Guide to fishing Lake Mulwala
Lake Mulwala has been a fishery that I’ve enjoyed lure fishing for over 25 years. In some ways so much has changed over the years but then in other ways the basic principles of catching Murray Cod in Lake Mulwala are very much the same. In this guide to fishing Lake Mulwala I’m going to run through some of the techniques that I’ve tried and explain what has worked for me.
Lake Mulwala Tale
I’ve been working on Balista for over 16 years now, this is a tale about a memorable experience fishing Lake Mulwala. After 3.5 years of excruciating work building a big surface lure I finally had prototypes that were ‘fishable’. When I created the concept for this lure at that time Balista didn’t have vibration technology, or rechargeable, we had only our LED range. I dreamt of a lure that had so many features that I didn’t think it would be possible to create, I thought if I could get somewhere close that would be fantastic. I dreamt of a 200mm 3 piece surface lure that had a big ass vibrator in it, it had to be rechargeable as the vibrator pulls a lot more power than an LED, and I wanted it to have 3 interchangeable bibs. I’ve seen a lure with 2 interchangeable bibs but I’ve never seen a lure with 3 interchangeable bibs, all of must have genuinely good and unique actions – surface crawling, surface wake and diving. I asked my mate Colby Lesko if he wanted to do a fishing trip to thoroughly test out the samples, it doesn’t take Colby much convincing to go on a fishing trip so we were on.
We arrived to Lake Mulwala to begin our trip early in the morning, we launched the boat and were fishing about half an hour before light. We started off fishing a weed bed around an island using the crawling bib on the big surface lure. On first light there was an almighty explosion on the top of the water and that was Colby’s prototype Tremor getting eaten. We got the fish netted and measured, 87cm, what an awesome way to start the day.
Later on in the morning well after the surface bite had died we changed over to the diving bib to try that out. I needed a toilet break there happened to be a toilet block not that far away so we boated over to that. Whilst I was doing my business Colby was flicking off the back of the boat and his diving bib got crunched, unfortunately the fish didn’t hook up. Once I got back he swore black and blue that he had a big bite, I was only 50% believing him at the time. We weren’t going to fish that bank but given Colby had supposedly got a bite we decided to do a couple of passes. We got right to the end of the run and bang! Colby was on again, this time on the diving bib, and a bloody good fish too measuring 108cm. We were both in disbelief as to the day that we were having.
We got towards the afternoon, since the morning I had landed a smaller fish around 50cm and that was all that we had to show for ourselves. This time we were out around Woodlands flicking around the timber in 2-3 metres of water, there is so much timber in many parts of the lake such as this, where you can spend hours fishing all of the drowned logs, this is one of my favourite ways to fish the lake. We were still fishing the diving bib whilst the Sun was out, seemingly out of nowhere Colby grunts ‘I’m on and it's a big one’ I couldn’t believe it, we were fishing the same lure and he was now on again. A hard fight followed with the fish been wrapped around timber, we thought that we had lost him at one point, with the fortune Colby was having this day there was no way it was getting off. We landed the fish and it went over the metre again, what a hell of a day, he had 4 big fish encounters for the day with 3 landed.
Anticipation levels were high for the evening surface session, unfortunately we didn’t have any more luck left in us that night. That evening we agonized about what bank we would fish the following morning, would we fish the bank where Colby got one on the surface the morning before, or would we fish the bank near the toilets where he had 2 big bites. We decided to fish near the toilets.
The next morning rolls around we are on the water about an hour before light. We were about 30 metres from the bank both casting our surface lures to the bank and retrieving back to the boat, our lures were often only metres apart from each other. On one particularly cast both lures were coming back side by side a max of 2 metres apart, and of course Colby’s got destroyed off the surface and he was on again. And yep of course it was over a metre again.
In the space of 24 hours Colby had landed 3 fish over the metre, and another at 87cm. 2 fish off the surface, and 2 sub surface on the diving bib. We were heading home that day and we were both on an enormous high from the trip, we would have been happy with 1 good fish for the trip. I was ecstatic to see all the hard work that I had put into building the Tremor come to fruition, at the end of the day if I make a lure the most rewarding thing is to see another angler catch a fish on that lure and genuinely love it. Colby was ecstatic because he’d had the best Murray Cod trip of his life. I think this trip showed him what is possible with big Murray Cod, since that special trip Colby has honed his craft on catching big Murray Cod off the surface like no one else. This trip was before the days of live scope, it was all blind fishing which in hindsight makes it even more satisfying.
Surface fishing at Lake Mulwala can be one of the best ways to catch fish in the lake, you can specifically target bigger fish off the top by throwing a large surface lure such as the Tremor. The larger presentation makes a big difference to getting big fish to bite. If you want to hedge your bets towards catching fish of any size a surface lure such as the Hunchback 90 will get eaten by any size Murray Cod meaning you’re much more likely to get action when throwing a lure like this.
The times of year that I’ve had my best success on surface are December through to April. Once the water starts to chill in May I’ve found the bite less consistent. I’ve spent a lot of time from May to August throwing surface with mixed results, you can absolutely still catch them on surface and during Winter you can catch them during the day on surface, especially on cloudy days when direct sunlight isn’t on the water.
When you’re retrieving your surface lure don’t think that you have to go slow, that is the biggest mistake that I’ve made over the years. When you retrieve you’re lure experiment with retrieve speed from slow to fast, search for a sweet spot of that lure where it is giving maximum action. I’ve never seen someone retrieve a surface lure faster than Colby, and no one catches more fish off the surface which I’ve changed my approach to retrieve pretty fast.
The locations that I target for casting surface:
- A max depth of 3 metres, ideally throwing surface in around 1-2.5 metres of water.
- Fish banks with lots of structure, keep your boat a good cast away from the bank then cast towards the bank and retrieve back to the boat.
- Target lay downs for big fish, you can fish a bit deeper up to 4 metres if you’re specifically targeting lay downs.
- Target weed beds. Weed beds are like a smorgasbord for Murray Cod from shrimp to small fish. The best time to target weed beds is first thing in the morning and well into the night, Cod get in there at night with the protection of darkness, they will hold in there until light where they start to disperse.
- Drop offs is another great place to target, if you find the Murray river course or a channel in the lake then you can keep your boat in the deep water and cast up into the shallow water and retrieve your surface lure over the drop offs, this is very effective.
Trolling surface is another productive way to target Murray Cod. The splash of a lure can scare fish so keeping your lure constantly moving is a good thing. Make sure that the max depth is 3 metres and make sure there is plenty of timber around for fish to hide in.
Trolling at Lake Mulwala is the oldest technique and still one of the most effective. The concept of trolling is that you throw your diving lure about 20 metres behind the boat and use your motor to slowly tow the lure along. To gauge the best speed start off by feeling the action of your lure, every lure has a different action so try starting from slow and building the troll speed up to find what feels like the best action. Typically the best speed will be around 1-1.2 knots.
Here is what I look for when trolling:
- No matter what the depth is the key to catching fishing trolling is working through structure, that is where Murray Cod live. Look for a trolling run with plenty of timber to run your lure through.
- Places with variable depth can be fantastic, where it might drop off from 3 metres to 5 metres for example, Murray Cod will wait at the drop off for bait to ambush it for an easy feed. An example of this is out from the main bridge there is a huge area in between the bridge and where all the timber starts a couple hundred metres away (the opposite side of the main wall), in this area the depth is up and down plus there is a heap of timber, you can troll around in circles all day long in here and have your lure in front of tonnes of fish.
- My ideal depth to troll is 3-6 metres, if I’m fishing shallower around 3 metres I use the same lures I just don’t cast them out as far behind the boat, if I’m fishing deeper I will let more line out.
I’m born and bred in Shepparton inevitably what has happened is the lures that I build are all designed firstly to work for my local waters given that’s where I do most of my fishing. There are two lures that I use for trolling Lake Mulwala which are the Smoke 80 and the Dyno 90. They are both completely different styles of Murray Cod lures. The Dyno 90 is more of your traditional Murray Cod lure with a chunkier body, a big wide bib that gives a wide thumping action. Its 90mm in length and dives to 6 metres, I love the Dyno 90 for targeting better quality fish on the troll.
The Smoke 80 has a skinner body profile, it has an intense rolling action that is fantastic for generating loads of bites from natives, this is a great lure to tie on when you want to catch numbers of fish.
There are enormous opportunities for casting lures at Mulwala, when looking for places to cast I consider that there are thousands of people fishing the lake over the course of a Murray Cod season so I want to search for areas that don’t look as obvious. I like to cast in 2-4 metres of water, of which there are so many places around the lake with that depth such as Kyffins reserve, Woodlands etc. You can drift through these areas casting at upright stumps, searching for lay downs, looking for drop offs from little channels that are entwined in these areas.
Things to look for when casting:
- Lay down timber is the best type of structure to hold good fish.
- Upright timber, often there can be a build up of timber at the base of these trees that can be great hiding spots.
- Drop offs, anywhere that you can cast up into 1-2m water and bring your lure out over a drop off in to 3-6m o f water.
- Weedbeds are fantastic to fish the deep side of these, great for holding fish.
I am a real sucker for casting hardbody lures when it comes to casting for Murray Cod. There are a number of different hardbodies that I like to throw, depending on the circumstances, such as time of year. For example in the cooler months I’ll throw a larger lure during the day such as the Tremor with diving bib, this a big presence that Murray Cod love in Winter and the diving bib allows it to be worked through timber which is essential. The Dyno 90 and Smoke 80 are both different styles of hardbody lures that I love to cast, they are different sizes and actions depending on the day either one or the other will produce the goods.
This is the most important piece of technology that you can have in your boat, I would rather chartered waters than a scope. Mulwala gets a lot of fishing pressure, there are a hell of a lot of fish in the lake so despite the pressure it is still possible to do well. To do well it pays to fish differently to how the majority of people fish at the lake. I use chartered waters to find places to fish that do not looking appealing to the naked eye, most anglers will fish around the lake by what looks good, so visibly attractive banks will get fished a lot. What you can do is search for things on Chartered Waters that are not obvious to the naked eye such as drop offs, lay downs, certain parts of the lake have enormous build ups of timber that I like to go and target for example. It's a great way to get to know the lake by been able to analyze what is underneath the water.
Fishing the draw down at Lake Mulwala
Approximately every 5 years the water level in Lake Mulwala is drawn down back to the original river beds of the Murray river. The purpose of draining the lake is to kill off all of the weed that chokes the lake after a few years. The lake is drawn starting in around May and will remain low over Winter. When the lake is low it means that there is significantly less water between the fish and can offer great fishing. The fishing at times can still be tough as can be expected with Murray Cod fishing. The above mentioned principles for fishing surface, casting and trolling still apply even when the lake is low.