Fishing destination: Lake Eildon, VIC

Ahh, The Serenity Is Back!

The drought of recent years impacted heavily on many freshwater fisheries in eastern Australia, and Victoria’s Lake Eildon was no exception.

Eildon is a huge lake, with a capacity of more than 3,300,000 mega litres when full. I’m told this equates to around six times as much water as Sydney Harbour.

Lake levels had been on a slow decline since the late 1990s. In May 2007, the lake hit an all-time low of 5.3 per cent. Apart from getting to see the remains of the old town and bridges that were flooded back in the mid 1950s after construction and filling of the lake, there wasn’t a lot of optimism around the place. The demand downstream on the Goulburn River for water to irrigate with was still there, and the main township, caravan and holiday parks, which all rely on tourism from activities on the lake, were really struggling.

As a sign of how bad things were, most of the houseboats that were moored permanently on the lake were removed. Even the hordes of water skiers that would normally frequent the waterway weren’t coming to the lake because they couldn’t launch their boats.

Although angling numbers also dropped off dramatically, there were still plenty of stalwarts who continued to fish in whatever conditions were dished up to them.

In 2008/2009 water levels picked up slightly. Although it was nowhere near enough for the locals to get excited about, anglers were thankful they still had a reasonable fishery. At the end of summer 2010 the weather gods started to bless the area with some rain; hopes were high for at least some reasonable winter falls. Winter arrived and nobody was expecting the deluge that followed. Month after month it just kept raining. Eventually optimism was high that the lake may possibly reach 50 per cent, but by the end of 2010 it had topped 70 per cent. Victoria continued to get excellent rainfall and soon enough the lake reached the magical 100 per cent level. The place was alive and buzzing – the lake was back!
Options galore

Fronting up to fish a waterway that has changed so much in a relatively short time is a bit daunting. The amount of new water to fish now is just incredible. Rocky banks, heavily timbered arms, slowly sloping grassy banks – there are so many food rich areas that the growth rates of the fish over the next couple of seasons are going to be amazing.

One thing I do know for sure is that all of my favourite spots I’d been fishing over the years, and the particular way I used to fish them, can be now thrown straight out the window. Those smart enough to GPS mark their favourite areas before the water came up deserve congratulations – these guys will have some nice deep marks to fish over the next few years. For the rest of us that didn’t mark our spots, it’s going to be fun finding a whole lot of new prime areas and working out the best method of fishing them.

Target Species

The main target species in Eildon include brown and rainbow trout, Murray cod, golden perch, redfin and European carp.
No matter what species is your preferred target, I think it’s important to experiment with new techniques and try fishing different locations. Those who are fairly new to fishing the lake will have no bad habits and most likely try quite a few different techniques. But for the seasoned Eildon fishos that have settled into their comfort zones over the years, now’s the time to try something different. For example, if you’re into trolling for trout and that’s how you’ve been catching the bulk of your fish over the years, you might find some of the areas that used to be consistent producers of fish are now fairly unproductive. Wind lanes that used to channel food into those areas will now be forming in other areas, so go looking for them. Don’t be scared to have a break from the trolling every now and then. Pull into one of the bays and have a cast around some of the trees and banks – you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. Same goes for the bait anglers – while you’re waiting for a bite, grab a spin rod loaded with a hard-bodied lure or a soft plastic and flick it around some structure. If you’re land-based, walk along the bank in order to increase your options and cover extra water. Fly fishers chasing trout are going to experience some amazing hatches in some of the bays from now on.

The lake’s redfin population has exploded in recent times. Anglers, especially those with kids, can have some good fun with this introduced species. The traditional method of bobbing either baits or lures down alongside timber still works extremely well and remains the most common way to target these fiesty European imports. Another method I’ve been using with great success is finding deep suspended schools of reddies on my Lowrance sounder’s structure scan. It’s a very effective tool for finding these fish, especially the bigger models. It can take a bit of time sounding to find them, but when you do come across a good school it’s well worth it with plenty of non-stop action.

Since redfin are not a native species and breed prolifically, there is no bag or size limit on them, so anglers looking for a great feed of fish are encouraged to take plenty!


When targeting natives in Eildon, a large percentage of our fishing effort over the past six or seven years has primarily been targeting fish holding off steep points, banks and drop-offs. This is an effective way to target these fish and we’ve had plenty of good days on the water. But with these locations now well and truly under water, the time has come to move with the fish and start targeting the plethora of newly submerged timber throughout the lake. The fish have plenty of new cover and they’re going to take advantage of it, as well as the available food sources that weren’t previously there. All sorts of goodies like frogs, lizards, large bugs, beetles, moths, cicadas and anything else that is likely to fall into the water from the trees close to the bank will be on the menu. For those reasons I’m going to spend a lot of time fishing soft plastics amongst the timber as well as on the surface – these days there are plenty of great soft plastics on the market to imitate just about anything you want to.  I also predict there will be a huge shift back to throwing spinnerbaits amongst the timber rather than fishing lipless crankbaits out in the deeper water, which has been the mainstay technique for the past few years. Spinnerbaits can be really effective on fish that won’t take a plastic or other presentation – they have a knack of inducing a strike when the fish would otherwise be happy to sit back.


Having the Snobs Creek hatchery literally just down the road from Eildon is certainly a big plus. Current annual salmonoid stocking into the lake has been about 40,000 brown trout and 35,000 rainbows. Natural recruitment from the main feeder rivers such as Big River, Jamieson, Howqua, Goulburn and Deletite rivers is generally quite good. Again, due to the high water levels, the next few years should see a huge increase in the numbers of fish moving up these rivers to spawn, and then obviously a large increase of naturally recruited trout into the lake.

The holding pondage below the lake also receives generous stocking of about 11,000 brown trout each year, including some real monster ex-brood stock, so there is every chance of catching a trophy brown.

Native fish stocking into the lake is very good as well, with around 200,000 golden perch going into the lake over the past year, and 1,000,000 Murray cod being stocked into the lake by Fisheries over a three-year period between 2010 and 2012.
Natural recruitment of native fish is fairly small, but the numbers stocked by Fisheries more than makes up for that.

Premier Fishery

Taking water levels, fish-holding structure and stocking numbers into consideration, it all points to one thing – Eildon is a premier fishery!

This lake has always been considered a good trout fishery, and I’ve been fortunate enough to spend plenty of time on it and watch the quality of trout fishing explode since last winter. Combine that with the native fish stocking efforts of Fisheries and amount of quality natives now coming out of the lake, especially Murray cod, I’m convinced Lake Eildon has the potential to become one of the very best freshwater fisheries in Australia.

If you haven’t been to Eildon yet, put it on your list of must go to locations – the serenity certainly is back!

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