With rivers closed to trout fishing over winter, enthusiasts often find their fishing gear gathering dust throughout the off season. But for anglers who don’t want to sit out the winter on the couch, Eildon Pondage is one of Victoria’s most popular destinations for trout fishers and listed as one of the state’s five premier fishing destinations. At about two and a half hours’ drive from Melbourne, it's a great option for some winter trout fishing.
There are numerous spots around the banks to settle in for a day of angling. A public park runs along the western side of the waterway, complete with a fishing jetty, barbecues, toilets and a playground. Further up is the Golden Trout Hotel which can provide some welcome respite from the icy winter temperatures – and for those wanting to stay for the weekend, the Eildon Pondage Holiday Park is a solid option.
A road bridge crosses the pondage about halfway down and it’s rumoured that fishing is best above this point in winter. Anglers can walk along the Future Fish Fishing Trail which is a wheelchair-accessible pontoon that makes its way along the waterline just above the bridge. Across the bridge, there are loads of grassy spots to set up and cast a line.
“Eildon is a fishing mecca. The whole pondage is set up really well for access. It’s great for kids, and it's paved the whole way around. There are some really big fish in there too -- not many people leave disappointed,” says Eildon Pondage Holiday Park owner Ray Bright.
We saw a 60cm brown trout right under this fishing jetty
Eildon Pondage is stocked regularly by the nearby Snobs Creek hatchery and large trout aren’t uncommon. This is because the stocking program includes ex-brood fish which are usually around four or five kilograms.
“One really good little trick - especially for the bait fishermen - is turning over stones that are just submerged at the edge of the water and picking up the mudeyes (dragonfly larvae),” says Snobs Creek Hatchery Manager, Steve Vidler.
“These fish exceptionally well under a bubble float with a very small split-shot sinker to keep the mudeye down a bit. Use a tiny little hook just through the wing of the mudeye so it stays alive and swims around.”
Targeting trout in winter
A range of Powerbaits including chunky cheese and lemon twist are always popular at the pondage as are lures like Tassie Devils.
“The bait fishermen love the local dough, Powerbait and mudeyes. For lure fishermen it's the real old faithfuls like brightly coloured Tazzie Devils and the old heavy metal wobblers,” says Vidler
“It’s interesting, the first week after the fish are released, bright colours like oranges, greens and fluoro pinks go really well, then the fish seem to catch on and go more for minnow style lures and soft plastics”
The trout are more active at this time of year because the cooler temperatures are their spawning time. Surface temperatures are often lower than in deeper water and this – combined with reduced numbers of insects buzzing around above the water – make trout more inclined to hang about in the depths and feed on smaller fish and the like.
With this in mind, try your luck fishing close to the bottom. In the deeper stretches, a Powerbait sitting about a metre off the bottom is worth a shot. Shelter also becomes increasingly important to trout during the winter months, so log jams and other underwater structures are always good to target.
“Fish from the bank, there’s not much flow in the pondage so it's always easier. Powerbait and Golden Kroc lures always go well. We sell pondage dough which is a real hit with the older anglers, that's the one they stick by,” says Bright.
Before heading out, it’s always a good idea to check out the local fishing report.
Check out this monster caught recently by an Eildon local!
The pondage itself is a water storage holding between Lake Eildon and the Goulburn River. Water is periodically released from the lake (this happens less often in winter) and because of this conditions can fluctuate fairly dramatically – this is another good reason to consult the fishing report before heading out. However, water is no longer released released on weekends.
Fishing during winter (especially in Victoria) is always going to be a little chilly.The last thing you want is to drive out there and set up only to feel the wind blow right through you, so to ensure you have a comfortable day out make sure you layer up!
While there’s no minimum legal size for trout. But bag limits of five per person, per day apply and only two of these are to be over the 35cm mark.
For those wanting to make more than a day-trip out of it, the Eildon Pondage Holiday Park is situated right on the banks of the pondage.
“People can come here and fish within our park, it’s just a two minute walk and you're back to your cabin to get warm again – or you can have your outdoor fire if you prefer. We have angling clubs come here and stay all through winter,” says Bright.
“We have free rods for kids too. These are set up every weekend with hooks, sinkers and the like . Also, while the parents are fishing there's a lot for kids to do in the park – there’s mini golf and a jumping cushion to keep them entertained.
It's really safe for kids to fish off the bank here and is a great spot to teach them how to fish. We're also only 2 mins from Lake Eildon – you can put your boat in at the ramp just down the road.”