The trout twins
  |  First Published: December 2011

Bullen Merri and Purrumbete are two crater lakes situated near Camperdown in Western Victoria.

They are both well known and productive salmonid fisheries that over the years have produced some exceptional growth rates and captures of both brown and rainbow trout. Both lakes feature exceptionally deep, clear, cool waters that combined with an abundance of feed, produce some seriously big trout that can range from 2-5kg. For the impressive fisheries they can be, these lakes are also well known for their unpredictability.

At times they can shut down and seem like barren, cold, featureless wastelands. Yet other times the fishing can be so good you wonder how the lake and the stocking rate can support such an amount of fish coming out.

So if you’re keen on giving these lakes a try, where do you start? As far as surface area these lakes aren’t big when compared to other popular major trout lakes such as Eildon, Dartmouth and Eucumbene. The fish are never too far away from you, they can’t be hiding up some other arm, it’s more a matter of working out what technique and/or depth is going to produce the goods than having to travel/move to find the fish.

There are many different techniques that will produce fish on any given day; often it’s a matter of choosing the right option at the right time. Despite being crater lakes so close geographically to each other they are both very different fisheries with their own right.

Here’s a few common trouting techniques and how they apply to the two lakes.

Flatline Trolling

Trolling is a very popular and at times effective method of fishing both lakes. The next 4kg trout that commits suicide to the good old Tassie Devil dragged behind a boat whilst more intricate techniques fail won’t be the last.

With the amount of food in these lakes, the different stimulus provided by a seemingly unnatural looking, winged artificial lure can be most effective. When the fish are in their aggressive, “Damn, I can’t spawn mode” is the best time to troll winged lures in colours that stand out. Pinks, purples, oranges and combinations containing these colours are three good places to start. At other times a natural looking, baitfish coloured lure is what is required to do the business.

Daiwa Double Clutches and Dr Minnows, Zipbait Rigge Deep and Rapala Originals in natural baitfish colours have been effective over the past few seasons. Early morning or evening trolling these lures under electric power in the shallower margins is a great way to fish. If you have a petrol motor only, make sure your lures are well behind the boat.


With the depths of both these lakes, downrigging is almost essential at times. During the middle of the day, or when the lake is busy, when fish retreat to the deeper areas of the lake getting your lure down to depths ranging from 10-30m is imperative.

Bullen Merri particularly lends itself to downrigging with its fairly regular depth contours, although there is some serious downrigger bomb munching areas around the two major points and areas on the north shore.

One could discuss many points and issues about how to down-rig these lakes but the two key areas to worry about are using your sounder to locate the level of the fish and making sure you are lures are working correctly.

Lures work at different speeds at different depth .A lure that works well on the surface at say 1.5knots will need to be towed at a faster speed if they are set 10-20m deep to get a similar action.

As all boat/lure combinations are different it is impossible to give exact formulas, what you can do is make careful observations about what lure/speeds/depths work for you and then try to replicate that successful formula that got you the strike in the first place.

Bait fishing from a boat

Lures are very effective but there are times when trout just want to eat natural bait and tend to shy away from artificial lures. Purrumbete is probably the more popular place to effectively live bait from a boat, mainly just off the extensive weed beds.

One thing you have to contend with at Purrumbete though is the redfin and eels, which can make a dint in your hard-earned trout live bait supply. For more impatient types like myself slow trolling live baits behind an electric, sometimes off the downrigger, can be a way of covering a little more ground like trolling but still have the benefit of presenting a live offering.

Bait fishing from the bank

Bullen Merri is an excellent destination for the bank angler. What Bullen Merri lacks in interesting bank side structure it makes up for in having plenty of easy bank side access. Good-sized rainbow trout can been, taken mainly on Powerbait fished on the bottom using a running sinker rig. Definitely not rocket science and a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon, which is often when the rainbows seem to come on the bite.

The browns though tend to want a more natural offering and it’s hard to go past the minnows and gudgeon that are easily caught around the lake shoreline, if you take the effort to put in a trap.

Of course a Bullen Merri trout would eat a mudeye, I just wouldn’t waste one there and go to Purrumbete if I had a good supply, as they are a super effective bait there.

Remember even though you may be ‘leisurely bank fishing’, if your luck is in there is a chance you are going to come across a good fish.

Many of the biggest fish taken each season are taken by bank anglers, particularly those doing all-night vigils. Access for bank anglers at Purrumbete is far more restricted with the even the more popular Hoses Rocks and quarry areas requiring a bit of a walk from your car.

Lure and fly fishing from the bank

Purrumbete is a much more aesthetic venue for the angler with more natural features and therefore the chance to use more traditional trouting methods. Therefore even though more walking is required, it is often the venue favoured by those who wish to lure or fly fish off the bank.

Casting smelt pattern lures or flies around the visible weed beds can lead to some exciting angling particularly later in the season as the fish feed up after unsuccessful spawning attempts. If bank luring at Bullen stick to the rocky point areas where there is at least some structure to keep you interested as you blind fish for that big trout.

With rising water levels and good stocking rates it is a great time to get down to Victoria’s two crater lakes and try to get that big trophy trout you have been longing for.

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