In all the rivers, the prime fishing months are those leading towards closed and open trout season. Trout closing occurs when trout begin to spawn, so catching them during the period from the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June to Father’s Day weekend in September is harmful. They need to be spawning to continue the stocks for the future of wild fish.
Leading up to June, spawning trout make their way out of the lake and migrate upstream to spawn. Land-based anglers have the full advantage here, as they can cast lures or soak baits from the banks of rivers as far upstream as they can make it.
Rivers aside, just below Lake Eildon is the Pondage. The Pondage is a shallow 150ha lake directly below Lake Eildon. Stocked annually with ex-brood fish from the local Snobs Creek Hatchery, the Pondage is a non-boating waterway with plenty of bank access right around it.
With fish ranging from a few pounds to a whopping 8lb, techniques can vary from casting a fly to course fishing methods, soaking a mudeye under a float to casting a crocodile lure along the edges. The Pondage then runs into the Goulburn River, which winds it way through miles and miles of farmlands with plenty of access along its length.
The Goulburn is particularly popular with fly angle, although, casting spinners, soft plastics and hardbody lures is the technique of choice for many anglers today. Bait fishing methods are still effective but tends to be the technique chosen by coarse fishing enthusiasts.
In just three years, between 2010 and 2013, Fisheries Victoria stocked over a million Murray cod into Lake Eildon. In conjunction with that, the closed season on Murray cod in Lake Eildon has been lifted for 2016. This will see anglers targeting such a high prized fish more often using varying techniques.
Murray cod are one of those fish that has to be lured from their lair. Fallen timber, large boulders and steep rocky banks are the perfect place to make a home for a cod and catching them can be difficult. One of the most effective techniques is trolling deep diving hardbody lures. Of course, you have to get in amongst the timber to encourage a strike.
Tossing spinnerbaits down the rocky banks is also highly effective and you tend to lose fewer lures using this method. A good old bait soaking trip is always relaxing from boat or bank. Big yabbies with their claws removed are a top choice to rig on a running sinker rig – by doing this, you also have the chance at hooking into a decent yellowbelly.
Callop, yellowbelly or golden perch – call them what you like. One thing’s for sure, they’re a lot of fun to catch. Golden perch are similar to cod, as they’ll more often than not be found hiding under structure like a fallen tree or just a branch from one of the hundreds of trees scattered around the lake.
Techniques used for cod are also effective for yellowbelly. Although spinnerbaits are a top choice, vibes such as Jackall TN60s and Yakamito Rabid Vibes are more productive lures to use. Another method proving to be extremely effective is to use a black 2” or 3” grub threaded onto a 1/8oz jighead. This is best tied up to a tree, and gently free spooling the grubs along the trunk to the bottom and then ever so slowly winding it back up – not the most exciting technique, but one of the more productive.
Trout – brown and rainbow
Brown and rainbow trout are the most commonly caught species in Lake Eildon and the surrounding creeks and rivers. Anglers in search of trout in the lake find trolling small deep and shallow diving lures works very effectively. The Tassie Devil lure is still the most effective lure when trolled. Trolling methods also differ, but flat lining is probably the best method used with a downrigger to get the lure right down to the depths where the fish are holding.
Those in search of trout tend to focus on trolling the edge of the timber line or in amongst the timber. Keep in mind, you’ll lose the odd lure venturing into these parts. Banks are also productive with bait fishing. This works well on the shallow grassy banks a few days after heavy rain. A running sinker rig with a bunch to worms on a hook is all you need, but don’t forget to pack the PowerBait – it’s very effective.
Lake Eildon is chock-a-block full of redfin, which for the most part are caught by anglers bait fishing from the bank. In years gone by, jigging was the recommended method. As times changed, trolled hardbody lures or flicking soft plastics amongst the timber have become go-to techniques. Redfin are a schooling fish, so if you’re bait fishing, when you find one, you often to catch a few. Although not a highly prized fish in the lake, redfin can be considered a trophy over 40cm.
Lake Eildon has a lot to offer anglers from all levels of experience. The diversity of methods that can be used is endless and you can fish the different locations all in a day. Whether you’re a lure tosser, fly flicker or bait soaker, Lake Eildon has it all. It’s a great place to visit and while the fishing is top notch, so is the area in general. There are plenty of wineries and shops to visit, but just hiking about the high-country is awesome.
You can even spend a day at the Eildon Visitor centre, Snobs Creek Fish Hatchery and for some easy fishing, drop into the Eildon or Snobs Creek trout farms. The next time you’re looking for a piece of adventure coupled with finding that little productive patch of water to have all to yourself, punch Lake Eildon into your GPS. You won’t look back.
You know you’re in the right place when the letterboxes have trout decals on them.
PLACES TO STAY
Fishing Eildon is a lot of fun and being a top fishing destination, there’s plenty of accommodation, from living it up to camping off the grid.
The Fraser camping area can accommodate tents and some caravans and campervans. Sites are unpowered. Facilities include toilets, hot showers, free gas barbecues, shelters, picnic areas and boat launching facilities.
Jerusalem Creek has eight camping areas with unpowered sites. Fireplaces and pit toilets are provided.
There are remote style camping options at Taylors Creek, Mountaineer Creek and Coopers Point, which can only be accessed by foot or boat. Facilities include composting toilets and fireplaces at Taylors Creek and Mountaineer Inlet. Fees no longer apply to this campground. No bookings are taken, so camping is first in, first served.
Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/lake-eildon-national-park for more information.
Blue Gums Riverside Holiday Park
(03) 5774 2567
Eildon Pondage Holiday Park
1800 651 691
Golden Trout Motel
(03) 5774 2508
Eildon Houseboat Hire
0408 005 535