Luring the fresh in March
  |  First Published: March 2014

With a wet season looming in the northern part of the state and one cyclone already impacting the lakes from Gladstone north, the weather will play a big part in what the following month has to offer. Already some lakes in the tropics have had a top up but in the southern part of the state, the lake levels are slowly dropping.

Fishing was fairly consistent last month although a spate of bad weather bringing heaps of wind kept anglers off the water and the fish a little harder to tempt.

Lure trolling is still one of the best ways to catch a fish. This can be as laid back or as serious an approach as you make it. You can go in blind hoping for the best or study the fish on the sounder and present lures right on their nose. We should have another month or two of good trolling conditions so get into it now before the action tapers off.

I was lucky enough to slip in a trip north about a month ago with good mate, Jason Medcalf and our sons. The plan was to hit the barra lakes hard but we only managed a couple hours at Lake Proserpine and an overnighter at Kinchant. Proserpine failed to deliver with only one bite but Kinchant fired with barra being caught on Surface Frogs during the day and hardbodied lures at night. The beautiful waters around Airlie Beach were too much of a temptation and we spent some time whacking a plethora of species.

The next trip is already booked for this month and after having just a taste of what the barra lakes around Mackay and Proserpine have to offer, I’m itching to get stretched by even more, big impoundment barramundi.

It’s almost that time of year again. The Brisbane Tinnie and Tackle Show is on next month on the 4-6 April. Jason Medcalf and I will be organising and hosting the fishing stage. We have a great line up of speakers who are keen to share their knowledge. Be sure to check out the speakers' program in the feature inside this month’s QFM. There’ll be top presenters and anglers on stage. I was going to mention names but there’s just too many to start. The Berkley Kids’ Fishing Show will be back on Saturday and Sunday mornings so if you are planning a day out bring the kids along to join in the fun.

Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Cressbrook has been fishing tough apart from the one bass school that cruises around in Bass Bay and along the buoy line heading across to Deer Island. These fish move around and can be found in water more than 7m deep. They can be in tighter concentrations at times and when they are, casting blades and spinnerbaits into the area can produce quality bass.

Trolling remains the better option to nail numbers of fish. Due to their scattered nature, bass are coming from all over and at times there are very few on the sounder. The trick is to pick a lure that dives to the depth of the fish. Last month, we caught fish from 3-10m deep.

Lure choice really depends on where the fish are sitting at the time. As a general rule, they will be shallower in the mornings and afternoons. In the middle of the day they will venture deeper. Lures without rattles have been scoring plenty of the bites. The Blitz Baga, Golden Child, Smak 16, Smak 19 and Kezza Lures Freak are just some worthwhile choices. I’ve seen all colours work but my favourites are purples and browns.

With some of the bass topping 45cm in length and the average around 40cm, they are quality, fat fish that will strip a bit of line and put a serious bend in your rod.

The entry fee at the boom gate has been removed but the 8 knot speed limit is still in place. Hours for boating and day use of the recreation area are 6am to 8pm until they shorten in May. For all your supplies, expert advice and to check on the boating restriction, call in at Fish’n’Bits in Alderley 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

The bass and golden perch remain schooled up and willing to nail lures. It can be hard work getting the bass to bite at times but the quality has been great and the numbers of goldens mixed in will keep you busy.

Pelican Point and Queen Street flats have been holding the majority of the bass schools. These fish moved into shallower water last month where they were happy swimming around in 7-10m of water. This is a change from last month where they were holding wider and suspending. This change will see numbers on trolled lures drop off and an increase in fish being caught casting.

Spinnerbaits have been one of the best lures to entice these deep holding bass. The 5/8oz models are needed to get down and stay down where the fish are. The next trick is to use a light braided line to keep the lure down in front of the fish. Lines below 8lb breaking strain are ideal and in the open water of Somerset you can even drop the main line size back to 4lb. The thinner diameter of these lines allows the lure to stay deeper for longer, as they offer less resistance than thicker lines.

Try casting your spinnerbait over the bass and letting it sink to the bottom. Give the rod a twitch to engage the blades and use a steady retrieve for 10-15 winds before letting the lure sink back to the bottom and repeating. The number of winds can vary and the distance the fish are off the bottom will dictate just how far off the bottom you should work the lure. Mix it up until you find what they are looking for.

I like to throw in a bit of variation in my slow rolling retrieve. A twitch of the rod when the lure is up off the bottom is at times deadly. All this twitch needs to do is make the skirt pulsate and the blades flutter differently; a trick that gets curious bass excited enough to strike.

Matthew Mott had quite a bit of success in a Basstastic competition held at Somerset last month. The gun lures were 5/8oz Smak spinnerbaits in natural colours. Motty said, “Darker colours that you’d normally throw in the overcast conditions just weren’t working so we used whiter, more natural colour to catch our fish.”

Hopping lipless crankbaits in light colours has also scored well on the better quality bass. Blades have caught a few fish but it seems the larger profile baits are doing the most damage and certainly tempting the larger fish. With plenty of bass around 50cm being caught on these lures, who can argue? Don’t be fooled into thinking the fish will come easily. It can take a lot of casts to crack a bite pattern but the results are certainly worthwhile.

In slightly deeper water over 10m, golden perch have been thick in the same areas as the bass are schooling. Numbers of these fish have also been caught around Queen Street and Kirkleigh timber. It has been an amazing year for goldens at Somerset and they will eat just about any lure. Trolling deep divers will score a few and is a great way to locate schools. Schools are so thick at times they look like bass on the sounder. If you find them in numbers like this, try hopping blade baits or soft lipless vibes and you can whack heaps.

Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

I haven’t heard much about Wivenhoe in the last month apart from the fact the golden perch are still chewing in numbers. These fish can be caught along the steep rocky banks in the lower half of the dam. Trolling is a great way to find them and once located they can be caught by hopping blade baits, lipless crankbaits and ice jigs.

Bass reports have been scarce but I’m sure the usual schools are holding around the points north west of Logans Inlet and between Billies Bay and Platypus Cliffs. Again, trolling is a good way to locate these fish. Deep diving lures are ideal and will cover a lot of water. A fast troll will get the bass excited but hopefully deter the fork-tailed catfish.

Once fish are found, slow down and give the area a thorough working over.

If you have any reports on the bass, I’d love to hear them or see your pictures at --e-mail address hidden-- .

Closest Town: Nerang, Gold Coast

A special thanks goes to John Goodwin who has provided the Nerang reports for the last couple of years. John is a keen bass fisherman who works at Go Camping at Nerang and is about to move on to a new job. His last report for the Hinze is certainly enough to get you keen to give it a crack.

Toga numbers have really picked up over the last month. Spinnerbaits and silent lipless baits have been scoring well with few fish falling for topwater offerings. On one adventure, John and his mate kayaked to the upper part of the eastern arm where the dam was almost a creek. Here they nailed six saratoga fishing the edges.

Toga numbers have picked up in the main basin as well. Closer to the wall, the points between The Sapplings and Eagles Nest have fired for saratoga and bass. Working the edges with spinnerbaits and silent lipless crankbaits has produced both species.

An early morning surface session is certainly worth a go as bass are nailing topwater offerings. One of the standout lures has been the Fish Arrow Cover Cicada. Even though anglers are tossing topwater lures, the toga are rarely paying attention and seem to prefer the subsurface offerings.

As the day heats up, the deeper points have held reasonable numbers of bass. Averaging 35-40cm these fish are suckers for a soft plastic rigged on a beetle spin or TT Rev Head. Lightweight heads like 1/4oz are all that are needed to get the lure deep enough when using a slow rolling retrieve.

A permit is required to fish Hinze Dam and these are only $5/week or $40/year. These are available through Go Camping at Nerang. No outboard motors can be taken on the dam so it is electric motors only or paddle power if you want to tangle with the Gold Coast’s fiery little bass. For all the latest information and best lures for the job call in and see the guys at Go Camping, 10 Spencer Street, Nerang.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

While a few local tackle stores have reported the action as very hit and miss, I have heard of absolute cracker sessions on the golden perch at Cooby. Bait fishing is still the better option to produce big numbers of fish but they can also be caught jigging small to medium sized blades.

It seems the fish have moved a little deeper than previous months with good schools being found out in the middle of the northern (Cooby Creek) arm. Locating fish on the sounder is the key to catching bulk numbers. When found these fish tend to go through bite periods where they go nuts and then almost totally shut down until the switch is flicked, triggering their next bite. The big sessions I’ve heard of occurred at mid-morning and late afternoon.

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. The boom gate entry fee has been removed so you can keep your change for an ice block or stubbie on the way home. 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

Murray cod and golden perch have been caught at Coolmunda over the past month. At around half full, a lot of the action will be coming from out in front of the dam wall. Trolling lures along the drop-off to the old creek bed will account for golden perch in this area.

Lure casters and bait fisher will have more success up in the timber and some nice cod and golden perch have been caught at the start of the timber. Finding where the creek runs and casting lures across it so they work over the drop off is an effective way to get bites. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits have been scoring most of the fish.

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

Numbers of Murray cod being caught from Leslie have really picked up over the last few months. Last report I mentioned a 1m fish from the deep water and since then I know of at least two more big models being landed. The biggest of these was a massive 1.3m long. Some of the cod being caught have been suspending 2-3m deep in really deep water.

Trolling lipless crankbaits is a good way to cover the water and fish this depth. The fact it has happened on several occasions now makes this sort of catch more than just good luck.

The golden perch have been coming from the upper part of the dam. Explore the creek up past the Black Boys looking for any deeper water. It is these deeper sections that congregate the golden perch in good numbers. These fish can be caught trolling, casting and on bait. Fishing any of the rocky structure with spinnerbaits is also worth a shot in this area.

Bait fishers can try their luck with live shrimp and saltwater yabbies. The area right near the boat ramp and in the main basin south of the dam wall would be worth a shot.

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 that is well suited to catching our Australian natives.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Trolling lures continues to be the best approach at Boondooma. There have been heaps of bass and golden perch taken on trolled offerings. The deep water out in front of the dam wall (outside the buoyed off area) is holding plenty of quality bass. The bigger fish are over 50cm with the odd one right up to 56cm.

Lures that run 8-10m deep are needed to reach these fish. The Blitz Baga, Smak 19, Golden Child and 50mm Poltergeist Crazy Deep are all worth a troll. Colours seem important if you want to increase your catch rate. Purple is one of the most reliable but black, dark green and dark brown can also stand out at certain times. Run a few lure types and colours and it shouldn’t take long to find out what the fish prefer.

Further up the dam, the fish are still in the deep water but are suspending shallower. Lures that run 4-5m are capable of reaching these fish. Look for the thermocline on the sounder, which shows as a line of suspended clutter. The fish won’t be too far from this depth.

Lure casters have had success at times when the fish are found closer to the bottom in 5-8m of water. Bass and golden perch have been scoffing blades, mask vibes and ice jigs in these situations.

In the timber, smaller fish have been taking spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and bait. The edges and shallower water fish well in the morning but the fish soon retreat to the comfort of the deeper trees.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

There has been plenty of action at Bjelke-Petersen over the past few months. The big golden perch and small bass just seem to keep firing. Lure trollers, casters and bait fishers are all able to share the action.

Schools of fish are holding right through the dam’s main basin. Popular spots include Treasure Island, Bass Point and Lightning Ridge. When located, these schooling fish can be caught on blade baits. Casting over the fish and then using a hopping retrieve seems very effective. Blade baits that weigh in at 1/4oz or 3/8oz are ideal for hopping.

Lure trollers can explore more water and are likely to pick up scattered fish as well as those that are schooling. Medium to deep lures are faring well so try the Smak 16, Brolga and Blitz Baga.

With so much action in the dam’s main basin, there is little need to venture any further, although there are still some fish to be caught up in the timber. These fish can be caught casting spinnerbaits and blades in the start of the timber. Bait fishers can expect to tangle with bass, big golden perch and eel-tailed catfish in the same area. If bait fishing, don’t skimp on baits and try to get the best available. It is hard to beat live shrimp as everything loves them.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into your local Bass 2 Barra 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 town: Gin Gin

The barra fishing in Monduran has turned a little tough. The fish are fairly easy to find and will show on the sounder but getting them to bite has been tricky.

Small to medium sized hardbodies in the 80-120mm size range have been most effective. Often deeper lures will outperform the shallow divers so it pays to have some 3-4m diving lures in your kit. The Jackall Hank Tune, Halco Hamma 85 with the 3m bib and Yo Zuri Crystal Minnow are some top performers.

In the Kolan River below the dam, plenty of barra and bass have been caught. Fishing the deeper water around the snags should see you getting into the action. With a lot of fish around 80cm in length you need to be on the ball to extract them from the snags. I had a successful trip fishing deeper diving hardbodies. The standout lure for me was a RMG Scorpion 90 in the 4m diver. I added some lead, stick on weight to this lure to make it a slow sinker. It was simply a matter of casting close to the snags and cranking the lure down. Once deep in the snag, a pause before winding again would usually draw the strike.

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 camp sites, 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

Awoonga Dam had a rise after the rain brought by the February cyclone. This rise shouldn’t change the fishing too much. Finding barra is the toughest part when it comes to catching them. There is a lot of fishless water so a good sounder and knowledge of barramundi habits will be necessary.

The area around Gold Mine Point has been one of the most productive. Fishing 3-5m diving lures around the deeper trees is a good way to get connected to one of the dam’s fish. The common size of barra has been around 80cm with some smaller and bigger ones mixed in.

In the river below the dam, anglers continue to do well around Pikes Crossing in the freshwater reaches. Finding barra in the salt is a little tougher since the netters left their mark but it is still possible to catch fish from the mouth of the Boyne right up to where the water turns fresh at the weir.

If you are keen to try 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 dam has steadied up a little with the barra beginning to scatter, although there are still a few fish being caught around the buoyed area near the dam wall. Trolling deep diving hardbodies will get the bites here but don’t expect big numbers since a lot of the fish moved on. Trolling lures like Poltergeists and 125 and 150mm Scorpions will see you in with a chance of hooking one of the big stragglers in the main basin.

More barra should start to turn up in the trees and points up in the timber. Fishing deep divers around the trees lining the submerged creeks can be very rewarding. With fish around a metre long the average, try using 50lb braid to give you a better chance around all the structure.

Early and late in the day, it will be worth a shot fishing the nearest points to the deep water of the creeks. Walking a surface lure like a Cultiva Tango Dancer or popping a 90mm Rapala Skitter Pop could see an explosive take. Plastics and shallow hardbodied lures are also effective. Some of the locals have had success with sub-surface stick baits when fishing these areas.

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

What a change to the barra fishing from only a month or two ago! The dam has gone from having fast dropping levels to being almost full. Cyclone Edna dumped quite a bit of rain in the area. Kinchant receives the bulk of its water from the river via a pump when the river is running. Reports suggest if no more flooding occurs to limit the use of the pump, the dam should be back to 100% capacity by the time you are reading this.

The big increase to water level will be a big rise vertically, which will flood heaps of bank. Because the dam dropped so fast, it won’t flood too much vegetation so should continue to fish well. The lush weed beds and lilies will start to make their recovery but don’t expect to see them for some time. Anglers will need to think strategically about where to target fish with the lack of weed and structure. Casting lures to the edges while under the power of electric motor will allow you to cover heaps of water looking for productive areas.

Try working points and bays and keep a close eye on water temperatures to try and pinpoint a comfortable level. One of the biggest attractants to barra is highly oxygenated water and this comes from the wind blowing hard onto a bank, causing aerated water.

When searching for fish, soft plastics like the 5” Powerbait Split Belly and Squidgy Slick Rig are ideal. If I want to fish fast, I’ll opt for a 5” Powerbait Mullet or FLT Transam 95. These work great if the fish are slightly deeper in over 1.5m of water. Once fish are found, you can slow down and work them more thoroughly. Shallow diving hardbodied lures like the 1m Halco Hamma, 125 Laser Pro and Rapala X-Rap are perfect for this. A night session around the moon using these lures off the prominent points is likely to see you connected to a monster barra.

Early and late in the day, surface lures will be worth a toss. With less weed about, try hardbodied offerings like the Cultiva Tango Dancer. Walk these lures back to the boat with pauses. Boofing barra in the area are a good sign to surface feeding fish but are not a prerequisite for catching fish.

Trolling with shallow diving lures around the lake edges and over the tops of any old drowned weed beds would certainly be an option. Water depth will influence lure choice so have a few different ones packed into the box if you intend to have a troll.

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

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