Great Lake is great in winter

Jamie Harris
The Great Lake to many is a cold, barren, windswept place, almost void of any life apart from the odd roo or two.
To me it's become my number one trout fishing destination. Three or four years ago Arthurs Lake would have been my first choice but since the Inland Fishery's good management of fish stocks in the lake, the quality and size has improved no end. For those who don't know, the IFC has been removing some of the brown trout from Great Lake and restocking the waterways with these adult fish. Then replacing these with thousands of rainbow trout fry and fingerlings.

Over the years the rainbows have always fared better than their brown cousins, and are probably more suited to the deep, cold waters of Great Lake. Some ten years ago, if you caught ten browns, five of them would look not unlike barracouta! Out of the other five, maybe three would be nice fish. Nowdays you will rarely catch a poor brown from the lake. And by mid-season, almost all are as fat as mud!
Rainbows tend to feed on slightly different areas than the browns and you will catch more "bows" in the deeper open water, but higher in the water column and under windlanes.
The browns are doing so much better now simply because there are less of them competing for the food supply. The extra rainbows in the lake won't bother them because the "bows" will be out in their usual haunts doing their own thing.
 I also believe the low water levels make for better fishing. Although, like everyone else, I would like to see the lake rise, if only to access a few more boat ramps around the lake. The low levels mean more sunlight penetrating the depths, promoting weed growth. Look at Arthurs for instance, mostly a much shallower lake, there are weedbeds almost everywhere, Creating an endless food supply for a huge population of trout. Now I am certainly no trout expert. These are only my theorys and many may argue but it's surely not rocket science either. The Great Lake to me is much easier to read than Arthurs. The food and therefore the fish seem  to be more concentrated in certain areas. Yes there are many barren all but fishless shores around the lake. Look for the signs, and I don't mean the kind that say "Good Fishing Here" because you won't find any! Look for the big rocky points that have the huge boulders jutting out of deep water. Chances are that under the surface will look the same. The big holes and crevices are the perfect place for trout to hunt galaxia, shrimp and other crustaceans. Learn to read your sounder. Adjust the sensitivity and zoom so you can distinguish weed beds from otherwise flat rocky bottom. You may not actually see many fish on your sounder. Because you are only fishing in around three to six metres of water, a sounder can only give you a narrow picture. If it looks like a fishy bottom the will be there! Now you have found your fishy spot, all you have to do is catch them. And there is no better way than with soft plastics. As a kid I was bought up fishing the Great Lake the traditional way of bottom fishing with wattle grubs, spinning the windy shores and slow trolling flatfish.
We progressed from there to using closed-faced reels casting wood grubs, working them slowly back in. This method in particular was and still is very effective just about anywhere. Soft Plastics though are a huge step forward again. The main reason they work so well is not only the fact that they look and feel so natural. But they allow you (with practice) to fish the whole water column on every single cast. You simply can't do that with a grub or spinner. Buying a few Plastics is also a whole lot easier than cutting grubs out of trees also! It's all about odds. Because you are working on area so much more effectively, you are bound to get it past ones nose. And when you do, they can't resist! Unlike spinners and grubs when you will often have fish follow right to your feet. I can't remember this ever happening with plastics. They always have a go, even on bright days.
You can fish plastics with your old glass spin rod and mono line but the specialized S.P. graphite rods matched with 1500 - 2500 size thread lines and 4 -8 lb braid five so much more feel and control. I use a 6 - 8 lb Flourocarbon leader of about 3 metres. Flourocarbon has a tough outer layer and is for more abrasion resistant than mono line. The long leader allows for the odd breakoff rather than starting with a shorter leader and having to retie a new leader after every snag and breakoff. Remember to check your leader after every fish as even the best Flouro isn't immune to a trouts sharp teeth. My no. 1 choice of plastics for Great Lake are 60mm Squidgey fish in Gary Glitter on either a round 2 or 3 gram Squidgey jighead or a T-T 1/8 ounce jighead. My second choice being Berkley 3 inch minnows in Pumpkinseed with the same T-T head. If you would rather target a Rainbow fog or the same size Squidgeys in the brighter Neon or Killer Tomato colours. Techniques are not too complicated and when the fish are feeding hard, a simple wind and pause is all that is needed. The length of the pause obviously varies with different depths. In say 4 metres, I would have 2 to 3 quick winds then pause for 3 to 4 seconds. If the fish are being difficult, try a lighter jighead and slow the pause and retrieve a bit, throwing in a few single or double rod lifts, all the while watching your line for that telltale "zip" and "bang" a quick lift of the rod and you're on. On the day of the fish in the picture (Friday, July 6th) I was actually heading to Brushy Lagoon but something made me turn off at Deloraine and head up the mountain. I put in at the Boundary Bay ramp at 8am and headed straight for Kangaroo Islands, two small islands out in the middle of nowhere. From there across to McClannachans Island. Then fish my way round the Beehives and back to the ramp by 2pm. I finished the day with 16 fish, 9 "keepers" and 7 released. Just 2 rainbow amongst them, one of which I put back also. Most fish were in superb condition considering the time of year (just after spawning). I broke one nice fish off and only missed one other that bit the tail off my Squidgey! When they are not feeding so well you will often miss as many fish as you hook. So yes I had a good day. Let's hope we get some good rain and snow soon to bring the lake up. Maybe the increase in licence fees will go towards constructing some new low water boat ramps?  I hope my experiences might help those unfamiliar with the lake and its potential. It truly is one of Tassies Great Lakes!
Jamie Harris

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