Lake Windamere located near Mudgee in central-western NSW is widely considered a great place to catch some whopping Golden perch (aka yellowbelly or ‘yellas’) up to 65cm which are caught on a regular basis!
It contains our target species Golden perch as well as providing plenty of exciting by catch such as Murray cod and Silver perch. Lake Windamere is loaded with snags, large amounts of standing timber, deep rock walls as well as terrific points and banks holding vibrant and healthy weeds. When the fishing fires up anglers can persist by casting spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits (silent and rattling models), small soft plastics, blades and diving minnows around the dams edges looking for feeding fish which is a proven and well productive way to tangle with impressive trophy fish. Shaped with small heads and big humped broad shoulders they populate the dam with anglers catching up to 20 fish in one session being a common occurrence.
The colder winter months often see large schools of yellowbelly hugging the depths of deep sunken trees anywhere from the edge to 50 meters deep, but the warmer summer months is when the fishing action really starts to fire up with the yella’s grazing the shoreline, feeding on the flats anywhere from 15 meters to the bank helplessly plunging their heads into thick ribbon and fern weeds chasing gudgeon and shrimp. In assumed safety where they are often enticed by artificial lures connected to a happy angler’s rod chasing a Golden freshwater football.
Like any fishery the earlier the better, fish will feed at nearly anytime of the day given the opportunity and right presentation, but when is it really optimal for catching Windamere golden perch? The light changing periods often known as the twilight zone can make all the difference in laying a beautiful chunky golden yella on your brag mat to start the day or plugging away for hours hoping for that whopping 65cm golden perch to assault your lure.
Working the banks early morning and late afternoon is generally the most productive, fishing this dam. There are several techniques and tips to increase your catch rate or even just land your first Golden perch. Angling the boat at a 45 degree angle and casting in at the shore with lipless crank baits, divers, spinnerbaits and blades is a well known method into targeting yellowbelly, working the shoreline with a slight breeze has also proven to produce greater success with the fish pushing over towards the bank following the warmer water and the baitfish that are pushed their.
Optimize the structure, if there are trees or logs entering the water in the vicinity use them to your advantage, hug the timber and cast as close as possible to these locations, like any other fish Golden perch seek protection, make sure you watch your line at all times waiting to see that twitch in your line ready to strike, another approach is angling the boat parallel to the bank and working it with the electric motor slowly casting at the change of water between shallow and deep where most yellowbelly often wait in ambush. When fishing a shoreline your retrieve speed should vary from a continues soft, slow role to a long retrieve with many pauses and hops of about five to thirty centimeters every couple of seconds.
What do you do when the weather bad? It’s windy the barometric pressure is down or it’s a cold winter morning sitting at about three degrees Celsius, the banks have been bombarded by tournament fishos the day or week previous and the fish just aren’t biting? Not all hope is lost in fact many people enjoy this kind of fishing as it presents a challenge to the angler, it also involves a much more required effort to tackle fish in this manner by adjusting your techniques slightly.
Isolated timber becomes an enriching and welcoming resource during these times as yellowbelly like to home in and school up in large masses at the base and amongst these trees, lingering over the spindly masses of weed and slime seeking protection. The first thing is to optimize your equipment, take a quick sounding near and over the tree with fish often located around the ten to sixteen meter mark, But fish can be caught in much deeper depths of up to fifty meters. Golden perch are often easily identified on the sounder for their large concentrate of cellulite and muscle as they show as a distinct yellow or red arch or ball. Once the fish have been located and identified the action begins!
Making sure you cast as close as possible to the base or tip of the tree depending on how deep it is in the water or if it’s down deep under the water column cast in its general direction. If it stops on the way down landing on a branch give it a quick flick or hop to free itself from the branch it’s stopped on, this also helps to make sure that the lure hasn’t fouled up on the way down so you can feel its vibrations and entice any Golden perch that may be watching it flutter down. Most of my results have come from an incredibly versatile set of strikes with tremendous power given off when the fish first attacks your lure. If you get a sharp whack from the fish and you miss the strike don’t be alarmed give the lure a quick hop then free spool it anywhere from two to three meters and begin the same retrieve, nine times out of ten the perch will come back for a second go.
Optimal lures for these deeper waters are small paddle tail and wriggler tail soft plastics such squidgy fish in grasshopper and poddy colour as well as squidgy bugs in wasabi colour being most productive, small black spanyid blades and masked vibes work increasingly well on these sutle shut down fish with great results. Rattling bibles crank baits tend to spook the fish rather than entice them, But the silent models work well.
Work each tree from every angle possible mixing your retrieve and having at least ten to twenty casts probing and hammering it for a minimum of ten minutes trying to induce a strike or annoy one enough to entice a reaction bite. When you do nail a fish keep working the area as Golden’s usually feed in schools or pairs and if fishing with a mate or partner cast in the same exact area where the last person hooked up. As this generally results in another fish, Never underestimate the power of S-Factor always remember to load up on this goop as it can play a huge role into a strike and ultimately determining whether you catch a fish or not.
The Windamere Golden Classic
Receiving the invitation to represent Shimano Australia again for the annual Lake Windamere Golden Classic was going to be nothing short of exciting considering it is always well represented with many anglers who have fished it since its origination 20 years ago, catching up with old friends and well known anglers such as Steve Starling, Ian miller, Carl Jochumsen. Many next generation fishermen, lady anglers, families and Shimano juniors were all taking to the challenge of catching a ‘Windy’ Golden ‘yella’ . The weekend resulted in shut down fish because of a competition the week previous and a large amount of boat traffic having the fish shut down and become shy, finding many anglers struggling to experience the battle of a freshwater football. This is where the tips and techniques passed down to me from the best of the best, Australian anglers like Brett Wilson and Josh Batterson helped. Fishing was incredibly tough working the banks one day in shorts and a t-shirt then to deep trees, uggboots, trackies and a jumper the next. I was lucky enough land five nice Golden’s on this shutdown bite and secure a top fifteen finish overall out of 200 competitors and second place in the junior section.
The gear recommended for tackling these Lake Windamere Yella’s is the same as what you would use for bream or bass. A nice 7ft graphite 2-3 kg outfit should see fit or even a little heavier to pull theses busty fish from tight structure a 2-4kg outfit, a good smooth 1000 to 2500 sized shimano reel is essential as you can cast these Ci4 bodied fishing reels all day like lifting a feather. I use a Sustain Ci4 1000FG reel with a Gloomis dropshot DSR820 S, 4 -8 lb and a Rareium Ci4 1000FA matched with a Gloomis GL2 8500L ESP 2-6lb. All of my outfits are rigged with 3lb bite motion Power pro being essential to feel those shutdown slight taps of yellowbelly sucking on the end of your plastic. Its near impossible to snap and will pull fish out from heavy nipped structure no problem but if you feel the need of reassurance 5-6lb braid will suffice nicely. Shimano high power fluro carbon leader 5-8lb knocking over yellowbelly with ease. Braid to fluro carbon knot is a simple double uni or all bright knot and lure to fluorocarbon can vary from a locked blood knot to a loop knot.
Fishing for the Future
Goodluck in targeting a Lake Windamere Golden perch, if you do nail one of these truly magical fish make sure you take a few quick happy snaps measure it and return it to the water as quickly as possible so that beautiful fish like this can be targeted in the future by angler’s all over the country and juniors like myself for years to come.