From the Melbourne metropolitan area to the north central part of the state well above Ballarat and over to the South Australia border, freshwater anglers who love to chase trophy salmonoids often travel great distances just to fish Lake Purrumbete.
Lake Purrumbete lies in southwest Victoria just minutes from the towns of Camperdown and Cobden. Those who travel down to fish the lake for two or more days also have the option of wetting a line in nearby Lake Bullen Merri or Elingamite. These two options are always available, just in case Purrumbete happens to be fishing a tad slow or anglers want a simple change of scenery.
For those not in the know, Lake Purrumbete can be found just off the Princes Highway between Colac and Camperdown by simply taking a left turn down Koallah Road at the locality of Weerite. That applies for all those heading from the east such as Melbourne-based anglers. For those travelling from the north, once you arrive in the township of Camperdown (which has all the amenities that a large town could ever provide) head south on the Cobden Road and make a turn left onto County Boundary Road. The lake is signposted at these turnoffs.
The lake itself is over 580ha in size, so there's plenty of room for boaters to operate without getting in each other's way. It holds 120,000ML when full and yes, this is a lot of water. It is a crater lake and is well over 70m deep. By crater lake, I mean it's an extinct (we hope) volcanic crater now full of water.
Fisheries have stocked this lake with trout and salmon for many years. There is a very large population of resident redfin and in recent years they have become somewhat stunted due to the sheer amount that can be found here.
Recently, funding was allocated for a survey on how to reduce the resident population, which should reduce pressure on the existing natural food supplies currently found in the lake. Larger salmonoids, through natural predation of smaller fish, may then be able to keep the reduced population in check. Here's hoping a solution can be found.
Currently the redfin can be caught on baits such as worms and soft plastics jigged in depths approaching 20m. Anchoring up and sending down live baits along with berley can often see cricket score catches of redfin come on board. In autumn the redfin school up and come closer to shore as they commence their annual spawning cycle. Again, many fish can be caught in a single session without having to plumb the depths. While many fish are on the small side, not all of them are. Please keep all redfin you catch, regardless of size, and do your bit in reducing this huge population.
Rainbow and brown trout can also be found here, along with Chinook salmon and, just recently, the brook trout, which is actually a member of the Char family. There is a two year experiment currently being undertaken by fisheries to see how they fare surviving and thriving and their catchability.
Last year saw a remarkable increase of trophy brown trout captures. Many fish in excess of 4kg were hooked, played and lost or landed. There weren't thousands of fish of this calibre caught, but you'd hear of a few leviathans coming in on a weekly basis and probably a few more that went unrecorded. They weren't easy to catch by any means and subtle tactics often had to be employed to entice a strike or two. Most of all, patience and perseverance and sometimes several trips out on the lake were required before the big one finally pounced on a lure, soft plastic or bait.
The top predators that reside below the surface of this lake are the trophy browns and Chinook salmon to a lesser extent. These fish don't get big by being stupid. These fish are certainly very cunning and, in saying that, they will often do their hunting at dawn and dusk or after dark in many instances.
Boaters who spend most of the day working the waters in search of a fish or two then leave in the late afternoon to be home by dinnertime are often leaving right at the best time to concentrate their efforts. You should really fish right through until at least an hour or two after sunset. Keep that in mind, especially if you're staying in the area for a night or two. Fish early and fish late. Do your relaxing during the middle of the day.
Late last year an angler ventured down from Melbourne for a day of fishing on the lake and besides a few smallish Chinook salmon, a brown at 55cm and a rainbow at 54, which would be considered a good day out, this angler connected up to and (after a 45 minute fight) brought aboard a 5.3kg (11.55lb) brown trout. I believe the fish was put on ice and sent off to a taxidermist and why not?
A similar thing can be said about the Chinook salmon, but nearby Lake Bullen Merri receives the most salmon stocking now as their growth rate here is better than in Purrumbete. Purrumbete now gets the lion's share of browns and it's finally showing in a big way.
Sometimes an angler gets a surprise as I experienced late last year. At 11am on a bright, sunny and calm day, I was seriously thinking about throwing in the towel. I had yet to receive an enquiry after spending several hours trolling lures around the perimeter of the lake. Suddenly one rod bent back at an alarming angle while the line emptied off the reel. After carefully playing the fish to gain some line back on the reel and a 15 minute fight, I landed a PB Chinook salmon that measured 73cm and weighed in at 3.8kg, so not all big Chinooks reside at nearby Bullen Merri.
Rainbow trout have always been released here, as they are fast growing and easier to catch than browns. A typical large rainbow taken from the lake can easily weigh in at approximately 2.5kg. It's a rare event to catch them much bigger than that, but over the years the occasional fish has been taken approaching 4kg in weight.
Public accessibility to the southwestern corner is restricted somewhat. A double concrete launching ramp surrounded by floating pontoons and jetties can be accessed by entering the Lake Purrumbete Caravan Park. You don't need to be staying at the park to use the boat ramp.
Land-based access is restricted to Hoses Rocks on the western shore and the disused quarry on the eastern side.