Hot Fishing in the Heat
  |  First Published: December 2007

So another year starts. We have new government, new leadership, new ideas and it will now be very interesting to see if these ideas translate into any gains for recreational anglers across the country.

Anglers now face a very real danger of having much more territory locked away in the name of so-called conservation. As Editor Booth has pointed out many times in his editorials, no decision ever made by a government in this country has ever been to the advantage of rec anglers, and yet this group collectively, is one of the major interest groups across Australia.

This locking away will not only affect anglers in the Great Barrier Reef areas but also spots much closer to the major population centres such as Moreton Bay. Yes I know many of these decisions are State based but with wall to wall Labor governments does anyone seriously believe we won’t get shafted with more of the same as happened with the Reef and other zonings.

The absolute craziness of these moves is that they are mostly done without any independent and unbiased research and findings. Sure reports are commissioned, but those reports are tailored to come up with a specific outcome that supports what the Department/Government commissioning the report is seeking.

I have long held the belief that any of these scientific reports should provide detail of the authors experience, qualifications and the desired outcome of the report. That is, what position is the report supposed to support. I also believe that details of who pays for the report should be subject to full disclosure.

Call me paranoid if you like but I have seen dodgy papers presented in support of decisions made on recreational fishing activities such as closures, fish stocking and more. These documents when held to close scrutiny by informed and experienced people just don’t stack up yet they are treated as fact when decisions are made.

While anglers remain a disorganised bunch we will continue to get the prickly end of the pineapple in these decisions. Everyday, I hear anglers saying that “someone” should do “something” about this or that. My challenge to all anglers is to become the someone and get off your bum and do something. That may be joining Sunfish or a similar organisation and contributing by your membership number. It could be rattling off a quick letter to your local editor about a local issue or writing to your local member. If you don’t get a satisfactory reply escalate the issue by involving the media . There is one thing pollies and government departments hate and that is being on the wrong side of a popular issue, just ask ex-Premier Beattie about local councils.

So let’s get the ball rolling along through 2008 and become a noisy irksome political force that refuses to get shafted anymore. Am I dreaming? Probably, but having fought and won a few of these issues in the past I know that it can be done with dedicated and passionate people. Trouble is we need more of them, so why not become one and do your bit?


For Mackay anglers I expect that Teemburra Dam will continue to be the jewel in the crown. This facility has to be one of the success stories of the decade so far, with anglers coming from as far away as the USA to tangle with the barra and to help put Mackay firmly and squarely among those must visit angling destinations. Sure there are places where bigger barra can be caught, but this is the place with the best catch rate per effort. Throw in the fact it is set up in the hills among plenty of greenery and it becomes even more attractive. As a bonus the place has some huge sooties with the best fish I know about going 570mm long. That is a bloody good sooty anywhere.

Teemburra is about 60% capacity at the moment and the rise from 20% over the last wet season has changed the fishery quite a bit. Everyone’s favourite spots from the past few years are now under 6-10m of water and are no longer productive. As often happens with dramatic water level rises, the fish seem to turn off for a time and that has been the case with this dam.

It takes time for water levels to stabilise, and the favourite barra habitat of weed beds to grow and flourish among the newly drowned land. As this summer has progressed it has been very interesting to observe the growth of the weeds and they are now almost to the point where the bays and points all have definite weed beds with sharply defined drop offs along the edges. This is the habitat to look out for. I can guarantee with this type of scenario¸ there will be barra present. Of course merely because they are there does not mean that you can catch them.

Barra have an annoying habit when they are not really in the mood, to flash and swirl at a lure or fly just as it is lifted from the water. This is great encouragement and normally persisting in that spot will get a hook up. Try a smaller lure or fly or different colour/depth to see if that makes the difference between a looker and a hooker.

The dam is getting back to normal, with good weedbeds and plenty of lilies to give the barra heaps of spots that offer some cover, feed and warm water. I love fishing around lily pads especially if they are just near substantial weed beds. Look at the gap between the weeds and the lilies as a fish lane and work it thoroughly. If there are patches of weeds like islands out from the main bed use the same technique of getting the lure or fly up in the lane. That way if there is a barra either at the island or lilies or patrolling the main weed bed you stand a great chance of a hook up.

Barra are still plentiful up in the timbers, but seem to prefer a little open water with the timber. The really dense stands of timber will have some barra there but are more likely to hold sooties hard in on the cover.

So if you are a first timer to Teemburra Dam then the place to look for is in the open areas of the dam with a prominent point or corner of a bay. Ideally there will be a few regrowth suckers drowned here and a substantial weed bed out about 2m from the shoreline. This should slope out into 3-5m of water, again with a few regrowth suckers as a bonus, or a patch or two of lilies.

Position your boat so you can work along the front face of the weeds, around the suckers and or lilies and out into the deeper water. Don’t throw out an anchor, lower it quietly over the side after driving in slowly with an electric. Then work the spot thoroughly and I will rarely shift, spending 30 minutes at the one spot if I am confident fish are in the area. It doesn’t matter whether you are luring or flyfishing, this is where the fish will be.

If a boat goes past some distance away and the bow wave roils up the back and makes the water dirty, get a lure or fly as close as you can to the dirty edge. I have seen many times boney bream suddenly appear near the bank when this happens, where moments before there was no sign of life. I am no biologist, but it looks like the boneys come into this really shallow water looking for food stirred up along the bank. There is one truism in all fishing, if you find the bait the fish aren’t far away.

I am often asked what is my favourite barra lure, but really any of the recognised regulars will work. Barra from the dams are usually feeding on boneys around 75-100mm long, so logically a lure/fly around this size is a good start. That lure can be hard bodied or a soft plastic or fly. The thing to remember with dam barra is to work the lure as slowly as possible while keeping the action going. This is the point that separates the also rans from the good lures - they work at very slow speeds.

Plastics have an inherent advantage here as they will give good action at the slightest movement, or at least they should. I prefer to stay away from plastics that have a thick tail wrist as they need more effort to get them to work. Those that are very limp around the tail wrist are the go as they will work at the slightest movement. Brands I regularly use are Tsunami, Reidy’s, Squidgies and Storm plastics and they will all catch barra, not only in the dams but anywhere else for that matter.

There is a tremendous range of hard body lures around, but I generally stick to a few well known brands. Make sure your lures have good hardware and if not upgrade it before you have one of those if only I’d upgraded the hooks/rings I would have landed it scenarios. In no particular order I use Reidy’s, Tropic Angler, Storm and Rebel Fat Rap lures. These all work as do literally hundreds of others. My advice is to have a range of sizes and colours.

The other lures that are a must have are the surface lures. There is no more exciting way to catch a barra than on a surface lure and to see your popper disappear in a huge boil and water going everywhere is great stuff. I have written many times about the Tango Dancer lures and they are just magic. They are easily worked either by slow side to side retrieve or by ripping them and then letting them rest. They cast well and barra climb all over them. Don’t go on the dams without a few. They are not cheap but have good hardware and work. Conventional poppers are also popular with the Rebel range and the Surecatch ones about 75 mm long being proven performers.

Teemburra Dam is and will remain about my favourite place to fish. But Mackay has plenty of other fishy attractions like Kinchant Dam where there have been heaps of 1m+ barra caught and also Eungella Dam which is the home of huge sooties and a good sprinkling of fair sized barra too. Kinchant is a good spot for trollers as it is an open basin and the barra are huge. It is regularly stocked each year by MAFSA as are the other two dams.

Staying on the freshwater scene for this month, don’t neglect the Pioneer River and its tributaries like Cattle Creek. These waters hold good numbers of sooties in very pleasant waters sometimes surrounded by rainforest. MAFSA also stock small numbers of barra in the weirs on the Pioneer River and they are now reaching legal size or better.

So there you have my pick of the spots for freshwater angling around Mackay for 2008. Thanks must go to the tremendous efforts of MAFSA members who stock these waters so that anglers can have a better fishing future and they deserve the support of every angler who enjoys fishing these fantastic waters.

To finish with a word of warning, unless anglers are careful, stocked impoundments may end up being the only place we are allowed to fish. What a tragedy that would be. Don’t be complacent and don’t let it happen. Till next month keep on fishing.

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