Fishing’s got to be one of the best things you can do with your kids. It gets you outdoors and the young ‘uns away from screens, plus it gives you the chance to have some one-on-one time while doing something fun. And when your kid brings in that first fish, they’re gonna think it’s Christmas.
As much as we’d love to spend every weekend chilling out on a riverbank with the kids, honestly, it can be hard to find the time. If you’re a Victorian though, there are a heap of options for family-friendly fishing lakes across the state.
Unless your kid’s a superhero and can reel in a 200kg Marlin, you’ll want to start them on something a bit smaller and easier to catch. Every school holidays, the Department of Agriculture stocks lakes (over 80 statewide) with ready-to-catch rainbow trout.
This government initiative is designed to encourage families to go fishing, which is perfect because rainbow trout are a great fish to target if you want to teach the basics to your little future fishos. And not all of the fish are caught in the school holidays either, so these lakes are good fishing spots all year round.
True, it’s unlikely you’re going to snag a 5kg line-breaker, but for most kids, a 25cm trout (and they’re usually around this size) is a decent catch that’s not going to put them through their paces too much.
Most of these lakes are flanked by playgrounds and BBQ areas. So if you’re handy with a fishing knife, you’ll be able to scale and cook your catch by the lake. Otherwise, a snag by the water’s edge is just as good in our books.
What to use
Rainbow trout are a great species for kids to catch because they are relatively easy to bring in and go for a wide range of baits and lures.
Baits and lures
Hard body lures like minnows (try the ones that look like little trout), small Tassie Devils, bladed spinners, soft plastics and Berkley Power Baits are all solid and consistently proven options. Or, if you want to kick it old school, a worm on a hook with a small split-shot sinker or a float is a tried and true method.
A great way to get more fish on the end of your hook is to use berley pellets. Most of the trout released into these lakes come from hatcheries and were fed with these growing up. The sound of your pellets hitting the water will excite the fish and attract them to your spot.
If you’re not sure which bait to use on the day, just ask someone who’s fishing nearby. Most local fishos will be happy to share their knowledge. So if you aren’t familiar with that lake, don’t be afraid to ask.
Rods and Reels
You’ll want to be using fairly light gear (it’s easier for the kids to handle and better for catching trout). A 2-4kg rated spinning rod, with a spinning reel and monofilament lineto suit, is best. Anything heavier is overkill. Trout also have decent eyesight so they’ll be able to spot a heavier line in clear conditions.
It’s a good idea to keep your drag fairly loose and when you get one on the line, take your time reeling it in. It is also worth considering a landing net as trout can be extremely slippery. Much like cooking the perfect steak, patience is key here. Take your time reeling in the fish or it’ll slip off the hook.
Just bear in mind, you will need a fishing licence before you cast your line out. These are inexpensive and can be bought online at Fisheries Victoria. Funds generated from licences go back into stocking programs and the like.
A daily bag limit of five trout applies, of which only two can exceed 35 centimetres.
Our Top Ten Family Fishing Lakes in Victoria
1. Eildon Pondage, Eildon
It’s hard not to mention the Eildon Pondage whenever we talk about fishing. The place has such a diverse range of species and offers great trout fishing all year round. It has to be one of Victoria’s great fishing meccas. Each year, it receives a huge influx of just under 10,000 trout from the nearby Snobs Creek Hatchery, spread across the first, second and third term school holidays and the last week of October.
However, being one of the larger fishing spots on the list means there’s a good chance you’ll have your own patch of land by the lake but, there may still be many more fishos with their lines out too.
You can find playgrounds around the area too so the kids will have fun even if the fish aren’t biting. A special jetty has also been added to allow handi-capable anglers to safely reach the water’s edge.
Before heading down, we reckon you should take a look at our Winter Trout Fishing Guide at Eildon Pondage for some local tips and tricks. We also suggest talking to one of the local tackle shops nearby ‘The Pond’ for the best spots and what bait the trout are biting.
2. Lake Sambell, Beechworth
Beechworth, in Victoria’s north-east, has gotta be one of the prettiest towns in the state. Steeped in history, the former gold rush town is where bushranger Ned Kelly and his mum did hard time (and you can still go and see the cell they stayed in).
Lake Sambell is about 90 years old and is home to a range of fish species. It’s stocked with 1000 rainbow trout in the second and third term holidays but also supports self-sustaining populations of redfin and tench.
Just outside the town’s central hub, and with a sandy ‘beach’ that backs onto a playground and barbecue area, Lake Sambell is a great option for a chilled-out fish with the kids.
3. Lilydale Lake, Lilydale
Located in the outer-east of Melbourne in Lilydale, this man-made lake is stocked with 800 rainbow trout in the first, second and third term holidays. There are also populations of redfin, European carp, roach, tench and short-finned eel. At 28 hectares it’s a sizable body of water, and many anglers head out on kayaks to fish around the small island in the middle of the lake.
But for those of us with young kids, there are numerous shady grassed areas and purpose-built fishing platforms on the edge of the lake where you can have a relaxing fish.
If you’re keen to give fly fishing a go, the Yarra Valley Fly Fishers club offers free casting tuition at the lake every Sunday morning.
4. Jubilee Lake, Daylesford
The township of Daylesford is well known as a hotspot for day-trippers from Melbourne, who frequent the town’s many cafes and tourist shops.
Jubilee Lake lies a short drive from the town centre and is surrounded by a holiday park, walking trails and a nearby mineral spring. Visitors can hire canoes and paddle boats to explore the lake that is stocked with 200 rainbow trout in the second and third term holidays each year.
5. Lake Treganowan, Emerald
Lake Treganowan, aka Emerald Lake, is a stunningly picturesque lake situated in Emerald Lake Park, in the Dandenong Ranges about an hour east of Melbourne’s CBD. The lake is stocked with 500 rainbow trout in the second and third term holidays.
Visitors not wanting to spend the entire day fishing can hire paddle boats, amble along the trails and tracks that run through the park and surrounding bushland or check one of our favourite attractions, Puffing Billy, a steam train that stops on one side of the park.
There’s a bridge over the lake and numerous benches around the shoreline where you and your little ones can set up to try your luck. There’s also a kiosk, so if you don’t manage to catch your lunch, you can grab a bucket of chips or an ice cream to keep you going.
6. Lake Pertobe, Warrnambool
Stocked with 450 rainbow trout in the second and third term school holidays, Lake Pertobe is a great place to stop by if you live in Victoria’s south-west or along the Great Ocean Road. A steady stock of redfin can also be caught from the lake but can be harder to catch than the trout.
You’ll find the banks are wide and grassy, making for ripper places to have a picnic. A new adventure playground has also been built by the lake, ideal for burning off that post-picnic energy kids get.
The lake itself is also located within strolling distance of the main beach if the kids give up early in the day. If you and the little ones are feeling extra adventurous, small low-speed motorboats can be hired to cruise around the lake.
7. Albert Park Lake, Albert Park
Albert Park Lake is stocked with 1000 rainbow trout three times a year in the first, second and third term school holidays. It is also reported to hold some large yellow belly (golden perch) that still inhabit the waters from a stocking program that saw tens of thousands of the fish introduced to the lake over a decade ago.
The lake is only a stone’s throw from the Melbourne CBD and is surrounded by 560 acres of rolling parklands. There are playgrounds, barbecue areas, and numerous sporting facilities and walking tracks all within the park’s borders. There is also a sailing club at one end of the lake: so you can sit on the bank with a line in the water watching the sailboats go by – not bad for the inner-city!
8. Lake Hyland, Churchill
Definitely not the biggest lake on our list, Lake Hyland is located in Churchill, two hours drive east of Melbourne and 15 minutes from Traralgon. It is stocked in both the July and September school holidays, and then again in late October.
However, it is restocked with 750 fresh rainbow trout every holiday period making this small lake fairly ‘fish-dense’ once they have just been moved in. If you ever wanted to sit back, relax and watch your kid haul trout after trout in, Lake Hyland is where you want to be.
There are a few boardwalks and smaller jetties scattered around the waterfront to set up a deck chair or two, with barbecue and toilet facilities nearby as well. A junior fishing competition runs at the start of November every year, just after the October trout have been released.
9. Sumsion Garden Lakes, Wodonga
Unless you live in the top part of the state, there’s a good chance you won’t be in any rush to drive all the way to the Victorian/New South Wales border just for some little trout. But, if you do live in the area, or are passing through, Wodonga has a trifecta of great family fishing lakes.
The main one, Sumsion Garden Lakes is located just off the Hume Freeway. It has all the usual perks such as nearby toilets and playgrounds, but this one is unique in that there is a dog park next door. You can also fish off the small island sticking out into the lake or along the shoreline.
Les Stone Park Lake can be found a few minutes down the road, towards the centre of town, while Felltimber Creek Wetlands can also be fished on the south-side of town. All three of these fishing spots are ideal for families and recreational fishos. The best part is that if the fish ain’t biting, you can just pop across to another lake within a few minutes.
10. Casey Fields Lake, Cranbourne
A fishing lake in the middle of outer suburbia might sound like a fairy tale to some, but we can assure you it’s very real. Casey Fields Lake is located just under an hour south-east of the CBD near Cranbourne. The lake is within the Casey Fields sports complex near the entrance.
There is one main pier into the lake on the southeast edge, otherwise, you’ll have to bring a camp chair or two and set-up shop along the grassy water’s edge. There is a land-bridge separating the who sides of the lake which can be accessed with some bush-bashing.
If you live in the local area you’d be mad not to visit it during the school holidays. There are actually a few other stocked lakes in the outer southeast suburbs worth checking out, such as Berwick Springs Estate Lake and Pakenham Lake.
Get out there
This is just a small sample of the stocked lakes on offer around Victoria. A comprehensive list can be found on the map below (click on the slide-out menu, top left, for detailed information), so why not find the lake that’s closest to you and head out for a great day with the kids.
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