Blessed for options in the fresh
  |  First Published: December 2013

As we move into the silly season, freshwater anglers could be forgiven for thinking of giving fishing a miss due to all the extra activity on the water. Despite more boats being on the water, there are still heaps of fish to be caught. Smart fishers will be able to weed out the fish in amongst all the boating commotion. If this isn't your scene, there are plenty of other options that will produce some great fishing.

Throughout SE Queensland there are several electric motor only lakes. Hinze, Wivenhoe, Samsonvale, Cooby and MacDonald are all electric outboard or paddle power only. Also worth considering are the lakes with restricted speed or outboard size. Cressbrook, Lenthalls and Isis Balancing Storage fit this category, keeping the thrill seekers away and anglers happy. And don't forget the many creeks and rivers. Depending on the target species, there will be a suitable system worth exploring – just keep in mind the closed season for barramundi in Queensland and Murray cod in NSW.

Kayaks and small boats are perfect in these waters and it is prime time to get into exciting action such as surface luring bass. Bass can be caught in the freshwater stretches of most of the eastern rivers south of the Burnett Region. Systems below the stocked dams are loaded with bass due to the flooding in past years.

It amazes me to hear of bass coming from the smaller, less well-known creeks too, right up in the skinny water. These upper parts of the rivers and creeks will be the places to target over the summer months. With a study of Google Maps and a few exploration missions, some hot bass sessions shouldn't be too far away.

NSW cod may be off limits but Queenslanders can still fish our rivers for these fish as there is no closed season this side of the border. The western rivers have been on fire with heaps of yellowbelly and cod whacking lures. You can't go wrong with a spinnerbait or hardbody like a Kezza Mudmouse or No.2 StumpJumper. After the run of dry weather we've had, the water is clear and perfect for luring.

I mentioned the closed barra season, which is in place until 1 February, but this of course does not apply to the stocked impoundments. The northern lakes, Proserpine and Kinchant, have been firing but read on, as there has been quite a bit of action closer to the SE corner at lakes Monduran and Awoonga.

Whether you're a bait angler, lure troller or caster, you will be able to get into some of the action. Now is the time to bang a few more fish before the New Year rolls around and don't forget to put in your requests to ensure a few smiles on Christmas Day.

Until next year, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Cressbrook has been a tough lake to crack. It seems to come good with reports of someone getting onto some quality bass only to go quiet soon after. Soft plastics have been producing some fish up to 45cm but the results are far from consistent.

The toilet point up Bull Creek, Deer Island and The Eagles nest and adjacent submerged point extending from the toilet up Cressbrook Creek end are places worth checking out.

At this time of year, the bass are likely to be more scattered and at times will be found suspending in deeper water. These fish are easiest to find on the sounder while trolling. Try a spread of different depth hardbodies, which cover 4-9m in depth and explore the areas mentioned above as well as any of the major points throughout the dam. At times the fish can be caught right out in the middle so don’t be afraid to venture into deeper water in your search for fish.

When casting to the fish try long casts with soft plastics, like the 7cm Powerbait Ripple Shad, rigged on a 1/2oz jighead. If the fish school up and suspend below the boat try a vertical retrieve winding slowly up through the fish before letting the plastic fall back through them and repeating. Ice jigs can produce the odd fish but it seems they attract the tiny ones more often than the quality fish we like to catch.

Red claw numbers have dropped right off to the point it is barely worth trying. Live shrimp have been the most reliable way to get into a few good fish. If the banded grunter move in and start picking off the baits, it’s time to move on and try another spot.

If you are heading to the dam, don’t forget your $3 in coins to get through the boom gate and the 8 knot speed limit which is in place. For all your supplies, expert advice and to check on the boating restriction, 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

Summer patterns started early this year. Bass schools have been scattered for the last month. Bass can still be found in the usual spots like The Spit, Pelican Point and Bay 13. At times, numbers will be hard to find and rather than looking for a school, look for a tighter concentration. Warm water will see the bass holding well off the bottom. These suspended bass will hang around 5-7m deep in water over 8m in depth. At times they will be spread across the flats but can even be found well out past the drop off in the river channel.

The spread out nature of these bass makes lure trolling one of the best options. If using hardbodies, choose a lure, which dives to the depth the fish are suspending. Usually small profile lures will get the job done if they have a strong action like the 3m 50mm Poltergeist and No1 StumpJumper. Despite these lures only being rated to dive to 3-4m, 4-8Ib braided line will see them probe much deeper.

If you have an electric motor, slow trolling a soft plastic can be an even better option. The subtle tail action of a plastic will draw strikes from the most tight-lipped bass. Troll at about 2.4-3km/h and rig the plastic on a 3/8 or 1/2oz jighead. Paddle-tail soft plastics, which have a good action at slow speeds are perfect. The Powerbait 7cm Ripple Shad, 3" Slider Grub, Atomic Guzzler and Ecogear PowerShad are all good choices. Experiment with the amount of trailing line as this will alter the lure's depth. Vary the length between 25-50m until you find the right amount to suit your jighead and speed combination.

While most bass will be suspended, some big models may remain close to the bottom at around the same depth the others suspend. These fish can be hard to locate but will usually all be over 45cm in length. If found, try hopping soft lipless crankbait or 3/8oz blade baits through them.

Golden perch numbers have increased over the past month and plenty have turned up as by-catch when anglers are targeting bass. Trolling deep diving lures across the flats and along the drop-offs in the middle reaches of the lake is a good way to specifically target these fish. Lures like the Blitz Baga, Golden Child and 50mm Poltergeist Crazy Deep will get the job done.

Weekends will be busy at the lake that is popular with jetskis and skiers. Early and late in the day will be a bit quieter or try for a midweek session.

Closest Town: Boonah

Moogerah will be worth a fish for bass this month. Some action is still taking place along the western banks early and late in the day. Casting lipless crankbaits into the edge and using a slow rolling retrieve so the lure gets down a couple of metres is the trick. Suspending hardbodies are worth a shot on the banks closer to the dam wall. Fish these lures close to the standing timber on the edges and hold on when a fish hits.

In the timber, there will be bass scattered across the flats. Trolling deep divers like Blitz Bagas and 50mm Poltergeist Crazy Deeps will help locate and catch these fish. Good concentrations can be cast to using soft plastics, blade baits and ice jigs.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

Slowly Cooby has improved over the last month. There was one week of insane action at the beginning of last month where anglers scored dozens of fish casting lipless crankbaits in the deep water around the buoy line towards the wall. These fish were still there after the event but the action slowed again. Hopefully this is just a taste of what is in store for the rest of the year.

Lure fishing has been slow at the dam apart from the flurry of golden perch which were caught month ago. This got anglers excited and there have been a lot more lures whistling through the air and rattling beneath the water in the past weeks. Lipless crankbaits have been the most popular choice but don’t be afraid to try small blade baits, ice jigs or hopped vibration baits. The deeper water has had suspended goldens hovering around 4-8m deep. If found, try counting the lure down into these fish and then use a slow stop start retrieve to keep the lure in their face. On the edges, a few golden perch have fallen for lipless crankbaits cast around the weed and spindly timber on the north western bank.

From the bank, there has been an increase in fish taken at the rock wall. Spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and baits have all faired reasonably well. The bank can produce some pretty good fishing but the best action will come from boats and kayaks that are able to sit on the better fish concentrations.

Bait fishing will be steady unless you take the time to find the numbers of fish. If suspended, baits will need to be fished at the same depth as the fish rather than on the bottom. A quality sounder will be a big help when it comes to making such decisions. Live shrimp and saltwater yabbies are likely to pull plenty of fish. Late afternoon sessions are the preferred time as there is a hot bite just before dark.

Murray cod have been getting about. A couple of big ones have been hooked but I haven’t heard of any landed. Matt Squires had a cod come up and inhale a 42cm golden perch, which they had just caught. The cod swam off with the yella in its mouth before spitting it back out.

Cooby is an electric motor only dam and is well suited to kayaks and canoes. The concrete boat ramp is on a shallow angle when the dam is full and can be slippery in places, but a big electric powered boat can still be launched with care. Outboard motors can be left on the boat but must not be used. A boom gate at the entrance requires $3 to open and the dam hours are 7am-8pm. Live shrimp and saltwater yabbies can be purchased from Highfields Bait and Tackle on the New England Highway in Highfields. Call in and see Doug and check out the great range of kayaks and accessories he has on display.

Closest Town: Inglewood

Coolmunda has fired up in the last month with plenty of golden perch and Murray cod action. The family fishing comp attracted heaps of anglers who took advantage of the bite and scored plenty of fish. The extra activity seemed to send the fish packing and they were quiet for a couple of weeks after the competition. By now, things should be back to normal and December is usually one of the best months to fish this lake.

Trolling diving lures across the flats between the boat ramp and out from the dam wall should produce some golden perch. Last time I drove past the lake, they were releasing a heap of water and if levels continue to drop, it may be worth moving closer to the creek bed drop-off, which skirts the flats I just mentioned. Up in the deeper creek beds inside the timber, goldens and cod will be worthwhile targeting on trolled lures and cast lipless crankbaits.

Bait fishing had gone quiet early last month but should have picked up again by now. Live shrimp and frozen saltwater yabbies fished in 4-7m of water will score a few golden perch. Try the drop-off to the creek bed out in the middle of the dam or venture up into the creek in the timber.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around 1km away from the lake. 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

Golden perch activity has been on the rise over the last couple of months. Anglers are now experiencing good bites on bait and cast and trolled lures.

Bait fishers have had success on live shrimp and saltwater yabbies. The rocky area across from the dam wall has been a popular spot. The water up the back of the dam around the black boys is still producing despite getting shallower.

Trolling Medium diving lures like the Smak Golden Child and Poltergeist 5m will see you in with a good chance of hooking up. Work these lures following the depth contours to keep the lure working just above the bottom. Golden perch will be the most common species encountered but the occasional Murray cod may get into the action.

Casting lipless crankbaits around the edges and hopping them through any schooling fish has produced the goods. While the TN60 Jackall is one of the most popular lures in the freshwater lakes, downsizing to the smaller TN50 seems to do the trick at Leslie. The Megabass Vibration-X Power Bomb is another great lipless bait, which is heavier and suited to deeper water.

For any tips and gear for fishing Leslie Dam or the Warwick area, call in and see the guys at Warwick Outdoor and Sports in Palmerin Street Warwick. The store stocks a great range of freshwater gear which is well suited to catching our Australian natives.

Closest Town: Warwick

Connelly has fished well for both golden and silver perch over the last month. This action will continue this month provided there are no major rain events. Live shrimp and frozen saltwater yabbies have been producing the mixed bags. Try fishing outside the thick weed beds especially out from any of the points on the eastern bank. The afternoon and early morning will be the best time to be on the water.

Provided you have the skill to fish thick weed beds with sinking lures, golden perch and even Murray cod are on the cards. Spinnerbaits, beetle spins and lipless crankbaits worked down the weed faces will almost definitely produce.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Finally Boondooma has fired up. For months, the fish have been reluctant to bite in the lake’s dirty water but now, reports of bass and golden perch being taken on cast and trolled lures are coming in.

Trolling the eastern banks for the last kilometre leading up to The Junction has been producing some smaller bass and the occasional golden perch. These fish are whacking medium to deep diving lures worked in 5-9m of water. Numbers here aren’t great but it is great to see them starting to fire up in the dam’s basin again.

Up in the clearer water of the timber is where all hell has started to break loose. Bass and golden perch have turned on the action and are taking cast lures. Spinnerbaits and blade baits have scored well on the bass while the yellowbelly are fond of lipless crankbaits. Casting in to the edges and retrieving the lure back to the boat has been the successful technique. As the lure passes the drop off to deeper water, the fish have been quick to respond. Choose the open banks or those with the more solid flooded timber rather than any spindly stuff.

Bait fishers will do well fishing the same areas with live shrimp to score a mixed bag. Saltwater yabbies and worms are more likely to single out the golden perch.

The boys at Bass to Barra in Dalby and Kingaroy have been whacking the fish at the dam and sending out heaps of others to enjoy the action. Call in and stock up on the right gear and you too could be enjoying what the lake has to offer.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The action at Bjelke is getting better as the year goes by. Goldens and bass are being caught in good numbers further up the dam. The action starts at Bass Point about half way up to the timbered area. Inside the timber, the fishing gets even better once the fish are found. Casting Mini Coop spinnerbaits around the trees and edges has been scoring heaps of bass. When found, the numbers are good and it’s a matter of sorting through the smaller ones to put quality fish in the boat.

Trolling is usually a good option at this time of year. Head for the upper part of the dam if trolling and run some shallow or medium diving lures. Work 5-8m of water around the drop-offs and choose lures to suit this depth. It may also be worth running a 3m lure in closer to the edges in 3-5m of water.

Bait fishers have been whacking some monster golden perch up in the timber. Some of these yellowbelly have been in excess of 3kg and are certainly worth bragging about. Live shrimp and saltwater yabbies are the best baits and you can expect a few bass and eel-tailed catfish as well.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into your local Bass2Barra store. You can see Matthew at Kingaroy or Dylan in Dalby and the boys will have you all geared up and ready for action in no time.

Closest Towns: Monto, Biloela

Cania Dam is still fishing well in the upper reaches past the timber. Most of the action has started to take place in slightly deeper water with only smaller bass being caught around the lake’s edges. Schools of bass have been moving around in the timber and there are some quality fish in them. At times the fish are suspended at around 4m deep. The suspended fish respond well to soft plastics and hardbody lures either cast and retrieved or trolled. When the fish are closer to the bottom, a hopping retrieve with a blade bait or soft vibe, like the Jackall Mask, is the best way to draw a response.

While the bass around the edges have been smaller, the area may still be worth a flick with a spinnerbait, beetle spin or lipless crankbait as saratoga will be on the prowl in the mornings and afternoons.

Bait fishers working the timbered areas can expect a mixed bag of fish. Bass will be common but golden perch and silver perch will also get into the action. Try using live shrimp in 5-8m of water.

To find out more about the lake or to book some great accommodation nearby, call the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park on (07) 4167 8188. There are excellent facilities including camp sites, cabins, a playground and swimming pools. It’s worth a visit to the park just to see some of the rare and beautiful wildlife that regularly drop in and live in the area. With bush walking through the gorge a must, there is plenty to do when you’re not wetting a line.

Closest town: Gin Gin

Jamie Bein from Monduran Barra Charters has had his clients getting into plenty of barra. Most of the fish are still around 60-70cm in length with the occasional 80cm+ model either being landed or winning its freedom. A lot more people have returned to the lake to get into the action. Over the course of a session it seems most are averaging between 1 and 4 barra landed. This may not sound like a lot of fish but, the numbers will come the more you work at it and you start to crack a better pattern and narrow down the most productive areas.

The spate of northerly winds has seen the barra cruising around the windblown points and bays willing to eat both hardbodies and soft plastics. Areas like The Rainforest, Insane Bay and Bird Bay have all produced fish. Look for weed and lily pads and persist on the points and bays that are being blown by the wind.

Jamie has been scoring heaps of his fish on Lively Lures 100mm Arafura with upgraded hooks and rings. Shallow and medium diving hardbodies can be used with both floating and suspending versions producing fish. Other options include the Yozuri Crystal Minnow, Halco Hamma 85, Halco Hamma 105 and Jackall Hank Tune. Shallow offerings can be used early and late and it often pays to probe a little deeper during the middle of the day. For this reason, I love the Halco Hamma. This lure comes standard with a 3m and 1m bib. A locking pin can be pushed out to easily change the running depth of the lure without even having to retie it.

Hardbodies are still the standout lure around the structure. If you happen across a location where the fish are more spread out, a soft plastic is well worth a try. Some nice weed clumps and lily pads such as the one in the southern arm of Bird Bay are forming on underwater ridges and a plastic can be ideal for working these areas. Try 100mm plastics like the 4” Powerbait Split Belly or 4” Z Man SwimmerZ rigged on a 3/8oz jighead.

The tackle store in Gin Gin, Foxies, stocks a range of effective barra lures. The store will mail order and you can check it out online at www.barratackle.com.au . Be sure to call in and get directions to some of the best barra fishing in the area or pick up one of the detailed maps.

Accommodation can be booked through Lake Monduran Kiosk and Tackle Shop. They look after all the cabins, houses, powered and unpowered campsites, as well as house boats and boat hire. You can also make bookings for Guide Lines fishing charters through the kiosk, on (07) 4157 3881.

Jamie Bein runs Lake Monduran Barra Charters and fishes that dam more than anyone I know. His regular visits ensure he has a good understanding of what’s going on. Contact Jamie on his mobile, 0407 434 446 or through his website www.lakemonduranbarracharters.com .

Capricornia Region
Closest Town/s: Benaraby, Gladstone

Lake Awoonga has slowly started to recover from the floods. Not many anglers are visiting the lake but reports of barra being caught are now being confirmed. There have been quite a few 80cm fish taken in the really tight timber when the wind is pushing into it. Gold Mine Point has been an area well worth trying. This point is on the left hand bank half way down to Dingo Island from the boat ramp.

Casting 100mm hardbodies around the timber has scored the fish. One angler reported two big bust-ups on big fish. On one occasion the barra’s first run half emptied the spool. This suggests there are still a few of the big girls getting around in between the smaller class of fish.

If you are keen on trying to tackle some fish in the dam 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

The barra are making a move in the lake. Already numbers of big fish have left the timber area and moved out into the open basin of the lake. These fish will cruise this open water feeding on schools of bony bream and head towards the deep water near the dam wall over the next couple of months. At the moment they are still a bit scattered but numbers will build and they will congregate together within a 1km radius of the dam wall.

A good sounder is necessary to locate these fish and trolling lures is a good way to cover the water while doing it. Try using 3-5m diving lures towed at 5-6km/h. The RMG Poltergeist and Laser Pro 190 are two favourites for local guide Lindsay Dobe. When searching for these fish in the open water try to make the job easier by following the drop off to the riverbed and keeping a close eye on big schools of bony bream.

While a good portion of fish have left the timber, a lot have remained. These fish can be caught casting the deep trees that line the edge of the creek beds. Lures which dive 3-5m are ideal so give the RMG Scorpion and Barra Bait ranges a run.

Good numbers of barra can also be caught from the gullies and small creeks closer to the bank in behind the big, thick trees. These gullies are sometimes marked by lilies growing along the drop-off. Stay back about 50m from these drop-offs and fish the deeper water of the gully with a big long cast. Keep lures in the water and wait for the barra to move through.

Heavy casting lures like the Rapala X-Rap and Halco Hamma 105 and 123 are perfect for this approach. A slow rolled soft plastic is also worth a try as they cast long distances and can cover a lot of water. Once you get a bite or hook a fish, concentrate on putting the lure in that area more often.

If you are in the area 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

The barra have been a little on the quiet side compared to last year’s exceptional run. With luck the action may just be delayed by a month. Having said this, there are still quite a few fish being caught on trolled and cast lures. Trolling is best done late in the afternoon.

A lot of anglers choose to run hardbodies up and down the rock wall opposite the boat ramp well into the night. At times, this can produce plenty of metre-plus fish but so far this year, there have been a lot more 80-90cm models falling to this technique.

Casting soft lipless baits like the Transam 95 is a gun method for some local anglers. These vibration style lures are great around the weedy points. When the lure becomes fouled with weed, it changes or stops the vibration, alerting the angler to a fouled up lure.

Another lure worth tossing is a soft plastic rigged on a TT Rev Head. The spinning blade on the Rev Head works in a similar way and lets you know when the lure has stopped working due to weed. Big plastics like the 6” Z-Man SwimmerZ or old 6” Hollowbellies are ideal. Find a weedy point prior to sunset and take position. A GPS is ideal for marking your chosen spots as it allows you to take position throughout the night on different locations. Keep casting in towards the weed and retrieving the plastic and hopefully the fish will move through your area. The big 120cm+ fish have been quiet but with luck they will start patrolling during the night over the next month.

Surface luring at Kinchant can be exceptional. Walk-the-dog style stick baits rate very highly with most seasoned barra anglers. The Cultiva Tango Dancer in the 115mm size is my all-time favourite. These lures can be walked across the surface with explosive results. Some locals have mastered the art of walking sub-surface stick baits with the Rapala Subwalk being great for this technique.

Frogging with soft plastic frogs rigged on weedless jigheads is perfect for this weedy dam. I love this technique when the lake is busy with skiers as you can get right away from the commotion in the thickest of weed and extract some quality fish.

Falling lake levels due to the release of water for irrigation will mean last week’s hot spot may have changed. Weed beds and depth will be changing so keep this in mind. Kinchant barra do seem to bite during a falling level quite well, unlike some other dams.

For accommodation at the lake give Kinchant Waters a call on (07) 49541453.

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