Spring sessions in the fresh
  |  First Published: September 2011

September is one of my favourite months for fishing. Luckily, I have eleven other favourite months as well to get me through the rest of the year.

There are quite a few things that take place in September on the freshwater scene which are of great interest to anglers.

Longer days and warmer conditions begin to slowly warm the winter cooled waters. This warming effect starts to wake fish up and fishing for most species in the majority of areas will improve. Golden perch, cod and barramundi fishing improves immensely over the next couple of months. The increased activity level in these fish make lures a better option than bait as the fish will now be more willing to chase them down.

Bass Fishing Time

Bass fishing can be hot or cold during winter depending on the location. Poor fishing can quickly improve as we move in to spring so be ready for some more impressive catches. The closed season for bass in the river systems has come to an end which makes taking two legal fish (over 30cm) okay. Some rivers and creeks are highly populated with bass after the floods at the beginning of the year. These escaped dam fish have adapted well to their new wild environment and from all reports are in a healthy condition.

I rate September as the best month of the year for chasing big bass. During winter, the females develop roe, so they pack on so much beef that a 50cm fish can whack on an extra kilo in weight. This bulk is carried through into September but then starts to disappear as the eggs are reabsorbed into the body (unless they are wild fish which actually manage to complete the breeding phase). Big, fat bass which are willing to feed should be the order of the day throughout September and in years past, this has been the month in which I nail my most impressive bass of the whole year.

The only freshwater fish which can be a little more difficult to tempt during spring is the saratoga. Saratoga are one of the few stocked species which actually breed in the dams and during this time of year they will protect their eggs and young. Saratoga are a mouth brooder which means the eggs and newly hatched fingerlings live inside the mouth of the adult until they are old enough to manage on their own. While in this stage, toga will be reluctant to bite and are probably best left alone to carry on with raising more togas for us all to catch. Even though they may not be the focus of anglers, toga will turn up at times as bi-catch in the lakes where they have established strong breeding populations.

Dirty Water Options

While some lakes and rivers have cleared nicely since the floods nine months ago, others have remained quite dirty. It’s possible to still lure fish from these waters even when the visibility is only one foot (30cm). Running or slightly moving water has been most productive for us with cod, golden perch and bass managing to easily find our lures in the dirty conditions.

Lures which give off a strong vibration to announce their presence are often the key. While rattles would seem beneficial in delivering a sound for the fish to hone in on, they seem to make little difference. Even colour selection hasn’t mattered all that much. Darker coloured lures, even black, are pulling just as many fish from a lot of areas as the bright coloured and gold ones which stand out more in dirty conditions.

I recently made a discovery when trolling small lures through a river system containing bass and golden perch. I opted for the 50mm, 3m diving Poltergeist, a bite sized offering which usually produces plenty of fish. My dad on the other hand selected a rusty, old looking, 90mm barra lure and managed to smash the fish. I rotated through several smaller lures which dived to similar depth in an attempt to produce the goods but while I failed, Dad just kept on catching as he trialled different big lures - most of which wouldn’t even fit inside the mouth of the fish he was catching. Armed with bigger lures on my next trip I trolled the same piece of water. The fish were holding deep and the amount of snags littering the bottom were a real nuisance until I made the change to a Halco 90mm Scorpion. I have spent quite a bit of time fishing with Tim Carter from the Halco company and remembered him telling me the 90mm Scorpion was great for working through the snags. These lures have a high flotation rate making them back out of the snags when the pressure is released, freeing them up on most occasions. Within the next 100m of the troll, I had scored 3 monster bass all on the 3m diving Scorpion. Other big lures with the same ability to float up out of the snags such as the 5m Poltergeist would be dynamite for this style of fishing. From now on, I’ll be keeping some bigger lures in my box for the dirty water I may come across.

Kayaking Capers

Over the last month I’ve been using a Hobie Pro Angler kayak. I have spent plenty of time in my own paddle kayaks so it was nothing new to be sitting close to the water in a smaller craft. The Pro Angler isn’t actually all that small. At 4.17m long and 0.97m wide the Pro Angler is big enough to move around and even stand up in due to its great stability. Despite the roominess which makes it a pleasure to fish from, the pro Angler is still very manoeuvrable and easy to get around in.

Hobie kayaks are powered by a pair of fins and pedal power – the system is called a Mirage Drive. When I first launched the yak I tossed a rigged lure over the side and paddled away, trolling the lure up the river. While trolling, I rigged another three rods and organised everything to make sure it was easy to find and close at hand. It wasn’t until I kicked back to relax and look around that I actually thought, “Wow I couldn’t have done that if I was paddling a normal kayak by hand”. The whole process of propulsion was so simple I hadn’t stopped to consider what I was actually doing. This was the course of the day and having the foot driven Mirage Drive to push the kayak forward and a hand controlled rudder at the rear for steering it was easy to hold position and move while casting lures. I compare fishing with a Hobie Kayak to using an electric motor to hold position.

WA Fishing Adventure

Exciting things are happening this month for QFM writers Jason Medcalf and myself. We have been counting down the days until our Western Australian trip to Exmouth. Exmouth is well known for it’s awesome fishing and wide mix of angling opportunities. Having both spent time fishing Queensland’s tropical waters, it will be interesting to compare the same species from a different ocean.

The freshwater scene may have been tough over the last six months but I’m tipping things to improve in the second half of the year. It’s taken a long time for things to settle down since the massive floods at the start of the year. More consistent catches won’t be far around the corner. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

The water at Cressy has cleared up to the point that luring a fish shouldn’t be a problem. The fishing has still been tough and there have only been a handful of anglers trying their luck. Schooling bass will provide the best action - though the fact that they can be found throughout the dam doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in for quality fishing and decent sized bass. The bigger bass tend to hold together in an area. While still mixed in with smaller undersized bass which tend to make up most of the other schools around the lake, bigger bass should be catchable provided anglers deliver the right lures and keep them accurately in the zone.

Schooling bass of over legal size tend to hold in 7-10m of water around the points within eyesight of the boat ramps. Active fish will venture out of the schools and into the shallower water nearby. Blade baits are usually the best lure to tempt these fish. Opt for heavier blades of 3/8-1/2oz in the deeper water and consider lighter offerings of 1/4-1/6oz in shallower areas. Blades should be cast over the likely area and as a general rule worked back with a slow roll for 6 to 10 winds before they are dropped back to the bottom before winding again. Make sure you feel the rod tip working as the blade pumps out the vibrations needed to attract fish. It can also pay to work a soft plastic through the schooling fish. Plastic t-tails and shads like the Squidgy fish and new Powerbait Ripple Shad rigged on 1/4-1/2oz jigheads are ideal.

If schooling bass can’t be found, try your luck prospecting with the same lures around the lake’s edges. Keep moving, using the wind to push the boat along the bank or even better still, under the full control of an electric motor. Surface lures like the Zip’n Ziggy will draw their share of strikes in the mornings and afternoons and can often be the most successful way to get fish interested.

I haven’t heard any report of fish being caught on bait but they should be starting to move now the water is slowly warming up. Live shrimp are the top bait and can be purchased from Fish ‘N’ Bits tackle store in Alderley Street, Toowoomba. The Boys at Fish ‘N’ bits will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Redclaw activity will start to pick up this month. Opera house traps baited with rockmelon or strong smelling meats like liver or cat food are able to draw the redclaw in. Experiment with different depths and areas until you find where the redclaw are. Their metabolism may still be a bit slow due to cold water temperatures so traps will need to be right on the money. Don’t forget your $2.50 in coins to get through the boom gate and the 8 knot speed limit which is in place.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

During winter, there were reports of some nice bass in the upper reaches of the dam being caught on lures cast to the edges. This fishing seems to be getting tougher and the results are very inconsistent. This could possibly mean the bass are moving out of the timber and into the main bass or have scattered through the deeper areas in the trees. There are sure to be some bass and plenty of golden perch left in the area and bait fishing and trolling will produce the goods. Try running medium diving lures which run to around 3-4m deep. The 3m Poltergeist and No.3 StumpJumper are great choices as they pump out plenty of vibration and are the perfect size. If bait fishing, try live shrimp. Worms will attract less desirable species like eel-tailed catfish, tilapia and banded grunter but make for good fun if you just want some action.

There have been some unreliable schooling bass moving around in the normal haunts. Bay 13, Pelican Point and The Spit have been holding a few fish and if they can be found, they shouldn’t be too hard to catch. Trolling 1/2oz blade baits at around 2-3km/h is a good way to sound out an area and stand a chance of scoring a bass at the same time. When a few bass are seen on the sounder, you can pull the lure up to the area and drop it to the bottom before retrieving it to the boat. Some monster bass will be cruising around and if you are lucky enough to strike the jackpot and locate a good school be prepared for some memorable action. When casting to the schooling bass try blades, soft lipless baits like Jackall Masks and MF60s and also 3” soft plastics rigged on 1/2oz jigheads.

Last month there were some exceptional bass coming on spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits cast to the edges in the Queen Street area. These bass have been tough work but they have been huge. Redclaw crayfish were caught right through winter this year so expect good numbers to pile into the traps. Try in water between five and eight metres deep as this seems to be their preferred depth in Somerset. There are a couple of competitions coming up at Somerset and these are always a great way to find out the best methods to tempt the lake’s bass. If you keep an ear to the ground or call in to see the boys from Fish ‘n’ Bits who fish the competitions you’ll end up with a great head start.

Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

Wivenhoe has failed to deliver big bass in the numbers which it has produced in the past at this time of year. The flood at the beginning of the year must have had a huge effect on the fishing. Plenty of bass escaped during the flood and the ones remaining are doing a good job of hiding in the lake’s dirty water. For a quick fish you could try the points out from Logan’s Inlet and up towards Hamon Cove.

Bass and golden perch will often take up residence on these points and can be caught trolling, casting and on bait. More adventurous anglers could take the day to run down to the flats towards the wall. The area close to the no boating buoy line on the eastern side of the lake near Billies Bay can hold some good schooling bass. Because the lake is electric motor only it pays to have a deep diving lure or two swimming out the back while on the move.

Closest Towns: Nerang, Gold Coast

Early mornings and late afternoons will be prime surface fishing times. Bass and saratoga will be cruising the shallows during periods of lower light and will be quick to pounce on a topwater lure worked around the lake edges. The Duel Silver Dog 75 has been working well and other popular walk the dog style stickbaits like the Cultiva Zip ‘n Ziggy and Sammy 65 should suffice. Once the sun rises, the fish will go deeper and there should still be plenty of schooling bass to target. These schools will concentrate around the points jutting out into the main basin of the lake. Trolling the edges can also be an effective way of scoring fish and locating schooling fish. Lures which dive 2-3m are suitable for use in tighter to the edges and if working deeper water, opt for a deeper diving lure. When schooling bass are located, try working blade baits and lipless crankbaits like the Rapala Clackin Rap and TN60 Jackall through them.

We can expect Hinze to produce reliable fishing in the future due to great restocking efforts so far this year. Some ball park figures on this year’s stocking to date are 100,000 bass, 10,000 golden perch and 25,000 silver perch.

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 Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

Macdonald has been one of the most reliable bass lakes for the last couple of months. Some better quality bass have been turning up and the fish are holding in several locations throughout the lake. The Bubble Trail is always a reliable fish holder and here bass can be caught on 3” Jigging Grubs and live shrimp. The Botanical Gardens area and the Three Ways are also popular haunts. Casting TN60 Jackall lipless crankbaits has been fooling the bigger specimens which are holding tighter to the weed edges. If the fish have been pressured, try working silent lipless baits.

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

Good numbers of bass have been schooling in Junction Area. Finding these fish in the start of the timber shouldn’t be too difficult and once found work them with small blade baits and soft plastics.

Schooling bass around the first and second yellow buoys in the dam’s main basin will be a little more unreliable. If found they will take the same lures as those at the Junction.

Scattered bass and the odd school will also be found up the timbered arms of the lake. If casting to the banks, keep a close eye on the sounder in case a school of bass turns up. Saratoga numbers will start to increase once the fish are finished breeding. Toga will be caught early in the mornings on surface lures and later in the day on spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits.

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

There was a steady run of golden perch taken on live and dead baits throughout winter caught from all over the lake. Goldens tend to slow right down over the colder months and start to rev up with the warmth of spring. With the increase in their activity level tie on a diving lure and start to troll. Lures should suit the depth of water being fished and cruise along just above the bottom. Spring is a good time to explore the flats out in front of the boat ramp and dam wall with trolled offerings like 3m, 50mm Poltergeists and their bigger brother the 5m, 80mm version. Similar lures with strong actions should do the job but be sure to know their running depth so you have them swimming close to the bottom and in the strike zone. Altering rod angles or the length of line to the lure is enough to change the depth a lure swims dramatically so play around until you are happy with how they are running.

While golden perch are the main target, Murray cod are regularly encountered and will fall for the same lures. Coolmunda is home to some monster cod so if you think you’ve been busted up by a monster of the deep you most probably have. Bait fishing will continue to catch its share of fish. Golden perch, eel-tailed catfish and silver perch will be the most common species encountered. Using a mix of baits like saltwater yabbies, live shrimp, frozen prawns and worms will see you in with a good chance of catching just about anything that swims past.

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
Closest Town: Monto

Bass were being taken up the top of the dam but changes have started to take place in the last month. Plenty of bass have made their way down to the lower part of the dam where they are reasonably easy to target. Lure casting is the most effective way to score good numbers of fish as trolling can be a little tough due to the number of drowned trees around the dam edges.

Scattered schools have been found around the point near the boat ramp, along the steep rock walls opposite the ramps and near the Cut Through area at the old quarry. The majority of the schooling fish are smaller models although some larger one can also be found mixed in with them. Bouncing an ice jig or dropping a live shrimp into these schools will draw a quick response.

Larger bass to around 1kg can be caught by casting to the edges in the same areas. Working small blades back from the shallows and into the deeper water is a very effective way to cover plenty of water and the bass have been loving them. The 1/4oz Little Max and 46mm Big Eye Blade are perfect lures for targeting these fish.

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.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

There are still quite a few bass holding in the deeper water in the middle of the lake in 6-7m of water. These fish can be hit and miss at times and often the schools are broken making it tougher to nail high numbers of fish. When easy to find, the bass are reasonably easy to catch provided anglers use the correct techniques. If the schools are broken spend plenty of time on the sounder to locate the best concentrations and pay special attention to any drop offs and the flats nearby which will hold better numbers. While tough at times, the bass can really turn it on and sometimes you can jag a run of 50cm models.

The bass are usually sitting close to the bottom and are quite fond of sinking lures with strong vibration. Blade baits are very popular in the 1/4oz and 3/8oz sizes. Little Max blades are one of the hottest sellers in Saltys Tackleworld in Bundaberg. Big fish can prefer a soft lipless bait and it’s hard to beat the Jackall Mask Vibe 60 or Powerbait MF60 for this approach. With fish hugging the bottom, a hopping retrieve usually attracts most attention but mix up the retrieve and throw in a few winds as well.

Around the edges, the action has been slow by Isis Dam’s usual standard. Surface luring in the mornings with the ever faithful Zip ‘n Ziggy has produced for the local boys and this is always a good way to start the day. Make sure you’re on the water before the sun rises too high if you want surface success. Up the back of the middle arm is a good area to target with plenty of water lilies, broken and submerged weed edges for the bass to hide in.

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 at Isis. 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.

Closest Town: Biloela
As the water warms this month, the barra will start to fire up. Callide’s bigger barra will now be in the mid to high 80cm range. These were the first fish to be restocked since the fish kill some years back and there are plenty of smaller specimens from the continued stocking effort plus the possibility of some old surviving monsters. There were reasonable numbers of fish caught for little fishing effort before winter and it will be interesting to see how they perform as things warm up even more towards the end of the year.
Callide is a totally different lake with kilometres of banks to explore. With so much water in it, you can forget about all the old areas and rely on your fish finding skills to narrow down the spots and find new areas. With the warming water, most barra are likely to be holding up in the shallow water. Look for gentle sloping banks and work the backs of shallow bays or points extending into the dam. Examine the taper of the bank above water line as this is a pretty good indication as to what things will look like below the surface. Shallows on the wind blown side of the dam will be slightly warmer and full of oxygen. Here, the dirtier water can also aid hungry barra looking to feed on unsuspecting bait fish.
Shallow water is best fished with shallow running hard body lures or lighter soft plastics. The Halco Hamma fitted with the shallow bib, B52s and Bomber Long A are good choices in the hard body department. Work these lures with plenty of rips and pauses to attract the attention of fish. Plastics can be slow rolled out of the shallows with a slow steady retrieve provided they aren’t too heavy. The Squidgy Slick Rig Pro range are worth a shot in the 110mm size. Another plastic which can be rigged to suit the depth is the Powerbait Hollow Belly. Try rigging 5” Hollow Bellies on 1/4oz jigheads for shallower water and up the weight if you require more depth.

Norm at Creek to Coast tackle store in Biloela will be able to give you the up to date reports and a few hints on where to find the barra. Creek to Coast stocks a great range of barra fishing tackle so if you forget something or don’t have the secret weapon to catch them be sure to call in and say hello.

Capricornia Region
Closest Town/s: Benaraby, Gladstone

There hasn’t been much fishing going on at Awoonga since the floods at the start of the year. Winter is always a quieter time and in September the boats start to return in numbers as the days and fishing warm up. It will be a bit of a guessing game as to where the best fishing will be. The action was slow at the start of the year with better results coming a long run up the dam in the middle reaches of the Boyne River.

There’s a good chance the basin of the lake will start to return to its usual form with barra holding on the western banks on the run up to Dingo Island. Fishing prime times and working the twilight hours and into the night around the full moon is productive as the barra seem to be more willing to move around. Pick a likely looking point and anchor a cast away and pepper the area thoroughly. Soft plastics like Squidgies, Powerbait 5” Mullets and Hollow Bellies can be cast and retrieved through these areas to see what’s around.

For your accommodation while in the area 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.

Whitsunday Region
Closest Town: Propserpine

The barra action has been steady with most of the fish holding in very shallow water. Being further north than most barra lakes, Proserpine should have a few warmer days to warm the water faster and get these fish more active. Expect to find the fish in the shallows as they won’t be in any hurry to leave and won’t vacate until the water here is too hot in summer.

Look for the shallow bays and banks up the back of the dam in the timber and don’t discount similar areas in the main basin if conditions are suitable to fish them. A quiet approach using an electric motor to creep through the shallows will ensure the boat doesn’t spook fish. Long casts are also effective in delivering presentations to flighty fish. In the shallows, lures which stay near the surface are ideal. The Halco Hamma (with shallow bib) or 12cm and 14cm X-Raps are good hardbodied lures to use. Early and late, the fish love to climb over a popper or fizzer worked across the surface. If the water warms up or the fish are very active try buzzing a toad or frog rigged on a Jungle Hook back across the top. If there is no response, give the lure a few pauses and work it just below the surface as well.

There have been plenty of sooty grunter hanging around the cormorants. The best time to chase these fish is early in the morning before any other boats beat you to the area. Look for roosting cormorants which hold in flocks of hundreds and sit in the dead trees. Once these birds are found, fish the water below them with small poppers, hard bodies lures or spinnerbaits. The sooties in Proserpine can be impressive fish and 4kg models are a possibility.

If you are planning a Proserpine Dam assault call in and see the boys in town at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. Lindsay Dobe has spent years of running charters on the lake and has a good idea where the barra will be and how best to catch them.

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