Big Rain Causes Big Changes
  |  First Published: March 2013

The massive amount of rain which travelled down the coast at the beginning of the year has really had a big impact on the freshwater fishing.

Many dams went under and the lake water overflowed and the rivers have dirtied right up from the flood waters. Some areas saw record flood levels and you can only imagine what this means for the fishing. While some areas will suffer due to dirtied water or escaped fish, others will benefit in the long term. The catchment of some dams delivers a lot of silty water which can take ages to settle enough for successful lure fishing. The rivers can be the same but tend to recover a lot more quickly. The question everyone wants the answer to is where to go to get into some action.

Luckily, if cod and golden perch are on your hit list, the dams around the Qld-NSW border weren’t greatly affected. Lakes like Glenlyon, Pindari, Leslie and Coolmunda had minor rises and therefore the action should still be pretty good.

For the bass fisher, thing are looking a little tougher. Lakes Somerset and Cressbrook are likely to clear first and therefore be the first to come back on line. In rivers, look for clearer water. Released water from the dams is often clearer and as this pushes down the creeks and rivers, the bass will seek it out and be there in numbers. Remember there are restrictions pertaining to fishing below dam and weir walls so make sure you stay out of the exclusion areas.

If chasing barra is your thing, the rivers closer to Brisbane will be worth a shot. The Boyne, Kolan and Burnett systems will all hold their share and there will be plenty in the smaller creeks between them. Impoundment anglers will need to head further north to the Mackay region where the rain had little effect on the likes of Peter Faust (Lake Proserpine) and Kinchant dams.

In the long term we will benefit from the fishing that follows these big rain and flood events. They create new fishing opportunities for those prepared to do the work. Rivers like the Mary and Burrum will have had another stocking of escaped dam fish. With most of the lakes being close to capacity at the time of the flood, there will be little inundated and dying vegetation to prolong the effect of the flood waters. As soon as waters clear up, the fishing will improve. It will just be a matter of finding them.

Gear Preparation

While the action is slower, it makes sense to pull out all your tackle and go over it. Checking rods, reels and lures to make sure they are up to the task when the fishing improves makes sense as there never seems to be enough time when the fish are biting. Even boat and trailer maintenance is overlooked so if you are overdue for a service or need to check some wiring or batteries, now is the time to do it.

Reel Maintenance

There’s no excuse for losing a monster fish to a lumpy drag. Smooth reel performance helps to feel lure vibration and detect timid bites. Achieving a few extra metres from a baitcaster can make all the difference.

If your reels are feeling a little bit clunky or the drag isn’t up to scratch, it’s time to give the reel a service. If you’re worried about stripping the reel down yourself and not being able to get all the bits and pieces back in the right spot, then take it into a reputable tackle store or send the reel away for a service. For expert servicing try JT Reel Repair on 0427 552 485.

Spooling Up

Fishing line doesn’t last forever. Maintaining line will ensure you don’t miss that big fish because of line failure. If you are getting low or have scuffs and abrasions in your line, now is a good time to replace it. Over time the amount of braid seems to diminish on a reel. A few good backlashes or wind knots soon reduces the amount and drastically alters a reel’s performance. A fishing reel low on line will cast shorter and have a poorer drag.

If your spool is still full but the line is aging at the working end, try reversing it. All you need is some open space to empty the spool, tie on the working end and rewind it back on.

Replacing Stocks

Most anglers have some way of sneaking new lures, rods and reels past their partner without them noticing. A new boat or motor may be a little more difficult so stick with the smaller things.

Scouring through your tackle boxes should reveal any low stocks. Maybe you’re low on a particular colour plastic or need a backup of a special lure in case you lose the one you have. There’s always some reason for buying more tackle. If your box is half empty and you have no idea what to buy, call in at your local tackle shop and ask for some advice. I source most of my reports through tackle stores close to the area I’m reporting on. If you flick through the Freshwater section of the QFM you will see a reference to them at the end of each area report. By supporting these stores you will be rewarding them for helping us all catch more fish over the years. You can be guaranteed you will receive expert service when dealing with them.

The Rusty Fish hook

One of the most overlooked yet most important parts of the equation when it comes to catching fish is the hook. Hook points become dull due to snagging, catching fish and even just rubbing around in the tackle box and being pulled through the water.

There is certainly no excuse for rusty hooks. One rusty hook tends to encourage the rust to spread to any other metal object in the area. When you have one, it doesn’t take long for the whole lot to show signs of rust. For a quick fix, a diamond file can restore the hook point but in the long term replace then. I rinse all my lures in freshwater if they have been used in the salt and this eliminates the chance of rust forming.

Some lures are purchased with hooks that aren’t up to the task right from the word go. Thin, bendy hooks certainly aren’t the best for big, powerful fish like cod and barramundi. Cheap hooks often don’t have that razor point which catches the skin of your hand as the lure rolls around in your palm. It is this stickiness we rely upon to hook a wary fish that puts its nose too close. If you’re feeling your hook points and think they are sharp, I suggest taking a brand new chemically sharpened hook of similar gauge and comparing the one in question. You’ll be surprised. Sharp hooks really are sharp. It’s hard to beat the best brands for quality and performance. Spend the extra dollars to buy quality hooks and even if you don’t replace them immediately, keep them on hand to be used when it really matters. You can’t beat the likes of Owner and Decoy.

There are a few tips to help when it comes time to really whack some fish. If you have the spare time, take advantage of it. My heart goes out to all those affected in the floods. They have made a big impact and the recovery effort will be huge. Take care and keep in mind the fishing is only going to get better in the long term as a result.

This month’s reports are a little shorter than usual. This is of course due to the flood waters making fishing tough. Some lakes should still be fishing well so take the time to do some homework before your next trip.

The Brisbane Tinnie and Tackle Show will be on again this year at the RNA Showgrounds from the 15-17 March. If you want to catch up, call in and say hello at the fishing expo stage. Jason Medcalf and I will be MCs for the stage. We will also present our ridiculous, but popular, Berkley Kid’s Fishing Show and even do a segment more suited to the grown ups on both Saturday and Sunday. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

By early February, Cressbrook Dam remained closed after the flood in late January. Work will need to be done on the access road from Crows Nest to remove a big rock from the road which came down in a landslide. It’s likely the council will have the dam reopened by the time you are reading this but it will pay to check with one of the local tackle shops in Highfields or Toowoomba.

Like most dams in the south-east corner, Cressbrook ran over the spillway and the water dirtied up as a result. The catchment of this dam comes from Crows Nest and the overflow of Perseverance Dam just to the west. Considering the overflowing water from Perseverance would have been pretty clear and the remaining catchment runs through a lot of rocky and sandy country, the water is likely to clear quickly. Bait fishing will certainly be worth a go and as soon as you can see your toes in knee deep water, get the lures out.

The flood may have forced bass and golden perch to relocate. At first it may seem as though fish have been lost over the spillway and I’m sure some did take the ride. When the dam is 100% full, a good place to start looking for fish is in the middle reaches which is usually the clearest area. Bass are likely to take up residence in 5-9m of water within a stone’s throw of the boat ramps. Golden perch which were schooling around the point opposite the Eagles Nest rock wall are likely to have moved. Casting lures to the edges may produce these goldens as well as the occasional bass.

With the dirtier water influencing visibility, I’d be opting for a flashier lure. Blade baits and soft plastics rigged with beetle spin blades will be the way to go. Bass may be suspended so choose the right weighted lure to ensure your presentation stays in the fishiest area during the retrieve.

Trolling blades and medium to deep diving hard bodied lures is a great way to locate schools and pick up the occasional fish. Trolled lures had been taking quite a few bass and golden perch prior to the flood and it will be interesting to see if they are still performing.

Live bait fishing is the best way to ensure success. Baits of worms, frozen prawns, crayfish and saltwater yabbies will get a few inquiries but live shrimp are really the only way to go if you want to smash the fish. Goldens and bass love them. Keep your bait lively by aerating their water and changing it regularly to prevent it from becoming too hot and stale. If you can’t find your shrimp by catching them in traps out in the wild, buying them is the only other option. You can book the number you want at Fish’n’Bits and Mullet Gut Marine in Toowoomba or Highfields Bait and Tackle behind Subway in Highfields.

If you are heading to the dam, don’t forget your $3.00 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

Somerset copped a heap of water in the flood in January and was closed for over a week. Since then it has reopened and the water has been dirty. Luring will be tough this month but the dam shouldn’t take too long to clear enough for lures to start producing again. The positive thing is it was close to full before the water ran through it. This means no masses of dying vegetation and no real need for the fish to disperse from their usual locations.

Bait fishers should have a really good chance of catching bass and golden perch when using live shrimp. Even worms and frozen prawns are likely to pull a few fish. Try the timber north of Kirkleigh or the flats in the main basin of the lake.

Lure casters can start looking for schools of fish. There should still be bass holding in areas like the flat south of Kirkleigh, Bay 13, Pelican Point and The Spit. The flood may have forced these fish to break up into smaller numbers so put in some time and see if you can find better concentrations. After a big flush of water, the top end of the dam can sometimes clear up before the water down near the wall. Keep this in mind if the water seems to dirty in the area where you are trying to catch fish.

Closest Town: Boonah

The dam will be dirty for a little while to come. Things should have settled down enough to start catching bass and golden perch on bait. Luring will probably still be tough due to water colour.

Closest Towns: Fassifern, Boonah

Dirty water will make fishing tough.

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.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

MacDonald will be dirty and takes a few months to recover from the amount of water that ran through it. Chances are some fish have ended up in the Mary River.

Closest Towns: Imbil, Gympie, Noosa

Borumba will be dirty but may show signs of starting to clear this month. Bait fishers will be able to catch bass and golden perch around the points in the main basin as well as up in the timbered reaches. Luring will be tough for a little while but should start to improve as this month goes on.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Town: Inglewood

Yellowbelly have been on the chew at Coolmunda and the odd Murray cod has been turning up as well. Both lure and bait fishers are whacking fish. The dam didn’t receive masses of water earlier in the year and therefore the clarity has allowed lures to keep producing. Casting to the trees and trolling the drop offs to the creek channels has scored quite a few goldens on occasions. Medium diving lures like the Golden Child have been successful for the caravan park owner, Troy. Troy now stocks a range of successful lures at the office so be sure to call in if you need to stock up on lures which are proven.

Bait fishing with frozen prawns and saltwater yabbies is accounting for golden perch out from the dam wall and in the deeper holes in the trees. If you can get your hands on live shrimp, be sure to keep them lively and fresh and you’ll be rewarded for sure.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around one kilometre away from the lake. The new owner, Troy, will be able to take care of all your needs. 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

Leslie has already improved with golden perch being taken at the back of the dam around Rocklands. Lures and bait are working with darker coloured hard bodies and spinnerbaits the go. Provided there is no further rain, the dam should really be firing this month and will taper off as the cooler months arrive.

Connelly Dam
Closest Town: Warwick

Connelly is a small but reliable dam. Nice fish are being landed on both lures and bait. Golden perch have been most common but there have been quite a few Murray cod mixed in. Spinnerbaits cast around the weedy edges will account for both goldens and cod while small trolled hard bodies excel when it comes to targeting the goldens.

Over the last year or so, anglers have discovered Connelly Dam’s cod have a real liking for surface offerings. An early start and noisy topwater lure may be the answer to connecting to a Connelly monster.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

After a mass of water pushing through the dam, the water will be dirty and the fishing tough as a result. Boondooma tends to take months to clear up and this will delay the improvement in fishing. If you are heading there be sure to take some bait to try and get into some action.

For the latest update on the dam, 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

Bjelke will be tough for the next few months. Water takes a while to clear here. Fish will have moved but if located, live shrimp will tempt them. It’s a real shame because the dam had just started to fire up since the flood of two years ago. On a positive side, there was a lot more water in the dam this time prior to the flush so the recovery period will be shorter.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

Despite being so close to one of the worst hit areas in the flood, Lake Gregory near Bundaberg will be fishing well. The small impoundment has no catchment and receives only a small amount of runoff rain. It is used as an irrigation storage facility and the small amount of dirty water that enters to keep it full will have little impact on the water colour.

Bass have been taking lures all over the dam. Gregory is an awesome place to test and hone your bass catching skills as there are fish to be caught in the weed, on the weed edges and out in deep, open water. Casting lures accounts for numbers of fish although you can usually guarantee a few on the troll as well.

Lure casters can explore the shallow weed beds as the sun rises with surface lures. Walk the dog style lures like the C’ultiva Zippin’ Ziggy are dynamite on big bass. Be ready for a heavy handed battle if a big bass takes your lure as there are plenty of weeds below for them to bury you into. As the surface action slows with the rising of the sun, switch to subsurface presentations such as shallow diving jerkbaits. Keep these lures twitching and pausing just above the drop off of the weed edge. A long pause will often entice bass to move out and take the offering.

When the sun is higher a deeper approach will be needed. Casting blade baits and spinnerbaits to the weed edge and following the contour of the weed as it drops into deeper water is a good way to tempt the bigger bass waiting to ambush their next feed. Persist with the weed and learn to keep your lure close to it during the retrieve. This will mean dealing with plenty of weed but once mastered, the effort will be worthwhile.

Away from the weed in the middle of the dam, there have been some schooling bass. These schools have held better quality bass on occasions so are always worth a look. A quality sounder will be needed to pinpoint the congregations of bass. Once found, try using ice jigs, soft plastics and 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.

Closest town: Gin Gin

A massive amount of water flowed through Monduran. If you are after a barra fix in the dams, it might be worth heading further north this month. Keep in touch with the fishing via the online reports given by Foxies Barra Havoc. Go to www.barratackle.com.au .

Capricorn Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Awoonga Dam copped its biggest flood in history. The fishing had been going off in the dam prior to this but expect it to be tough again for some time. The Boyne River below the dam will be first to fire up. The massive flood will have given barra a chance to relocate and take up residence in new areas. Some exploration around the Boyne system will really pay off once numbers of fish are found.

Deeper fish will be suckers for soft plastics like Powerbait 5” Mullets, Slick Rigs and Transam 95s. In shallower areas try casting suspending hard bodies and lighter rigged plastics like Slick Rig Pros or Powerbait Ripple Shads.

Trolling medium running lures like the 3m Scorpion 125 will be worth a go as the fish should be moving about. Trolling the deeper section anywhere from Benaraby through to the river mouth can be rewarding.

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

Proserpine Dam had a rise but the water didn’t reach the spillway. The fishing has continued to please with lure trollers and casters catching fish. Little has changed in the most successful patterns.

One of the most reliable methods to catch the metre plus fish has been trolling in the main basin of the lake. The full moon is definitely a bonus but fish can be caught throughout the day on the new moon. Lures like the Poltergiest 80, Scorpion 5m 125 and Laser Pro 190 2m are still some of the standouts. Faster troll speeds around 6km/h seem to get the fish more excited and it is just a matter of time before the strike will come. Unfortunately the time between bites can be hours but the fish feed in windows so be prepared for a run of bites when the action starts. The water out from the rope across the dam wall and the creek bed drop off as it runs from the wall to the trees in the north-western corner of the dam has been the spot to try.

Lure casters can expect action in the shallows early before encountering more fish in the deeper trees during the day. Weed points are a good place to explore early in the morning with surface lures. C’ultiva Tango Dancers are my favourite on a calm morning and can be walked across the top and allowed to pause every few metres. The strikes are amazing as whole fish can leave the water in an attempt to eat these lures.

As the sun rises give the surface luring away and head up into the trees. Cast 3-5 metre divers like RMG Scorpions or Classic Barras to the trees which line the creek beds leading into the timber. Cast past the target and work the lure down the tree. Once in the zone pause, allowing the lure to float up the tree before working it down again.

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.

Kinchant Dam
Closest Town: Mackay

Kinchant Dam will be a great option for anglers wanting to catch their first barra. The dam is full of weed and can be tricky to fish but due to a recent rise, there is a patch of open water between the old weed edge and the shore. This open patch is only shallow but a barra’s hunting grounds once the light level drops. Try casting very shallow hard bodies like Bomber Long As, and Laser Pro 120s. Surface lures like Tango Dancers will definitely be worth a shot. A weedless rigged frog tossed around these edges and up on top of flooded weed beds may also do some damage when worked on top or below the surface.

Bigger barra over a metre long are likely to be encountered in the deeper water off the weed points and in areas where they travel through at night. The full moon is the time to hit the water for these fish. Be sure to have a range of plastics on board to suit the different depths you may have to fish.

Northern New South Wales
Closest Towns: Bonshaw, Ashford

Pindari Dam is an option to the south if you want to tangle with some Murray cod and big golden perch. There have been plenty of smaller cod around legal size willing to take cast and trolled lures. At times these cod will outnumber the golden perch.

Lure trolling can be a problem in the dam due to the amount of drowned timber. Pick a steeper, open bank to avoid getting snagged all the time. These trolling runs allow the lure to spend more time working rather than being stuck to a tree and if the features look good chances are there will be a fish there.

Casting allows anglers to fish deeper into the pockets between the trees. Hard bodies and spinnerbaits will both account for fish. If the water is too dirty up the back of the dam, stick to the main basin and keep moving on the electric motor to find the type of country the fish are holding in. There are plenty of targets to cast at to keep you occupied between fish. There is always the chance of hooking a monster cod in Pindari, so be prepared.

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