Lake Meadowbank in Winter

by Craig Vertigan
During the trout closed season one can get a bit edgy
to say the least. Especially if your footy team is not
worth watching on the TV!!! So for a sports fi shing
fi x there’s a couple of options: either fi nd some
bream in an estuary or go to one of the state’s trout
waters that are open all year round. For the southern
angler that means either Craigbourne Dam or Lake
Meadowbank. These waters are also a great option for
early season when the weather up top is extreme.
Both these waters receive regular stockings from
IFS, so keep an eye on the IFS stocking database on
their website. Craigbourne suffered badly during the
drought years gone by, while Meadowbank sustained
good levels throughout the drought. The lake was
drained to about 6m below full at the start of May
while Hydro did maintenance works. I heard a report
that when the lake was drained there were a lot of
dead redfin up on the banks that weren’t smart
enough to head to deeper water as the lake drained.
Luckily all the trout and Atlantic salmon had the wits
to move to the deeper water. With the water back up
around full supply and less redfi n to compete with,
things could bode well for some well conditioned
winter trout and salmon to chase in the off season.
Lazy starts on calm winter days are the go for
Meadowbank. On those days when the lake is glassed
over it is pure pleasure to go for a paddle, observe the
numerous birds such as black swans, hawks, eagles,
diving musk ducks as well as countless smaller birds,
platypuses and hopefully hook up to some healthy
trout and atlantics. Make sure you dress for the
weather. My last winter trip to Meadowbank started
off by thawing the ice off my car and driving up past
frosted hills. When on the water my sounder told me
the water was 3 degrees. So plenty of warm gear and
a dry suit are the go.
You can launch at either the boat ramp or the
picnic area on the eastern shore, where you can just
drag your yak across the grass and launch into the
shallow water.
I mostly fish the northern basin above the bridge.
This area has extensive shallow weed beds on the
western shore and deep edges with sunken timber on
the eastern shore. In the middle of the lake you can
fi nd channels amongst the deep weeds.
The area immediately below the bridge is the
opposite, with shallow weed beds extending out on
the eastern shore from the road down to the fi rst bend
and a very deep edge on the western shore.
Since the lake is full of redfin, it’s worth using any
redfin imitation lures such as Tassie devils or diving
minnows in redfin colours. I have had success with a
75mm Squidgy shad in TNT colour, which is a good match for a redfin.
On a trip last winter I put a few casts around the snags on the north east
shore and then trolled a hard body bibbed minnow on my way up to the next
fallen tree. On the way I saw a disturbance in the water. Thinking it may have
been one of the numerous platypuses we’d spotted that day I kept an eye out for
a resurface but when none came I drifted over the same patch and worked the
Squidgy shad slow and deep. On the second cast the line took off sideways and
I struck the hook into a nice sized
fish. After a few good runs I got
sight of some colour and could see
that it was an atlantic salmon with
green back and silvery flanks. As
it tired and I got the fish closer to
the kayak I made sure that my drag
was backed off a bit for any final
desperate lunges and thrashes. As
if reading my mind it went for a
couple of tail walks at the side of
the boat before finally tiring and
I was able to slip it into the net.
A fish this size can be difficult to
handle in the tight confines of a
kayak cockpit, flapping around
between your legs as you struggle
to keep it in the net. If you plan
on keeping your catch for the
table you’ll need to dispatch the
fish quickly. I’ve had a few 10
pounder atlantics in my lap on the
yak, and let me tell you they are a
real handful, especially when you
can only fit the first half of them
in your little landing net!
You’re bound to hook up to
a redfin or ten on each trip to
Meadowbank. When drifting and
fishing soft plastics you can be
plagued by schools of small redfin.
The redfin feed ferociously and
will happily take any lure in their
vicinity. Even if the lure is almost
the same size as them! I wouldn’t
mind the redfin if they were a
decent size, but the average size is
not much longer than your hand.
In the colder weather I’ve
caught most of my trout holding
very deep in the channels of the
original river. These fish respond
to super slow retrieves, bouncing
on or near the bottom. I’ve also
found that if the fish are being
a bit sluggish, something with a
bit more scent such as Gulp can
do the trick. I like the Gulp fry in
pumpkinseed colour and so do the
fish. But the main thing is to use
slow retrieves with little twitches
and lifts and work the plastic down
deep. The trout at this time of year
seem to be down deep where the
water is a bit warmer.
Meadowbank can be a difficult
water to work out. On some days
there will be fish all over the place
rising and actively feeding in the
shallows. At other times you’ll
only see a couple of fish rise.
And the fish can be hard to find
on those quite days. Expect the
winter months to be a challenge
to find the fish, but you’ll most
likely have the lake to yourself and
can get rewarded with some well
conditioned trout and atlantics.
Perseverance and fishing the
deep drop offs along the original
riverbed has paid off for me
on those quiet days. When the
weather warms up there are some
amazing hatches to be had at
Meadowbank, and it’s time to get
out the fly rod and polaroid them
in the shallow weed beds.
Craig Vertigan