The Gippsland Lakes is one of the most magnificent estuaries in Australia, stretching from Sale in the west to Lakes Entrance in the east. It encompasses Lake Wellington, Lake Victoria and Lake King, forming a connected web of diverse waterways. The system is fed by the Latrobe, Nicholson, Mitchell and Tambo rivers which flow south from the Great Dividing Range and into the Gippsland Lakes.
Since it was first opened in 1889, the man-made ocean access at Lakes Entrance has provided a relatively safe passage to Bass Strait. This access has contributed significantly to the region's history and status as a commercial fishing port, ensuring the water level within the Gippsland Lakes remains within a predictable tidal range.
Many parts are only accessible by boat, though visitors can find public toilets, picnic facilities and fresh water at almost all public jetties. Boat ramps are plentiful and can handle vessels of up to 6 metres, although not all waterways are navigable for larger boats. It is important to be aware of shallow water in some areas and note that not all navigation hazards are marked.
The Gippsland Lakes is renowned for its fishing opportunities, especially black bream, which is the main catch. Many fishing tournaments are conducted each year and centre around this species alone. Additionally, flathead, whiting, mullet, salmon, luderick, tailor and estuary perch are also caught within the system. The Gippsland Lakes at Metung and Nungurner are home to a network of artificial reefs installed and maintained by Fisheries. Each reef consists of several smaller 'patch reefs,' made up of 15 purpose-built reef modules of various shapes and sizes. These concrete modules have a rough surface with multiple holes and cavities, allowing water flow and providing refuges for marine life. They help attract a wide range of popular estuary species, making them a hot spot for fishing enthusiasts.
Lake Wellington, the largest lake in the system, is fed by the Avon, Perry and LaTrobe rivers. Its shallow waters and sandy bottom create an ideal environment for foraging bream, with mullet, flathead and some estuary perch also present. However, the depth of the lake can be a challenge for larger vessels to navigate. It is important to note that the shallow depth combined with ever-changing weather can quickly alter the state of the sea, creating a hazard for small craft.
Marley Point is the best access point to Lake Wellington, where there is a boat ramp, free camping, sandy bank and a jetty suitable for shore-based fishing. While some 4WD-only tracks provide access to the lake from either side, the shallow and swampy margins can make shore fishing a challenge. It is much more suited to boats, with fishers able to access the Avon River and its decent bream and big carp. The passage across the lake is well defined, as is the entrance to the Latrobe River. On the east side of Lake Wellington, via the McLellan Strait, visitors can fish from the bank or launch boats at Hollands Landing. This area is the best bet for bream fishers, with some flathead around Blonde Bay and Storm Point. It is also worth giving the rock groynes along the southern shore a try. McLennan Strait joins Lake Victoria and Lake Wellington together, with an average depth of 4 metres.
One of the most significant parts of the Gippsland Lakes is Lake Victoria, located between Lake Wellington to the west, Lake King to the east, and Ninety Mile Beach to the south. Paynesville, situated on the banks of Lake Victoria, is known as Gippsland's boating capital, with a plethora of moorings and canals filled with boats of all sizes. Boating enthusiasts can take advantage of the great launching facilities available at Paynesville or nearby Sunset Cove.
The region offers a wide range of places to explore, including Bunga and Newlands Arm, Sperm Whale Head, Banksia Peninsula, Ocean Grange, Barrier Landing, Lazy Bay and Duck Arm, most of which are only accessible by boat.
Adjacent to Loch Sport, Lake Victoria is relatively easy to navigate, with an average depth of 5 metres, although shallowing occurs towards McLennan Strait. The predominant catch is bream however, tailor show up regularly and flathead can be found around the drop-offs or on the edges in warmer months.
Lake King / Jones Bay / Tambo River / Nicholson River / Mitchell River
Lake King offers excellent depth and features well-defined navigation beacons. This stunning lake is influenced by the south-westerly and easterly winds, with sea conditions varying accordingly. The entrances to Tambo, Nicholson, and Mitchell rivers are easily navigable from here, and all have clearly marked entrance beacons. Any species that occurs in Lake King may also enter the three rivers, depending on the season.
Jones Bay can fish better than most areas in the entire lake system. This may be due to the confluence of feeder rivers that empty into Lake King here, which can be a concentration point when species transition from the rivers to the lakes. A sounder can be a great advantage here.
During winter, the Mitchell River if often home to a good run of mullet, with bream along its grassy banks. Down at The Cut, bream and flathead can be found in reasonable numbers in the warmer months. They can be throughout the estuary, but are more reliably downstream towards the entrance. When bream school up prior to spawning they often do so in big numbers. Upriver snags and overhanging vegetation provide excellent spots to target bream and estuary perch. The Mitchell River has many kilometres of accessible riverbank with great road access. Evening and morning are the best times to get a bite. The Mitchell River Silt Jetties boat ramp, right at the river delta, is a top spot to launch small boats and kayaks and is well sheltered.
The Nicholson River winds through cleared farmland and features decent riverside habitat. It has jetties, fish cleaning tables and fishing platforms around the Nicholson boat ramp, making it easy to get on the water. There is extensive bank access for shore-based fishers. The Nicholson is very popular amongst kayak fishers, with the area between the two bridges the best spot to look for bream. The Swimming Hole and down to the river mouth are also popular. Most effort occurs downstream of the Railway Bridge. Good fishing can be had around boats moored along the river too. Of the three rivers flowing into Jones Bay, the Nicholson estuary is regarded as the least productive.
The Tambo River estuary extends through open farmland and is accessible along the Metung Road for shore-based fishing. However, it is best accessed by boat, and there is a boat ramp at Johnsonville with good facilities. The predominant species in this river are black bream, yellow eye mullet and estuary perch. Other species, such as luderick and sea mullet, are there for keen anglers with specialised techniques. The estuary is heavily fished for bream and at times provides excellent fishing. Estuary perch are abundant, particularly upstream of the Princes Highway bridge, and this is a popular area for shore-based fishers. Punthouse Point, the Three Gums, down to the river mouth and including the Snags, are popular.
A scenic drive along the Tambo River will take you to the charming waterside village of Metung. This idyllic peninsula is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of Lake King and Bancroft Bay, and offers plenty of opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. The Metung Marina boasts excellent boat launching facilities, while the creeks and canals provide nooks and crannies for chasing bream. Deeper holes attract tailor and pinkie snapper, and those looking for King George whiting and silver trevally should head out from Metung towards Shaving Point to Kalimna, where stronger tides exist. Pelican Island is another great spot, especially for those targeting flathead in the shallows. Meanwhile, the boardwalk and Nungurner Jetty are popular for shore-based fishing, with bream, mullet, and whiting commonly caught. Those looking for even more opportunities can explore the VFA artificial reefs.
Lakes Entrance is situated where the Gippsland Lakes system opens into Bass Strait. The entrance and bar can be dangerous and strong tides are common. It is crucial to contact the local coastguard and perform a radio check before crossing the bar into Bass Strait. Despite the potential hazards, Lakes Entrance is renowned for its excellent fishing and is arguably one of the best locations in the state. Even during the summer months when the town is bustling with visitors, there are still countless spots available for shore-based anglers. To avoid the crowds, it pays to fish early or late in the day, and even into the night. While the town's waterfront is popular, there are many other great options to explore. Keep an eye out for the jetties around the Esplanade, underneath local bridges, and around Bullock Island. Prawning and sand crabbing are popular with locals and visitors. Look for barnacle encrusted pylons and rock walls for bream, sand patches in the weed for whiting, and shallows for flathead, especially during summer when they tend to bask in the sun.
Proven spots to get you started are:
- Cunninghame Arm, which provides access to the town itself and is navigable by boat up to the footbridge
- Bullock Island, which is the home to a large portion of the commercial fleet. Great fishing can be had under the bridge to the island and from Reeve Landing Jetty.
- The Barrier Channel near Fraser Island is reliable for King George whiting. Eastern Beach off Eastern Beach Road is known for salmon, tailor and mullet.
- Just west of Lakes Entrance, the Kalimna Jetty and adjacent rock wall are great for bream, luderick, flathead, tailor and salmon.