Fishing at Lake Nillahcootie:
The bread and butter fishery
Written by Robbie Alexander
Built in 1967, Lake Nillahcootie has a water storage capacity of 40,000 megalitres when full, and at the moment… it is full!
As a kid I remember Lake Nillahcootie being an underrated redfin fishery. With Lake Mokoan just down the road, and Lake Eildon just up the road, Lake Nillahcootie always slipped under the radar somewhat.
How times have changed. With the decommissioning of Lake Mokoan in 2009, Lake Nillahcootie started to see more fishing pressure as more anglers recognised it’s potential.
During the 1990’s yellowbelly stocking began in Lake Nillahcootie, and over time the redfin numbers dropped right off. This seems to be a common pattern with populations of redfin that have had yellowbelly stocked on top of them.
In large lakes like Hume and Eildon, the redfin seem to do OK, but in smaller lakes and rivers, the redfin seem to vanish over time as the yellowbelly gain a stronghold and become the more dominant species.
As a kid I remember driving past Lake Nillahcootie and seeing the clear blue water. That was until 1993.
In early October 1993, North East Victoria experienced widespread major flooding which dirtied the water in all catchments. For some reason the Broken River catchment never really cleared up properly and both Lake Mokoan and Lake Nillahcootie remained a dirty brown colour.
At Lake Nillahcootie now in 2020, the water is always murky, but not as dirty as it appears from the main road as you drive past. Closer inspection of the water shows that the average water clarity is usually around 40-50cm and the boat ramp end of the lake is usually the clearest.
How to fish Lake Nillahcootie
These days Lake Nillahcootie is best knows as a Yellowbelly and Murray cod fishery. As with most places there is also European carp, and in recent years fisheries have started stocking a few Silver Perch in there as well. Redfin are very few and far between these days.
Yellowbelly are the most commonly targeted species and spring is the best time of the year to catch them.
"Square bibbed minnows that do not dive too deep are working well for people trolling at Lake Nillahcootie at the moment."
Warming water temperatures usually see increased yellowbelly biting each year from September onwards. Fresh water flowing into the lake will also see the yellowbelly fire up, and this year we have both.
Decent winter and spring rainfall have seen Lake Nillahcootie fill to capacity for the first time in a few years, flooding grassy flats and margins of the lake, providing an abundance of food for the yellowbelly.
For this reason, bank fisherman have been doing exceptionally well lately, just fishing with worms off the bank.
Other baits such as small yabbies and shrimp have also been working well, but worms are easier to find, cheaper to buy and working just as well.
Even when I have been over there in my kayak, or with my dad in his boat, the fishing has all been closer to the bank. We have been anchoring the boat less than 10 meters from the bank and catching yellowbelly in less than 2 meters of water.
At the moment, the trick is to fish over the newly flooded ground. Sections of the lake that did not have water on them last year, allowing for regrowth.
Bait fishing at Lake Nillahcootie
If bank fishing a paternoster rig with a bunch of worms, or a small yabby has been working very well. If using a yabby, try tying the loop in your line a little higher than normal to keep your yabby off the bottom to prevent him burrowing and hiding from the fish.
"Just angling from the bank with worms is catching a lot of fish for a lot of people at Lake Nillahcootie at the moment."
From a boat or kayak, just fishing directly under the boat is working well. No need to make long casts. And the best tip is to keep your bait moving.
I like to run my line through my sinker and tie it to the hook. Like a running sinker that can run all the way to the hook. I then bait it up with a yabby, and bob it up and down. Yellowbelly will smash this set-up.
My dad likes to use a paternoster rig, but use the same bobbing technique. Just a gently little bob up and down to keep in moving. The aim is to attract the yellowbelly’s attention, not jag it and foul hook it in the ass!
Lure fishing at Lake Nillahcootie
I have been having tremendous success just bouncing a lipless crankbait up and down off the bottom of the lake directly under the boat, exactly the same way as I do with my yabby as mentioned above. I just lower it down, and gently bob it.
"Yellowbelly are suckers for a Lipless Crankbait lure. (Vibe). They just cannot resist them. See links in this report for some examples."
Here are a couple of lure suggestions from the Trellys online store:
Although I have never used one, I reckon these Zerek Fishtrap (65mm) look like that would also work.
The trick with using the above mentioned vibes, (Otherwise known as Lipless Crankbaits) at the moment is to let it sink to the bottom, and then reel it in a little bit just too keep it off the bottom.
I prefer to let it hit the bottom but the recently submerged grass will lead to your lure fouling up a little bit.
If you are trolling, any type of short fat mid-sized diving lure will work at the moment. I have been using a Bassman Tubby Native Minnow with great success. Similare flat nose crankbaits available are the Arashi Crankbait
You want to avoid lures that dive too deep or they will just foul up in the drowned grass. And if they don’t, then maybe you are fishing too deep?
One last tip is that the water at the boat ramp end of the lake is usually a little bit clearer than the water at the top end of the lake as it has had more time for the sediment to settle and is much deeper.
"Kayaking is a great way to fish Lake Nillahcootie and can also be very effective." - H20 Kayaks
One last thing worth noting is that Lake Nillahcootie is a bit of a bread and butter type fishery. This means that there are a lot of smaller fish in the lake, with a few nice fish to keep for a feed. If you are wanting to catch huge big fat yellowbelly, or even trophy sized fish, Lake Eildon just up the road will be a much better choice for you, or head to Lake Hume which is fishing very well for big fat yellowbelly at the moment.