Baitfish explode
  |  First Published: December 2011

The last couple of years have been some of the toughest for freshwater anglers. The flooding certainly hasn’t helped the situation although we can expect to reap the rewards in the near future. It’s great to see so many spots starting to fire up once again.

The baitfish have exploded in most lakes and there are massive numbers of redclaw crayfish to be caught. All this food on offer can make it a little tougher to tempt fish but they will be growing fast, especially any new recruits, which have been stocked in the last couple of years.

At the moment, there are quite a few reliable locations to try and at this time of year you can successfully target the entire spectrum of freshwater species Queensland has to offer.

On the back of such tough fishing, I had one of my best bass sessions in the last 20 years. I whacked 25 fish over 2kg, two over 3kg plus dozens more which averaged around the 1.5kg mark. It was an awesome session and it just goes to show there is great fishing out there.

Anglers can broaden their horizons and explore the creek and river systems above and below the dams. Most dams have overflowed and numbers of fish have escaped over spillways. These escapee fish are fairly common knowledge but many fish swim in the opposite direction and head well upstream.

Searching for vantage points and likely fish holding waters can be done at home on Google maps or Google Earth. Bass, barra, golden perch and cod have relocated into water which in many cases can be right under our noses sometimes right in suburbia. All you have to do is look and be prepared to explore.

Fishing with Kids

I get a big kick out of teaching other people a few tricks of the trade. My 7-year-old son Blake has become my apprentice and we have been enjoying fishing together a lot lately. In this time he has managed to teach me several lessons.

We recently started off on a bass session and I caught the first five fish on Big Eye Blades, so I put my rod down and concentrated on getting Blake onto a fish. He was using the same lure and what looked to me like the same retrieve, but it just wasn’t happening. He gave the blade away and chose another lure and straight away started catching fish.

The following weekend he was keen to have another go at hopping a blade and we worked out he was doing everything right apart from retrieving too much line between hops. He was taking up all the slack instead of letting the lure fall back to the bottom on a slack line. It was this freefalling lure that was drawing all the strikes.

Another lesson I learned was not to stop him from trying his own thing. Sure there are things that aren’t very likely to produce but if there’s even the slightest chance of catching a fish on their method, let them have a go.

We pulled the boat up to the bank at our camp and Blake started casting his 50mm Poltergeist out the back. The casts weren’t very long and while we had nailed plenty of fish trolling this lure, I told him he probably wouldn’t catch anything casting.

Two fish later he was happy to tell me I was wrong and Poltergeists aren’t just trolling lures they’re for casting too.

A similar scenario also played out when he chose to use a soft plastic. I said I wouldn’t do it because I only caught a few on them last time I tried. Well that was a week ago and things had changed. The soft plastic absolutely smashed the fish and Blake actually managed to catch the two biggest bass of the day on them.

I’m proud of all of my son’s achievements but the memories created while we are fishing together are just special. It’s great to watch him soak up all the information like a sponge and then make his own decisions that pay off.

Good luck with the fishing this month as we approach the busiest time of the year on the water. I hope Santa comes and fills your sack full of lures or whatever you may be after. Until next year, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

The fishing at Cressbrook has still been hit and miss. When the bass schools are found and are willing to play, good numbers are being caught on blade baits. Cressbrook bass are very susceptible to fishing pressure and the bite can shut down fast unless they are really in the mood. Getting to the spot early in the morning or late in the afternoon can pay off as the fish are more willing to bite. Look for schools through Bass Bay, out from the boat ramps, the points around the main basin and the long point opposite the steep bank at the Eagles Nest.

Early mornings and late afternoons can be a good time to explore the shallow waters with surface lures. The surface action hasn’t been as good as in previous years, possibly due to the higher number of bait fish holding out in the deeper water. Lures between 50mm and 75mm can be worked around the edges of the dam keeping a close eye on any sign of movement near the water’s surface.

If good numbers of bass move into the shallows, try casting spinnerbaits and soft plastics around the edges. Bass can turn up along any of the banks so be prepared to cover plenty of water using an electric motor.

Redclaw crayfish have been abundant in the lake. Cressbrook was one of the first dams to fire up with good numbers being taken since the winter cold spell. Opera house traps baited with rockmelon, liver or cat food are usually a winner. Try different water depths and areas until you find a hot spot.

The boys at Fish ‘N’ Bits, Alderly Street, Toowoomba will be able to steer you in the right direction and have an awesome range of lures and tackle. You can also place your order for live shrimp through the store to ensure you have the best bait available.

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

Schooling bass have been the highlight at Lake Somerset. These fish have slowly made the move from the flats south of Kirkleigh further south to between Pelican Point and Poly Pipe Point. The bass have been holding in 8-15m of water.

In many cases it’s not a matter of finding the fish. If you are in the general area, bass will school up right below your boat. The downside to this has been the fish shut down quickly. A lot of anglers have great success using ice jigs. While ice jigging can produce the occasional big fish, most of them are smaller fish under a kilo.

Soft plastics have been the gun offering if you are chasing big bass. The bites were timid last month and using a treble stinger hook buried in the tail of the plastic converted the odds to the angler’s favour. In one session I scored 18 out of 22 bass on the stinger hook.

Powerbait Ripple Shads have been working well for me and I load the rippled cavities with Halco catch scent. This paste sits nicely in the slots in the tail and when a fish bites, it’s sure to get a mouthful. The warmer water may fire the bass up a little so experiment with other offerings like blade baits and soft lipless crankbaits.

Since the schools have only showed up in the last few months after being nonexistent for so long, it’s a shame to consider they may again break up towards the end of the month. Around Christmas is when the bass usually scatter and suspend.

Trolling lures is a good way to cover heaps of water. Deep diving hardbodies will produce the goods or you could opt for a slow trolled plastic or blade using your electric motor.

Bait fishers can expect to get in on the action. The timber north of Kirkleigh is worth a try for bass and golden perch. If you want to target the bass head for the deeper water out in the middle, in the lower half of the dam, where the lure fishers are trying their luck.

Redclaw have been slow to pick up since the cold months but now is a good time to try your luck. Vary the depth of your traps; a good starting point is usually 7-8m of water. When you find their preferred depth range concentrate your efforts there.

Closest Town: Boonah

The action at Maroon has been pretty good. Bass can be caught using a range of techniques. Surface luring and shallow divers are great early in the day. As it heats up, move to deeper lures and deeper water.

Soft plastics and blade baits will be perfect for targeting any schooling fish outside of the weed edge. Look for these fish along the bank opposite the main boat ramp, focusing on any of the major points.

Closer to the edges and weedy structure, spinnerbaits will be a great summertime option. Work these lures close to the weed, allowing them to follow the contour and fall into any of the deeper pockets. Casting parallel to the weed edge drop-off is another good way to extract the hungry bass. The weed dwelling fish are often the larger ones.

Closest Towns: Fassifern, Boonah

Moogerah Dam continues to fire with bass and the odd golden perch being caught. There are several options that will see you in with a good chance of scoring fish. Early starts around the edges of the dam can produce some of the better quality bass.

Casting lipless crankbaits like the TN60 Jackall to the edges and winding them back has been effective in the past months. The hotter conditions of summer are likely to see this bite taper off very quickly as the day warms up so consider moving to deeper water if the action isn’t forthcoming.

The points and drop-offs out from the dam wall and boat ramps will be worth exploring. You can troll these waters to try and find fish or cast them if you know the bass are there. Schooling fish should be taking soft plastics and blade baits.

The warmer water may break the schools up a bit and make them suspend. If this is the case, troll or sound around until you find good concentrations and pinpoint their holding depth.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

Several saratoga have been caught recently. These fish are suckers for a live worm suspended under a float. Runway point has been a productive area and lure fishermen might like to try their luck here.

A good way to tempt the toga is using topwater lures like the Zippin’ Ziggy or Megabass Anthrax. The beauty of fishing surface lures is that you are likely to encounter bass as well in the early and late parts of the day. Surface lures have a knack of enticing the bigger bass out of the weed.

The Borer Creek area has been a good spot to try to tempt bigger bass and a few Mary River cod have been caught there as well in the last month. Spinnerbaits are a top lure in this area as the cod love them and the bigger bass won’t hesitate when it comes to nailing them.

If you are keen on focusing just on the bass and want better numbers, try surface lures early then quickly move to soft plastics. Ripping plastics out of the weed beds seems to really excite the bass. Allow them to touch the weed where it drops away into deeper water and then rip them out with a sharp lift of the rod tip before retrieving them.

The Bubble Trail has quietened down for bass but golden perch are still present in numbers. Lure fishers can pick up the goldens on ice jigs and soft vibes. Hopping these lures across the bottom or jigging vertically in schools will see results. The number one way of catching golden perch is to drop a live shrimp straight over the side of the boat near the Bubble Trail.

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 fish may take a little to work out this month. Good numbers of bass have been hanging around the steeper rocky banks and these fish should still be around in modest numbers through December, taking spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits.

Schooling bass should still be holding in several key areas. The second yellow buoy will hold its share and these fish will take soft plastics and blade baits. Further upstream at The Junction, bass should be suspended in the deeper water. These bass can be tempted with soft plastics such as a 3/8oz jighead rigged 3” Gulp Jigging Grub. Lure trollers can also weave in and out the start of the trees, running lures like Blitz Bagas to try their luck. The same area can be quite productive with live baits such as shrimp.

Saratoga have been plentiful in the upper reaches of the Yabba arm. There are few better ways to catch these fish than on surface lures. The Cultiva Zippin’ Ziggy and Megabass Anthrax are ideal when worked out of structure. When the toga aren’t feeding on top, try subsurface using spinnerbaits or beetle spins.

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

If you’ve ever wanted to catch golden perch or as they are commonly called, yellowbelly, Coolmunda is certainly producing the goods. Golden perch seem to be coming from all over the lake on baits and lures. The timber and the flats out in front of the dam wall are two of the most popular spots to try.

Live shrimp, worms and frozen prawns are taking their share of fish with the best action in the mornings and afternoons. Bait seems to produce fish of all sizes with the chance of eel-tailed catfish, cod and silver perch.

Trolling has been weeding out the smaller golden perch and most fish are over 1kg with some as much as 2.5kg. On a good day, anglers can expect to catch their bag limit easily.

Australian made timber hardbodies are hard to beat but also try lures like the Golden Child, Smak 18 and Poltergeist 80. A slower troll with an electric motor allows anglers to use the ever popular TN60 Jackall.

Goldens seem to love these lures. While trolling there is a pretty good chance of a Murray cod. Cod numbers have picked up in the last month with fish from undersized to right over the legal size limit of 110cm. It certainly pays to have all your gear and knots in top shape when there is the chance of hooking one of these rippers.

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

Reports suggest the fishing has really picked up in the last month. Golden perch and small cod are being caught quite regularly. Trolling lures in 5-7m of water or bait fishing with live shrimp are the two most productive methods. It might be a good idea to head further up the lake this month and try your luck away from all the boat activity and water skiers in the main basin.

Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

Cooby has been slowly starting to improve. Golden perch have been taking baits and trolled lures but their numbers have been slim. Some late afternoon sessions could be the answer over the summer months. Try trolling lures around the edges of the lake or casting to the edges and hopping to any schooling fish.

If using bait, you can’t go past live shrimp. You can pick up your supply of live shrimp from Highfields Bait and Tackle, only 15 minutes away from the dam. The store is behind Subway on the New England Highway.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Town: Monto

There have been mixed reports from Cania. It seems anglers who know their stuff have been scoring well with reports of sessions of 60 plus bass. While bass are the main fish being caught there are also saratoga, golden perch, silver perch and eel-tailed catfish on offer.

The upper reaches around the timber is a great place to cast lures for bass and saratoga. Spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and metal blades will all be effective when worked around the edges and right in close to the standing and submerged trees.

In the dam basin, schooling bass will be encountered by anglers trolling lures. These fish can turn up along the edges or even out in the middle of the lake where they will suspend. In summer months, try working lures which dive deeper while on the troll. Blitz Bagas, Kezza Freaks and Poltergeist 80s in the Crazy Deep version will get you down there and their small profile will encourage the strikes.

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: Biloela

The dam started to see reasonably stable weather temperatures last month and with that, the barra have started to fire. One of the better reports was from a couple of young fellas who managed to land six barra to 85cm and lose several others as well. The location was a closely guarded secret but they were fishing from the bank close to timber structure.

The smaller barra patrolling the lake should really be awake now and willing to chase lures down. Faster retrieves than the stock standard slow barra twitch will be perfect as they can cover a lot of water fast in search of fish. Try casting soft plastics like a 1/2oz rigged Hollow Belly or even better still, a soft vibe like the FLT Transam.

Burn these out from the edges and across shallow flats, pausing the lure several times during the retrieve. This technique is perfect for exploring and locating active barra. When one fish is found, you can expect plenty more to be nearby so slow down and fish the area more methodically.

Night sessions on the hot spots will be gold this month. Still conditions will call for the use of topwater lures such as fizzers, poppers and stick baits. The Tango Dancer and Rapala 9cm Skitter Pop are two of the best. If there is no surface action, try rolling a shallow diving hard bodied lure like the Rapala X-Rap or the super tough Halco Hamma.

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.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

Barra fishing at Monduran has certainly improved although the bigger fish are still elusive. The November full moon is often the trigger to get the big barra munching trolled lures in the main basin of the lake.

Smaller barra from 40-65cm have been holding around structure in small schools. Areas of spindly branched trees with weed around them have held these fish all over the dam but it’s a case of covering the water to find the hot spots. To make matters tougher, yesterday’s hot spot could draw a blank the following day. When a fish is found, work the area hard for more and take note of the type of structure and all the other conditions like wind, presence of bait and water temperature to help locate similar productive areas.

The smaller fish call for smaller lures so toss hard bodies up to 120mm long and don’t be afraid to play with lipless baits smaller than 100mm. The hot weather and warmer nights should see the barra more willing to chase lures so experiment wider from the structure on shallow flats or around the weed flats with faster retrieves. Soft plastics, lipless baits and Transams are perfect for this. Stay mobile unless you’re on the fish and turn the water to foam with hundreds of casts. It may be tough but the rewards are there for those willing to give it a try.

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. Foxies 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 specializing in Lake Monduran, can also be made through the store. The kiosk’s number is (07) 4157 3881.

Capricornia Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Awoonga Dam has still been very quiet. Electro fishing results show there are still plenty of barra and big models among them. After speaking to anglers who pre-fished the lake for the ABT Barra Tour held last month, they all suggested there were hundreds of fish on the sounder all over the lake but they just didn’t want to play the game.

Eventually there will be a trigger or someone will crack a pattern on these fish. The action shouldn’t be too far away. If you are planning on a barra fish in the area, you have many more options if the dam is fishing poorly. The Boyne and Calliope Rivers have been holding plenty of barra since they escaped the dam at the beginning of the year. These fish take soft plastics and hard bodied lures. There is literally miles of water to explore and sound for these big escapee barra.

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 Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

Constant water temperatures will see the main basin of the dam fire up. Last month the cooler nights were making the fishing in the deep water of the main basin unpredictable. Michael Winterton managed to score several fish trolling the deep water. One of his best went 126cm on a Laser Pro 190 2m diver. Big lures trolled through the basin seem to be a growing trend with the Scorpion 150 also a popular and proven fish producer. The main basin of the lake is a massive place to fish so narrow down fish holding areas by working bait schools, points and drop offs to the old creek bed.

In the timber and across the shallower flats up the back of the dam have been plenty of barra of mixed sizes. Hard bodied lures like Barra baits and Scorpion 125’s are perfect for casting around the timber. With the fish being more active, try faster retrieves with soft plastics as well.

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 running charters on the lake and has a good idea where the barra will be and how best to catch them. If you are interested in a charter make sure you get in early with your booking. Lindsay can be reached through the store on (07) 4945 4641.

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