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How to Catch Winter Lake Trout

By Mark Gercovich

Winter is the time to brave the elements and get out and target some of the XOS sized brown and rainbow trout that reside in some of the Western lakes in Victoria.  The onset of cooler conditions brings these fish up from the depths as they initially feed up prior to spawning, then look for somewhere (in vain in these lakes) to spawn, then feed up again post spawn as we head into spring.   Some of the larger and more popular lakes are Purrembete, Bullen Merri, Wendouree, Bolac and Tullarop but there are many other smaller waters that can provide good fishing.  Here a few tips to help you attempt to land one of these fish and make all effort in the cold worthwhile.

Don’t Skimp on the Leader

When many people think of trout fishing they think of finesse style fishing with light leaders for small fish in clear water. However just one look at the massive toothy, hard and hooked (if male) jaws of these lake trout, that can be anywhere from 2-4kg, and one can easily see that a light leader is probably going to end in heartbreak.  I have been using 8lb j-thread as a base starting point and might go up to 12lb, (but no lower). As well, lure sizes are often larger than what would be considered with fish having no hesitation mowing down 8-10cm lures. Some productive models are the Daiwa double clutches in 75 and 95, the Duo Realis minnow in 80mm.

The Early Bird Catches the Trout

Many good trout, particularly browns are captured in that first, or last, half hour of light. This doesn’t mean getting up at daylight or even launching at first light, it means launching in the dark and being set up ready to fish as the first (or staying out until the last ) rays of light hit the water.  In the depths of winter this does take some dedication and quality wet weather gear, but the rewards are worthwhile and you can be confident that you have at least given yourself the best chance to be successful.

Just Keep Casting

Winter lake fishing is a bit like flats fishing for bream. It's a simple mathematical equation, high frequency plus long distance casting, equals more water covered, equals more chance of covering a fish.  Therefore having faith in what you are throwing (as opposed to wasting time constantly changing lures) and having a quality outfit that casts efficiently without hassles is imperative. My outfit this lake season has been a TD Sol 2500D matched to a Rebellion 682 MLFS with 8lb J-braid grand and have found it magnificent to fish with and trouble free  knocking over many big browns on it.

Be Vigilant

Even though fishing an expansive lake may not be as exciting as hunting trout in a river run, it pays to keep your eyes open rather than just casting blind. Keeping observant  and looking for baitfish concentrations, (surface or sounder) congregations of feeding water birds, flowing water or winlanes, as well as the obvious, moving trout can all help focus on a productive area. 

The Fight

Every big brown seems to fight differently, some run hard, some swim straight to the net. It's these later ones that you need to worry about as they go from doing nothing, to a sudden violent head shake or jump, that can put enormous sudden pressure on the line. The necessity for a smooth, high quality drag might not be something you associate with trout fishing. But in this case a drag that might stick slightly, as that big fish goes from zero to hero with a big head shake or  jump, can result in a leader separating instantly.

So brace yourself against the cold, pick a nearby lake and dedicate some time to trying to catch a winter behemoth.

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