Every Easter, the small township of Balmoral becomes a bustling, busy centre with travellers heading to the famous and tremendously popular Rocklands Reservoir. Located to the west of the beautiful rugged Grampians ranges, Rocklands impounds the upper Glenelg River and creates a massive lake full of standing timber with many arms and creeks running in. With many campsites lining its shoreline, and a big range of freshwater species available to target, it’s no wonder so many return year after year.
Due to their large population and tendency to eat most baits and lures, the redfin has always been Rockland’s most popular target species. Landbased anglers are best in the dam wall area where the water is deeper close to the shoreline. Casting blade lures is a proven land based tactic as these lures cover a lot of water, and are a small compact size to appeal to most reddies. Bait anglers are best to set up a couple of rods using live baits. Minnows, gudgeon, worms and yabbies are the best to try. Boat anglers usually record the best catches of redfin in the lake. Trolling hardbodied lures of 60mm or less (or 75mm Daiwa Double Clutches), in deeper sections of the lake works fantastic. Boat anglers are also able to tie up to the many hundreds (if not thousands) of standing trees in the lake and fish vertically, slowly jigging baits or vibes off the bottom. A paternoster rig is best for this kind of fishing with a 10lb leader, size 1 hooks and a 10g sinker. Don’t feel bad about keeping a feed of redfin; they’re classed as an introduced pest, are found in massive numbers and taste fantastic.
Carp aren’t a popular target in most places, but they certainly make their presence known to bait anglers. A few rods thrown out with bait next to a Rockland campsite, anywhere along the lake, usually results in a few carp on the bank. If you want to target a few carp (they’re very easy to catch and great for beginners) try a running sinker rig with a size 1 hook, and a bait of corn, worms or a small ball of bread dough. Carp must not be returned to the water legally.
Golden perch are very new to the Rocklands fishery, being stocked since 2017. However, with Victorian Fisheries having stocked more than 605,000 goldens, we are now seeing reasonable numbers of these fish caught. They’re not massive, but with fish to 1.3kg caught, that’s a worthwhile target in my eyes! Don’t expect big numbers like you would with redfin or carp, but don’t be surprised to see a few. Bait anglers will do best using small live yabbies or worms, fishing the same way as you would with redfin around the trees. Small spinnerbaits, vibes under 60mm, small crankbaits or dark coloured soft plastics are the best lures to target yellowbelly with. Just remember to downsize your tackle from standard yellowbelly gear as these fish aren’t large yet.
Like the yellowbelly, Murray Cod aren’t massive in this lake yet but there’s some serious potential for Rocklands to develop into a Murray Cod dream destination. 1.4 million Murray Cod have been stocked in the last four years; that’s a lot of fish! A few cod were already present in the lake from earlier (illegal) stockings, so fish either side of a metre have been caught in the past, however there is a lot of water between these fish so don’t spend too much time targeting them. The stocked cod are up to 50cm currently, so not large at all. Personally I’d still wait a few years to target these cod, but if you do want to try for a few, run similar tackle to yellowbelly. You could also try smaller surface lures too, but again keep the tackle lighter than usual, until these many stocked fish get a little larger and capable of eating more normal sized cod lures.
Bass aren’t an easy target in Rocklands but a few do get caught by lure anglers targeting redfin. When Rocklands bass do turn up, they’re never small; usually over 50cm and 3kg. These fish were stocked some years ago and are only resent in very small numbers with plenty of water between them.
Yabbying makes for one of Rocklands most popular pastimes. Using a Fisheries approved net, baited with meat, or even a string with meat tied on, yabbying around the lake is fun for all ages. Yabbies are often active at night, so don’t be afraid to stay after dark chasing a few yabbies for bait or for a camping feast.
Trout aren’t stocked into Rocklands any more so don’t expect to see too many caught. In the past Rocklands was well stocked with trout, and quite a few good sized brown and rainbows, were caught, but they’re pretty rare these days with lower water levels, increased competition with carp and warmer water temperatures. Casting or trolling Tassie Devils, bait fishing with mudeyes and wet fly fishing the edges near Glendinning were historically the best tactics.
Be sure to arrive early this Easter to ensure a good campsite, but there is room, and fish, for everyone at Rocklands this year.