As we all know, extensive rainfall in the catchment of Lake Eildon has lead to the massive rise in levels in this lake.
Because I live in Wangaratta to the north of Lake Eildon, the closest part of the lake to me is Bonnie Doon, which is on the Midland Highway about an hour and a half drive north of Melbourne. For this reason this is the area of this enormous lake that I usually choose to fish.
There are numerous access points to the water’s edge around the Bonnie Doon bridge, with places to launch the boat on both sides of the lake, however the area I like the most is the Maintenon road which follows the lake for about 10km to Peppin Point.
As soon as you get on this road you can see there is a large amount of easy access to the lake on the left hand side, where many people launch their boats, however my favourite spot is 2-3km further around the road at a spot called Kennedy Point. Kennedy Point sticks out into the lake a few 100m, with 2-3 easy places to launch your kayak, including the spot at the end where the track runs straight into the lake.
The thing I like the most about Kennedy Point is that you have pretty good wind protection from the north, south and west. The point itself acts as a wind barrier, so if the wind is blowing from the north, you can usually find shelter on the southern side, and visa versa.
There are public toilets at Kennedy Point, as well as a reasonably large picnic area, and the well-priced Lake Eildon Cruises boat hire is also there, so if you’re a family heading to Bonnie Doon, Kennedy Point is a great place. Hypothetically, if a teenage boy without a drivers licence wants to fish Bonnie Doon from his kayak but can’t get there, well mum and dad can take him up to Kennedy Point, hire a boat for a few hours to keep themselves occupied while the young bloke does his own thing in his kayak. The boat hire number is 0422166986 and it pays to book ahead.
Bonnie Doon is famous for its redfin fishing. There are yellowbelly, Murray cod, trout, carp and the occasional roach in there as well, however when I head to Bonnie Doon I am usually heading there for one reason, redfin!
One of the best things about kayak fishing at Kennedy Point is that you don’t have to paddle too far to get onto the fish. On a trip up there recently I caught around 30 redfin in an afternoon, all of which were caught no more than 300m from my car. I simply launched my kayak at the end of the ridge where the track runs into the lake, paddled about 70-80m out from the edge and started fishing. The wind was blowing from the north at around 7-8kph, so I stayed on the southern side of the point to keep out of the wind and I was set.
Kayak safety is paramount in lakes, especially large lakes, so it’s always good if you can stay close to your car, especially if you’re a beginner. If the wind springs up from out of nowhere, which it often does in the hills, the lake can get very rough very quickly, so knowing you only have to paddle 4-5 minutes back to the car gives piece of mind at all times.
After fishing for an hour or so I had kept 3 reasonable sized redfin, so I quickly paddled back to the car, cleaned my fish and put them in my esky under ice and headed back out again. During the course of the afternoon I did this 3 or 4 times. I would take a plastic bag out, put any fish that I deemed to be big enough in it, then every hour or so make a quick dash back to the car and clean my fish and put them under ice keeping them fresh. By the end of the afternoon I had managed to catch around 30 redfin, keeping 9 of 25-27cm long.
All of my redfin were caught on soft plastics. I was using Damiki air craws which are a rubber yabby with hollow claws full of air. This makes the claws stand upright in the water giving the plastic a more lifelike effect. I was also using my favourite Redfin soft plastic, the Damiki D-grub.
When fishing for redfin from a kayak, it doesn’t really matter what plastic your using, it’s always a personal choice and the above-mentioned ones are the ones I prefer. One thing that I do believe makes a big difference though is the size of the jig head. I strongly recommend a 7g jig head with a size 1 or 1/0 hook. The heavier 7g jig heads cast further than smaller jig heads, and more importantly they sink much quicker.
Getting the plastic down to the bottom as quickly as possible is crucial, especially after you have just caught a redfin as redfin like to travel in schools, and getting that plastic back down to the school before it moves away will help keep the school under the kayak and in the area longer.
Another huge benefit of using a heavy jig head is that you can keep it down deep. My favourite technique, especially in Lake Eildon is to cast out as far as I can, let the jig head sink all the way to the bottom and then very slowly start retrieving it. I will give it a few short sharp jabs to send a bit of a ‘shock’ through the line and then retrieve it slowly for a few metres, and then let it sink to the bottom again.
I will then repeat this process, ‘jab-jab-jab’ slow retrieve with a bit it a twitch in the rod tip, then let it sink again. The shock attracts the redfin into the area, the twitching of the lure presents the redfin with a more realistic life like soft plastic, and the moving parts of the plastic, be it the claws which are full of air and standing up, or the tail wriggling through the water finish off the job until eventually the redfin gives in to temptation and before you know it you are hooked up.
Should the fish you are hooked up to be a part of a school, then the rest of that school may well follow your fish to the kayak as you reel it in. This is where you really need to get that plastic back down under the kayak ASAP.
I always watch as I reel the redfin in. If it has a school following it I will drop the plastic down under the kayak. If it comes up alone, I will cast the plastic out to the exact same spot where I made the last cast that hooked the fish.
At the moment, as the level in Lake Eildon has only recently stabilised, there are a lot of submerged trees and shrubs around the edges of the lake. I usually paddle just out past the submerged trees that are clearly visible, and start casting into the open water.
You don’t need all the bells and whistles and technical gadgets to catch redfin from your kayak at Bonnie Doon. I use a Dagger Echo, which I absolutely love, and the only thing on that kayak that I would class as a gadget is the paddle holder! I don’t have a depth sounder or a GPS unit, just a tackle box full of jig heads and soft plastics, a bottle of water and a sense of adventure.
Gadgets such as depth sounders and GPS units are fantastic, however they certainly are not critical to anglers’ success, especially at Bonnie Doon.
Kayak fishing in large impoundments presents no more risks that crossing a road or driving a car, provided you use a bit of common sense.
Life jackets are not only compulsory, but also very useful. They do exactly what they are called, they save lives. I know they can be a pain in the backside to wear, however with some of the modern, yolk type designs you hardly realize you are wearing them these days.
Paddle to your ability. Don’t push the boundaries. If you are new to kayak fishing, stay close to the car and close to the bank. No matter what your skill level as a paddler is, paddle within your ability.
Look at the weather map. If you are unsure, don’t go. If you get to Bonnie Doon and the wind is too strong and you are not confident, don’t head out. Fish off the bank and wait for the wind to die down or go somewhere else. The Bonnie Doon area has a lot of enclosed bays and stuff and there is usually somewhere to hide out of the wind.
Paddle into waves head on. Because kayaks are long and skinny, they are more prone to tipping sideways, so if it does blow up and there are a few waves, even small waves, try and paddle into them, or with them, but avoid paddling side on to them. The same thing applies to boats, when they go past and make a few waves, even when you are angling you should just turn your kayak around and face the boats waves head on.
Lake Eildon is a massive body of water, and has literally millions of redfin in it. With the recent changes to the laws in Victoria regarding redfin bag and size limits, licensed anglers are now allowed to keep as many redfin as they like.
By removing a few redfin from the lake, you are increasing the likelihood of catching bigger fish down the track and get a great feed at the same time.Reads: 8972