Two of Australia’s most unique and mysterious lakes are located less than an hour from Warrnambool, or Colac, and are home to brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, redfin, Australian Bass, and are also the only spots in Australia where you can reliably target chinook salmon, tiger trout, and cheetah trout. The lakes are also crazily deep; up to 65m. Where are we talking about? Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Purrumbete.
Lake Bullen Merri
Bullen Merri is a fascinating lake, being partly salty and extremely deep. It also also home to Australia’s most reliable Chinook salmon fishery. These salmon can be caught many ways, however the most popular and effective are bait fishing, and trolling. Baits of pilchard, glassies or bluebait (yes, saltwater baits!) are fished from the shore, or vertically from a boat over schools of fish found using a sounder. Burley is essential, with tuna oil or frozen logs popular choices. Fish the baits lightly weighted, running a hook around a size 2 or 1/0, with a small cube of pilchard or whole glassie the best bet. Live minnows can be caught using cat food in a bait trap off the boat ramp, these are a great bait choice too. You can also pick up rainbow trout on the same baits intended for salmon. Trolling can produce an equal mix of rainbows and chinooks. Flat line trolling is very effective early in the morning, especially in winter. Running Double Clutches, Tassie Devils, Nories Laydowns or Rapala F7s is a good start. Once the sun gets up, or later in the year, a down rigger is a key tool to get your lures deeper. Use your sounder to find the thermocline (temperature change) and set your lures on that. Or, if you find fish on the sounder, obviously set your lures near them at the right depth. Bass are best targeted deep, around Potter’s Point. They will show up near the bottom on the sounder; fish vertically using soft plastics, ice jigs, metal jigs, or you can down-rig for them slowly too. Bullen Merri bass are absolutely massive, all over 50cm and enormously fat. It’s great to see Fisheries Victoria now stocking bass again.
Purrumbete is the tougher of the two, with some of mainland Australia’s biggest, and smartest trout. Fish over 7.5kg have been caught last few years, with several around 10lb this year already. These are big, mean browns but are known as the fish of 1000 casts. Purrumbete is more of a lure casting lake than Bullen Merri. Casting 3″ minnow soft plastics or jerk baits on the weedy edges is effective. Rainbow Point and Hoses Rocks, as well as the Quarry, are known key areas. The weedy edges also hold redfin, tiger trout, brook trout, cheetah trout and rainbow trout, all caught on the same lures. The Duo Realis 80SP minnow has been a super popular lure this year, in any of the natural wakasagi or minnow colours. This type of fishing is best done in winter, preferably in rough weather which is when the fish move up shallow. Low light is also best. Trolling is also effective; troll the same as in Bullen Merri, however trolling big minnows over 80mm on sunset has produced some of the biggest browns. Bait fishing with saltwater baits, also like Bullen Merri, will produce chinook salmon once sounded up. Mudeyes or minnows under a bubble float on the weedy edges, just on the outside of the main transit channel, will also get some great brown trout. For Purrumbete redfin, you are best to fish vertically, as the redfin school up and sit deep. No set areas are Redfin hotspots, as they will move around, however the western end near Hoses Rocks or near the main channel can be good places to start searching. Look for large schools of fish mid water, or near the bottom on your sounder, then drop live minnows on paternoster rigs, or jigs or soft plastics down. Keep in mind these fish can be 60+ feet down at times, but the depths are worth it, as most successful anglers have bags over 100 fish a day.
So rug up this winter, rig up the rods and get yourself over to the crater lakes for some of the most unique fishing in Australia.