Lake Eildon and its associated Eildon Pondage are central features of Victoria’s freshwater fishing scene.
Eildon is 140km north-east of Melbourne, about a three-hour drive.
This giant impoundment is on the Goulburn River catchment, covering almost 14,000ha when full, with an average depth of 24m.
There is 500km of shoreline, with forest along the southern shore and grassed farmland to the north.
The catchment includes some healthy cool-water streams, which support the lake’s trout fishery.
Being such a large waterbody, Eildon may be daunting for newbies, but good fish are usually not hard to find when conditions are favourable.
The lake is known for its mix of big brown and rainbow trout and large native fish.
The Goulburn catchment carries many fish species, most of which are found in Eildon.
Native species recorded in the catchment include …
*murray spiny crayfish
*southern pygmy perch
*western carp gudgeon
Introduced species include redfin, carp, goldfish, eastern gambusia, roach and tench.
It is the large quantities of baitfish and crustaceans that support the large fish in Eildon, especially the trophy murray cod.
Like all such hydro and irrigation impoundments, water levels fluctuate and prolonged drought can affect fishing quality.
Major bushfires in the upper catchment may affect water quality.
Eildon arguably fishes best around the edges when rising waters are pushing over new ground.
Brown trout are the main trout species caught, but rainbows are stocked and there is also trout spawning in associated rivers.
The best time for trout is in the cool months from May to September, with deep trolling used downriggers or leadlines best for finding trout in warmer weather.
Eildon is probably Victoria’s best water for chasing trophy cod, with an ongoing stocking program creating great fishing.
Cod are caught all year.
Golden perch and carp best in spring and summer, along with redfin.
Trolling, bait fishing and casting lures are all effective methods at Eildon.
Being a large impoundment it supports substantial public infrastructure, with houseboats available, and several campgrounds, caravan parks and boat hire.
The lake’s main launch sites are at the dam wall, Jerusalem Creek and Goughs Bay, with other smaller ramps useable when the water level is high enough.
Eildon Pondage itself is a no-boating zone, with a healthy landbased trout fishery, especially on the season opening, with big fish usually caught in numbers.
Within Eildon itself, trout and other fish are normally found around timber and rock structure.
A good sounder will help find fish around snags and in open water.
Mudeyes, worms, maggots, small yabbies and even grasshoppers are all prime baits for trout and native fish.
Carp, roach and tench will take bread, worms, maggots and even corn and luncheon meat.
The lake contains shrimp, which are an ideal bait for most fish and can easily be harvested in summer.
Fishing is often best at dawn and dusk, and night fishing is not out of the question for cod and yellowbelly, keeping in mind the presence of snakes.
The northern end of the lake is arguably best for golden perch, but they show up everywhere.
Lake Eildon fish stocking
Vast numbers of fish have been stocked into Eildon.
In 2021/22 there were 1.25 million fish added, including 50,000 rainbow trout, 200,000 brown trout, 500,000 golden perch and 500,000 murray cod.
In the past decade alone Lake Eildon was stocked with 2.5 million golden perch, 2.9 million cod and 800,000 trout.
Additionally, trout spawn in some catchment rivers, and redfin, carp, roach and tench are self-supporting populations.
The pondage area is renowned for great trout fishing.
Separate rules apply here than when fishing Lake Eildon.
The pondage and Goulburn River are stocked with large rainbow trout at times, in time for the season opening.
Fishing is also good within the associated streams.
Fly fishing works, but most fishos chase the big trout with shallow spinners and soft plastic lures.
Downstream from Shepparton, the Goulburn River becomes native fish country.
Mercury in Lake Eildon fish
The Goulburn River above Lake Eildon, Big River and Howqua River catchments had historical gold mining, which used mercury as part of the process.
These rivers flow into Lake Eildon.
Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) says testing of fish from Lake Eildon found high mercury levels in long-lived species.
Large brown trout caught in Lake Eildon may contain high mercury levels. Redfin and carp may also be affected.
The EPA says pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and children younger than six should limit eating Eildon fish to one serve per fortnight.
Other people can have one serve per week.
One serve equals 150g in adults, for example two frozen crumbed fillets, or 75g in children under six (for example three fish fingers).
EPA guidance on the similarly affected Loddon River suggests golden perch may contain mercury in possibly lower amounts. Eating smaller fish and releasing big ones may be wise.
Here is a list of recommended tackle for freshwater fishing, including within stocked dams.
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