Lake Eildon is one of the diverse waterways not just in Victoria but also in Australia. How many places can you think of where you can go fishing for a day and be in the mix to catch trophy Golden Perch, Trout, Murray Cod and Red Fin? The opportunities are endless but are they by no means easy, I have spent many trips exploring Eildon and when you think you have it figured out the lake will throw you a curve ball, you can go from having a big day out one day to drawing a blank the next doing exactly the same thing.
A prime example in 2013 mid October I’d had a great afternoon catching numerous large Golden Perch a couple of stray Murray Cod and a dozen Red Fin working lures on a grass bank, I said to my old man I don’t care what you are doing tomorrow get yourself over to Eildon we are going fishing they are on fire. My father isn’t a die-hard fisho so I said we’ll fish gentleman’s hours meet me at the ramp at 10.30am and we’ll fish till dark. I launched the boat and went to troll a bank I hadn’t fished before, in that half an hour I landed a 62cm and a 45cm Trout and thought to myself perfect we’re going to be on for another good day. Needless to say I got my old man and his best friend in the boat we tried absolutely everything and did not turn a reel for the whole day, couldn’t believe it. Well actually my old man got a 15cm Red Fin in the last 5 minutes, you would have thought he’d landed a 20lb Golden the way he was rubbing it into his mate Brian, competitive old buggers.
You read a lot about casting lipless crankbaits for Golden’s which I’ll cover later on in this article however what about the folks that want to troll up a few natives? Trolling is a fantastic option for targeting Golden Perch in spring and of course you do get plenty of surprises with other species bobbing up as well.
Having a plan for the day is crucial, Eildon is a huge lake it’s not hard to start trolling at one point and you could keep trolling for a near eternity if you wanted to. I like to have 3 options for a day and work those hard, you don’t want to be chopping and changing all the time, its best to make a plan and work it thoroughly. When I first start fishing Eildon at the start of the season in my 3 options for the day I’ll include trolling grass flats, a rock bank and say a shallow bank that has plenty of submerged trees, they all produce at times the key is to find where they are on the day. The number one hard and fast rule for catching Golden’s is to find the fish, I know that sounds simple, given that Golden Perch are starting to school in Spring usually if you find one there are plenty more not too far away. Occasionally when you get a Golden to the boat there will be a number of other Golden’s following their mate up to the boat as well, it's an interesting sight to see and you can quite often net one or two others whilst landing the hooked fish.
One mistake I’ve seen a few times, and I have been guilty of it myself early in the piece is to catch a Golden, get a photo, release the fish and then keep trolling. If you’ve caught a Golden chances are you’ve found a school and more Golden’s aren’t going to be too far away. It’s now time to pull out your casting stick or alternatively you can keep trolling this area. You want to give it at least another 6 passes 50 odd metres either side of where you landed the fish. You’ve done the hard work in finding the fish the last thing you want to do is to continue trolling and move away from a school.
Grass banks can be one of the best places to locate Golden’s in early spring, unfortunately there is no easy way to know which banks they are going to be on, you’ve got to put in the time and look for attributes about each grass bank that you work that may make that bank better of worse for Golden’s. I’m constantly keeping an eye on my sounder for water temperature, drop offs and structure. If you find any bank that's an extra degree warmer that’s a huge bonus, impoundment Golden’s thrive in 18-22 degree water temps, if most of the water your fishing for the day is 17 degrees and all of a sudden you find a bank that’s 18-18.5 degrees that’s good reason to be excited. Quite often you’ll find bait and feeding Golden’s holding in this warmer water.
When your looking for grass banks they are quite often found right up the top end of an arm. If you can find a run that has a drop off, from say 2 metres and it sharply drops off to 3 metres, or has an up and down bottom these banks are more deserving of your time. And of course structure, especially the less obvious underwater structure are dynamite locations for Golden Perch. Even if you don’t catch one the first time fishing it keep a mental note of that structure as chances are you will catch off it at some point in the future. After fishing Eildon for a while I’ve got quite a few little spots that I can motor around and give a quick fish looking to get a cheap fish or two on the board.
The depth I look for on grass banks is around the 3 metre mark, between 2.5-3.5 metres is spot on the money. I run a shallow diving minnow on the shallow side and a small 60mm diver on the deeper side of the boat. The benefit of using a minnow is it a brilliant lure style to catch Golden’s but it’s also a great way to pick up a Trout in your travels. Your much more likely to pick up a Trout on a minnow like the Trance or Trigger compared to your more traditional Golden Perch/Cod divers like the Dyno 60.
There is no shortage of rock banks in Eildon either, looking for a point of difference in the abundance of rock banks can be the key to catching more consistently. I look for rock banks that don’t drop off too quickly, for example where the depth is less than 12 metres in depth a good cast from the bank. I think the shallower banks hold more warmth an important factor in spring, and they also tend to offer more hidey holes for the fish as well, whereas if it drops off super quick there tend to be less rocks and timber for the fish to hold on. And as always if the bank features standing and submerged timber is always good. I work in reasonably close to the bank, again I try to keep right on 3.5 metres, I’ll have the deeper diving 60mm hardbody out the deeper side of the boat and I’ll run the minnow on the bank side of the boat.
Working a school – Finding a school is one of the harder parts, once you’ve found the school now you’ve got to keep on it and work the school. Casting lipless crankbaits is my favorite way to entice these fish, cast the lure where you think the school is and let the crankbait sink to the bottom. Once you’ve sounded up a school you can work an umbrella approach to find the exact location of the school, this is putting a cast into where you think the school is, if that cast doesn’t produce cast a couple of metres to the left ensuring you work an area thoroughly.
Once your lure is on the bottom its time to begin a painfully slow retrieve, you only just want to feel that lure ticking. When I started doing this honestly it was driving me insane, if you get that retrieve even slightly off there are days you will not catch. Slowing that retrieve right down makes all of the difference, you cannot really go too slow, but you can go too fast.
Lure selection is important here, I look for lipless crankbaits that sink super slow, and can also be worked super slow. My lure of choice here is the Balista Juggernaut 65, the reason I go for this crankbait is because it sinks a hell of a lot slower than other crankbaits that I’ve used. It does have the LED tail as well, when fishing in a few metres of water I have no doubt that the flash does provide assistance.
What time of year
The Golden’s generally start to come on the bite in mid to late October each season, however that’s not to say you can’t get them earlier they just tend to be much tougher to catch. Every year I’m chomping at the bit for the Golden’s to come on the chew and I can’t help but start fishing in September knowing that it’s going to be fairly tough going. The one positive about fishing September is that it is a great time to target trout, if you start this early make sure you’ve got options for trout. After catching plenty of trout over the years whilst targeting Golden’s I thought this September I’ll have a trout specific setup on the go. I was running a 6lb leader and got thumped on a spotted dog pattern Trigger, after a short run I got snapped clean off. I cannot remember the last time I was snapped off, as I’m not a trout fisherman I must have been running the drag a little tight for the leader. And given that it was in the exact same spot that I landed a close to 10lb trout the season before I should have been a little more careful. Now I stick to my Golden Perch setup of 12lb braid and a 12lb leader for the bigger fish that you can encounter, you can go lighter than that after getting my arse handed to me by a bigger fish I’d personally rather be safe than sorry.
If your planning to fish Eildon this spring make sure you give yourself a couple of days, it is an incredible fishery, what you don’t read about is that it can be a bloody tough fishery as well. You want at least a two full days on the water, you want to give yourself enough time to catch at least one good bite period. The one thing I do love about Eildon is that you’re always in the hunt for a trophy fish, it only takes one big fish to make a trip and there are times where that is all you get. If you’ve done it tough for a weekend but you walk away having a landed a 10lb Golden Perch or a 6lb Trout well I think that's a hell of a lot better than nothing. Make a plan, include 3 very different options, when you work out what they are doing all you have to do is put in the time and you’ll catch.