Springtime Trout at Lake Purrumbete
  |  First Published: September 2005

Springtime is primetime for fishing Lake Purrumbete, particularly for bank anglers because there’s access to big trout along the flooded margins in surprisingly clear and shallow water. This can be a challenging and frustrating experience, but is extremely rewarding.

The cool, clear and deep waters of Lake Purrumbete provide great habitat for brown trout, rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon and Chinook salmon, which are all stocked annually. The lake also supports a good redfin population, which are regularly targeted by recreational anglers. In spring 2004, the water in Lake Purrumbete reached its highest level for several years showing positive signs for the salmonid fishery throughout the rest of the 2005 season and the years ahead.

One of the keys to the productivity of the salmonid fishery is the extensive shallow margins of Lake Purrumbete. The warm waters of the lake margins, which are often less than a metre in depth, provide an important link in the aquatic food chain. There is plenty of sunlight for the growth of aquatic plants, habitat and food for macro-invertebrates (including crustaceans and insect larvae), along with breeding sites and refuge for many forage fish, including the common galaxias (minnow) and Australian smelt. These species are key components of the salmonid’s diet and their abundance is the primary reason behind the excellent growth rates.

Forage fish make up a large component of the diet of all species stocked in the lake, so for active forms of fishing like flyfishing or lure casting, spring is a great time of the year. Covering the lake’s edges, even casting and retrieving baits such as scrubworms can be an exciting way to catch a big fish. You don’t need deep water to find good fish.

Lake Purrumbete usually retains its water clarity through the cold, wet and windy winters. Even when the lake fills rapidly, water quality is often only locally compromised. Occasionally, strong winds cause some temporary discolouration on the edges but this often helps to draw the fish in closer to the shore where, with luck, they’ll bravely hunt down a lure or fly. The best times of the day to fish in clear water are dawn and dusk, however polarising in the daylight hours can be very rewarding, particularly along the eastern and southern shorelines.

Casting from the boat and shore are both options. Boat anglers have the opportunity to move around, casting towards the shore and fishing back over the drop-offs, which enables them to target ambush feeders. The downside is that the fish can be spooked more easily, particularly during the day. If this is a problem and the fish are in close, just pull up on the shore, get out and walk.

Species on offer

The diversity of salmonids in the lake provides a variety of opportunities. I’m often unsure what may be on the go on any given day. It’s certainly a great buzz to catch several species from the shore on a good day though.

Atlantic salmon are not often encountered, but are usually a good size when captured, much like the Bullen Merri scenario. These fish were stocked when Chinook salmon were unavailable from the hatchery and although they lack the return rate to anglers that the Chinook provide, they fight exceptionally well.

Lake Purrumbete browns are quality fish! They are well fed and rather selective, particularly the big ones. It is rare that you will catch small, new-release browns as they sink off into the depths for 12 months. The next time you will see them is as well-conditioned 1.5kg browns the following spring.

In spring 2004, flyfishers were able to polarise browns in excess of 3kg in less than a metre of water along the lake’s edges. Look for holes and gutters in between extensive weed beds and you’re in with a chance. The sandy black beaches also fool the fish into thinking that good spawning habitat is around, so look for these areas too. The eastern shore is a good spot to try, and access by foot is available through the old quarry. The north creek bay can become discoloured during the spring after a heavy flood. I have caught good browns at this location by looking for the line between the clear and dirty water and fishing it confidently. A boat is required to access this area, as there is no bank access to the north.

Rainbows around the 1-2lb mark are often encountered and, because they’re not thought to live more than 1-2 years after stocking, huge specimens are rarely encountered. However, rainbows in excess of 2kg can be caught during spring on the edges.

A couple of years ago I was trolling flies from a boat in about 2 metres of water when we had a double hook-up. We thought we had a couple of redfin until both fish started doing aerials. In the end, we landed one 4lb rainbow and lost one at the boat. Where there’s one, there are usually more and on a number of occasions we’ve hooked good rainbows in the same spot on the next pass in a boat or after landing one from the shore.

The increased stocking rate of Chinook salmon in Lake Purrumbete promises exciting fishing. Chinook salmon rarely survive more than 2 years after stocking. These fish are feeding machines; they grow fast, are active predators and willingly take a cast or trolled lure.

Although quite pelagic in nature, these fish will move quickly through the shallows in search of minnows, but you have to be quick! If you see a fish move, the cast needs to be made quickly and land right on the mark. A light spin outfit with 2-4kg line is sufficient for a variety of situations.

Although Lake Purrumbete is a well-recognised salmonid fishery, it is just as popular as a redfin fishery. Redfin are an aggressive schooling fish and excellent on the table. At present there is a strong year class of fish in the 300-500g range. When you find a school it can turn into electrifying fishing!

Try locating redfin in the holes among the weedy edges and on the drop-offs. They love movement and vibration so casting or jigging soft plastics or bobbers and casting hard-bodied lures works well. When a school is found, double hook-ups are a possibility.


Most hard-bodied lures in the 5-7cm range will do the trick. Floating diving lures are a good option in the shallow water and allow you to fish over structure and retrieve your lure over the weed beds. Deep divers are great for covering those more extensive drop-offs, as the Purrumbete shallows can quickly become deeper in some parts of the lake.


In the soft plastics range, 3” Berkley bass minnows in a selection of natural colours are effective. Galaxias and Australian smelt are transparent/olive and very similar in colour to some of the bass minnows. Don’t leave home without them!

Small redfin are also part of the diet of big browns at certain times of the year so some red and black plastics can be productive.


Having a selection of smelt patterns is important. Murray Wilson’s BMS flies have been developed locally and are a spot on match for the local forage fish. The flies impart a bit of flash and the body dubbing looks strikingly similar to the baitfish, which makes them great to use on a sunny day. Size 2-4 Matukas and Woolly Buggers in olive green and black are also great flies for low light and discoloured water.

A 7wt fly rod and 8-10lb tippets are a good idea for the big fellas! A floating fly line will suffice in the shallows, but if you are fishing from a boat, pack the sinking line. There’s nothing worse than being able to see the trout but not get your fly down to them quickly.


Clear water demands natural coloured clothing, with nothing too bright.

Neoprene waders are buoyant and keep you warm when fishing from the shore.

Polarised Sunglasses

Your ‘fish goggles’ are an essential item when fishing clear water lakes. Not only do they protect your eyes, but they also open up a new underwater world by removing the glare. It is not unusual to be able to see down 15-20ft on a clear windless sunny day. It can be like fishing in an aquarium!


Research and Regulations

 A recent survey of Lake Purrumbete conducted in January 2005 on behalf of Fisheries Victoria indicated predominantly good numbers of quality brown trout to 4.6kg, along with healthy numbers of redfin weighing nearly 1kg.

 The closed season for salmonids in 2005 is from midnight on June 13 to midnight on September 2, 2005. During this time anglers may not take or possess trout or salmon in rivers, streams and some lakes (unless exemptions are specified).

 Lake Purrumbete is closed to salmonid fishing from boats during the above closed season period, however, fishing for salmonids from the shore is permitted. This regulation was introduced to satisfy anglers that the fishing effort exerted on newly released fish stocked during the closed season was limited.

 The salmonid catch limit for Lake Purrumbete is 10 salmonids (brown trout, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon or Atlantic salmon) per person per day, of which no more than five can be less than 30cm. This regulation is designed to limit the take of newly released yearlings, often less than 30cm, to only five.

 For more information on the salmonid closed season consult the 2004/2005 Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide available from most tackle shops or online at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/fishing


Purrumbete Stocking

YearFinclipBrown troutRainbow troutChinook salmonAtlantic salmon
2001AD15,0005,000/100,000*5,000Not stocked
2002RV15,00015,000Not stocked5,000
2003not clipped15,00015,0002,5002,500
2004LV15,00020,000**10,000**Not stocked

* unclipped fingerlings

** unclipped yearlings

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