Drought and changes to irrigation have left dry many of Victoria’s former favourite fishing lakes. Drive through the cropping plains of the Wimmera and you come across once-famous lakes, including Toolondo, Lonsdale, Hindmarsh, Green, Pine and Dock, that now range from large billabongs to dry dustbowls.
Lake Wartook stands alone as an oasis with a serious reputation as a brown trout and redfin fishery. Less than an hour’s drive from Horsham, it is usually full and surrounded by green, lush forest in Grampians National Park, 442 m above sea level. It’s hard to believe you are in the same country, never mind the same region.
The 10 sq km lake, which is used for domestic and irrigation storage, has a boat ramp, but take care on the water as there are many submerged tree stumps. The deepest water is at the dam wall and between Bear Island and the western shore. There is no horsepower limit, but boats with sleeping accommodation or toilets are banned, and a speed limit of 5 or 8 knots (depending on which sign you read) applies.
Local angler Bill Johnson was a former caretaker for the dam, and said living in isolation beside the water was not exactly a hardship. ‘Brown trout in the lake are up to 3 kg in size, with the average fish 1–2 kg,’ he said. ‘The lake also holds redfin to about 2 kg, river blackfish to 800 g and tench.’
You don’t need a boat to fish here. Bill reckons one of the most consistent spots is along the dam wall, particularly from late autumn through the winter months.
The lake has no camping facilities, and camping is not allowed around the lake foreshore, so arrange to sleep elsewhere.