Yella Fever: Yellowbelly Basics

Jarrod Biles of Walkabout Tours with a Golden

Get in the boat at Eildon with Trevor Holmes from Victorian Inland Charters and let him give you a private lesson in catching Yellowbelly.

As a relatively new angler to native fishing, having specialised in trout all my life, I finally realised what I had been missing out on! With the prospects of golden perch and cod becoming reality in the Wimmera in the coming seasons, I decided to tempt fate and have a crack at these beasts under the watchful eye of experienced angler Jarrod Biles of Walkabout Tours. All I can say is “wow” what an experience as new techniques and gear are adapted to tackle the mighty Lake Eildon. Situated only 150 km northeast of Victoria’s capital city of Melbourne, Eildon has it all. From goldens, cod, redfin, trout, roach and the ever present and pesky carp there was a whole new world opening up before my eyes. With so much new style fishing to talk about I will keep this article wholly and solely based on Yellas.

Location Is Everything

As mentioned above within an hour and half of Melbourne, Eildon offers one of the nations best fisheries stocked with many species to cover all anglers wants and needs. Known for its beauty and panoramic scenery, steep banks, rocky outcrops and timbered areas the lake itself is huge, covering some 13,000 hectares and depths of up to 40 metres. Marina’s of houseboats dot the bottom end of the lake and there are many launch and accommodation options available along all stretches. Once the jewel in the crown of Victoria’s trout fishing, Eildon has fast become the native fishing Mecca of the state. Being stocked over the last few years with 1 million cod and several hundred thousand Goldens that have all thrived making it a very attractive proposition to even the less experienced anglers.

Golden Perch ( Macquaria ambigua )

The writer with a grub caught yella

The writer with a grub caught yella

Known in different states under many names the Victorian handle for these fish is Yellas. With almost ideal conditions for breeding, the window of opportunity for the process to take place is relatively small compared to the warmer lakes and streams further north that take in a warmer climate. Such is the exposure and growth of Eildon as a ‘Yella’ fishery, a round of the normally NSW conducted Australian Yellowbelly Championships was held here just recently. Yellas are known for their magnificent fighting capabilities but probably not so much for eating qualities. Given the lake, fish have a virtual smorgasbord to pick from. They contain huge amounts of fat and don’t eat as well as their stream/river cousins. With fish better than 20 lb on offer it makes it a worth while prospect.

Soft Plastics

Tradition went out the window when the recent AYC comp was held here with the the northern anglers showing us a new style called Grubbing. Basically, a 1/8oz jig head rigged with a soft plastic grub (mainly black or motor oil colours) is vertically fished in stands of timber. Dropping the plastic to the bottom or in the zone of sounded fish and ever so slowly retrieved up the branches and trunks enticing the fish to strike. Not dissimilar to how some anglers have drop shotted over the years but it opened up a whole new style for us southerners with stunning results. Grubs and various plastics cast and retrieved will also account for many fish either in the depths, back waters, laydowns of trees or the rocky outcrops.

Trolling & Casting

Colour and size variations can be critical.

Colour and size variations can be critical.

Slow trolling of lures is a daunting prospect here as there are so many places to start. Working the said banks, structures, tree stands, rock faces and points would be the best option and casting the same areas would be my starting point.  Bibbed lures of various diving depths work well on the troll. Mixed colours for best results but traditionally the purples, blacks and red/black combos have been superior. Sounding fish is critical here and a good side imaging sounder is invaluable. Being able to locate fish before prospecting is always a bonus, making them take a lure or plastic is another thing! Some of the well known gurus of Eildon will survey an area by sounder and then walk the banks casting deep and retrieving back to shore hopping lures, spinnerbaits and plastics throughout the snags and rocks, enticing the fish to strike.

Yellas On Bait

Athough not practiced in this ever developing fishery, some of the older traditional anglers still do very well on natural baits. Yabbies and scrub worms, shrimp as well as bardi grubs fished either just off the bottom straight down or on a running sinker rig is all you need. Very basic rigging and style but on most occasions will produce fish when lures and trolling won’t. Once again finding the areas holding fish is critical to catches but fishing blind around the snags, trees and ledges where Yellas tend to congregate should suffice.

Prime Time For Yellas

As the days get longer in spring and the water temps rise is the best time to confidently target the Yellas but having said that they can be taken year round on the differing methods described above. Whilst these fish can be individuals through the colder months remaining deep the warmer temps soon see them schooling, chasing body heat and a breeding partner in the shallower bays from September through to April. Times of day don’t seem to bother the Yellas and in fact they are probably more barometer dependant than we realise. People often relate to their best sessions being on the sharp drop of the barometer preceding a storm or change. Others tell of random short, sharp sessions where the bite comes on and shuts down just as quick. A very hard fish to work out a pattern to but well worth keeping some sort of records re barometer, water temperature, time of year, light conditions etc. Try to establish a pattern that works best to maximise catches.

Rod & Reel Options

Whilst opinions vary as to how much stick you need to give the Yellas, I usually pre plan my gear and select a combo for these 3 styles of fishing. Not limiting myself, the different applicable rod can be used for each style to minimise cluttering the boat with gear. As a general rule of thumb I use a heavier rod of around 6′ for casting diving lures, spinnerbaits etc with a bait caster reel loaded with 15 or 20 lb braid and leader of the same size.  A 6’6″ medium/light rod matched to a 2000 or 2500 sized spinning reel for the vertical jigging of plastics and vibes with 8 to 15 lb braid and 10 lb leader. For trolling then a 7 footer with either a baitcaster or 2500 spinning reel and 20 lb braid but I do up the anti with the leader and go for 25lb minimum due to heavy timber and snags, plus the added odd surprise of a cod nailing at a trolled lure pulled past their lair.

Lures To Use

Lures/plastics/spinnerbaits can vary from day to day but local knowledge is hard to beat and I strongly suggest a trip into Eildon Bait and Tackle to see Gary for the latest trends/colours. A few of my starting options and must haves listed, but not restricted to, below.

Spinnerbaits and vibes I use at Eildon

Spinnerbaits and vibes I use at Eildon

  • Berkley minnow grubs in black, motor oil, camo.
  • Berkley T Tails
  • Fish Arrow J Huddles
  • Fish Arrow J Grubs
  • Z Man Grubs
  • Edgecrusher
  • Rapalas
  • Stumpjumpers
  • Oar-Gees
  • RMG Poltergiests and Scorpions
  • Ballista
  • Predatek
Bibless + Vibes:
  • Jackalls TN 50 and 60
  • Mask Jackalls
  • Rapalas
  • Rattlin spots
  • Outlaw
  • Edgecrusher
  • Bassman
  • Grizzly

Safety & Survival

Tommy McBride with a Jackall masked vibe in Redfin pattern caught yella off the same stand of trees

As with all waterways upmost respect must be shown at all times and although nestled deep down in valleys and mountain ranges, Eildon can fast become a very daunting place when a change whips in usually from the south or south west late afternoon. The waters chop up in the main arm up to very dangerous levels within minutes.

Fishing the arms and backwaters can give you a false sense of security and at times we have motored from these relatively calm water only to face 3-4 foot chops upon turning for home. I strongly suggest carrying a GPS, EPIRB, UHF or marine radio to ensure your own safety. As these waters are constantly patrolled by water police and fisheries please ensure your safety gear is all compliant and licence current to save you the embarrassment of a hefty fine. Check current rules and regulations prior to your visit or trip and enjoy the best that Victoria has to offer in Golden Perch fishing. Tight lines.

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.


Previous Secrets in the Pilbara
Next Hooch’s Complete Guide To Fishing Tasmania Over Summer - Part 3

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