Small water saviours
  |  First Published: March 2013

No doubt everyone will be aware of the terrible floods that savaged Bundaberg earlier in the year and the devastating impact they have had on our community.

While there’s no denying that it will take a long while for the fishing in the Burnett and Kolan rivers to get anywhere near back to normal, that doesn’t mean that there are no worthwhile fishing options around the rum city this month.

Luckily, we have a number of smaller waterways scattered around the region and it’s these less well known locations that should allow anglers the chance to escape and unwind and perhaps even land a fish or two.

For a start, the Elliott River was back to normal levels quite soon after the floods and it should be well worth a look this month. The Elliott is renowned for having super clear water and this can often work against anglers as it makes the even the lightest terminal tackle obvious to the fish. Even if is still carrying a little bit of sediment as your read this, that will only be a good thing as reduced water clarity should make the fish a little less cautious and easier to fool. If the water is clear, then try fishing with as light a main line as you can get away with, or fish at night. Some very nice whiting come from here after dark for switched on bait fishers.

You also need to remember that the tidal reaches of the Elliott are relatively small and generally shallow and I find they fish best from a canoe or kayak. A small paddle powered craft allows you to get up into the shallows where motor boats rarely venture and lets you present your lure or bait to fish, which might not have already been alerted to your presence. It’s also easy to get out on the mid stream sand bars and spend your time working over the best features without having to worry about your boat being left high and dry by the dropping tide.

I like to fly fish in the Elliott and find the local flatties very keen on a Clouser Minnow or something similar being wiggled past their nose. I know that many anglers aren’t into fly fishing but you make virtually the same presentation with a smallish soft plastic lure. While you will get the odd larger dusky in the Elliott, you will mainly hook the smaller bar-tail flathead and smaller, lightly weighted jigheads are quite suited to the environment and the target species.

Speaking of soft plastics, I’ve played with the new Zerek live shrimp here and the natural look and action of these lures has been very well received. I plan to do a lot more fishing with these amazing lures in the coming months.

If you prefer freshwater fishing, another good option to keep up your sleeve this month would be Lake Gregory or the Isis Impoundment. This small dam is linked to the irrigation system rather than being fed directly from the river. While it can get a bit dirty as freshwater is pumped into it from the Burnett to replace what is used for by the local farmers, it still tends to clear relatively quickly. Anyway, even if it is a bit on the murky side that shouldn’t have too drastic effect on the fishing.

All things being equal, Lake Gregory is a brilliant surface fishery and March should see the fish really getting active if we get a run of warm, still evenings. The best way to fish the dam is to be on the water by mid to late afternoon and then hang around as long as you can. Often the fish will start feeding on the surface as the sun goes down and then continue smashing away into the night. We have had some truly memorable evenings out here and don’t be fooled by the small size of the dam. This place is packed with food, and bass over 50cm fork length are a real possibility. If one of them belts your lure off the top, you will know all about it.

The best lures seem to be walk-the-dog type such as Lucky Craft Sammys, or Cultiva Zip’n Ziggys. Give the lure a bit of a walk followed by a short pause and be ready for it to be blasted right off the surface. When the bass are really fired up they will take the lure while it’s moving and these strikes are real heart-stoppers.

At other times, a more subtle approach is needed and a small fizzer or cup-faced popper worked slowly along the weed edges will do the trick. Don’t overdo the action when fishing like this or you’ll spook more fish than you hook.

As a last resort if the fish are refusing to come to the surface, try a spinnerbait as Isis bass seem to find 1/4oz Bassman Spinnerbait hard to resist.

As you’ve probably guessed, I really do love my bass fishing so as long as there hasn’t been too much rain in February, this month will probably see me making at least a couple of trips down the highway to Maryborough. I love to chase bass in Tinana Creek just south of town and in the Mary River itself at Tiaro. Both locations are easy day trips from Bundy and the consistency of the fishing and overall experience of catching quality bass in their natural environment makes the hour or so behind the wheel very easy to justify.

Tinana Creek in particular is one place I find very hard to keep away from. Despite being only a bit over 10km from downtown Maryborough, you would never guess it, as the river looks so wild and remote. There are few public boat ramps on this bit of the creek, so you rarely have to share it with too many other anglers; and the fish fight as hard as any bass I’ve encountered. I normally fish Tinana with 8-10kg leader and still get busted off much more regularly than I’d like.

Tinana Creek bass love spinnerbaits and will also happily belt quite big chatterbaits at times. They also love hardbodies swum through the bank side snags. I mainly fish with McGrath and Merlin diving minnows, but Rapalas are also very effective. This creek is one place where bass will take surface lures all day as long as you can cast them back into the shade along the edges of the creek.

I’ll finish up by pointing out that one interesting thing the floods did do was trigger a massive migration of fish throughout the smaller waterways. It seems the fish know that the extremely high water levels opened up areas which have been cut off for some time and they were keen to get into them. I was lucky enough to witness quite a few fish sneaking upstream into tiny little places where most people don’t normally fish. My advice would be to look at the upper reaches of any small creek and try to see the place through new eyes as they may now have populations of fish in them.

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