Winning Winter Formulas
  |  First Published: June 2011

Moving into winter, many freshwater anglers set their gear aside and wait for the warmer conditions in spring to arrive. Those able to brave the cold, will be rewarded for their efforts and in many ways, winter provides some of my more memorable fishing sessions.

I may be insane but there’s nothing better than a cold, early morning start. As the sun punches through the fog on a dead still morning it begins to warm frozen extremities. In winter, anglers can be blessed with some glorious days and there is no better place to spend them than basking in the sun. Layers of clothes are quickly removed and anglers can then concentrate more on the fishing than the cold.

Winter also tends to push impoundment bass into tighter schools. The big lakes like Somerset and Wivenhoe are fine examples and when the bass are located, they are usually there in numbers. Towards the end of winter, the females will be enormous with bellies full of roe. A 2kg summertime fish can become a 3kg monster by the end of winter and early spring. Searching for these schooling monster fish requires a decent sounder such as the colour units found in the Humminbird range.

Switched on anglers will take advantage of the escaped bass that are now in rivers like the Mary, Pine and Brisbane as they migrate downstream on their spawning run. Locating these wild bass can reward anglers with exceptional fishing. Keep in mind there is a closed season in place from 1 June to the 31 August. Many bass addicts would argue these fish are best released and the fishery preserved all year round.

Barra fishermen tend to lay their rods down over winter but the escaped Awoonga fish in the Boyne River will be worth playing with over winter. This will be the first winter season we’ve experienced on these fish so it will be interesting to see how they behave and which techniques they respond best to.

The barra dams will also be an option with the colder weather helping to settle any sediment in the water and clear them right up. These clear waters call for a stealthy approach; often the barra will be lying in the shallow water where they are very easily spooked.

The current high redclaw crayfish activity will start to slow down over winter. Make the most of this month before the water temperature drops too much in the heart of winter.

Redclaw taste beautiful boiled up or tossed on the barbeque. You can check out how to catch them in one of my latest YouTube clips. Simply go online to YouTube and type in “how to catch redclaw”. You’ll come up with a few results and if you don’t find what you are looking for add the word “fishability”. If you click on subscribe you will receive an email message each time a new video is posted.

There are still plenty of options to consider over winter so keep your gear at hand and shoot out on the nice days. Chances are I might bump into you as I really need to get some serious fishing in over the next few months.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

SouthEast Queensland
Cressbrook Dam
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Several schools of bass have been holding around the lake’s edges. These fish have proven quite tricky to catch over the past month. Areas like the boat ramp bay, the red buoy line near the pumping tower, the point on the island and the point across from the Eagles Nest are all holding their share of bass. The trick to successfully boating numbers of these fish is to hit a school for a while and move to the next one.

Rather than targeting the fish in the school, I prefer to work the shallower water nearby. Often this is where the bigger fish will be patrolling and when they are in the shallows, they are more likely to be active. Once these fish have been pinned or spooked, it’s time to move on and allow fresh fish to move from the school up to the shallows.

Medium sized blade baits are perfect for Cressbrook’s bass. The 1/4-3/8oz Little Max is one of my all time favourites and when the fish are really tough, a 46mm Berkley Big Eye Blade can be the answer. Paddle tail soft plastics rigged on 1/4-3/8oz jigheads will also do the job but usually won’t entice as many fish as blades.

With the cooling water temperatures, medium diving suspending minnows like the Cultiva Rip’n Minnow 70 and Jackall Squirrel will be worth a cast around the lake’s edges. Fishing close to the schooling fish will ensure there are fish in the area. Long pauses once the lure achieves its running depth can account for some rod jarring strikes.

Redclaw crayfish activity will start to die off this month but expect a feed if you keep the pots in all day. Bait fishing with live shrimp or small crays will produce a few bass and the odd golden perch. Eel-tailed catfish numbers will increase due to the rise in water levels and these fish can go nuts on bait over the winter months. Try fishing right on dark in the big bay opposite the boat ramp.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

The fish at Somerset have been quite scattered, making them difficult to catch in good numbers. Trolling has been the best option when the fish are hard to find. Suspended fish can be found across the flats, near drop offs and out in the deep open water in the Pelican Point and Bay 13 areas. Selecting lures that dive close to the depth the fish are suspended will ensure success. Blade baits, soft plastics and bibbed hard bodies can all be used.

There is a good chance the shorter days and cooling weather will draw these fish into tighter schools. Winter schools normally hang in areas like Pelican Point, Bay 13, Poly Pipe Point and The Spit. The few schooling fish that have been found over the last couple of months have held in less than 7m of water. When better schools appear, be prepared to venture into deeper water in your search for fish.

In big lakes like Somerset where the schools can be mobile, I can’t stress enough the importance of a quality sounder unit. I love my colour Humminbird units as they not only give me the ability to locate fish but gauge how big they are before I even put a lure in the water.

Closest Town: Boonah

Schooling bass should start to make their way towards the start of the timber and into the main basin. These small bass will bunch up into tighter schools so use a sounder or troll blade baits and soft plastics to locate the concentrations. Schooling bass often congregate around flats leading into the creek bed. Working a range of flats and points of different depths can reveal the depth range which bass prefer at the time.

Once numbers of bass are found, position the boat close by and pepper the area with casts. The same lures used for trolling will be ideal for casting. Blades in the 3/8-1/2oz range are perfect for quickly exploring these areas and soft plastics can be fished on 1/4-3/8oz jigheads depending on the water depth.

Most of Moogerah’s bass are around the mid 30cm size bracket although there are a few big models mixed in. Failing to keep knots and lines up to standard will result in these bigger more powerful fish winning their freedom.

There are boom gates at A.G Muller Park, which are open from 6am-6pm. These gates allow access to the dam and the boat ramp, so be sure to stick to these times. While there is some debate about whether these times are long enough throughout the year, the shorter days of winter are more suited to this 12hr period.

Closest Town: Boonah

Early risers will be able to enjoy some cool morning surface fishing. Walk the dog lures like the Sammy 65 and Eddy’s Surface Buster are perfect for twitching across the top. Working lures around the weedy lake fringes can turn the fish on; on some days the fish stay in the mood and will feed on the surface well into the day. The banks closer to schooling fish will often produce better numbers of bass as they move into the shallows to feed.

If surface offerings fail, or it’s later in the day when the action slows, use deeper presentations. Small diving minnow like the Jackall Chubby and Berkley 3B Fatdog Deep are choice lures for exploring the weed edges and pockets. Small blade baits and lightly weighted soft plastics can also do the job.

In the colder months more subtle presentations are often rewarded so leave flashy baits like spinnerbaits until your last choice. Having said this, they can still do the job, especially on big fish.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

Dirty water due to rain a couple of months ago had slowed lure fishing down at the dam. Cooler temperatures will help to settle the sediment in the water and improve the fishing as a result.

Working blade baits around the weed beds in the Three Ways area has been accounting for a few bass in the past month. Fishing in this area is likely to improve with the clearing water. Borer Creek is also an option and is a popular place to toss surface lures for bass and the occasional saratoga. Working spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits in the same area can turn up the odd Mary River cod on occasions.

Bass will start to school in numbers in their usual winter haunts of The Botanical Gardens and The Bubble Trail. Here they will respond to blade baits, soft lipless vibes, soft plastics and ice jigs.

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

There has been some great fishing on offer at Borumba over the past month. Its a great place for novice fishermen and experienced anglers, offering plenty of opportunities and a range of freshwater species.

Bass have been scattered around the steep banks of both timbered arms. This makes for some interesting fishing, exploring the picturesque surroundings and firing casts in around the structure. Spinnerbaits have been attracting the bigger bass over 40cm in size while smaller ones respond well to the smaller profile of a soft plastic like a 3” Gulp Jigging Grub.

Last month, there were plenty of saratoga willing to nail lures flicked up under the banksias. The upper reaches of the Kingham arm is a hot spot for togas although the fish will turn up in both arms. They will also be seen in the main basin of the lake now the water skiers have slowed down their assault. Toga fishing may be a bit slower during the cold months but the fish will still certainly take lures and with bass holding in the same areas, you never know which species you will encounter next.

The Junction of the Yabba and Kingham, which usually holds stacks of bass, has been turning up more golden perch than anything else. Goldens can be caught by hopping MF50 and MF60 vibes across the bottom in the deeper water found in the middle of the junction.

Baiting up with a live shrimp in this area will almost certainly produce a mixed bag of bass and golden perch. Other baits like frozen prawns and live worms can score a few fish but these never bring the same results as live shrimp. Anglers closer to the border lakes often use live saltwater yabbies as bait for golden perch with great success. Given Borumba’s location I imagine it would be easy to experiment with yabbies there.

Be sure to call in and see the guys at Davo’s in Noosaville if you are heading to Borumba or elsewhere in the surrounding area. You’ll have a good chance of catching up with bass guru, Callum Munroe, who can share some of his secrets and set you up with the right gear.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Town: Inglewood

Cold water temperatures will make the fishing tougher at Coolmunda, especially for lure fishermen. Last month the action was hit and miss and unless you were right on the spot, you went home empty handed. A fish finder makes lure and bait presentation easier as it not only marks the fish but also the drop off to the old creek channel.

Trolling the creek channels in the timbered areas will be worth a go this month as the chances of scoring a cod and golden perch are still pretty good. Bait fishing this area is more likely to produce golden perch and eel-tailed catfish. Bait fishing close to the channel drop off out from the boat ramp can also be rewarding.

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

Lure trolling has been scoring good numbers of golden perch and the occasional Murray cod. Working medium running lures seems to be the most effective across depths between 3-5 metres. Bait fishing in the same depth with live shrimp has also scored a mixed bag of goldens, silver perch and catfish. Tougher baits like worms, small crays and frozen prawns can be used from the banks effectively as a normal cast will put you into the right depth.

Fish ‘N’ Bits tackle store in Alderly Street, Toowoomba can supply you with live shrimp. The store has been selling stacks of Kerry Ehrlich’s Kezza Lures Mudrat due to their great success at Leslie Dam.

Wide bay and burnett region
Closest Town: Proston

Dirty water has kept the fishing action slow, though winter may help settle the sediment in the water and improve the fishing action. Bass schools should return to the middle and upper parts of the dam over the next month or so. Look around the Junction, Pelican Point and any flats just outside of both timbered arms.

While redclaw crayfish activity will be dying down over the cooler months, the shear number of these crustaceans in Boondooma will ensure enough can be caught for a feed or two. Opera house traps baited with strong smelling meats, sweet potato or rockmelon will lure them in. Check them every couple of hours and make sure you move them to a different area or depth until they produce the goods.

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 Town: Monto

The fishing at Cania has been tough over the last couple of months. This is out of character for this dam, which regularly produces hot sessions. Action isn’t likely to pick up until spring although bass may school up in the middle reaches of the lake, making them more catchable. At the time of writing, the bass were spread out and only the odd one was being caught by anglers with average skill levels.

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.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

The bigger barra have been elusive at Monduran with mostly smaller 50-60cm fish being caught. The action has been slow with anglers fishing all day for only one or two fish landed per boat on average. There are still some big metre plus fish encounters so they certainly weren’t all lost over the spillway. The high lake level has created stacks of new places for the barra to patrol and opened up seemingly endless flats in the upper parts of the lake. This has given the barra the chance to spread out in to plenty of suitable habitat.

With the cold of winter and lower water temperature on its way, expect the barra to move into the most suitable areas. Shallow windblown bays will hold the warmer surface water and hopefully the barra will be there in numbers.

Try casting shallow diving lures and light soft plastics making sure you use plenty of stealth and long casts to avoid spooking the fish. Sometimes making a bit of noise will frighten the barra and you will see big swirls as they power off through the shallows.

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) has been firing with plenty of big bass munching surface lures early in the morning. These fish patrol the shallows or hide and wait in ambush for a morsel to pass overhead. Long casts over the top of submerged weed beds and walking the lure back will tempt the strikes.

Most poppers around 50-75mm will draw some response. The best method is to use a walk the dog retrieve with a stickbait. Standout lures have been the Cultiva Zip ‘N’ Ziggy and Sammy 65.

The big bass action will die down after the sun gets up and it is then time to work lures around the weed edge or venture out a little wider and look for schooling fish. Schools can usually be found towards the end of the three arms in the last 50m before the weed becomes solid and chokes further access.

Schooled bass love small blade baits like the 1/4oz Little Max and soft plastics like 2.6” Powerbait T-tails. The schooling fish are mostly small with the better quality bass measuring 35-40cm.

Salty’s Tackleworld in Bundaberg has all the gear you’ll need to get stuck into the bass at Isis. Some of the boys regularly fish the dam. The area has so much great fishing to offer and the store 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.

Closest Town: Biloela

While the barra action is about to slow down over the cooler months, Callide is my pick of the barra dams most likely to fire up in spring. Over the last couple of months, anglers have been scoring quite a few barra. Many of these fish are around 75cm with the odd bigger ones measuring just over 80cm. These fish will only grow more before the end of the year and it won’t be long before Callide starts to produce metre long fish again.

With high water levels as we enter winter, we are all hoping the barra survive the cold conditions this area can dish out. The big fish kill of 2007 saw water levels low and the barra with nowhere to escape the cold. Now with water over 30m deep in the basin of the lake they stand a better chance of survival. Some will still get caught out in the shallows but this has always been the case in most barra lakes.

Capricornia Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Reports from Lake Awoonga have been few and far between with most fishermen venturing to the Boyne River below the dam. The Boyne River has produced some amazing fishing from the mouth near Gladstone right up past Pikes Crossing below the dam wall. These fish have slowed down but I’m guessing the hot action will vary and the fish will fire or shut down depending on the conditions.

In the salt, smaller lures have been working well around the change in tides. Soft plastics are effective but to score better numbers opt for lures like big blade baits or Transam 95 vibes. Heavier lipless crankbaits can work well too when the current is slow enough. Adding weight to your lipless crankbaits can pay off as they can be fished in faster currents as well. I have experimented with the super tough Halco Tremblers to add weight and filled them in the head with resin, with great success.

For your accommodation while in the area give Lyn and Mark from Awoonga Gateway a call on (07) 4975 0033. Be sure to book early as they have been kept busy with so many anglers venturing out to the river. 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.

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