Fresh is Best
  |  First Published: February 2012

As the hordes return to work and school from their extended Christmas and New Year breaks, it will be a great time to get out and wet a line.

After dodging the crowds over Christmas, I’m keen to get back into the action at some of the busier freshwater destinations. All of the lakes that are close to Brisbane can be extremely busy with boats and jet skis over the warmer months. A sunny weekend at Lake Somerset will attract hundreds of cars and at times thousands of people. The extra weekend activity can make fishing a little tougher, although if you can put up with the crowds, you will still catch fish.

The fish in our busy dams have learned to live with the noise of boats over many years. I recall many occasions pulling fish from Somerset Dam’s busiest area, The Spit, where it was hard to stay standing from countless boat wakes meeting on the point. The saying goes ‘rain, hail or shine’ but I’m sure you could add plenty more to the list before it would stop the most diehard anglers from wetting a line. While I’ll have a go at anything, I’d prefer a weekday fishing session any day.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Cressbrook has fished well over the last couple of months. Schooling bass in the deeper water have been providing most of the action. The main school was holding between the boat ramps and the pump tower and though these fish have now scattered, finding smaller groups of fish on the sounder and casting blade baits and soft plastics will encourage them to bite.

Success will depend heavily on the use of the fish finder to pinpoint these productive areas as there will be a lot of barren water in between. Some reports suggest bass have migrated through the no fishing area to the other side of the pump tower up the Bull (Beams) Creek arm. Look for these bass on the first point on the right or on the submerged hump on the left hand side just through the fishing area buoy line.

The bass will be suckers for blade baits in the 1/4 to 1/2oz range. Paddle-tail soft plastics in brownish hues are also very effective. Rig these on 3/8oz jigheads and after several winds drop them back to the bottom or below the schooling fish before winding again.

Bait fishing with live shrimp will be worth a shot on any of the major points within sight of the boat ramp. Try depths between 6-8m and you should encounter bass, eel-tailed catfish and the occasional golden perch.

The redclaw crayfish activity has picked up a little but they aren’t as thick as last year. Working the pots for a few hours will produce enough for a feed.

The boys at Fish ‘N’ Bits, Alderley 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

Lake Somerset has been producing plenty of bass for lure trollers and casters. The action has been taking place at Pelican Point and Bay 13. The bass at Pelican have been cruising around the eastern side of the point in 7-12m of water. Most of these fish are smaller specimens around legal size with the odd one over 40cm.

Trolling deep diving hardbodied lures across the flats of Pelican has been accounting for stacks of these bass, even on the days when lure casting is slow. Working the 8m contours in the same area should see a few golden perch whacking the trolled lures as well. The Kezza Freak, Brolga, Blitz Baga and Crazy Deep 50mm Poltergeist have been working very well. Most colours will work but dark purple and brown and yellow seem to be doing a lot of the damage.

The schools in Bay 13 have been holding some larger bass over 50cm in length. Casting to these fish seems to be the best way to entice the bigger fish. The 1/2oz blades are perfect for searching for these big fish. Long casts placed well away from the boat are the best way to fool the fish before they detect your presence and come in under the boat, school up and shut down.

Boat following fish can be hard targets on the still days. A bit of wind is a blessing as it keeps the boat moving and the bass drop off the drift and can be caught by casting back into the wind. When the fish are right under the boat, downsize the blade to a 46mm Big Eye Blade or run a 3” paddle-tail plastic like the Slider Grub or Ripple Shad. Bringing these lures up at around a 45º angle will often see more active fish on the outside edges of the school taking the lure.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

There has been plenty of bass action at Lake MacDonald over the last month. These fish should continue to bite and hold in similar areas over the next couple of months.

The Three Ways area has had plenty of schooling fish out in the middle of the dam. Once found on the sounder, these fish can be caught on medium sized blade baits, such as 1/4oz.

The banks around the palm plantation have been holding good numbers of bass. An early morning start with surface poppers cast to the water lilies should draw some explosive surface strikes. The Gobo Popper and Zip’n Ziggy are two different styles of popper that can be equally effective.

The shallow weed edges in the area will produce bass throughout the day. A downsized spinnerbait works extremely well around MacDonald’s shallow edges. Soft plastics rigged on 1/8oz jigheads will also produce fish when wound and flicked through the weed.

Saratoga are always a chance of taking your lures intended for bass. Sooner or later, fishing these techniques you will hook up to one of these prized sportfish.

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 quite a bit of action at Borumba with bass and saratoga making their way into many a landing net. Similar catches should continue over coming months if the dam level remains stable.

The bass have preferred the steeper banks. Most action is taking place on the steep rocky edges in the timber but there are also some fish to be caught on similar sloping areas in the main dam basin. Spinnerbaits are one of the best lures to work down the steep banks and when using them golden perch will get in on the action.

The occasional toga has been lured from the steep banks but if you are after numbers, venture up the Yabba arm of the lake. Targeting structure is the key to hooking saratoga. Accurate casts around the banksia trees will soon fool these awesome fish. Small spinnerbaits, hardbodies, beetle spins, soft plastics and surface lures will get toga interested, connected and dancing on the end of your line.

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

The golden perch action has died down at Coolmunda but there are still plenty of fish to be caught by those prepared to put in the time or more experienced in freshwater angling. Lures and baits are still getting the job done although the fish don’t seem to be coming from all over the dam.

Finding the best spots where the fish are thicker and willing to eat is the trick to success. The mornings and afternoons are the prime bite periods so it always pays to base a session around these times.

Trolling 5m lures around the drop-offs is a great way to entice a few yellowbelly. This is called contour trolling and a lure kept running close to the bottom along a drop-off ledge will be rewarded more often than a lure wobbling away through open water.

Some ledges have drowned tree stumps which not only attract the golden perch but also big Murray cod. You never know when a cod will inhale your lure so it always pays to fish with quality gear and suitable line at Coolmunda. A 10lb braid is sufficient to handle most fish as the dam is quite open. The leader size should be increased to 17-25lb just in case a cod grabs a hold of your lure. When using heavier leaders, which affect the swimming depth of lures, I opt to run a shorter leader length of around 120cm so there is less resistance and the lures work better and deeper.

Lure casters who target structure will be rewarded for their efforts. Cast the lure past the standing timber and let it fall all the way to the bottom before commencing a slow retrieve. After 6-12 winds drop the lure back to the bottom before winding again. Working the standing timber will score fish but it is often the unseen timber on the bottom which holds better numbers. There isn’t a lot of this lay down timber in Coolmunda so a side imaging sounder can be used to great effect to locate such areas.

Bait fishers are having most of their fun in the morning and afternoon. The points in Bracker Creek mouth or the drop-off out from the boat ramp will see you in with a good chance. Live shrimp are normally the best bait but of late frozen prawns have been producing plenty of golden perch.

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.

Whitsunday Region
Closest Tows: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

Lake Proserpine continues to be the state’s premier big barra lake. Casting and trolling have been productive with the period leading up to and during the full moon the most rewarding time to fish.

Lure casters have been hooking into plenty of the lake’s smaller barra up to a metre in length. This action has tapered off over the last couple of months but there should be a spike in fish activity around the full moon period. While mostly numbers of mid-sized barra are taken casting, the occasional large fish is hooked and landed as well.

Working shallow and medium diving hardbodies around the points, flats and timbered edges up in the trees is the way to score fish. Often the best place to target is right out in the open where a shallow weeded flat rises up to just below the surface. These areas tend to draw in better numbers of barra from dusk until dawn.

For day sessions, try your luck around the big trees in deeper water marking the edge of creek channels. Deeper diving lures like Barra Baits and 125 Scorpions are perfect for this approach. Wind them down into the structure and then let them float half way back up before twitching and continuing the slow retrieve. This keeps the lure right in close to the structure for a longer time, tempting the fish to bite if they are at home.

Trolling in the main basin of the lake is the way to tangle with the big girls. Here the barra average well over a metre long and are easier to fight in the deep open water. While fish can be taken during the day on the troll, the best action starts as the sun begins to fade and continues through the night. Smart anglers will work their lures out from major points, over drop-offs and definitely around balls of bait fish.

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.

Bjelke Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The fishing at Bjelke is still tough. There are smaller bass and the odd golden perch being caught on lures and bait. Locating fish on the sounder around the flats and drop-offs is important. Once found, they will take cast spinnerbaits and soft vibes.

Bait fishers would be wise to use live shrimp. Shrimp will out fish most other baits with their ability to entice even the most stubborn fish.

There have been a few redclaw crayfish caught around the dam wall end of the lake but, like the fish, they have been pretty hard to come by.

Matthew and Lucas at Bass to Barra in Kingaroy will be able to give you the latest news on Bjelke-Petersen. They keep a close eye on the place and will have heard many of the latest reports so be sure to call in to the store and say hello.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Lure trollers will have plenty of fun over the next month. Bass and golden perch are whacking trolled offerings all over the dam. These fish are suspended and scattered in 5-7m of water between the dam wall and The Junction. Choosing a lure that runs at this depth allows the angler to cover heaps of water with the lure right in the strike zone. The most popular colours have been dark greens, dark purple and red.

Due to the fish being so scattered, casting lures can be frustrating. Lure casters will pick up a few fish for their efforts while casting blades and lipless crankbait. It is certainly worth a try if better concentrations of fish are found. Watching the trollers whack the fish all around you can be enough to make you give in and join the trolling party.

It’s not only hardbodies that catch fish on the troll. Heavier blades like 1/2oz models and 5/8oz spinnerbaits take plenty of fish when trolled between 2-3km/h. Golden perch are often caught closer to the shore while bass can be found suspended in very deep water. Despite their liking of open water, fish will still concentrate around drop-offs and out from major points.

The redclaw crayfish activity has been slow with some of the better catches coming from the timbered areas of the Boyne and Stuart.

To pick up some more advice or the right gear for the job, call in and see Matthew or Lucas at Bass to Barra in Kingaroy. Bass to Barra also have a shop in Dalby so be sure to catch up with the guys if you’re heading out.

Closest Town: Monto

The fishing at Cania has been fabulous. Heaps of bass have been taking lures and bait fishers can expect golden perch, bass and spangled perch.

The hot weather has seen the fish drop back to deeper water. They can be caught on trolled lures and cast offerings like blade baits and soft plastics. In the mornings and afternoons, there is still plenty of action in deeper water around the edges. Casting lures like spinnerbaits, blades and small hardbodies will draw the strikes.

Bass are the most common fish encountered in these waters. When starting retrieves from the shallows and working lures deeper as they come back to the boat. Saratoga are also a good possibility and are fond of spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, hardbodies and soft plastics.

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.

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: Biloela

When any dam starts to fire up after a long quiet period, the stories start to fly around. Callide has again started to produce some exceptional barramundi fishing. There have been some confirmed reports of double figure sessions on the lake’s barra. These fish have been around the 80cm size, but these tales are often about “A mate of a mate who caught…”

I have to say I am willing to accept most things on face value but I tend to apply the truth factor into the equation. For example, there has been the story of a 1.2m barra caught on New Year’s Eve and another caught measuring 1.47m. These are big fish and when a story is told from one fisherman to another the fish tend to grow. I would love to be proven wrong about the 1.47m fish from Callide but this seems huge for this dam. Many anglers believed all of Callide’s big barra died a few years back in a massive fish kill but it is quite possible some survived. Whether these stories are true to the letter or not, I am guessing some of the lake’s old big barra have been encountered and caught. If anyone has managed to catch one of these old big fish recently, I would love to see a photo and print it in the Queensland Fishing Monthly.

The shallow bays in the timber have been holding plenty of fish. These tight timbered areas are where slowly retrieved and twitched hardbody lures excel. Most barra have been coming from less than 2m of water but with warmer conditions, these fish may drop back into deeper water, especially through the middle of the day.

While they are in the shallows, they can be targeted with shallow running hardbodies. There are heaps of lures out there capable of doing this job such as the River 2 Sea Trio, Gold Bombers, floating X-Raps, B52, Laser Pro and the C’ultiva CT110F. One of my favourites is the 085 Halco Hamma. This lure is the baby brother of the Hamma 123 and is well suited to smaller barra, big bass and mangrove jack. The beauty of the Hamma is it comes with an interchangeable bib making the lure suited to different retrieves and depths. The 1m bib is perfect for slow twitching in the shallows while the 3m bib will pull the lure deeper where it can be twitched or slow rolled back to the boat.

During the hottest part of the year, barra can respond well to a faster presentation. Instead of the usual slow twitchy retrieve, speed things up and burn a lure fast giving it several pauses each cast. While hardbodies are effective when worked slowly, a lure capable of casting further is more suited to this technique. Lipless crankbaits, soft plastics and Transam 95’s are perfect for this technique as they cast a mile and swim well at speed. Long casts past multiple snags are just begging for trouble. When a barra hooks up deep in the sticks it’s bound to be an interesting fight.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

The barra have fired up since Christmas. Some anglers have been rewarded with great sessions with 7-8 fish caught per boat. Most of these fish are still the smaller models with 70-80cm fish common. There were several fish over a metre long caught last month so it appears they are starting to make their way out of their hiding places.

Most of the action has been taking place in the Kolan River between ‘C’ and the Two Mile area. In this area, the barra have really fired up. Other areas may just be slower to pick up and may follow suit over the next month. It would certainly be worth exploring and casting the south and north arm of ‘B’.

Barra have been falling to all types of lures but it seems hardbodies have been most effective. Smaller presentations are getting the job done with the standout colour being plain white. The Rapala XR10, Halco Hamma 085, Killalure Flats Rat and Tropic Angler Floater have all been proven performers in the last month.

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. Foxies also sell dam maps which are designed to show the dam when it is at different levels and importantly, is marked with all the local names and letters for the different sections. The next angler to ask me “Which way is the boat ramp?” at Mondy won’t be the last. The dam map or a GPS is certainly a great idea if your navigation skills aren’t up to scratch.

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.

Jamia Bein from Lake Monduran Barra Charters has battled through the tough fishing times and is now rewarded with a great knowledge of some of the lake’s most productive fishing spots. You can check out his site at www.lakemonduranbarra charters.com for more information.

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. The kiosk’s number is (07) 4157 3881.

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