The Year of the Barra
  |  First Published: December 2012

Forget Chinese calendars; on the Queensland fishing calendar, it will be the year of the barra. Barramundi numbers are increasing across the stocked lakes and so is their size.

While a lot of fun, the smaller fish lack the wow factor and the ability to stitch you up and expose weaknesses in tackle like bigger fish can. The northern lakes produced plenty of monsters last year while the southern lakes started to fish well once again, after losing plenty of their mature fish to flooding over the past couple of years. This smaller class of barra are growing fast and by year’s end, they will be starting to peel more drag and become more of a handful on lighter tackle. There are exciting times ahead for freshwater barra fishermen.

Not to be forgotten over the summer months are all the other species on offer. Golden perch, bass, cod and saratoga will all be keen to whack a lure, though habits may change in some areas due to the hot water temperatures they experience at this time of year.

One style of fishing which can really produce well is surface luring. Working a floating lure back across the surface to look like a wounded fish or drowning insect can and will produce some explosive surface strikes. This visual style of luring provides plenty of thrills when the fish are cooperative. Early mornings and late afternoons are the times to be on the water as the fish are more willing to rise and feed in very shallow water. Certain lakes and rivers perform better than others when it comes to surface lures. Among other contributing factors, I put this down to the main food supply the fish come across and the habitat in which they live. Fish focussed on munching crustaceans or deep schooling baitfish species are far less likely to whack a topwater offering. If they are chasing floating bugs or surface swimming baitfish, get the surface lures ready. Take this into consideration when it comes time to choosing the topwater technique.

As always, some spots are really on fire while others have slowed down. Plan your trips around the locations which are producing well and you should have a lot of fun. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

The bass action at Cressbrook has slowed right down over the last month. Good numbers of fish have been schooling on the long, submerged point opposite the Eagles Nest rock wall up Cressbrook Creek. The exact location is roughly in the middle of the dam where the point runs out and the top of it is only 7m below the surface. These fish can turn it on but they are quite tough to tempt on most occasions, especially when pressured by more than one or two boats. Soft plastics seem to get the best response. Paddle tailed grubs and shads in the three inch size rigged on 3/8 or 1/2oz jigheads will get them interested. These bass tap away at the plastic a lot but if you persist, they may hook up. Blades have been slower in this area but are always worth a try just in case the bass have changed their feeding mood. Trolling small hard bodied lures which dive 4 to 6 metres deep repeatedly over the fish holding area may also produce the odd fish.

The general area around this point will also be worth a flick closer to the banks. Try the rock wall and any other features of note in the area. Some anglers have reported luring a few bass on suspending hard bodies. The deep diving variety will be the best for this during the day.

In the last few weeks there has been an increase in the number of golden perch being caught. These fish are being taken on lures intended for bass. It’s great to see them in the lake again as the golden perch have been very quiet in Cressbrook over the last few years. Fishing with live shrimp may produce even better numbers of these fish, especially if they can be found in schools. The first few points west of the boat ramp have produced a few goldens so they would certainly be worth investigating. Live shrimp are also the answer to enticing tight lipped bass. Sitting on top of the school and dropping a shrimp to the exact depth they are holding should soon see the desired response.

If you are heading to the dam, don’t forget your $2.50 in coins to get through the boom gate and the 8 knot speed limit which is in place. For all your supplies and expert advice, call in at Fish’n’Bits in Alderly Street, Toowoomba or give them a ring on (07) 4636 6850. The boys at the store all compete in bass tournaments and really know their stuff.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Sometimes you have to wonder where all the fish hide. This hasn’t been the case at Somerset over the last month with massive schools spread right out over the northern and southern drop off of Pelican Point. It makes you wonder where they have all come from and what continually draws them to this area where they receive so much fishing pressure.

Trolling deep diving lures, which are capable of diving 6-10m deep, is a great way to explore the area and find the best concentrations of bass. Trolled lures like the Kezza Mud Puppy have been working great even when boats casting plastics and blades are struggling. Keeping the boat moving seems to be the secret. The second you stop or even slow to less than 1.5km/h, the bass are onto you. The scattered fish head straight for the boat where they stack up in a tight bunch and then refuse to eat lures. When the wind blows and you get a faster drift over the fish, casting lures like soft plastics and blade baits will produce the numbers. When it is still, use long casts to explore different areas looking for active fish. Don’t be afraid to leave stacked fish in search of ones more willing to bite.

Golden perch numbers have increased. These fish will take lures intended for bass or trolled hard bodies which run close to the bottom. The Pelican Point area has been holding its share, especially on the southern drop off in around 8 metres of water.

While the fish are so tightly stacked, live shrimp are a great way to boat big numbers of fish. When sitting on top of the fish, the action can be hectic. Drop the bait straight over the side with a small ball sinker tied to the bottom of the rig and a wide gape hook tied about 30-60cm above. As the bass or golden perch bite, lower the rod tip about 10cm to allow them to eat the bait and lift the rod to feel if you have weight. With these hooks, there is no need to aggressively strike. When you do, you will often miss the prize.

Closest Towns: Nerang, Gold Coast

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of bass around the edges of the lake. Early morning sessions have produced fish on topwater lures like Soft Shell Cicadas and the Jackall Frog.

As the sun rises, the bass will continue to bite on shallow running crankbaits twitched around the edges. Go deeper with your lure choice as the sun gets higher in the sky and you should be able to extend the bite right through the day.

Closest Town: Boonah

The fish have spread out throughout the dam. Schools of smaller bass can be found on some of the points but the bigger fish are favouring structure and while sometimes concentrated in one area, are solitary fish.

The warm water has pushed the fish deeper into the weed beds where they can be harder targets. Working reaction lures like spinnerbaits and lipless cranks out from the base of the weed beds is a good option. Keeping the presentation tight to the structure will be the key. On the steep banks and harder edges where there is little weed growth, deep cranks will be a good option.

The topwater action has been hit and miss and the activity of fish on the surface usually depends on the amount of boat traffic. It’s a busy time of year to be on the water and this makes the bass a little more shy when it comes to rising to the top. Subsurface presentations will still be very effective in the early morning and late afternoon. The Nursery has had quite a few bass willing to whack a shallow suspending lure worked over submerged weed beds. If you know where there are deeper pockets in the submerged weed, there is an even greater chance of scoring a fish. - Chris Galligan

Closest Towns: Fassifern, Boonah

The Moogerah fish have been a bit tough with mixed results coming in. Their willingness to bite really seems to depend upon the day rather than angler ability.

Some nice weed has formed in some areas and bass can be taken from these weed beds early in the day on spinnerbaits and mid-diving cranks. After this morning bite in around 3m of water, the fish wander to deeper areas of around 5 metres. Look for concentrations of fish on the points and flats around this depth. Once found, they can be tough to tempt. Stick with proven lures like soft plastics, blade baits, ice jigs and lipless crankbaits. Alternate between these to see what the fish prefer on the day. When it is tough, it has been very tough but some days the fish go nuts and eat lures like kids eat lollies.

Don’t forget the boom gates at Lake Moogerah. The dam’s opening hours are 6am to 6pm and a pin code is required to open the gates. This can be obtained from the kiosk at the dam. - Chris Galligan

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Leslie Dam
Closest Town: Warwick

The increased water temperature has made the activity level of the golden perch pick up over the last month. Quality fish over 40cm have been landed all over the dam. The warm conditions have been favourable for lure trolling, with small hard bodies working well. Jackall and Jazz lipless crankbaits have been two of the best performers and can be cast or trolled.

Bait fishers should easily snare a feed if using live shrimp in the right location. Where the dam narrows up the back past the grass trees on the bank has been one of the best spots over the past month.

If you are chasing any supplies for the dams in the Warwick area or want to tangle with some of the cod and goldens in the river, call in and see the guys at Warwick Outdoor and Sports. The store is in Palmerin Street which is the main street running through Warwick.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Boondooma continues to fish well although there have been some changes over the past month. Bass seem to have moved from their location further up the dam to school closer to the dam wall.

This is no surprise and is often the case in the summer months at Boondooma. The bays and points around the dam wall will be the place to explore for schooling bass. White paddle tail soft plastics have been a gun lure over the last few weeks so be sure to have a few in the boat if you plan on fishing the dam. Schooling bass can turn up anywhere in the main basin so if you’re looking for your own piece of water, be prepared to sound around and find a school.

Golden perch will still be plentiful in the Stuart timber. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits can be cast to the trees and banks in the mornings and afternoons with some success. The best results will come on bait, with worms and live shrimp performing well.

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

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

It is great to hear the bass are making a comeback at Bjelke-Petersen.

The bass have schooled up on the flats around Bass Point in the middle reaches of the lake. Here, there are quite a few 8-10m flats which can hold the schools. Once found, the smaller class of bass are throwing caution to the wind and are whacking blades like there’s no tomorrow. The Little Max in 1/4oz and 3/8oz has been accounting for heaps of these hungry little fish. While most have been from undersize to 35cm long, there has been the odd big one well over 40cm thrown in. It has to make you wonder where these bigger fish have been hiding for the past couple of years.

The golden perch are monsters and continue to bite on bait up in the timber. Trolling medium diving hard bodies around the dam will also account for these fish and help locate the schools of bass.

Bass to Barra in Kingaroy stock all the necessary fishing supplies and can help you with the right gear and knowledge to ensure you stand a good chance of scoring one of those monster golden perch.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

The bigger bass coming from Isis are being taken early in the morning on surface lures.

The Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy is a top performer on this lake when worked over the submerged weed beds. The dark colour of the 40-45cm fish being taken on topwater lures indicates they are spending most of their time sitting shallow in the weed. Once the sun comes up and the fish sink deeper it makes them harder to entice. Usually you can extract big fish from the pockets in the weed bed but at the moment the weed is fairly thick and matted, with very few deeper canyons for the bass to hide in. Looking for the edge of the weed and running lures parallel to it could be the answer. Spinnerbaits, blades and lipless crankbaits will all be worth a shot.

Scattered schools in deeper water have been holding a smaller class of fish with most less than 40cm. These schools will take soft plastics and 1/4oz blade baits.

A few of the boys at Salty’s Tackleworld in Bundaberg are keen bass fishermen and will be able not only to set you up with the right gear to enjoy the action, but point you straight to some of the best spots. Salty’s has a great range of fresh and saltwater tackle so be sure to call in and take advantage of the great fishing in the area. Apparently the Mangrove Jacks are going off in the local creeks and rivers so pry them for more info.

Closest town: Gin Gin

Monduran has continued to produce its smaller class of barramundi. Rob, from Guide Lines fishing charters based at the kiosk at the dam, has reported plenty of smaller barra. The barra start as small as 50cm with plenty being around the 60cm size. There is the occasional bigger fish over 80cm but many smaller fish are mixed in with these. For a four hour session, you can expect to catch 5 or more fish once you know their location.

Tight structure seems to be the place to send your lures. The tops of spindly trees can hold big numbers of barramundi. Once a fish is caught or even encountered, take note of the area as it is likely there will be plenty of its mates in there. Cranking suspending hard bodies down into the heart of a snag and allowing them to pause and suspend will draw aggressive strikes from these small barra. Deep hardbodies are ideal, especially during the day. The Jackall Hank Tune is very popular and another good performer is the 3m Halco Hamma 85. Earlier and later in the day, you can expect the fish to come from shallower regions of the lake. Exploring the weedy edges with a shallow diving lure like a Laser Pro 120, B52s or Bomber Long A can reveal the presence of your quarry. When fishing in this fashion, the fish are more likely to be holding in bays so concentrate on these areas. As the sun rises, choose a deeper diving lure.

The majority of the action has been taking place further up the lake. The north and south arm of “B” are very popular and so are the smaller bays off the Kolan River. Fish smart over the warmer months and you should be rewarded. Try the shallower areas early and late in the day and switch to deeper fish holding areas once the sun is higher in the sky. Choose lures to suit the depth the fish are most likely to be holding and try to put them right in front of their nose. Remember the pattern you’re using because once you whack a fish, it needs to be repeated.

The tackle store in Gin Gin, Foxies, stocks a range of successful barra lures. You’ll also be able to get an idea of where the fish have been hiding and pick up a detailed lake map.

If you are after a charter try Lake Monduran Barra Charters. Jamie fishes that dam more than anyone else I know. His regular visits ensure he has a good understanding of what’s going on. Contact Jamie on his mobile number 0407 434 446, or through his website www.lakemonduranbarracharters.com .

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. Rob from the kiosk runs a barra guiding business called Guide Lines and bookings can be made through the kiosk. Ring ahead to secure the date you are after.

Capricorn Region
Closest Town: Biloela

It’s been hard to get a report on Callide over the last couple of months. Luckily, local angler Cameron Hobson is keen to help out. Cameron is a Biloela boy and fishes the dam a couple of times each month. Here’s what he has to say about the lake and it’s all looking pretty positive.

There were quite a few better quality barra around in November. These fish were around 80cm in length. These better quality fish have been tougher to find but there is a smaller class of fish around 60cm keen to get in on the action.

Cameron suggests targeting fish in the wind blown bays off the main basin. The fish were shallow last month but warmer conditions may force them to retreat to slightly deeper water. Lures like the gold Bomber and B52 have been ideal. The fish will eat slowly retrieved or twitched presentations. If there is a move to deeper areas, suspending hard bodies will be a good option.

Callide is not just for anglers with boats. There are plenty of access points around the bank and heaps of fish are caught by shore-based anglers. Wading to waist deep water may be necessary if the barra start to hold a little deeper.

The best bite time is usually in the afternoon and you can expect between 5 and 10 fish on a good session. Of course like all barra fishing there are tough days too where the fish just don’t want to play the game.

Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

The smaller barra have been active at Awoonga with plenty of 60cm fish being caught. This smaller class of barra seems to like some form of structure to hide around. Some anglers have found the tight timber is the place to explore while others have been pulling fish from the lily pads near the timber. Medium sized hard bodies have been scoring the fish when used with a slow rolling retrieve or a stop start twitch. Some of the best action has taken place in the Riverstone arm of the lake. Early morning and afternoon and evening sessions have been the best.

There have been quite a few redclaw crayfish around in the upper part of the dam. Futter Creek has held its share but unfortunately there haven’t been good fishing reports from this area.

For 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

Trolling the main basin of the lake has continued to produce some of the best barra fishing. Lure casters are working hard and still catching 60-80cm barra from the points, flats and weed up in the timbered areas. Here you can try soft plastics or medium diving hard bodies. The main appeal of this lake has been the big fish which are holding around the bait schools in the middle of the lake.

When fishing the middle of the lake, a sounder is a very important tool. It will reveal the presence of bait schools and the unmistakable arches of the big barra holding nearby. Trolling lures like the Laser Pro 190 and Poltergeist has been the way to go. Some of the better colours in the past month have been grey and green. Base night sessions around the full moon and try your luck during the day on the new moon. The fish can be spread out which makes trolling such a great option. A trolled lure can cover kilometres of water during a session - a feat which is hard to do with a cast offering.

If concentrations of barra are found in the open water of the dam, casting will become an option. Here anglers need to learn depth control of their lure to ensure it is tracking at the same depth as the fish. This can be tricky with a sinking lure like a soft plastic. Controlling the depth will depend on the amount of pause time and the speed of the retrieve. Lures like soft plastics and lipless crankbaits will come into play if you are keen on giving this style of fishing a go.

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.

Closest Town: Mackay

Kinchant barra have fired up over the last month. These fish are taking lures during the day and at night. Anglers just need to adapt to the changing conditions to catch them.

During the morning and afternoon, there has been quite a bit of surface activity. The barra are loving soft plastic frogs, poppers and stickbaits worked across the top of submerged weed beds. A lot of these fish have been of a smaller class, around 80cm to 1m long. Fish of the same calibre are reasonably common throughout the day when fishing the weed edge.

At night things change and the big girls come out to play. Last month barra to 120cm were not uncommon. Targeting fish tunnels or barra highways which are gaps in the weed the fish use to travel through at night seems to work well. Position the boat during the day and then kick back and wait for darkness to arrive. Casting soft plastics like Powerbait Hollowbellies and Slick Rigs or hardbodies like the Halco Hamma 120 or Rapala X-Rap 140 into these gaps in the weed can get you into some amazing fishing. When the fish are on the move, anglers experience quite a bit of action during night sessions. Basing trips around the full moon can better your chances of success by extending the barra’s bite right through the whole night.

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