Catch topwater estuary perch at Devils Bend

With all the insect activity, this time of year is the perfect time to fish topwater.

by Jesse Matthias •

Sometimes there is nothing better than catching fish close to home – even better when you’re catching estuary perch off the surface. Only 30 minutes from Cranbourne, Devils Bend Reservoir produces a lot of excitement, especially coming into summer. The hot, balmy nights with moths, flies, mosquitoes and all the other annoying flying bugs landing on the water taunting the perch mean now is a perfect time for surface fishing.

There’s even a barbecue area to cook your catch, or for a picnic. Devils Bend also has a toilet block on site! Flyfishers, experienced anglers and kids just want to give it a crack! They all venture down here in hopes to land a few fish.

Park your car at the main entrance near the barbecue area off Graydens Road for the easiest access to the lake. Follow the main pathway towards the water and you’ll notice a no fishing access area. This the best place to start, keeping on the correct side of the fence of course; I always look for weedy areas with broken ground, or any structure that might hold fish – like a stump.

Cast a small popper or surface lure over the weed. As the lure hits the water, leave it for a few seconds; there could be a nearby fish that’s heard or seen the lure drop into the water and hopefully that fish may come in for closer look. After the ripples start to clear, start twitching the lure while winding in your slack line with a pause every couple of twitches. As the lure pauses, you will see a boil behind it, just as the perch gulps your lure off the surface.

Using a slow constant retrieve will have you landing lots of fish – this is my favourite method. As your lure is moving towards you, darting side to side, you will see a wake behind it. Trace the movements, and then smash it off the top. If you notice the wake, but the fish still won’t take the lure, try Changing the speed of the retrieve by either slowing it down or speeding it up. See what works, as all nights are different.

The best outfit to use on these fish is a 1-3kg rod, or a 2-4kg with a 2500 size reel, holding 150m of 8lb braid and running a rod length of 6-8lb fluorocarbon leader.

The lures that are most effective are pencils (like the Pygmy Pencil), bent minnow-styles. Any surface lure that mimic a small injured baitfish or an insect struggling to make its way back to the bank, as well as lures that look like cicadas will work well.

Keep in mind a cicada will need a different technique compared to a bent minnow-style or pencil. To work a cicada lure, simply use a slow roll retrieve. Sometimes all the different techniques you can think of don’t always help!

The wind can be a killer; I prefer like to fish the surface with little wind. With a slight breeze up to 8km, once you get a lake full of small wake, waves can make it hard! Carrying a couple of different scents can help turn on the bite. I like to use S Factor or Dizzy Scent in garlic or UV.

While you’re standing on the bank don’t let all the thick weed that you can see in the water put you off getting your lure wet. On most of the lures that I use at this lake I’ve changed my treble hooks over to singles – only having one point on each hook helps to not catch a mass of weed each cast. A con to these is that you’ll find that you will be dropping more fish and not hooking up. When you do get a hook up it’ll be a solid pin in the corner of the jaw or the top lip.

Even better for us catch and release anglers, single hooks make de-hooking the fish a piece of cake! Single hooks also cause minimal damage to the fish’s mouth. Treble hooks can be messy and a little frustrating; one barb in the top of the lip, one in the side of the jaw and the other wedged somewhere else – that’s just making life hard!

Down towards the quarry or the floating pontoons are very popular spots to fish. Even though these are heavily fished areas, it doesn’t seem to stop these estuary perch from mistaking a lure for the real thing and there are plenty of them. The stocked estuary perch totalled 122,000 from January 7 2014 to the most recent in 13 December 2016! They were all stocked as small fry and have grown a lot in this time. The estuary perch in Devils Bend aren’t the biggest yet, but a fair few being caught are legal size (27cm).

Most perch will be spending summer trying to fit big insects in their mouth!
A fun-size perch is subdued in the shallows.
Grass makes great cover for perch.
If this doesn’t get your casting arm twitching, nothing will.
Late afternoon is an ideal time for topwater fishing for estuary perch.
The perch in this lake are in great condition.
Devils Bend is a pretty lake, and being so close to Cranbourne, it’s also very popular.
The banks of Devils Bend make walking relatively easy for the shore-based angler.
The estuary perch are now at a fun size for catching.

There have also been 52,186 rainbow trout and 48,329 brown trout released into Devils Bend, making it more inviting to anglers to come down and give it a crack.

Give yourself plenty of time of time to walk around the areas you’re able to access. At this time of the year I try to arrive around 7:30pm. This will give you plenty of time to cover more water and to find a few spots to try on the walk back. Fishing early mornings will produce a good number of fish and don’t give up after the surface bite goes quiet – try some shallow diving minnows and soft plastics. The old pink Tassie Devil works a treat too.

The best time to land a fish here is late in the afternoon when the sun is nearly hitting the horizon when the fish go mental! When you see them smacking bugs and small fish from the top of the water start casting right on top of these surface takes.

Since the opening of kayaks being allowed on Devils Bend in December 2017, a lot more fish are being caught, like estuary perch and some monstrous redfin. Kayaks will be a massive advantage, as you are able to throw lures towards jumping fish you can’t reach from the bank, which will make catching fish from Devils Bend a lot more interesting. Fishing weed beds all over the allowed area creates more structure for us fishos to target and find a new favourite spot.

Happy fishing!

*Information on fish stocking used in this article is available on the Victoria Fisheries website at