Cold and Tough Across the Dams
  |  First Published: July 2011

Impoundment fishing has been very hard work over the last month. With the exception of a few lakes, the dams closest to Queensland’s major population base have been fishing very tough. Thankfully, the rivers have been on fire.

The freshwater reaches of the Brisbane River below Wivenhoe Dam have produced plenty of bass in the last few months. These fish are now protected by the closed season that started on June 1 and finishes on August 31. There will be plenty of keen anglers waiting for this closure to finish so they can take advantage of the great fishing on offer.

Further south, the border rivers around Goondiwindi, Yelarbon and Texas have been producing plenty of Murray cod. Spinnerbaits and trolled hardbodied lures are a very effective way to entice these iconic fish. Bait fishers have also been scoring their share of cod and golden perch in these systems. Over the next month, golden perch will become tougher to tempt, especially on lures, but the cod will continue to fall for well presented offerings. The Murray cod can tolerate the colder water temperatures in winter better than some of our other native species.

Barramundi have been tough in the lakes for the last few months and will remain hard targets. The best bet will be the escaped Awoonga fish in the salt water of the Boyne and Calliope rivers. It may also be worth a trip to the mouth of the Kolan River to see if there is any escaped Monduran barra schooling in the deeper holes.

When the fishing is hard, it can really pay to choose the right destination or travel that little bit further to try and find better fishing. The following reports are based on fishing experienced over the last couple of months and predictions for what’s to come in the near future.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Lake Cressbrook has been a hard lake to fish over the past month. There are plenty of quality bass in the dam but they’ve been hard to find and even harder to catch. These bigger bass can usually be found around the schooling fish but up in shallower water. In the shallows, they become more active and will be hunting for a feed. With stacks of baitfish in the dam ever since the rise in water level at the beginning of the year, it shouldn’t take them too long to fill their bellies. A small lure placed in front of their faces should still produce the desired result.

I’ve caught better quality Cressbrook winter bass in the past and the lure could hardly fit in past all the tails of big baitfish protruding from their stomach.

Small and medium sized blade baits are a great way to explore plenty of water. Blades can be fished fast while staying deep in the strike zone. Paddle-tailed soft plastics, like the 2.6” Powerbait T-tail, are my second choice.

Positioning the boat over schooling fish located on the sounder and casting to the bank is often the most productive way to fish. Cressbrook has always been a lake to employ the run and gun approach. If the bass school, or the action dies down, head to the next spot and give the last area fished a good spell. When active fish are found, they are usually willing to take your offering.

Suspending hardbodied lures, like the Jackall Squirrel and C’ultiva Rip’n Minnow 70, can be very effective when worked around the lake edges. These suspending hardbodies can be ripped down into the strike zone using a series of aggressive rod twitches. Long pauses of several seconds should follow between rips once they are swimming down where the fish are likely to be. The Squirrel and Rip’n Minnow 70 are ideal as they have a deeper diving action than other suspending jerkbaits. This feature allows them to probe deeper and catch bass even when they retreat to deeper water in the middle of the day.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Somerset, my favourite big bass dam, has been fishing quite poorly. Schooling bass have been hard to find in any big numbers or with consistency. Last month the fish remained scattered all over the lake. While this can pose a problem for lure casters who rely on finding numbers of bass to accurately pull their lures through, it suits a trolling approach.

Lure trolling is able to cover plenty of water and by experimenting with different depth presentations, you will find where the bass are holding. Lures which dive 3-7m are a good starting point. While trolling, keep a close eye on the sounder for scattered bass and note their depth as this will dictate lure choice.

The Bay 13 and Pelican Point area has been holding reasonable numbers of bass and on occasions a school will pop up in this area. Winter usually draws fish into schools around Pelican Point and closer to the dam wall at The Spit.

Schooling bass should definitely become easier to find but this doesn’t mean they will always be willing to bite. Once found try hopping a lipless crankbait or a soft lipless bait across the bottom. The 1/2oz blade baits can also be effective and when the fish are cooperating there are few lures capable of producing the numbers a blade can.

Small changes to a retrieve can make a big difference. Vary the number and speed of winds off the bottom, allow the lure to free fall back by opening the bail arm on the reel or keep it closed to make it pendulum swing more slowly to the bottom. Sometimes small hops can be more effective than winding. Mixing up these methods can help you stumble upon a presentation the fish will be willing to pounce on. If the fish are found but remain tight lipped to your lure offerings, the best bet can be a deeply presented clouser style fly or a live shrimp.

Lure casters may also find medium to big sized bass holding in the shallows around the edges of the lake. Winter is a good time to cast spinnerbaits, blades and lipless crankbaits right up into the shallows in the timbered arms. If you score a bass casting to the edges, give that area a thorough working over as usually there will be more fish in the vicinity.

Bait fishers have been scoring reasonable numbers of golden perch and eel-tailed catfish. Basing themselves at Kirkleigh and heading to the timber and the underwater humps just northeast of the boat ramp has been successful. Redclaw crayfish numbers have tapered off but there are still plenty being caught despite the colder water temperature. If you find you aren’t catching redclaw change the depth of the pots until you find the most productive zone.

Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

During winter, I always report on Wivenhoe as this is when it sees most fishing action. However, the lake’s water is still very dirty which will make it tough to successfully lure numbers of the lake’s big bass. I am yet to hear any successful reports but will be keeping my eye on the dam as cold water can quickly clear a lake and this may be all it takes to fire the bass up!

Closest Towns: Nerang, Gold Coast

The bass in the Hinze have started to move. These fish were very scattered around the lake edges a couple of months ago. They have now relocated into big schools and are holding off on all the major points. These Hinze Dam bass will prefer deeper presentations with lures like blade baits and the lipless crankbaits being standout offerings.

Lure trollers have been having a ball on the schooling bass. Trolled spinnerbaits and deep diving hardbodies have accounted for plenty of bass. Despite its large size, the Taylor Made Belly Buster has been one of the most successful lures.

If you are after any information on Hinze and the fishing, call in and see John at Go Camping, 10 Spencer Street 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

Maroon’s lush weed beds are one of the most reliable places to target bass at the moment. Anglers can experiment with lures and techniques in this magic lake. Small blade baits and soft plastics worked around the weed pockets and edges will usually produce a few bass.

Maroon has started to produce some better quality bass over the last six months. For a long time, the 40cm+ bass were elusive but they seem to be back in reasonable numbers. These bigger bass can be tricky to tempt. Small shallow diving hardbodied lures worked over the tops of the weed in the morning and afternoon is often the secret. Tossing shallow runners like the Rapala Husky Jerk, Jackall Chubby and C’ultiva Rip’n Minnow 65 will see you in with a good chance. This style of fishing calls for stealth as the fish are holding so shallow. Long casts using light outfits and the silent use of an electric motor will definitely improve the odds of success.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

There have been heaps of small bass lining up to whack lures at Macdonald. While most of these schooling fish have been small, about one out of five of them have been better quality around 40cm. Big schools of bass will be holding in areas like the Botanical Gardens and around the bubble trail. These schooling bass are suckers for blade baits and soft plastics. The occasional golden perch can also be caught from these schooling fish. If lure casting isn’t your thing, try dropping a live shrimp into the area – it won’t last long.

The weed beds around the lake have also been holding reasonable numbers of bass. Casting and retrieving 1/4oz Little Max blades, 46mm Big Eye Blades and Jackall TN60 lures around the weed is the best way to entice these fish.

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

The fishing action at Borumba has slowed over the last couple of months. There are still some nice fish being caught but expect the action to be hit and miss over the winter period.

Bass have again started to school around The Junction of the Kingham and Yabba arms. When these fish are found try vertically jigging ice jigs or casting blade baits over the schools. There should still be reasonable numbers of bass hunting the lake edges around the weed beds. The banks just before the start of the trees were producing some quality bass last month and there were whispers of bass coming from the edges further up in both arms. This pattern is likely to continue this month and it would be worth working small spinnerbaits slowly around the edges.

If the action is poor, move to the deeper schooling fish at The Junction as winter can shut down the edge dwelling fish making them hard to entice.

Saratoga will still play the game during the cold of winter. The middle of the day is a good time to specifically target these prize fish. Venturing right up either arm and working lures around overhanging structure is the preferred approach. Good numbers of togas can also be found holding around water lilies and in the backs of shallow bays where the water isn’t as shaded so is therefore warmer.

Saratoga will take spinnerbaits, beetle spins and surface lures like the Megabass Anthrax or C’ultiva Zip’n Ziggy. It pays to mix up presentations as some days the fish are prepared to whack a surface offering while other days they prefer to feed below the surface.

Surprisingly there are some big silver perch whacking surface lures in the Kingham arm. You may recall reports of silver perch being caught under the roosting shags at first light on small poppers a couple of years ago. It’s a wonder more anglers haven’t taken advantage of this style of silver perch fishing because when they are big, they are tough and fast and provide plenty of fun.

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

Golden perch tend to slow down over the winter months but there are still reasonable numbers being caught on bait at Coolmunda. The odd golden perch and cod will fall for a trolled lure during winter but best results come on live shrimp. Other baits like worms and frozen prawns can score a few fish but it’s hard to beat the old shrimp.

Live shrimp can be caught in the dam in bait traps baited with fish scraps or tinned cat food. When you do catch shrimp make sure you take good care of them as they are fragile little critters. An aerator pump to ensure they have plenty of oxygen or regular water changes is very important. The difference between live and dead shrimp is amazing so they are well worth taking care of.

Golden perch have been coming from the drop-off directly out from the boat ramp. Shore-based anglers can expect a few fish too with silver perch being common over the last month. If you are into lure casting, a trip to the Macintyre Brook below the dam is well worthwhile. There are some monster Murray cod living in these holes which will take lures like lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits right through winter.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around one kilometre 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.

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

Both lakes are dirty after even more run-off. This will make lure fishing for bass and golden perch very tough and the best option will be to use live bait. Boondooma will continue to produce redclaw crayfish through winter although the numbers will be down in comparison to the those caught during the warmer months.

Closest Town: Monto

The action at Cania dam has picked up over the last couple of months. Bass, silver perch and eel-tailed catfish have been caught from the banks near the dam wall and boat ramp on bait.

Lure anglers have had the best success venturing up to the back of the dam where the water narrows up. Casting spinnerbaits right up into the shallows has been the most effective approach. Despite all the rain and runoff the area has had over the last six months, the water is very clear. Clear water is certainly inviting considering so many other lakes are still offering such poor visibility.

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

Very few barra anglers are making the effort to fish Monduran. The action has been quite slow with a few smaller fish around 60cm coming from the upper reaches of the north and south arms of B area. Winter has always been a great time to find big barra concentrations.

The cold water temperature will have barra seeking out the most comfortable areas to bask in the warm sun. It will be interesting to see how many fish turn up in the warmer wind blown shallow bays. If they do concentrate in these areas it could be well worthwhile visiting the lake.

Below the lake in the Kolan River, some monster bass and barra have been caught. A lot of fish were smashed up on the rocks below the spillway when they tried to escape but reasonable numbers seem to have survived.

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 the fish of a lifetime. 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

Some very interesting things have taken place at Isis over the last couple of months.

I have been reporting on this lake for a few years now and my advise to target the lake’s big bass has always been much the same. The big bass are usually found right up in the weed beds and the best method to extract them is to work a surface lure over the top of the weed. This has changed in the last month or so as big numbers of the better quality bass have left the safety of the weed edges and headed to the deeper water in the middle of the lake. Here big schools of bass can be found close to the drop-offs and across the flats.

Sounding in 5-8m of water will reveal these schooling fish. Once schools are found a deep presentation like a blade bait or soft vibe hopped across the bottom will soon see you hooked up. The fish have been ranging from undersized to over 50cm with the majority being in the 35-42cm size range. Bass of this size in schools are a lot of fun and switched on anglers will have a ball catching plenty of these fish.

Bass can still be found around the weed edges and an early morning surface lure session will produce some strikes. The weed beds have died off a bit but there is still plenty around and if you can find good healthy weed growing a metre or less below the surface there’s a good chance of a better quality bass. Spinnerbaits, soft plastics, small blades and lipless crankbaits will extract bass from the weed beds during the middle of the day.

Isis is loaded with bass and this makes it a great place to experiment and learn different techniques. Salty’s Tackleworld in Bundaberg has all the gear you’ll need to get stuck into the bass. Gary and Tim regularly fish the dam and really know their stuff. The area has so much great fishing to offer and the store does a great job of catering to all anglers’ needs.

Capricornia Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Not many anglers have bothered to fish Awoonga over the past month. Barra fanatics are still targeting the escaped fish in the Boyne River Below the dam wall. These fish have spread out and can now be found in the Calliope River around the hot water outlet at the power station and other random spots between the two systems.

The barra have been given a real touch-up by the netters who have taken massive hauls. While this has thinned the numbers down, there are still plenty of fish scattered and schooled through the system for the catching. The saltwater will most likely produce the best results while the water temperature is cold. Looking for schooling fish on the sounder is the best way to catch numbers of barra. These barra will be fussier due to the cold water temperatures and fishing pressure they have experienced so far.

The gun lures to try are the FLT Transam 95, Powerbait MF60 and Jackall Mask Vibe 70. These lures are all soft lipless crankbaits which can be hopped through the schooling fish. Vary the speed of retrieves and pauses to find what the barra are looking for. They can be really picky and just changing between lure types can make all the difference.

Trolling 5m diving hardbodies at a dead slow pace between the Boyne-Tannum Bridge and the river mouth can also be effective. It pays to experiment here too with rattling models like the 5m Scorpion and Predatek Viper and silent models like the Tilsan Big Barra. Usually I would suggest trolling with the current to get these lures deeper but working into the current with the boat barely moving forward keeps the lure right in their face for a longer period of time and seems to do the trick.

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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