Bank on Balonne River
  |  First Published: December 2012

St George is located 200km west of Goondoowindi and lays claim to being Queensland’s inland fishing capital.

It is regarded as a major stop over point on the Barwon Highway for a lot of travellers either heading south towards Mungindi, west to Cunnamulla or north to Mitchell or Roma.

Right on the banks of the mighty Balonne River around 1km west of the town centre is the St George Caravan Park, at 21 Victoria Street. The street runs parallel to the Balonne River and leads directly to the bridge over the Balonne next to the town weir. The river is very wide here and remarkably placid, however it has reached some monumental flood heights during the previous two summers. Historically, the Balonne has periodically risen in this manner since the establishment of the town in the 1800s.

Infrastructure is much as we’d expect from a country town with virtually everything easily available within a laid back, rural, and quite friendly ambience. There are service stations for fuel, a supermarket, restaurants, several hotels, hardware and other retail outlets.

The St George Caravan Park is not a large one by many standards but certainly large enough to allow quite a lot of travellers to set up camp on its entirely level and lawned grounds. Amenities are well maintained and there are concrete pads established for caravan owners. Powered and unpowered sites are on hand, and there is a nicely grassed area set aside for tents.

Self-contained ensuite cabins are also available. Pets are allowed under supervision. Hosts Ivan and Ann Bradley will also take the traveller aside to explain some of the local fishing areas and attractions after assisting in the allocation of a suitable camp site.

The Caravan Park is also situated less than 100m from the Balonne River’s southern bank. It’s an easy walk to the river and there is a concrete surfaced walkway that leads back to the town for people wanting to enjoy a scenic stroll.

For guests with youngsters there’s the added attraction of the adjoining riverside park with its playgrounds and picnic tables. A free electric barbecue is on hand along with decent picnic tables and there’s also a pontoon from which to cast a lure or bait into the Balonne’s waters after enjoying some culinary delights.

There are also ample opportunities to fish along those shady banks as well.

Fishing the inland way

The caravan park is so close to the river that the public launching ramp beckons the angler to have a crack at the inland fish. Boating is trouble-free and, while there are a few snags, travelling by boat, canoe or kayak couldn’t be easier.

Cod are naturally the main stars of the show but remain just as elusive in the waters of the Balonne as they do elsewhere. Some days they bite, and bite well, other days they seem to have serious lockjaw issues. On the other hand golden perch and eel-tailed catfish are more easily taken with the odd silver perch thrown in as well.

Anglers can also venture to various fishing areas away from town; one of note is en route to the Beardmore Dam turnoff is 22km north from town, on the Carnarvon Highway as if heading to Roma. Another is at a smaller impounded waters, you get there by taking the first grid encountered, then turn left into and follow the road to the river.

On my recent visit to the area, the river in town was fairly clear and would have been well worth working with a spinnerbait or other offering with some flash or colour about it. Bait fishing, however, is simply the surest way to secure inland fish and, with shrimps and yabbies inhabiting most waterways, bait is not hard to come by. Worms are also available at the St George BP service station.

Opera house traps baited with some cat food or a cake of soap should secure a supply of shrimps and there are a few fishing methods to choose from. The first involves using a very light sinker on the usual 6-7kg line and allowing the bait to sit until found by a cod, golden or silver perch, eel-tailed catfish or a big fat carp. It’s very relaxing and if the fish are on the job one can be quite busy.

The other preferred method is to ‘bob’ for the freshwater fish; this method is usually more productive. The concept involves attracting fish to the baited hook with some noise, such as ‘plopping’ a float on the surface around a snag or other feature. From my experience the more ‘plop’ the better!

Any small, noise-making float will work. A fat float from the tackle store is ideal but a wine bottle cork tied onto the line around 1m or so above the baited 2/0 hook will be fine. Use no more than a length of 8kg line from a reel, or simply tied to a long but flexible rod. Continually plop the float on the surface around the chosen feature until a fish is attracted by the small commotion and obligingly grabs the bait. If that particular snag or bank section is not productive then simply move to the next one.

There’s a lot of fun in this method and youngsters seem to love it. Mind you, if a mega cod gets into the action he won’t be on for long but as the majority of fish taken will be either golden perch, catties, or carp of manageable size, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Last but not least

For the visitor looking for a bit more than angling to fill in time while at the Caravan Park there’s the Riversand Vineyards (07) 4625 3643 at Whytes Road, St George for an interesting time. The town Information Centre (07) 4620 8877 on The Terrace also offers a lot of interesting diversions including information on Sandytown River Cruises (0400 219 379) or perhaps a drive to Beardmore Dam 22km north on the Carnarvon Highway where there are well kept picnic grounds and more fishing.

The St George Caravan Park can be contacted on (07) 4625 5778, ask for Ivan or Ann Bradley, friendly people who love to help visitors.

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