Camping in winter at Somerset Park is always a lot of fun, even in winter. All it takes is some warm gear at night around the fire before heading to bed and, with fishing handy, it’s one of life’s rare pleasures.
With the colder weather now thoroughly entrenched, our impoundment bass season is in full swing and the ever-reliable Somerset Dam is rightly receiving plenty of attention from angler’s keen to tangle with a big fat bass or other exciting freshwater native fish.
For those who like to make the best of an extended stay in the area, there are two main camping areas on offer on the west side of the dam. There’s Lake Somerset Park (the former Kirkleigh camping area) up towards the Kilcoy end of the lake (which I reviewed a few issues back) and the camping area that I’m reviewing now, at Somerset Dam Village on the southern outskirts of the small township of Somerset Dam.
The tiny town of Somerset Dam has a rare rustic charm. A place of tall trees and enticing bush fragrances the township is totally enclosed by mountains virtually on all sides with Lake Somerset backing to the north of the adjacent dam wall and the Stanley River flowing to the south where it joins the Brisbane River in the backed up waters of Lake Wivenhoe.
This very long established camping area is located between the main Esk-Kilcoy Road and the Stanley River. It’s a quite long expanse of well-grassed paddock with a decent sprinkling of shady trees, which always seem to be populated by a group of somewhat noisy koalas. You didn’t know koalas were noisy? They croak and groan quite amazingly at times.
Camping here could hardly be easier – it’s on a first in best dressed basis. At times certain areas may be reserved, which will be segregated by small barriers; otherwise it’s easy to find just the right spot and set up camp for a spell.
Features within the camping area include shelter sheds, wood barbecues, a couple of concrete pads for caravans and plenty of level ground. There is an office at the entrance with clean amenities block close by that features hot coin operated showers. At the end of a day’s fishing that shower is certainly going to be much appreciated.
Somerset Park is a very laid back camping area – there are no boom gates, no entry codes or other restrictions. Should Hans the manager not be present, then it’s fine to set up camp and greet him later in the day. Although this is an unpowered camping ground – generators are allowed until 8pm – Hans can arrange for 240V power leads to be extended from the office near the entrance to charge batteries for boat motors.
Camp fires are permitted in the plentiful fire drums provided or campers can enjoy their own braziers at camp sites. It is best to take firewood as all likely timber has long been scavenged.
Also of interest is the rest area opposite the general store and adjacent to the northern end of the main camping area. There’s a playground for children plus BBQs, several picnic tables and more amenities.
When camping here it’s best to be largely self-sufficient. The Somerset Dam General Store adjacent to the camp grounds has a fair range of small goods, cold drinks, ice, fuel, gas refills plus some fishing tackle and delicious coffee, but there are no other retail outlets closer than the town of Kilcoy, which is around a 30 minute drive away. A public phone is available in town and there’s not much mobile coverage in the area.
West from Brisbane on the road to Toowoomba there’s a turn off at Blacksoil to Esk and Toogooloowah. You won’t miss it as you will travelling very slowly because of the extensive road works! Once on this road, turn right just after Fernvale after crossing the Brisbane River; it’s where the road leading to Mt Glorious and other areas skirts around the eastern side of Lake Wivenhoe. Thirty minute’s drive will see the car crossing the Stanley River just below Somerset Dam village. Turn to the right and opposite the Somerset Dam Village sign is the entrance to the camping area.
Coming from the North Coast the Caboolture/Kilcoy turn off is easily seen on the M1 opposite the Bribie Island exit. Just out of Kilcoy there’s a turn off to Lake Somerset and Kilcoy. The somewhat winding road passes the camp grounds after a 20 minute drive with the scenic views of Lake Somerset on the left.
Good idea, let’s look at the fishing! Somerset Dam has been famous for its bass for around 30 years. Bass are slow growing fish but with the abundance of bony bream and tilapia in the system, Somerset’s fish are some of the biggest bass in the business. A 50cm specimen does not create a lot of interest until it gets to at least mid-50s.
Bass aside there are also plenty of golden perch and catties (tandanus) in the waterway with goldens also growing to very good sizes. Goldens and bass respond well to all manner of lures with the current wave of metal vibes being red hot, nevertheless there are still a lot of fish taken on the ever-reliable spinnerbaits and soft vibes as well. Bait fishing is still probably the best way of getting a young angler attached to a fish with shrimps and freshwater yabbies hard to beat. Worms will take all species but will most likely interest the catties and goldens best.
Don’t forget the red claw pots if heading out in the boat as these tasty fellows are still on the job even through winter. A boat is a necessity to fish this dam so both a SIP and general boating permit are required; the latter permit is easily obtained from the Ranger at the The Spit (the nearest launching area) just over 2km to the north.
Hans the manager can be contacted on 07 5426 4729.Reads: 1383