Shane Flude has fished Lake Echo extensively for many years with excellent catches. Here are his tips.
Lake Echo is a large Hydro Electric storage that is located close to the geographical centre of Tasmania. At full supply level it covers 40 sq. km and is 846 m above sea level. Despite current logging practices the lake is almost completely encircled by eucalypt forests and there are minor marsh areas around the north western bays. Lake Echo existed as a natural lake prior to 1956 when the 18 m high Lake Echo dam was created. At the same time the waters of the Ouse River were dammed and diverted down the newly formed Monpeelyata Canal. Lake Echo is a major water storage for the Derwent scheme and as such the lake level fluctuates greatly, usually by between 2-5 m in a season. The lake last reached full capacity in October 1997 and actually spilled by 20 cm. Since then the level has gradually declined and during the past few years it has hovered around the 8-10 m mark. This year it even dropped further during winter and has only recently risen. The lake traditionally rises to around the end of November so the levels look set to remain low for the remainder of the 07/08 trout season.
Despite being centrally located Lake Echo offers only limited access to those in a 2wd vehicle via the Mentmore Road which travels to the dam at the southern end. There are boat ramps at either end of the dam and a newer ramp has been completed in recent years via a forestry road which leads off the Mentmore Road. This ramp is located a further 3.5 km up the lake and has quickly become the most popular launching area. There is a rough track which leads to a shack and limited camping areas in Teal Bay. In fine conditions a 2wd would just make it in here however if the Lake is below 7 m launching even a small boat is difficult. Other forestry tracks continue on past the Teal Bay turn off and terminate at the edge of private property at Large Bay. They quickly deteriorate into rough 4wd tracks and are sometimes blocked by fallen trees. There are several side roads from the main forestry track which lead down to the lake. If the lake level is below 6 m then launching boats from the north western bays is difficult, the flat marsh areas are deceptively boggy near the waters edge. The entire northern and north eastern shores are privately owned and presently offer no public access.
Lake Echo is managed as a brown trout water and the trout fishing season commences on the Saturday nearest the start of August and concludes on the Sunday nearest the end of April. Bag limit is 12 trout per day, size limit is 220mm and all angling methods are permitted.
Brown trout were stocked into Lake Echo around 1870 and are the most common fish in the lake. Like most lakes the size and condition of fish vary each season but around 750 g would be average. The occasional fish to 3 kg is reported but these fish are rare. The browns in Echo have a self supporting population with the Moonpeelyata Canal providing the major spawning grounds. The lower 2 km seems to offer the best gravel spawning areas however fish can travel about 7 km up the canal until confronted with a steep sloping concrete section which halts their progress. Browns commence their spawning run up the canal in late March if water conditions permit. There are usually fish still present in August. The two creeks that flow into Brocks and Large Bay also provide minor spawning grounds. The condition factor of browns in Echo is usually high and the recent few years of very low levels does not appear to have affected this, if anything for the past two years their condition has been above average.
Rainbow trout were introduced in the 1950s and have maintained a minor self supporting population. These fish have always averaged a larger size than the browns at around 1.3 kg but only ever made up a very small percentage of the catch. The past five years has seen extensive rainbow trout stocking into Lake Echo with over 286 000 fish being placed in the water. This number has included both diploid (fertile) and triploid (sterile) fish in fry, fingerling and yearling sizes. Triploid fingerlings have made up the majority. The small rainbows have grown well with most in excellent condition. They now make up between 20 and 30% of the catch and fight extremely well. Superb condition fish to 1.8 kg were being caught towards the end of last season. It will be interesting to see how this species progresses in future seasons and whether the fertile fish will spawn and complement the numbers.
Lake Echo has a moderate population of redfin perch although the species seems to have declined gradually over the past ten years. A fish of 1 kg is now very rare but in the 90s accounted for about one fish in every 20 or so caught trolling. Small schools of redfin can still be seen in the shallows in March and they still show up in the stomach contents of the larger trout, particularly those caught near the canal mouth. The eel population seems about stable and some nice 2 kg specimens are still taken on worm roads in the bays.
This is a popular angling method on Echo and flat line trolling with cobra wobbler style lures still appears to be the most common method. Every angler has their favourite colour but green and gold combinations such as the old freddo or Cadburys are very effective patterns. Lead line trolling has always been popular at Echo due to the depth. Most anglers let out around three to four colour lengths of line (each colour being 10 m). This puts the lure around the 5 - 8 m mark. Lead lines generally come in 18 and 30 pound diameters with most anglers opting for the 30 believing that the heavier line will actually run deeper. The opposite is in fact true as the larger diameter line being thicker offers more water resistance and bellies out. Once clear of the tree line the bottom of Lake Echo has an almost snag-free flat featureless bottom which gradually deepens as you head further south down the lake. The only real area containing any structure is the Bull Bank in the north-east corner. At current levels there are two rocky islands with a raised lake bottom between the two. This oval shaped area between the two islands offers reliable deep water trolling as does the eastern side of the southern Bull Bank. The best fishing is hard in against the trees but there are some notorious snags here which by now must resemble huge underwater Christmas trees heavily decorated with lures and line. If the canal is running then the area directly in front is an obvious area to fish. At present water levels most snags are high and dry in this area. Despite deep snag free waters, downrigging does not appear to have caught on at Lake Echo and I am yet to see another downrigger apart from my own on this water. In my experience downriggers outfish lead line by about three to one. Flat fish and cobra style lures used with an attractor work well. Best results have been close in to the trees off the Bull Bank and yes, I have added to that Christmas tree.
By far the most effective lure I now use at Echo is the Rapala Countdown in the CD 5 and CD 7 size. The most productive patterns have been the perch and brook trout. When placed side by side with a small red fin perch it is not hard to see why these lures produce. I have also caught fish on the brown trout, rainbow trout, olive muddler and minnow patterns. Both browns and rainbows take the rapalas equally well. A very fast trolling speed is imperative with these lures in conjunction with a stop-start motion. You will be amazed at the extra strikes this erratic motion produces. Each lure should be tested beside the boat prior to use as some are slightly off-centre and run off to one side and will eventually rise out of the water completely. Simply bend the end eyelet slightly until the lure runs straight. The instructions in each rapala box recommend the use of the rapala knot to get the best wiggle however a small snap swivel achieves the same motion and allows for easier changing of lures.
Their only real disadvantage is price and at around $14 a lure I go to some length to retrieve a snagged lure. Usually a quick straight reverse will pull the lure free. At usual trolling speed they run about 2 m so a long handled net should free up the rest. I have caught fish on Rapalas using downriggers and lead lines however the extra motion I can impart when flat line trolling produces more fish.
I have spun most shores of Lake Echo from the shore and by boat and consider the north-western bays, northern timbered shore and canal mouth the best locations. If you are after rainbows then the entrance to Brocks Bay is hard to beat. The browns love the shelter of the timbered edges particularly where the water drops off deeply. The canal mouth can be brilliant but only if there is a strong flow. It generally runs from the start of the season to early December and is often only a trickle from then till the end of the season. When the lake level is higher there are snags everywhere so together with the strong current expect to lose lures. Both rainbows and browns will be caught here and many will be full of small red fin perch so choosing a suitable lure is not difficult. If no one has fished this area for a few days prior then expect fast and furious action and the largest fish in the lake. As the canal is open to fishing there is no 50 m exclusion zone. Fish all the water, right up to the edge of the canal. I have spun with every lure imaginable over the years but now almost exclusively use the Rapala.
Soft plastics have finally taken off in Tassie and work well at Lake Echo. The timbered edges have been the best locations but the snags are frustrating. I have had good success at around the 5 m mark of Brocks, Large and Teal Bay. The every reliable Gary Glitter Squidgy in the 60mm size is hard to beat.
Lake Echo is not a noted fly water but can provide good sport when the conditions suit. It is probably best known for its summer gum beetle falls which at times can be phenomenal. At times the water can be covered with literally millions of these yellow and green dots but the sheer numbers of naturals makes fishing difficult. I have found that the days of minor falls with a moderate wind to be best. A size 12 Red Tag works well with sometimes a hard presentation needed to attract their attention.
There are minor hatches of duns in both the north western bays but there are not reliable, fluctuating water levels over the past few years have probably not helped. Clear glassy mornings produce some good midge rises. This action stops with the sun. Although it is now 10 years since the lake last filled and flooded it is worth mentioning the fantastic wet fly fishing that existed for a few short months in the northern bays. The fish were simply meters apart in the flooded kerosene bushes and swimming in groups on the open grassy bays. They were however extremely alert and would only take flies that were left inert on the bottom. A large possum nymph or small wet was picked up beautifully from the bottom and all hell erupted when one was hooked with bow waves going in all directions. A lot were snapped off but the amount of fish available made up for it. The most important decision was to try and lead your fish back the way you had come and away from the one that would be behind the next bush. Don't go rushing off to your fly vice just yet, with current levels the lake will need at least four extremely wet years before it fills. Records indicate that the lake fills only about once every 15 years and that was before we had Basslink.
All types of bait fishing works well with many patrons still using set worm rods and top fishing at night with the every reliable wattle grub. Some diehard locals from Latrobe have spent years walking the northern shores at night armed with a good supply of wood grubs and dophin torch batteries. Their results have been impressive as has been the size of fish caught. Fishing live mudeyes under bubble floats has been popular now for years at Lake Echo either from the shore or boat. Careful casting is critical to ensure each of your $1 plus mudeyes are laid out correctly on your slightly weighted no. 12 fly hook. Each dip of the float should result in a hook up and hopefully not one of the small red fin perch which also love this bait. There are numerous smallish cockroaches under the logs and rocks around the lake which seem to work almost as well as mudeyes. The later summer months are the best times for this style of baitfishing.
Lake Echo is a perfect location to visit if you are keen on trying different methods and want to escape the masses of anglers that now seem to be invading most other water ways. If you see more than five boats on Echo then it's a busy day. Undoubtably this will change as access is improved and word on this water gets out. It can become extremely rough and white caps are common. As most boats troll to the northern end it is a long trip back when the weather sets in. The fishing is very poor in these conditions anyway so if you arrive to whitecap city do not waste your time or risk the conditions. There are some great sheltered camp site around the lake and fire wood is plentiful. A nearby mobile phone tower provides full service to CDMA or Next G. If you do strike Echo in favourable conditions you will soon discover why I can't wait to head back for my 73rd trip. If you can't decide when to visit try around October/November and don't miss April. Stock up with some Rapala CD 7 perch and brook trout patterns and head north.