Lake Tyers is a few minutes’ drive north-east of Lake Entrance on the Princes Highway. It is one of the most picturesque of the Gippsland Lakes, being surrounded by forest. Covering an area of about 16 sq km, Lake Tyers is the smallest lake and is not connected to any other lake or river. It is periodically closed to the sea, but offers some of the best fishing in the region, mostly bream, luderick, flathead and garfish. The two main arms, Toorloo and Nowa Nowa, provide the most productive fishing spots. Small boats can be launched from Nowa Nowa and full boat-launching facilities are available at the Lake Tyers township.
On 26 June 2007, the lake opened to the sea naturally for the first time in nine years, and stayed open for six months. The previous natural opening of Lake Tyers occurred in June 1998, with the estuary closing again by January 1999. The entrance was artificially opened in 2002 when rising waters threatened nearby infrastructure and property, but closed naturally in January 2003. When the lake opened, Fisheries Victoria stated it was an important process that maintained the ecological health of the water. The system received a good flush, reducing organic loads and enabling adult fish to move in and out of the lake to spawn.
I fished Lake Tyers recently with local tackle shop proprietor and publican Ian Page. Ian and his brother Ken run the Waterwheel Tavern, which has a tackle store attached. What more could any angler want after a hot day on the water than a cold beer and easy access to bait and tackle? Our first stop was in the Toorloo Arm, which starts at Mill Point and is navigable several kilometres upstream as far as Burnt Bridge. In the Toorloo Arm, melaleucas grow right down to the water’s edge, and behind them are stands of blackwood and then eucalypts. Next we headed into the Nowa Nowa Arm, past the Glasshouse and the Trident to Camerons Hole, which is about 13 m deep, and then to Devils Hole, about 75 per cent of the way to Nowa Nowa from Lake Tyers. It is a whopping 20 m deep.
As well as bream and flathead, Lake Tyers has luderick, salmon, tailor, garfish, silver trevally and has been known to produce snapper to 50 cm near the Glasshouse. Ian, who fishes mainly with soft plastics for bream and dusky flathead, says ‘it is a lake with the lot’. While many anglers come to the lake for the bream up to 2 kg, Ian loves the September run of dusky flathead because ‘that’s when the big flathead, up to 6 kg sometimes, start to move in the lake’.
On my visit the fishing was slow, but the following week, Ian sent a report: ‘Fished high up the lake near Devils Hole, bagged out on bream using prawn and pilchard fillets. Fishing a little slow, moved four times also picked up two flathead in deep water on pilchard. Only 3–4 weeks to wait for flatties to move to bottom lake, can’t wait. Got the plastics ready. The surf is excellent with good catches of salmon on Scud Missiles on light gear and the bait guys are getting their share on bluebait.’
Lake Tyers has excellent boat- ramp facilities but newcomers should follow the channel markers and seek local advice on where the shallow sandbanks are. When the lake isn’t firing, or you are in need of a change, hit the surf. Salmon are the main catch at this time of year but you can also expect tailor and, if you fish at night, gummy sharks.
The Nowa Nowa Arm also fishes well, as does the main lake. And as well as bream to 1 kg, this water produces some exceptional fishing for luderick, and holds some large dusky flathead to 40 cm in the quiet bays and backwaters. Pinkies and tailor are caught in the main lake in the early morning and late afternoon. During summer, you can add garfish and silver trevally to the species list.
My first fishing experience of this area was in the 1990s with local angler Greg Jerkins. Greg organised a couple of canoes, some fresh shrimp and a trip up the Toorloo Arm, which he assured me was ‘producing heaps of good bream’.
We launched the canoes at Cherry Tree Park and proceeded to paddle upstream for about 4 km. Some of the arms off the Gippsland Lakes system are like overgrown ravines and trying to find your way on foot would require a good compass, a big axe and plenty of snake repellent.
Once I got the hang of the canoe and found some balance, the paddling was easy and well worth the effort. Only a few locals knew the bream were in the area so the fish were relatively untouched and not at all hook-shy. On this trip it was a matter of paddle the canoe to a likely looking snag, park the back end of the canoe against the shore and start fishing. You know that old line ‘you should have been here yesterday’, well, the fishing wa so good I thought it was yesterday. Every snag produced fish, but not every fish was landed. The terrain took its toll on tackle and bream – fish capable of sucking six carefully threaded shrimp off a hook in the twinkling of an eye are masters at snag tactics.