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Winter Tactics
  |  First Published: July 2014



Finally it’s started to cool down and the water temperature has dropped as a result. It has been a slow process this year, which has allowed the fish plenty of time to adjust and therefore keep biting quite well. Even golden perch have continued to fire well for lure fishers much longer than expected.

There is a fair chance all this will change this month as now things have finally cooled down enough to have some significant influence. Lure anglers can still expect to have quite a bit of action if they are smart about the way they fish. In the lakes, where the closed season doesn't apply to bass, lures will be a great option for those looking to catch plenty of fish. While chasing bass on lures, you can expect to come across the occasional golden perch. Specifically targeting goldens will be tougher unless you use bait.

In the rivers, big Murray cod will be on the hit list for some anglers. These fish bite right through the coldest months on lures but expect to work hard for them and the action to be slower as golden perch won't respond to artificial offerings as well.

Barra anglers can still managed to score if they put in the time. Fishing in stable weather conditions when the days are warm and wind free should see the fish more responsive. Winter is a good time to chase these fish if you like having the water all to your-self. For some reason fishers give the winter months a miss in the belief that barra are impossible to catch.

Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Cressbrook
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Things have been pretty tough at Lake Cressbrook. The bass have scattered all over the dam. Fish can be found from the shallow water right out into the deepest part of the lake where they are suspending. Chasing them with lures has been pretty tough due to them being so spread out.

There are still a few spots where they school up in better numbers. The point at the toilet up Beams Creek has been one of the better locations. Up Cressbrook Creek the point opposite the Eagles Nest rock wall holds bass at times. Another spot in the vicinity worth looking is the flat to the south of where the steep rock wall finishes.

When luring these fish, try offerings like soft plastics rigged on 1/2oz jigheads or smaller blades around the 1/4oz size. When fishing the plastics, use a slow rolling retrieve. With the blades, use a small hoping retrieve or a slow wind, which is just fast enough to make the blade vibrate. Allow plenty of time in between winding to let the blade fall back to the bottom, which is where fish are most likely to be.

It will also be worth throwing a few lures around the banks. Weed bed have developed well over the last few months in the shallow water. Fishing shallow running lures like suspending jerkbaits or 1/4oz rigged plastics out from this weed may produce fish.

In the deeper parts of the lake where bass suspend and on the point where bass tend to school up, it is definitely worth dropping down a live shrimp. On the points make sure the shrimp is down near the bottom in 7-10m of water. When fishing in deeper parts of the lake keep a close eye on the sounder for fish and drop the bait directly below the boat to the depth at which they are holding. Provided fish are in your area, this is one of the best ways to catch big bass at Cressbrook at the moment.

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 7am to 6pm over the winter months. For all your supplies, expert advice and to check on the boating restrictions, 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.

Somerset
Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

The schooling fish in Somerset have gone into shut down mode. Schools of bass have been turning up around the flats close to the river bed in the middle reaches of the dam. While easy to find, they are hard to catch. Live shrimp would be one of the best ways to tempt them but this doesn’t help if your heart is set on landing them on lures. Casting soft plastics, lipless crankbaits and blade baits can score the occasional fish but don’t expect miracles.

The fish have bit in windows and if you are lucky enough to be on them when they bite you can put a few quick ones in the boat before they shut down again. The use of deep flies and ice jigs in the schools are often the most reliable winter approaches.

A mate from work, Slipdog, has been doing better in the upper part of the dam. Trolling lures above the power lines has produced some nice bass. Try working lures along the banks and riverbed drop offs in 5-8m of water. The golden perch have been quiet in the area but it’s good to see reasonable numbers of bass. Lure casters could also give the area a try.

Try casting the edges but keep a close eye on the sounder for any deeper fish. Hopping blades and working lipless crankbaits and spinnerbait deep through these fish may be rewarding.

Wivenhoe
Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

Wivenhoe Dam has been fishing quite well for those using the right approach. I fished the dam several times over the last month and found a great edge bite on the steeper banks. Not many fish are showing on the sounder but as you move along slowly on the electric motor casting into the shoreline, bass tend to move off of the bank where they are holding in the shower water and swim out and suspend under the boat.

When the fish are suspended under the boat, they are tough to catch and one of the best ways to fool them is to jig ice jigs at the depth they are holding. I have found continuously moving along the bank and not stopping to be most effective approach. The fish stay in on the bank where I am targeting them and I can then come back to the area and fish it again. If you stop for too long, the fish will end up schooled below the boat and will follow you along as you travel down the bank.

Both bass and golden perch have been taking lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Try casting right into the bank and winding the lure about 10m out before pausing and letting it sink for about 5 seconds then slowly winding it back in. Most bites will come when winding after the pause when the lure sinks to around 3-4m deep. Lipless crankbaits in 50, 60 and 70 sizes all produce fish. It pays to fish with both rattling and silent models to see if one is working better than another. My favourite spinnerbait has been a 5/8oz O.S.P. High Pitcher in nickel tandem blade configuration and a purple skirt (colour ST-17).

Dropping down live shrimp to fish on the steeper banks will certainly get results. If bass or golden perch are present they will quickly snatch them up. If you're in the wrong area, you will be harassed by tilapia, banded grunter and fork tailed catfish. If you fish just off the bottom in around 5-7m of water on the steeper banks chances are you’ll catch the more desirable species.

Winter offers some beautiful days with light winds and these days are the ideal time to head out on the water. When the wind is blowing from south east or south west at over 15 knots a lot of the steep of banks in the lower part of the dam where the action is best are uncomfortable to fish due to the dam being so open.

Remember, Wivenhoe has been opened to powerboats. Only 4-stroke outboards or low emission 2 strokes are allowed to be used on the lake and boats must not exceed the 6 knot speed limit. Even with these restrictions in place it is much faster to get around the lake than using just your electric and you don't have the fear of running out of battery power.

Moogerah
Closest Towns: Boonah, Aratula

Lake Moogerah fired up last month and anglers flooded there to cast lures and catch huge numbers of bass. The bass turned up in several areas and moved around a little due to the high amount of fishing pressure. One of the best areas to target was to the left of the boat ramp closest to the trees. Bass schooled out from the first tree-lined point up into the timber in 7-10m of water.

The same area will be worth a look this month. Be prepared to look around as the fish have been mobile but once found bite quite well. Bass will respond well to soft plastics and hopped 1/4oz blades and lipless crankbaits. The action may not be as furious due to the high amount of fishing pressure the fish have experienced over the last month. Fishing on weekdays when there are fewer boats about is the best way to insure a good bite. I headed to the lake on a weekend last month and we were scoring fish in double hook ups to start the day off but as other boats moved in to the same area the action died down until it was hard to get a bite.

Bait fishers who can get their hands on some live shrimp will be well rewarded. Try fishing the same areas as the lure casters and drop shrimp straight to the bottom under the boat. Fishing up in the trees on the eastern side of the dam in about 7-9m of water is a good option and here you should also encounter some golden perch mixed in with the bass.

Maroon
Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

Maroon will be a good choice if you want to catch a winter bass. There are smaller schooling fish to be caught on the points and outside the weed edge. Bigger fish can be caught closer to the weed beds.

Casting is the best way to extract these better quality bass. Jerk baits and suspending minnows are a good option in the winter months. These lures can be ripped down into the weed and paused in the pockets where big fish lie in wait. One of my favourites is the Cultiva Rippin’ Minnow 70SP. These lures are light and I find a spin outfit spooled with 6lb braid best to get the good long cast needed to not spook fish.

Twitching lightly weighted soft plastics or subsurface flies through the weeds are other options. The key to catching fish in Maroon at this time of year is putting lures in their face. This will mean dealing with weed. You need to be close to it and be able to twitch out of it and have your lure come out weed free so you can continue fishing. It takes a while to master the art but the rewards are worthwhile.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Cooby
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The golden perch have moved out into the deeper parts of the lake. Fishing in 13-17m of water has produced good numbers of golden perch. Out from the steep bank at the start of the northern arm has been productive. The fish are responding well to lures in this depth where the water temperature is more stable than right on top where weather has a big influence on suddenly changing temperature.

If luring these fish, stick to blades, soft lipless vibes or ice jigs. These lures can be slowly hopped off the bottom where the fish are most likely to hold. Trolled lures don’t reach the required depth and therefore won’t produce fish.

Bait fishing with shrimp and saltwater yabbies to the deep fish can be even more productive. A lot of successful anglers sit on a spot and fish both bait and lures at the same time. The bait tends to draw the fish in and keep them interested while you are jigging lures on top of them. Pinpoint anchoring in the deep water is a must for guaranteed success. If the wind is changing direction, the boat will swing around a lot when anchored. An I-pilot electric motor will allow you to take a GPS spot lock and hold right on your chosen mark.

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. 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 fishing gear, kayaks and accessories he has on display.

Coolmunda
Closest Town: Inglewood

Coolmunda is still fishing well for golden perch. Baits have been the most reliable producer and shrimp, saltwater yabbies and small crays are all taking fish. The deeper parts of the timber close to the creek bed are certainly worth a shot. This area has been producing golden perch and the occasional big Murray cod.

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. The park now has an extra two new wheelchair friendly cabins to add to their older ones. Camping is also available near the boat ramp with toilets and hot showers to make your stay more comfortable. 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.

Leslie
Closest Town: Warwick

Usually the cooler water temperatures in winter shut the golden perch down on lures. The warmer than usual conditions last month had the fish biting quite well on cast and trolled lures. Trolling will slow right down this month but lure casting may continue to produce reasonable numbers.

Hopping lures around the rocks in the upper part of the dam around the Black Boys can produce great fishing. Soft lipless lures like Jackall Mask Vibes and Transams are the pick with small blades under 1/4oz also worth a try.

Last month, Toowoomba angler John Schwerin, managed to score dozens of golden perch and one cracking Murray cod on lures. The secret was using the side image feature on his Humminbird sounder to locate submerged granite rock formations and then cast a lure and hop it over them. At times they were having double hook ups on golden perch and the cod they landed really topped a great day off.

While it may be worth hopping lures around the rocks this month, be prepared to give the lure fishing away and try some bait if the action is slow. Live shrimp and saltwater yabbies will be the best baits when fished near the bottom in a round about 4-7m of 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.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Boondooma
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Boondooma is a great winter bass fishery. While chasing these fish you can expect to encounter quite a few golden perch as well. Up in the timbered reaches of both the Boyne and Stuart arms, the bass have been whacking spinnerbaits around the deeper trees. Most of this action takes place in the upper parts of the timbered sections.

In the basin of the lake schooling fish are a lot of fun. These fish have been quite mobile and can be found anywhere from the middle reaches of the dams basin to the start of the timber. Sounding out from the banks in 4-9m of water should reveal the schools. When the cold finally arrives it may force the fish a little deeper so be prepared to take this into account when searching for fish. Once found they can be caught by casting soft plastics, Mask Vibes, tailspinners, blades and ice jigs.

Boondooma is a great trolling dam in the warmer months but trolled hardbodies aren’t very effective once it cools down. Forget the hardbodies and switch to trolling soft plastics rigged on 1/2oz jigheads as this is a great winter technique. Fish the plastic about 40-50m behind the boat and drag it along at 2-2.5km/h using the electric motor. This is a good way to locate fish. If one rod goes off, stop moving and fish any plastics still in the water back to the boat or cast another back to the spot where the fish was hooked.

Boondooma is a great place to camp right near the water and sit by the fire when it’s cold. You could also do it in more style and book into one of the cabins overlooking the dam. The kiosk at the main office does hot food and other basic items. For campsites, cabins and bunkhouse rooms call Corey and Niki on (07) 4168 9694.

Bjelke-Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

There should be reasonable numbers of golden perch and smaller bass to be caught in the main basin. Jigging lures in 5-8m of water will catch both species. Blade baits in 1/4oz and 3/8oz weights and lipless crankbaits are perfect for this approach.

Last year the fish moved well up into the timber. This year the lower lake level should see them closer to the start of the trees. Try fishing the deeper trees rather than the banks in the timber.

Redclaw numbers have dropped right off so if you are visiting the lake concentrate on bagging some fish rather than the crayfish.

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.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

The weed beds are dying off in the Isis, which is encouraging more bass to head to deeper water. It looks as though the schooling bass in the middle of the lake will provide the most action next month. These fish were fairly small last month but as more fish retreat to the deeper water, bigger models will turn up.

Hopping lures off the bottom through the schools is a good way to get them to bite. Blade baits around 1/4oz in weight are great for fish of all sizes. If you want to target the bigger models, try hopping Jackall Mask Vibes. These soft lipless baits have a bigger profile and often produce better quality fish. I like to load my Mask Vibes with catch scent and love Halco Freshwater and Estuary Scent or Pro-Cure Gel in mullet or nightcrawler to make them even more appealing to fish.

Sound around in the middle of the dam a couple hundred metres out from the boat ramp where the three arms meet to locate the schooling fish. Usually they will hold in areas, which are less than 10m deep but on occasions may turn up even deeper. You will need to be able to rely on your sounder and your ability to read it to find success out in the open water.

Closer to the edges, the remaining weed will still hold some fish. Some of the locals like to use lightly weighted 3” plastics, which they cut down even shorter to give them a smaller profile. Just make sure you trim a bit off the head end. Other options include small blades, beetle spins and suspending minnows. When fishing the weed, look for the healthiest patches. This healthy weed won’t always be visible on the surface but you will hook and pull in plenty so just make sure the area you’re fishing has lush green looking weed.

The boys at Bundaberg’s Saltys Tackleworld fish the dam on a regular basis. Being so passionate about their bass fishing, they are the ones to talk to if you are heading to the lake for a fish. Saltys stock a great range of lures for both fresh and saltwater fishing and the Bundaberg area has plenty to offer.

Monduran
Closest Town: Gin Gin

Last month, the barra went nuts. The fish fired up on plenty of the points upstream of White Rock. Suspending or slow rising hardbodies continued to be the most productive. Plenty of these fish were in the mid 80cm size range and judging by the amount of bust ups and lost fish to tackle failure and lines breaking they are angry and strong. The barra are a really deep and chunky fish in Monduran and this gives them plenty of muscle to pull hard.

The points and backs of bays have been productive and it is handy to have side image on your sounder to see if the fish are moving through. If they aren’t on the sounder after an hour of flicking lures, move on until you find a point where they are cruising. At times, the fish can be stubborn and will sit right at the base of the old flooded black wattle. Keep casts tight to these spindly dead trees and when the fish light up, hopefully your lure is in the right area.

Jackall Squirrels have been very popular but other lures will work well too. Jamie from Monduran Barra Charters has been doing well on bigger fish with the Storm Thunder Barra rigged to slowly rise during the pauses. Pausing the lure and using a slow retrieve is the trick to getting the fish to bite. If the fish are on your sounder, slow it down even more and keep it in their face. A change in lure or technique can be made if you don’t have a bite and you know the fish are there. Don’t just change lures, sometimes minor changes in the retrieve can be the trigger. Mix it up giving the lure soft or violent twitches or just a slow roll and pause. Other times it is just a matter of waiting until the fish light up and a bite window opens. Don’t leave fish unless you know you’ve got another fish holding spot to head to.

The fish may slow down at the first sign of a cold snap but the action should pick up when the weather is stable. If you are doing it tough, just kick back and relax and slow everything down. The barra will be a little more lethargic. That is until you hook them!

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. I usually stay at the Gin Gin Hotel which is about 20 minutes from the boat ramp. The rooms are very affordable and pretty basic but you can get a great feed and cold beer. To make a booking call (07) 4157 2106.

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 .

Wuruma
Closest Towns: Monto, Eidsvold

I’d love to hear more reports from Wuruma. Most people have commented on how tough the fishing is but I heard of some really hot bass fishing there about two months ago. Well over 150 bass were caught between two boats trolling the timber over two days. The fish were of exceptional quality and came from the deep channel side of the tree-line.

If you are catching fish at Wuruma or take this advice and give it a go I’d love to hear your report and see your pictures at --e-mail address hidden-- .

Capricorn Region
Awoonga
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

The dam has been quiet with not many anglers chasing the barra. The weed beds and lily pads are starting to return and the water looks quite healthy. Redclaw numbers have been good but may taper off for the rest of winter.

Below the dam, the Boyne River is still producing barra. The saltwater reaches have had a big flogging by the netters so the numbers will be fewer but in the freshwater, barra are still being caught. The fish are very pressured above and below Pikes Crossing in the freshwater but still continue to bite. Soft plastics have worked well but a switch to hard bodies may be necessary to get them to chew now the water is colder. Slow presentations and staking out a good looking spot and working it over until the fish move through can pay off.

Plenty of the barra are around 70cm in length and will remain in the fresh until the next flood goes through. This could be sometime as the dam would need to run over again to push enough water down to allow them an escape route. Until then, they will keep getting hammered by anglers but will continue to grow.

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.

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