Rocklands The Reliable

There are many places to visit in Victoria’s west and here Trevor Holmes gives us an in-depth look into Rocklands and its many fish species.

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Heading into Western Victoria for a break or passing through on holidays and looking for a feed or some sport fish ? Rocklands is a place that many people have fond memories and stories of good catches from, as it is not only a holder of good fish but a very panoramic free camping area. One of only a handful left in Victoria where you can actually camp beside the lake and enjoy the peace and quiet whilst taking in the breathtaking views of the nearby Grampians and Black Range mountains. Designated camping areas are available on both sides of the wall with good concrete ramps and toilet facilities. Many travellers have the lake on their radar and usually are enticed to stay a few days as once set up its a hard place to leave.

Built in the 1950,s on the Glenelg River, the Victorian State Rivers and Water Commission dammed off the river at the Balmoral end to create the now famous Reservoir. Back in the early days it was famous for the much sort after blackfish which have now disappeared in the waterway itself but still abundant below the wall. Redfin were the most common catch as is the case still to this day but a variety of other species now inhabit there and I will cover them off in this article.

Getting There

Depending on your travel direction, Rocklands being on the border of the Wimmera and South West of Victoria, is best accessed via the Western Highway between Melbourne and Adelaide. Horsham is the last major town to stock up on supplies before heading south towards Balmoral, which is the closest small town but does have a small supermarket, a credit card fuel depot and the well known Western Hotel for a meal and cold beer. If travelling from the southern side on the Great Ocean Road, Hamilton is the last major town before travelling to Cavendish, Balmoral and then some 15klm out to the main wall and south western end of the Reservoir.

Species

One of the better brown trout landed recently 63cm

One of the better brown trout landed recently 63cm

Brown and Rainbow Trout, English Perch ( redfin), Australian Bass, Murray Cod, Golden Perch, European Carp.

Trout: With a healthy annual stocking of trout that don’t get targeted too hard its possible to get a good feed here on occasions as these fish, although having a rather slow growth rate here, become very smart quickly in the normally clear waters.

Redfin: English Perch, or Redfin as they are commonly known, are the main target of most anglers that visit Rocklands. Anglers throughout the Wimmera will travel far and wide if news busts out of the “reddies” being on somewhere and Rocklands is no exception.

Bass: Although a recently discovered species in here they are becoming a more regular catch as they are highly prized for their fighting ability and their surprise attacks on unsuspecting anglers usually trolling lures.

A trypical big Rocklands reddie

A trypical big Rocklands reddie

Murray Cod: Murray Cod don’t get the pressure here that lakes and rivers further to the north and north eastern parts of Victoria do because it’s not widely know of their presence here. Thought to have been some stockings put in by locals wanting to capitalise on the ideal habitat, these monsters of the deep haven’t shown up in big numbers but do on occasion get landed trolling deep diving lures. Back prior to the last couple of drought periods we experienced, well know cod locations were drying up and a band of anglers/locals rescued, transported and liberated some bigger fish in here saving them from certain demise.

Golden Perch: Not common in here and their origin is a bit of an unknown but over the last couple of years they have become a regular talking point with several local anglers being able to tap into the population and target them with some confidence.

Lures

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Trolling lures is by far the most productive method here and the thrill of a random strike is what most anglers hunger for. With specific lures and technology these days matching the bait and inhabitants of particular waterways there’s a variety of lures to suit each application. From my experience here the best lures as all rounders would be the number 3 Stump Jumpers. Diving to around 3 metres these slow trolled lures work well with a reasonably tight shimmy/swaying action that entice even the fussiest feeders to impulse strike.

When it comes to colour it depends on the time of year combined with coloration of the water. In the warmer months with virtually no inflow the brighter oranges, pinks and fluoro greens seem to work best. If the water is slightly discoloured, as it becomes most Autumn and Winter, then a change to darker lures will suffice. Trout, redfin, bass, cod and golden perch will hit these so your covering off a lot of options with one style of lure. A Tassie Devil in either the pinks or white plus the natural minnow colours is also a very good surface option especially early morning or late afternoon. Slow trolled at maximum length behind the boat or retrieved from the bank it becomes a prime target for not only the trout but the redfin as they hunt for a feed in the lesser light.

Bait Fishing

As with most recreational anglers the first port of call for bait is usually the ever reliable worms and Rocklands is no exception there but the pesky carp can decimate a worm supply in no time. A paternoster rig dropped to the bottom from a boat or a running sinker rig fished from the bank could produce any of the species here. Mudeyes have long been the prime bait throughout the Wimmera and in fact pretty much Australia wide for trout and although they often get picked off here by other species fishing close to tree lines some great trout action should be had. Yabbies which inhabit the lake also have been very successful over the years either on a paternoster rig fished just off the bottom and lifted and dropped to entice a hit or just fished as a set bait on a running sinker rig. Gudgeon and minnow also work well by this method but have become very scarce in the lake and best sourced prior to a visit.

A lovely cod taken at Rocklands

A lovely cod taken at Rocklands

Cast and Retrieve

Working from a boat or the bank using shallow running lures or soft plastics is a favourite with many as you are able to cover more ground thoroughly and read the bait or smaller fish that will take up refuge from the bigger predators.  Working schools of bait and juvenile fish into the shallow areas with trees and clay or rocky banks is a good starting point. On occasion I’ve had good success here wading and casting long with the likes of Pegron tiger minnow lures or spoon type lures. The key here, especially for the bigger redfin, is to work the water column deep letting the lure sink then retrieving slowly, on most occasions tapping or bouncing the bottom for best results.

If chasing trout then switch to a hardbody lure that runs around the 2 metre mark and work with twitches and jerks to imitate a wounded or floundering baitfish. Lifting the rod tip as the lure enters the shallows it’s not uncommon to see a big dark shadow of a trout closing in on its prey and this will usually produce a strike as the offering appears to be winning the race and entering the shallows to its advantage.

Blades and Soft Plastic Hopping

A very successful method here for most species and guaranteed to produce a fish or two but must be worked in the right areas. Look for a sandy bank or spit with a drop off nearby, cast long and with a lifting action in the rod raise the blade or plastic off the deck, let it drop back to the bottom and slowly wind up the slack. Repeat this process for the whole retrieve and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results. Variance of the action with twitches, smaller hops, faster and slower retrieves should be tried to entice the fish. Often a good method adjacent to structure where the bass and redfin school and wait for a chance to ambush a passing morsel.

A fine Rocklands Bass of 36 cm

A fine Rocklands Bass of 36 cm

Vertical Jigging

Although not widely used these days by the younger generation of anglers, it’s becoming a bit of a trend here as the rebirth of the ice jigs seem to have replaced the traditional method of what was called a Baltic Bobber. Ice jigging has accounted for trout, redfin and bass here as well as the occasional golden perch and carp. Locating fish in schools and dropping these multi hooked offerings amongst the school will usually entice a strike, even on the most timid or reluctant fish. Sometimes this will spur the school in to a frenzy of action as they clamber to see what all the fuss is about chasing the hooked up fish most times to the surface as it regurgitates its stomach contents. One little tip here to continue the bite : if possible try not to net the hooked fish until a second fish is hooked up. School fish will continue to hover around and scrounge whatever bait or feed is bought up by the hooked fish so a fish kept below the boat will work as an attractant.

A good mornings troll within 200 metres of the main ramp

A good mornings troll within 200 metres of the main ramp

Baltic bobbers are still available and do work well on schooled up fish. Jagging was the term used by the older generation and it was just a matter of dropping the bobber to the bottom and with a swift lifting action working it up and down to entice a hit. Most fish were foul hooked as they scurried in to attack the lure. As they become prone to snagging on sticks, logs etc a good lure retriever such as a tackle back is vital.

Ideal Gear

Like many freshwater locations, especially the trout/redfin/golden perch fisheries, a 2-4kg rod with a 2000 or 2500 size reel spooled with a maximum of 10lb line should suffice. If wanting to target the cod here it’s recommended to upgrade a bit to say a 6-10 kg rod and couple that up with a 4000 size spinning reel or a baitcaster reel with 20lb line. Many anglers do fish a bit heavier here due to the timber and snags but on most occasions it’s a bit of an overkill.

Typically Heavily treed areas of rocklands

Typically Heavily treed areas of rocklands

Current Conditions

As with most of Victoria water, levels are very low and this probably will continue until the winter rains arrive hopefully in April/May. Currently sitting at around 17% and still experiencing some outflows of environmental water, Rocklands does seem to go a little quiet whilst the levels are dropping. These flows continue down the Glenelg River through towns such as Balmoral and Harrow to the coast and out to sea at the lovely township of Nelson in Victorias far south west which is a fishing Mecca of its own right.

A couple of factors to consider when visiting Rocklands need to be taken into consideration. I’ve always had better results on a barometer of 1020 and above. The area surrounding the reservoir is very fire prone and all precautions and restrictions should be heeded. Most areas of the lake are inhabited by wildlife such as kangaroos, emus, koalas and deer plus there is a healthy population of reptiles including the extremely dangerous brown and tiger snakes which are a common sighting near camps and the waterline.

Screenshot of a redfin schol just prior to a double hook up

Screenshot of a redfin schol just prior to a double hook up

In winter some tracks become muddy and slippery with some impassable so if venturing off road always be prepared for possible longer stays and make your travel plans and intentions known. Mobile phone service is very good in the areas close to the wall but with the lake stretching some 15klm upstream the service declines somewhat. Tip: Whilst mobile service may be non-existent, most people aren’t aware that in the case of an emergency dialling 000 will still result in making connection with the required help. A UHF radio is also a good back up with monitored emergency channels being 5 and 35. Regular compliance checks are conducted here so please hold a valid Victorian recreational angling licence or an exemption.

Rocklands

A delightful location with many species available and most anglers can be confident of getting at least a feed of Redfin here from bank or boat. Regarded as a pest by many but the flesh is highly sought after and delicious. With several options and species, Rocklands can be hard work in the colder months but now until say June is prime and then from September/October onwards, as the spring warmth increases water temps the fish come alive. Caution should always be exercised here as stumps and trees not only provide great habitat for the fish but also obstacles for boaters. Anyone wanting up to date info on the prospects here feel free to give me a call for the latest…mobile : 0438132130. Cheers.

Trevor Holmes

About Trevor Holmes

Trevor has a lifetime of experience with both freshwater and saltwater fishing. He offers you a relaxed attitude, great humour and willingness to pass on tips and techniques. Trevor is a fully accredited Coxwain and operates a fully compliant and insured craft. http://www.victorianinlandcharters.com.au/

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