Dirty Dams a Downer
  |  First Published: March 2011

As freshwater anglers we are faced with changing conditions across the various lakes at different times of the year.

The massive flooding that has swept over the state has brought about many changes and it is hard to predict how and when the lakes will return to normal. Dirty water, escaped fish and even access have all been problems and will continue to be so in the coming months.

The unprecedented rainfall across the dam catchments and major flooding has had an impact not only on us but the fish as well. Lakes like Awoonga, Proserpine and Monduran lost plenty of mature barra over the spillways. Some of these big fish were battered to death in the great escape but quite a few will have survived and will now inhabit the waters below the lake.

Bass also enjoyed the free ride to the creeks and river below the dams from most of South East Queensland’s lakes and there were also reports of dead saratoga below Cania.

Golden perch, silvers and Murray cod also felt the urge to follow the flowing waters and have ventured over spillways.

It’s amazing where fish turn up during floods. I heard of yellowbelly and big cod swimming through backyards in Oakey, yellowbelly caught from the flooded bitumen roads and even mature fish stuck in peoples’ fences when the water receded.

I guess what this means is that there will be fish spread out in creeks and rivers and waterholes, some of which may have been dry for the last ten years. In some cases it may be escaped stocked species venturing into areas that haven’t seen those species for possibly hundreds of years.

This massive spread of fish should be beneficial over the coming years when the fish have a chance to breed and populate the systems they are in. Fishermen should give them the best chance at doing this by reporting any unlawful activities such as netting and overfishing to authorities.

Apart from dead fish that have been found smashed up below the dam walls, the rising water levels haven’t had any lethal consequences to date. Fish will be combating the changes and in many cases the action will be slow until they adjust to their changed environment. Dirty water will be one of the biggest setbacks for lure anglers. Reduced visibility will make it very tough to tempt fish on lures and in these cases bait fishing will be the best approach.

Some lakes have continued to fish quite well over this wet period and by hitting these over the next month or two, freshwater anglers will get their fishing fix. By this stage, more lakes will start to come back on line. It will certainly pay to do some homework before heading out and try to get an update on the latest reports.

If you want to know the latest information or have any advice to help other anglers out, you can shoot me an email at --e-mail address hidden--

Redclaw crayfish have gone crazy in most of the lakes. During the rises, these freshwater delicacies were seen roaming around the grassy perimeter of the lakes. They were easy pickings for those lucky enough to be in the right area at the right time.

Redclaw thrive in these conditions and will be a common target throughout the lakes for the next couple of years. The most common method of catching a feed is to use a baited opera house trap (funnel trap).

Many types of bait will work, as redclaw are not fussy eaters; vegetables, fruits, cat food and fish frames will all lure them in. One of the most proven baits is a slice of rockmelon. The redclaw go crazy over this strong smelling fruit and will quickly eat the flesh, leaving only the skin.

Be sure to label your traps and your floats with your name and address as per the regulations. For more information go to www.dpi.qld.gov.au. Here you will find all the relevant information relating to fishing equipment, bag and size limits.

YouTube Videos

This year, I will be introducing quite a few YouTube videos that may interest readers. They will be exciting fishing or instructional pieces about different techniques.

This month, you can check out some barra and bass action. Learn how to use the commonly discussed walk the dog retrieve on bass, simply search – ‘big bass on surface lures’. You can also enjoy my son’s first impoundment barra at by searching for ‘Wuruma dam barra’.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Cressbrook Dam
Closest Town: Crows Nest

Cressbrook Dam is at 100% plus capacity, but remains closed due to landslides and damage to the roads caused by the flooding.

At this stage, it looks like it may be months before it is reopened. It is likely the road from the west will reopen before access from Esk. This is a great pity, as Toowoomba’s Dams were some of the last to fill and anglers have been waiting 10 years for it to happen.

At the height of the flooding, the water was more than 4m over the spillway and right up around the volleyball court. Council workers reported stacks of redclaw crayfish walking around the edges on dry ground.

The region had plenty of damage inflicted in January storms. If you want to check on the progress of the lake’s reopening, call Fish’N’Bits in Toowoomba on (07) 4636 6850. The action should be pretty good by the time boats are allowed back on the dam; the bass should have forgotten what lures look like.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

It was hard to get any accurate reports on Somerset this month. By early Febrary both ramps had just reopened and few anglers had tried their luck.

Somerset has had plenty of water pushing through it and keeping it full over the past 18 months. It has stayed reasonably clear through these floods and fished quite well.

The rise in January pushed a massive amount of water through the lake and a lot of debris and discoloured water made its way into the dam. The dirty water will slow the lure fishing down for the next month or two but anglers can expect to tangle with golden perch, eel-tailed catfish and bass on bait.

Live worms are a good option in the dirty water after a flood. If you can get hold of some live shrimp, they will also produce the goods. The flicking noise the shrimp make underwater calls fish from afar and makes them easy to locate in the dirty conditions.

When bait fishing, try the timbered areas north of Kirkleigh for golden perch. Bass and goldens will turn up in the middle and lower sections of the dam around creek bed drop-offs. Other popular areas will be The Hump and Queen Street. Expect to pull a mixed bag from these areas.

Soaking bait from the edges around The Spit and Kirkleigh should also be rewarding. Eel-tailed catfish, tilapia and the odd bass and golden perch should be hunting through this water. Find a quiet section of water away from any boat noise for the best results when doing this.

Lure fishing will be worth a try towards the end of the month, provided no more big flooding occurs. Try the lower half of the dam as this is more likely to clear up first. Places like the Spit, Poly Pipe Point and Pelican Point will be worth a look. Sounding around to locate schooling fish will be critical.

It is more important than ever to present your lure as close to as many fish as possible in dirty water conditions. Blade baits would be my first pick as they pump out plenty of vibration making them easier for fish to hone in on. Bass will be the main species caught but expect a few goldens to fire up as soon as the water clears enough.

Redclaw crayfish have been thick with reports of hundreds caught at a time when leaving the pots in overnight. While they are thick, try from the shore around the campgrounds at Kirkleigh or even at the Spit. Once they are fished out in these areas, it will be more rewarding to venture out in boats and place the pots in less pressured areas.

Closest Town: Nerang

Hinze Dam has been fishing well for bass and the odd saratoga. Early mornings and late afternoons have been the time to bring out the surface lures. Poppering around the lake’s edges will entice quite a few bass of mixed sizes and there is always the chance of a saratoga exploding on your topwater lure.

Good lures to use are the Bubble Pop, Zip'n Ziggy, Gobo Popper, Dog X Junior and Pop X Junior. Both blooping and walk the dog retrieves will draw the strikes, but it pays to mix it up and see which the fish prefer on the day.

As the surface action dies off, try a medium diving lure like a Jackall Chubby, 3B Crank FatDog Deep or Cultiva Rip’n Minnow 70. These lures will often entice fish cruising the shallows before they make the move to deeper water in the hotter part of the day.

In the middle parts of the day opt for deeper presentations fished around the points. Small profile 1/2oz spinnerbaits, blade baits, soft plastics and TN60 Jackalls are all worth a try.

For information about access to the dam go online and look at www.hinzedamstage3.com. Here you will find any changes made to the boat ramps while the dam wall works are in progress.

If you are after fishing information on Hinze, call in and see John at Go Camping at 10 Spencer Street in Nerang. John specialises in catching the Hinze Saratoga and when he’s not fishing, you’ll find him at Go Fishing’s fishing section from Wednesday to Sunday each week.

Closest Town: Boonah

There have been limited reports from Moogerah with very few anglers venturing to the lake so far this year. When the lake filled, the water was very brown and looked like it may take some time to start fishing well.

At the beginning of February, there were some bass being caught by anglers trolling lipless crankbaits. Therefore you would expect the fishing to improve over the coming month as the water clears up.

The warmer water conditions and dying grasses will force the fish into deeper parts of the lake. Try for schooling bass and golden perch by trolling diving lures in 4-8m of water. Be sure to explore points, tree lines and drop-offs.

Be aware of the opening and closing hours of 6am to 6pm which are now controlled by a gate before you enter to the boat ramps.

Closest Town: Boonah

Maroon Dam has been fishing quite well for bass. Surface lures are a great option early in the morning. Look for the shaded areas where the fish are more likely to respond to topwater offerings.

Maroon’s bass love to explode on surface lures and it’s hard to beat Zip’n Ziggies, Zara Puppies and similar sized stick baits used with a walk the dog retrieve.

The surface action will die quickly and to keep the fish coming to the boat anglers should try deeper lures around the submerged weed beds. Spinnerbaits are an excellent choice over the warmer months and are ideal to explore the holes in the weed reefs where bass will be hiding.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

The fishing at Macdonald has been tough with small bass making up the majority of catches. These fish have been munching blade baits but the schools are very flighty. Once the water clears up the action will improve and some bigger specimens should come out to play. This clearing water should be noticeable throughout the month, provided more floodwater doesn’t make its way into the dam.

The guys at Davo’s Bait and Tackle in Noosaville have an excellent range of lures catering for the freshwater market. They can give you an up to date report on the fishing and what’s working best.

Closest Towns: Imbil, Gympie, Noosa

Take extreme care when travelling to the dam; the road is washed out and the crossings may be covered with water and the side rails missing. Bass have been willing to take baits and lures. Shrimp seem to be pulling the smaller fish while ice jigs and spinnerbaits are tempting the larger ones. The shallow water found around the start of the timber is definitely worth a look.

Be sure to call in and see the guys at Davo’s in Noosaville if you are heading to Borumba or anywhere in the surrounding area. They can give you an update on the fishing and road conditions out to the lake.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

In early Februar Cooby had all access closed, but it’s likely it will be the first of Toowoomba’s dams to reopen. At the full level, the concrete ramp will be back in use provided the road to it is still safe to use. Fish’N’Bits in Alderly Street Toowoomba will be able to confirm if the dam is open or looks like opening later this month. Give them a call on (07) 4636 6850.

Closest Town/s: Inglewood

Coolmunda is one of the few lakes where the fishing hasn’t slowed down after the big rain. Golden perch, eel-tailed catfish and Murray cod are keeping anglers happy.

Last month, quite a few boats were bagging out on golden perch (yellowbelly) and there were also a few silver perch and eel-tailed catfish thrown into the mix. The humble worm was doing most of the damage for bait anglers targeting their fish in the mornings and afternoons.

Live shrimp are another good bait option and they can be caught in traps around the dam edges. One of the most popular areas has been about 100m out and to the left of the boat ramp. Position the boat just outside the old creek that runs through this area.

Trolling lures has accounted for plenty of golden perch and Murray cod. Lure trolling is the best way to target the these big cod, as has been proven so far this year with a 40lb and 60lb fish caught last month. The Poltergeist 80 is a top lure for this dam and other 4-7m divers will perform well too.

When trolling try to work along drop-offs to the creek beds or explore flats that are suited to the depth of the lures you are trolling. Ideally the lure should be running close to the bottom of the dam without fouling up.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around 1km away from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway but far enough away from the noise of trucks to get a good night’s sleep. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. To take advantage of this and the great fishing opportunities in the lake and the river below, give the park a call on (07) 4652 4171.

Closest Town: Warwick

Leslie Dam has been fishing quite well for golden perch in the mornings and afternoons. Bait and lures are scoring fish but the key seems to be fishing at the most productive times.

The action has been hit and miss for lure anglers and it seems the yellowbelly prefer particular model lures and even specific colours in the range. It pays to experiment and work with several different colours until you start catching fish. The Jackall TN60 in black and gold has been one of the most reliable performers. Other dark colours seem to be performing well too but on a particular occasion plain white was the standout. It just goes to show how much you need to mix it up until you find what the fish are after.

Trolling the TN60 Jackalls in 3-4m of water on a short line to keep them off the weedy bottom will ensure you are working the right depth. An electric motor is ideal to keep the lure moving at a controlled slow pace which is what goldens seem to prefer.

Water around the dam wall area is clearer and has been fishing well with the darker coloured lures. Further up the creek and back out around The Black Boys the water is more discoloured but the fish are still biting. If you feel the water is a little murky, try a brighter coloured lure to make sure the fish can see it.

When trolling, Murray cod are always a chance. There have been quite a few smaller models around which are below legal size.

Bait fishing with worms, shrimp and frozen prawns will score a mixed bag of goldens, silver perch and catfish in the same areas. Play around a little with depth but try to stay close to the 3-4m mark as this seems to be where most of the action is taking place.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Bjelke Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

Bjelke has filled and the water is looking very dirty at the moment. It will take quite a while to clear up so bait fishing will be the best option this month.

To check up on the fishing and the current water conditions give Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy a phone call on (07) 4162 7555.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Boondooma is very dirty and takes a while to clear up. Bait has been producing golden perch and eel-tailed catfish in the timbered areas of the Stuart and Boyne rivers. The points around the main basin are also worth a try with live baits while the water remains dirty. The number of redclaw crayfish has been insane and plenty of people are coming to the lake solely to catch redclaw.

To check up on the fishing and the current water conditions give Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy a phone call on (07) 4162 7555. Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy can look after all of your fishing needs. The store is in Youngman Street and the guys can help you out and offer some useful advice. Bass to Barra Marine can also be found in Dalby. This shop stocks a great range of quality gear for bass and barra fishing. It’s located in Shop 2 Drayton Street so be sure to check it out.

For accommodation at the lake, give the managers a call on (07) 4168 9694. Boondooma has excellent amenities, bunk houses, cabins, powered sites and camping facilities that will make your stay enjoyable. Boats can be launched below the far boat ramp from a reasonably hard bank.

Closest Towns: Monto

There are plenty of fish to be caught in Cania. Yellowbelly, bass, silver perch, catfish and saratoga have all been caught since the dam filled. Bait seems to be the best way to score a mixed bag but the water is definitely clear enough for lure fishing.

Casting lures to the edges of the lake from the middle reaches upstream is a good way to score bass and saratoga. Surface lures in the mornings and afternoons are a good way to start and end the day. During the day try deeper offerings like spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, blade baits and soft plastics.

Schooling fish should be cruising around the banks of the main basin. Trolling lures from the buoy line at the wall right around the lake’s perimeter should yield reasonable numbers of bass. Most encounters will be with small models but there is also the chance of scoring good sized golden perch. Medium running lures like the Poltergeist 3 metre, Smak 12 and Smak 16 will be ideal.

To find out more about the lake or to book some great accommodation nearby, call the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park on (07) 4167 8188. There are excellent facilities including camp sites, cabins, a playground and swimming pools. It’s worth a visit to the park just to see some of the rare and beautiful wildlife that regularly drop in and live in the area. With regular events such as wood fired pizza night, wine tasting, camp oven dinner and outdoor movies on each week, there is plenty to do when you’re not wetting a line. The annual Cania Fishing Classic will be held on March 11-13.

Closest town: Eidsvold

I was lucky enough to fish Wuruma just before the flooding rain started. The barra were chewing but the rise in level has dirtied the water and there is a good chance that fish were lost over the spillway.

It will be some time before we start to hear reports on the fishing from Wuruma. It’s amazing to see this dam, which has struggled with water levels as low as 1%, now full to the brim.

Closest Town: Biloela

Callide is now full, making it a pretty big puddle to explore. Very few fish were lost in the flood and a further 11,000 barra up to 100mm long were stocked at the end of January. They will help bolster the existing fish stocks and we will see some great fishing in the next year or two.

The water will be too dirty for luring for some time but if you are keen to try some bait there’s a good chance of tangling with eel-tailed catfish, big yellowbelly and sleepy cod. As to when this water will clear, it is anyone’s guess. The amount of water that has entered the dam is unprecedented.

For all your fishing needs and the latest dam reports, call in and see Norm at Creek2Coast in Biloela. The store carries all the gear you’ll need to tempt the lake’s barra.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

Like many other dams, Mondy lost its share of fish during the floods. Big barra rode the spilling water downstream. At first it was believed not many were lost but when the water has receded farmers on the river below found lots of dead fish on the banks and up trees.

The water has already started to clear and weed beds are starting to form. There haven’t been many reports due to the weather and poor weather conditions. As more people venture back to the dam we will start to get a good gauge on how the fishing is really going.

The warm conditions should see the barra responding to soft plastics. The extra vibration of big blades and lipless baits may attract the odd fish if the water is still discoloured. If the action is slow, slow the presentation down to suit the mood of the fish and work a suspending hardbody like the Hamma. If you have the luxury of picking when you can fish, base a trip around the full moon and try a night session.

If you’re after some help or need to stock up on the right gear call in and see the locals at Foxies Barra Pro in the town of Gin Gin. They carry a great range of barra lures, rods, reels, lines, hooks and maps to help you score that fish of a life time. An up to date report could make all the difference on your next trip.

If you are after a charter with an experienced guide, try the local guide Rob Wood. Rob runs a Skeeter bass boat and has plenty of knowledge to share. He can be contacted on 0427 590 995 or check out his regular column in this magazine.

Accommodation can be booked through Lake Monduran Kiosk and Tackle Shop. They look after all the cabins, houses, powered and unpowered camp sites, as well as house boats and boat hire. Bookings with Guide Lines, a guiding service specialising in Lake Monduran, can also be made through the store. The kiosk’s number is (07) 4157 3881.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

Lake Gregory (Isis Balancing Storage) will be one of the best freshwater options this month. Unlike other lakes that fill from rivers and creeks, the level in the Isis remains quite stable and is controlled to suit irrigation. This stable level promotes the growth of lush weed beds, which are home to some big, lure munching bass.

Casting lures to the weed edge is a good way to score some bass. A lot of these fish are only small and live in big schools. Lures like blade baits, spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and small hardbodies will fool these fish. If I had to choose one of each I would tie on a 3/8 ounce Little Max Blade, 3/8oz OSP. High Pitcher spinnerbait, Cultiva Mira Vibe 60 and one of the new Berkley 3B FatDog Deep crankbaits.

Big bass are also an option but they love the cover of the submerged weed beds. To successfully target these fish lures need to be working on top of the weed beds in the prime low light times of morning and afternoon. Surface presentations are the ultimate way to target these big predators as they stay above the weed, which can be hard to see at these times of the day.

The Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy and Gobo Popper are two of the best options for this style of fishing. The Zip’n Ziggy has a great walk the dog action which delivers a subtle approach to big wary fish. Take a look at the YouTube clip ‘Big Bass on Surface Lures’ filmed at Isis.

Salty’s Tackleworld in Bundaberg has all the gear you’ll need to get stuck into the bass at Isis. The Bundaberg area normally has so much great fishing to offer but the flooding has limited angling opportunities. A trip to Isis is the answer and Salty’s does a great job of catering to all anglers’ needs. The boys behind the counter know their stuff and will be able to help you out.

Capricornia Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Following the flooding rain, the fishing at Awoonga has slowed right down. Many barra were lost over the spillway and reportedly thousands died. But don’t believe misconceptions that all the barra are gone and Awoonga will no longer be worth fishing.

Over the years more than 3 million barra have been stocked in the lake. Some of these fish wouldn’t have survived do to predators and fishing. Even if several thousand escaped fish were found dead and several more thousand survived the fall, it still leaves a big percentage of the fish in the lake.

It will just be a matter of time until the fishing turns around. At this stage not many anglers are venturing to the lake so therefore it will take even longer for the success stories to start filtering through. Hopefully the wait for the turning period won’t be too long and we’ll all be enjoying the fishing Awoonga has to offer soon.

For your accommodation or an up to date report on the fishing give Lyn and Mark from Awoonga Gateway a call on (07) 4975 0033. At Awoonga Gateway you’ll find clean, modern cabins and your hosts will be full of useful advice to help you try to land that barra of a lifetime.

Central Coast
Closest Town: Proserpine

Peter Faust (Lake Proserpine) is one of the few barramundi lakes reliably producing fish. When the dam filled earlier in the year quite a few mature fish were lost over the spillway. Some of these turned up dead but others were actually caught by anglers in the Proserpine River. Plenty of big barra will turn up below the dam wall on the end of angler’s lines in the future.

There have still been plenty of barra on the move in the dam. Hitting the shallows and weed beds seems to be the most effective method although a few fish have been lured on the Halco Hamma fitted with the 3m bib along the deeper trees which line the creeks.

Proserpine is a big dam so before rushing in and starting to fish, do some thinking about where the fish will be. Look for windward banks, exposed points, nice weed edges and hunting grounds close to the comfort of deeper water.

Spot selection will also be influenced by the wind; Proserpine is such an open dam the waves can really whip up. The guys at Proserpine Bait and Tackle can certainly help you out by pointing you in the right direction and making sure you have the right gear.

Casting lures has been the most effective way to target the fish in the shallow water. Burning soft plastic frogs and toads across the surface has been very effective. When the barra are tuned into the surface, you can also expect to catch them on surface lures like Tango Dancers, Skitterpops and X-Walks. When a subsurface bite is more to their liking you can expect to smack them on soft plastics and the Halco Hamma.

For more up to date information on the fishing, call in to see Lindsay Dobe at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. Lindsay runs charters on the lake so is full of tips and knows which lures work best.


Top 5 Dams This Month

Coolmunda: yellowbelly, Murray cod

Hinze: bass, saratoga

Somerset: redclaw crayfish

Isis Balancing Storage: bass

Proserpine: barramundi

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