I rate Lake Mulwala as one of the prime lure lakes for freshwater species in Victoria.
Targeting fish that hang in the shallows is a very exciting and often visual way to tangle with Australian native fish.
A boat is a useful tool in this lake as you can pull a hooked fish out into open water and not back in towards its snag as is the case when you are bank fishing.
Mulwala is also laced with dead timber and straying from one of the submerged river beds can see you reaching for the shear pins. The area closest to the wall is very open and fine for high speed travel. Having said that, the bottom here is riddled with timber so run a few lures over here before the ski boats wake up.
Lake Mulwala is classed as a NSW waterway and is subject to NSW Fisheries regulations. This is only a recent development and alleviates all the confusion that was associated with it being governed by both Victoria and NSW.
There are plenty of land-based spots around Mulwala that a skilled angler may be able to extract a fish or three, but a boat sure is handy.
Below the weir on the Murray River lends itself to better land-based fishing as does the canal near Shoreline Caravan Park. Hogan’s Rd Boat ramp also has some nice grassed areas and the water here is over 8m deep within a short cast.
Thankfully, most native fish have a temper like a Jack Russell locked in a ute and will often snap at just about anything when they’ve got their hackles up – especially when the water is a bit warmer.
Sometimes, if the fish have seen a fair few lures such as during peak holiday periods or competitions, they can get the sulks and refuse to bite at your offerings.
Times like these you just need to keep pestering them and really land the lure on or so close to the logs they tap them as they dive into the depths. This can turn sulkers back into angry Jack Russells!
Golden perch can get to good sizes in Lake Mulwala and can be caught a little further from the snags than Murray cod.
Goldens are often found around over hanging willow trees where there can be a good population of shrimp and forage fish. They will often follow a lure a long way from a snag and can sometimes be seen pecking at it. If this is the case, try giving your rod tip a slow sweep to increase the speed of your lure. This will give the following fish the message that its meal is about to escape and further action is needed to prevent this. Often, they will speed up and slam the lure right at your feet!
If you get a fish that looks as though it is losing interest in your offering, stop the lure and give it a twitch. This will almost always get them having second thoughts and may even provoke a strike out of those that otherwise may have disappeared.
Murray cod are often found laying up under a thick log and prefer a short burst of speed and ambush their prey from cover.
Even small cod under 45cm can give you a real fright so do the drag up. Remember, they need to go only about 1m to get back to their snag and if a hook manages to dig into a log, the fish is as good as gone.
Cod rarely travel far from cover to chase a lure so you really need to do your best twitching when your lure is closest to the logs and/or at its maximum depth.
Sometimes you can actually see the fish come bursting out from under a log and inhale your lure. This can cause all sorts of shouting and boat wobbling regardless if the fish stays connected or not.
Both species can be taken on similar sized lures, but I always prefer to downsize if casting or trolling around the margins. Most cod taken around the shallows range 35-65cm anyway, so casting a 200mm diver capable of achieving 8m in depth really isn’t necessary.
A good start is any artificial that is 50-100mm and capable of achieving around 4m in depth.
This is where spinnerbaits do really well. Because they sink like a stone, their depth can be regulated (by altering your retrieve speed) to stay in the strike zone for longer periods than a standard diving lure.
Colorado type blades are shaped like a teaspoon and will cause more drag in the water. This allows spinnerbaits fitted with these blades to travel much slower and deeper and still achieve blade rotation.
Willow blades are shaped like willow tree leaves and need a bit more pace to get spinning. Sometimes these will still take fish even if the blades are just flopping side to side, but are best suited to speedy retrieves. Smaller spinnerbaits with willow blades are best suited to goldens, while cod seem to prefer larger double Colorado bladed spinnerbaits.
This is by far no hard and fast rule – yep, I’ve caught both species on both types of lures, too – but this combination for each fish seems to give more consistent results.
Each and every time you retrieve your lure, look about 30-60cm behind it as this is where most ‘lookers’ like to hang. If you spot one of these following your lure, cast back to the same area and try a more erratic retrieve if the aforementioned pausing/twitching tactics fail.
If the water has good clarity, you’ll be able to see your lure for its entire journey. This really tests the nerves when the fish are on because you begin telling yourself, “I know there is one under this log, I know there is”, so you slow down your retrieve so the lure is just ticking over… bumping the log here and there… if the fish should happen to appear, or better still, attack, this can really get your heart going!
Speaking of heart rates, I know of one angler (who shall remain nameless) that grabbed another angler (who will also remain nameless) on the back of the leg during a very tense surface lure session.
The grab on the back of the leg was hard and fast and followed by a loud “YAARRGGH!” by the grabber plus another similar noise from the grabbee. The grabbee struck at his lure so hard both parties had to duck to avoid being hit by it.
That’s all I’ll say about that, other than friends shouldn’t scare friends when cod are biting on surface lures!
Surface fishing is one of the most exciting and nerve racking ways to catch fish in Victoria.
The best time for surface lure action seems to be when the water is warmest around February. Dawn and dusk are prime times and sometimes fish can be heard smacking the surface right throughout the night.
If you fish into the night, a handy addition is one of those miner-styled headlamps. This frees up your hands to tie knots and land fish – excellent tools!
When fishing into the evening, most times you can’t see your had in front of your face so casting over snags can be pretty tricky and you have to back yourself and guess where the bank or logs are.
Snags are common and you need patience and a dull light to see where lures have been hung up. Personally, I’ve caught fish on surface lures even after using a spotlight on the water, but I’m sure a dull light would do more for keeping fish in the mood rather than blasting them with an aircraft landing light.
Colours matter little when there is no light to shine on them. The most important factors here are noise and buoyancy.
Anything that floats too high will experience far less hook-ups due to the fact it will be continually pushed up into the air and clear of the fish much more easily than a heavier lure. Heavier lures are easier for the fish to inhale and thus more hook-ups occur.
Having said that, there are more hits and misses in surface luring than any other style of fishing. Rob Meade of Clearwater Tours has mucked around a lot with surface lures for native fish and modified some lures for increased hook-ups by upgrading trebles and re-aligning them to point out instead of dangling down.
Keep the rod tip high so the lure gets its nose out of the water and paddles along the top. Dropping the rod tip as for conventional lure casting can bury the nose of the surface lure under the water negating its noisy action. Retrieval rates are best dictated by the lure itself, but I’ve had best success with slow retrieves punctuated with a few pauses and rod tip twitches.
Hooking fish can be tough. Not just discipline on the angler’s behalf, but sheer terror when a cod slams your lure on a dead still night can make you rip the lure out of its mouth. You really need to leave the rod tip where it is and let the fish hook itself. Start fighting when you feel weight and try to resist the temptation to strike when you hear the sound of a house brick getting thrown into the water at Mach 1.
For casting around heavy cover I’d recommend you use an absolute minimum of 4kg line with 6kg being trustier and 10kg braid being the best choice. This is not because of the size of the fish, just the need to turn their heads quickly before they get a chance to dive back under that snag. A 3kg fish with a good head of steam up can take 4kg of drag over the first meter or so of fight. So don’t be shy when setting the drag first thing in the morning.
Launching facilities on Lake Mulwala are pretty good and they can get crowded on good days with both skiers and fishermen so please use some common courtesy when launching and retrieving.
WHERE TO STAY
You could almost see the cluster of accommodation around Yarrawonga and Mulwala from the moon there is that much of it there!
There are caravan parks where you can walk to boat ramps and the pubs in town have rooms as well as a plethora of hotel and unit style accommodation available.
For more information, contact Yarrawonga-Mulwala Visitor Information, (03) 5744 1989, toll free 1800 062 260 or via email --e-mail address hidden--
6. Cast your lure right on the logs and get it down to where the fish are holding.
7. Fish around 60cm are considered a decent size for the margins of Lake Mulwala. The author with a nice Murray cod.