The grey cold depths of winter are unquestionably the hardest time of the year to catch fish in North East Victoria. That is a fact, and nothing that I write can sugar coat that. However, there are a number of great fishing options still around, and even a small amount of fisheries that are actually at their peak at this bitterly cold time of the year.
Fishing for Murray cod during winter is usually left for the diehard Murray cod fishers that are willing to put in endless hours on the water, often for days on end at the high risk of catching nothing, for the possibility of catching something enormous.
I hear of few cod caught during winter and see few photos on my social media pages. The fish that I do see or hear about are usually caught in either the Murray River system, or one of the many stocked impoundments in South East Australia such as Lake Eildon, Blowering Dam or Copeton Dam to name a few. Most of the cod that I see caught during winter are truly huge.
If you are dedicated to wetting a line and searching out a midwinter Murray cod in the North East Victoria region, my advice would be to try the Murray River system. Lake Mulwala produces some nice cod each winter. The Bundalong area near the junction of the Ovens and Murray Rivers is a bit of a hotspot, too.
The Murray River downstream of Lake Mulwala tends to yield consistent catches of Murray cod each winter, many of which are well over the 1m mark. The Murray River between Corowa and Lake Mulwala also produces some lovely Murray cod each winter, although that area upstream of Lake Mulwala can be herd to launch a boat in, and even harder to motor upstream and downstream as the irrigation releases from Lake Hume are minimal at this time of the year.
Yellowbelly catches are practically unheard of in North East Victoria during winter. Occasionally a yellowbelly may turn up at Lake Hume or Lake Nillahcootie, but I wouldn't recommend you head to either of these lakes specifically targeting yellowbelly during winter or you will most likely go home disappointed. The yellowbelly seem to go into some kind of hibernation until about October in this area.
While they're not a common catch during winter, catching redfin isn't unheard of in the colder months. In fact, I have had some great redfin fishing sessions at both Lake Buffalo and Lake William Hovell during the winter months. It can be very hit and miss at this time of the year, but at least with redfin you stand a chance during winter, unlike with the yellowbelly. This could be largely attributed to the fact that redfin are English perch and come from a very cold part of the world.
If I was to target redfin during winter, I would most likely head to Lake Buffalo or Lake William Hovell, and start off by bobbing a soft plastic in deep water, even as deep as 30t. This depth might seem crazy, but I have the belief that during the winter months the water down deeper is likely to be warmer than the water on the surface, which is a total opposite to what we experience in the summer months.
By far the most popular form of fishing in North East Victoria during winter is trout fishing. Being a cold water species, the trout are actually more active during the winter months than they are during summer.
With that being said, please be mindful of the trout stream closure. In Victoria and NSW the streams close on Monday night of the Queen's birthday weekend. In Victoria the streams open on the first Saturday in September, and in NSW they open on the NSW labour day public holiday in October.
So to the lakes it is, and the king of all trout lakes in North East Victoria is Lake Dartmouth.
Lake Dartmouth is a very consistent trout fishery during the winter months. The fishing is easy and the trout are plentiful. Don't be misled - some days you still catch nothing, but some days you catch heaps. Personally, I find flatline trolling to be my favourite way to fish Lake Dartmouth during winter. The water surface temperature is so cold that there is no real need to use a downrigger, although during the day if the sun is high in the sky, it can force the fish down deeper where they feel safe and then a downrigger might be beneficial.
My favourite lures to troll for trout in Lake Dartmouth are winged lures such as Tasmanian Devils and Lofty's Cobras. My favourite colour has always been hot pink. Try trolling with quite a lot of line out behind the boat so that the lures aren't too close to the boat. Trolling with an electric motor is certainly advantageous, although not essential. Sometimes trolling in an S shape across the water can be a good idea, as this will often mean that your lure is passing through water that your boat didn't.