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Trolling lures produce the goods
  |  First Published: December 2014



Last year raced past and we are already welcoming 2015. The summer months and temperatures are well and truly here, which can make for some uncomfortable fishing during the heat of the day. This brings me to fish handling during the hot months. This time of year can produce some exceptional fishing and anglers will catch well over their bag limit and fish need to be released.

Freshwater fish usually release quite well after having been out of the water for photographs and measuring. In summer, we get a blanket of hot water sitting on top of the cooler water below. If you jump into a pool, creek or dam, you’ll feel the significant temperature change. The cooler water can be around a metre deep in bigger bodies of water. Keeping fish in livewells which are filled with this warm water can be a death sentence, as can be swimming them beside the boat for extended periods prior to release.

Coming from the cool water below and then experiencing the hot water on top can be worse than taking the fish right out of the water to remove the hooks prior to release. A healthy fish will shoot off to the deeper water and be fine. A struggling fish is better off speared down to the cooler temperatures than being dragged around in the hot water.

When dealing with fish in the boat, try to avoid having them contact any hot surfaces. The sun makes dark carpet and the sides of a boat really hot, as your bare feet would know. Wet the area down to cool it off and protect the slime of the fish if they must be laid down. A wet towel is a good option. In my old boat we used to carry a lucky stuffed toy to use as a sponge to cool the deck down before bringing big barra and cod on board. Smaller fish can be easily handled without having to put them down once netted.

The tight mesh style or rubber nets are ideal for protecting the slime on the fish. I love my Berkley net, as it can be whipped through the water more easily than those made out of shade cloth style material. The rubber in the Berkley nets is gentle on the fish and you won’t need to worry about hooks burying into it.

We need to look after our fish and see them swim away with the best chance of survival. It doesn’t look good for us if fish are helplessly dying on the surface. Learn to care for your catch when keeping it, but also exercise care when releasing it.

On the fishing scene, some of the lakes are going off. The golden perch are running hot at the moment and there are great numbers of Murray cod being caught on the dams west of the range. The rivers and creeks are also firing, so we are in for some great summer action.

The weatherman isn’t predicting any big rainfall events, so if this is the case the lakes, rivers and creeks will remain clear, but levels will be falling. Remember this when boating, because there will be new hazards as the levels drop. It amazes me to see water skiers and jet skis without sounders to give them depth indicators racing over the top of water only 1-2m deep. What’s even worse is they are sometimes doing it in a paddock full of submerged trees or stumps.

Some of the lakes now have restricted speed zones in the timber because of this behaviour, which I think is a good idea. It’s a shame we need them, as a lot of anglers know how to navigate through the channels in the sticks. I guess going slow is better than having to save someone’s life when they come unstuck.

On a positive note, it’s a new year and the fish are chewing. Study up on what areas are performing well and you should be able to score plenty of fish over the next couple of months. Bass, barra, golden perch and Murray cod should all be going off somewhere around the state. Stay safe on the road and in the water. Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Cressbrook

Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest.

The fishing at Lake Cressbrook has been slow for most anglers. Some days the bass fire up and chew a bit better than others, but most of the time they are hard to tempt. The most reliable way to catch them has been to troll diving lures. This approach covers plenty of water, which seems to be the best method at this time of year when the schools break up and spread out. Most of the action will take place in water over 7m deep, and the fish can even be caught out in the middle of the dam where they will suspend.

Choosing a lure that dives to the same depth as the suspending fish is the secret. Usually the fish will be holding at 6-10m. Pick the right lure and you’ll be in with a good chance. Lures like the Poltergeist 50mm Crazy Deep work well and are available at plenty of stores. Smak Lures are another great option, as they have models to suit different depths. The Blitz Baga and Golden Child are two great performers on Cressbrook. Smak Lures are similar to timber-made lures in that they have no rattles, and I believe it is why they perform so well. Locally made timber lures like Little Rippas, Kezza Freaks and the Kezza Mud Mouse also work well on the Cressy bass. You can source these lures from the local tackle stores at Highfields and Toowoomba.

The bass will be scattered all over the dam, but pay particular attention to the water between the boat ramps and the buoy line at the tower. The opposite banks are also worth a shot. There will be bass scattered all over the lake and the fish can turn up from one end to the other, so be prepared to cover a bit of water and keep an eye on the sounder to see where most of the life is.

Lure casters will do it tough unless they find a tighter bunch of bass. These fish will chew on reaction style lures though. Tailspinners, blade baits and Jackall Mask Vibes would be my first pick. If the bass tend to follow the lure to the boat, then try switching to a subtle action lure like a 3” paddle tail soft plastic rigged on a 1/2oz jighead.

The entry fee at the boom gate has been removed, but the 8 knot speed limit still applies. Hours for boating and day use of the recreation area are 6.00am-8.00pm. 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 action at Somerset will be slow for some. Lure casting is pretty tough, with the fish spread out more and tricky to get a bite from. Tighter bunches of bass may respond well to soft plastics and Jackall Mask Vibes. The key to catching bass at this time of year is to keep the boat moving. Fish in front of your direction of travel or slow troll sinking lures using the electric motor. It seems when you sit still you need to wait until the fish move away from your boat and decide to bite.

Trolling lures will be a great option. Deep diving lures that reach the depth of fish on the sounder will put quite a few in the boat this month. Quality bass and golden perch will fall for trolled lures. Try the Crazy Deep 50mm Poltergeist, Blitz Baga and Golden Child in black, purple or natural colours. It certainly pays to have a selection of lures and colours and alternate between them, as one will often be a standout performer.

The bass should be holding around the flats south of Kirkleigh down to Bay 13. Golden perch will be mixed in with the bass on the flats, but thicker up in the timber north of Kirkleigh. Here they will sit on shallower flats, around the trees, and close to the dropoffs of creek and river channels. Choose lures to suit the depth and if you are dragging the bottom too much, shorten up your line. Lures like the Golden Child, Smak 16, Smak 12 and Poltergeist 50mm are ideal in the timber where the productive water is likely to be shallower than in the basin of the lake.

Golden perch will congregate in schools around dropoffs and over submerged structure. If schools are found, they can be caught in bulk numbers by jigging lipless crankbaits or small blades around 1/8-¼oz. If last year is anything to go by, there could be insane numbers.

Good numbers of golden perch can be encountered at this time of year. If you manage to catch heaps, take only what you need and get the others back into the cooler, deeper water as fast as possible. Somerset can get some scorching surface temperatures at this time of year, which rolls released fish if they are in poor shape when they go back in.

Moogerah

Closest Towns: Boonah, Aratula.

The bass fishing seems to be a bit tougher at the moment. This is likely to be due to the fish scattering through the dam. Some reasonable schools should still be found in the timbered areas. Look for the bass across flats and close to dropoffs in the timber. The majority of fish will hold in 7-10m of water.

Once located, try a mix of offerings to see what the fish prefer. Tailspinners, blades, Mask Vibes, small profiled spinnerbaits and soft plastics can all be tossed at the fish to see which lure style produces the desired reaction.

Trolling will be worth a shot, but I haven’t heard any reports to confirm what depth to be running lures at. I’d suggest starting out with some lures capable of reaching 7-10m. The timber will hold fish, but could claim a few lures. Take a lure retriever!

Maroon

Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert.

Maroon has been fishing quite well, with plenty of bass and golden perch taking lures. The bass have been coming from all over the dam. Early and late in the day are the times to throw surface lures and suspending hardbodies around the shallow weed beds.

As the day heats up, the fish will retreat back into the weed and venture deeper. Try small spinnerbaits, blades, beetle spins and soft plastics fished closely to the tapering weed, concentrating on the weed edges and pockets. Some quality schooling bass have been caught in the past months. Keep an eye out for these fish around the points and at the start of the timber. If they are found on the sounder, they should be suckers for blade baits and tail spinners.

Golden perch are worth chasing in the timber, around the edges of the lake. With the warmer days, try fishing a bit deeper and slow rolling spinnerbaits and blades through 3-5m of water.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Cooby

Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba.

Cooby has finally fired up and the golden perch are coming out to play. Trolling, casting, jigging lures and bait fishing are all taking their share. Plenty of goldens have been caught from the buoyed area and steep rock wall up towards the dam wall over the last month. Darker lures seem to be the go and trolling 3-5m depth lures should produce fish in the mornings and afternoons. During the middle of the day, the fishing tends to slow down somewhat, but you can still score by jigging dark coloured blades or bait fishing with live shrimp or frozen saltwater yabbies.

The action should only get better this month as Cooby golden perch tend to fire up a little later in the year than those in the southern lakes. Take a mix of bait and lures, look where the other boats and kayaks are, and you will soon see where the action is taking place. There is always the chance of a monster Murray cod too, so be prepared, as most stories of these big brutes hooked in Cooby end in tragedy.

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.

Leslie

Closest Town: Warwick.

Trolling, casting and bait fishing will produce heaps of golden perch and Murray cod this month. Make sure you check the size of your Murray cod quickly and get the fish back in the water in healthy condition if it is undersized. There have been plenty of smaller models around, so things are certainly shaping up for the future if everyone does the right thing by these little tackers. The Murray cod size limit in Queensland is a minimum of 60cm and maximum of 110cm, with a bag limit of 2.

The goldens have been turning up all over the dam. Fish are coming from 4-12m of water on various depth lures. Trolling is very popular and it is best to follow the course of the creek bed dropoffs or target submerged structure in over 4m of water. Strong action lures like the 80mm Poltergeist, Kezza Mud Mouse and Oar Gee Pee-Wee are ideal to attract the goldens in the murky water of Leslie Dam.

Hopping blades and lipless crankbaits across the rocky bottom areas will certainly provoke a strike from a golden perch. Soft lipless baits have a bigger profile and can entice the crunching bite of a Murray cod from the same area. Last month there were some bigger cod caught casting spinnerbaits around the rocky structure, so keep this in mind for January as well.

Bait fishos will score on live shrimp and saltwater yabbies fished in 5-8m of water. Try a new spot if you haven’t had any luck after 10 minutes, and just keep moving until you find a sweet spot. Baits should be fished straight below the boat using a running sinker on top of the hook, or a paternoster rig with the sinker on the bottom and the hook positioned about 40cm above on a dropper loop. Fishing vertically like this will ensure you feel the bites when the fish start tapping away.

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 bait and freshwater gear that is well suited to catching our Australian natives.

Coolmunda

Closest Town: Inglewood.

Coolmunda went nuts in the latter part of last year. There were a couple of crazy months before a quieter spell in December. The action should fire up once again and this will see plenty of golden perch and the occasional Murray cod boated.

Trolling is the easiest way to take part in this action, with both cod and yellowbelly a chance. Working 4-6m lures close to the creek bed dropoff should see you in with a good show. You can start trolling in front of the boat ramp as soon as you see the first dropoff, which is less than 100m out. From here, head to the left or right and follow the edge where the water drops away. There are a few snags on the old creek edge and these are likely places to find both golden perch and big cod. The goldens can also be caught out in the middle of the creek channel when they are more actively roaming about.

Try trolling lures in a mix of colours, as this can certainly make a difference. The green Kezza Mud Mouse was slaying the fish last year, and so too was the 80mm Poltergeist in R4 (red stripe). You can never have enough lures and when the action is slow, keep changing until you find what the fish want.

On a trip last year, we caught fish on every lure we tried up until about 9.30am. After that, the next 10 bites all came on the same lure, even though we had two others in the water.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around a kilometre 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, barbecue shelter and a camp kitchen. The park now has an extra 2 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.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Boondooma

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy.

Trolling hardbodies will be the go over the coming month. Bass and golden perch will be keen to pounce on trolled lures as they are spread out through the middle reaches of the lake. Medium running lures like the Smak 12 will be ideal. The fish are usually higher in the water column, even when they are found out in the middle in deep water. The deeper areas are most likely to hold bass, and golden perch generally come from closer to the banks and points.

Hopping Jackall Masks and blades on top of The Islands in the second basin may also produce. The bass schools have been holding in this area and it is normally just a case of figuring out how deep to fish for them. At times they will be close to the bottom in 15m of water and on other occasions they can be several metres off the bottom. Higher suspended fish would be worth targeting with tailspinners as well.

In the Stuart timber, there will be a good chance of some bigger bass on spinnerbaits. Provided rain runoff doesn’t dirty the water in the area, the bass will be holding off the edges around the deeper trees. Try fishing in over 4m of water. Stopping big bass in tight timbered country can be a lot of fun.

Boondooma is a great place to camp right near the water and sit by the fire while enjoying the view. You could also stay in more style and comfort by booking 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

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri.

Trolling will be the way to get into the golden perch and small bass action. The fish are likely to be holding in shallower water and lures that run to 5m are ideal. The Smak 16 and Brolga are good choices for this dam when the fish are higher in the water column. Try fishing the steeper banks on the eastern side of the dam below the wineries, the narrow area near Bass Point, or any ridges holding fish in the middle of the dam.

Live baits of worms and shrimp, or even frozen saltwater yabbies, can produce a few fish in the same areas. When the fish are so spread out, it’s hard to beat the results from trolling though.

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. Bass 2 Barra stores stock an awesome range of gear suited to chasing our freshwater fish, and the boys have all the knowledge to guide you on how to use it.

The Yalakool kiosk is all set up with a great range of tackle if you don’t happen to have the right lure or lose one. Be sure to call in and check it out.

Monduran

Closest Town: Gin Gin.

The barra action has picked up a little again at Mondy. The fish are now taking plastics as well as hardbodies and there have even been a few caught trolling in the basin.

Plastics like the 4.5” PowerBait Rib Shad, 4.8” Keitech and ZMan SwimmerZ 4” will all catch fish when rigged on jigheads of up to 3/8oz for the shallows and ½oz for deeper water. These baits can also be rigged weedless on a TT Snake Head, which is ideal around weed or snags.

Hardbodies are still popular and producing fish. Lures around 100mm in length, which are fairly neutral in their buoyancy, are great. There are plenty to pick from including the Jackall Hank Tune Squirrel, Halco Hamma, Yo Zuri Crystal Minnow and Sebile Koolie Minnow.

You can have all the right lures ready for action, but unless you’re in the right spot it just won’t happen. Barra have been holding in particular areas, so make sure you grab a dam map and check them out. Bird Bay, Insane Bay, Pig Pen Bay and The Rainforest at the first cut-through have all produced over the last month.

The shallows will fish well early and late in the day. Concentrate on any laydowns or developing weed beds. As the day heats up, the barra are likely to retreat to the comfort of deeper water. At this time of day, target them around the spindly trees standing in over 2m of water.

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. 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 .

Whitsunday Region
Proserpine

Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach.

There are a few options if you are considering chasing the big barra in Lake Proserpine this month. Trolling the basin can be the easiest way to connect to an oversized barramundi. Hooking fish here, you stand a good chance of landing them in the open water.

Trolling within a couple of kilometres of the buoy line at the wall should see you in the right area. Look for other boats, as the barra trolling can be quite popular at this time of year. If you are joining in, fit in with the pattern the other guys are using, or give them enough room to avoid tangles and arguments. Fish can be caught right through the day, but they do tend to go deeper during the daylight hours and rise to feed in short windows throughout the day. Early morning and dusk are the prime times, and if you are lucky enough to time your trip a few days either side of a full moon, good action can be experienced through the night.

Deep divers are ideal in most circumstances, but as the light fades it can be worth running a shallower offering as well. The 8m Crazy Deep Scorpion, 80mm Poltergeist and similar lures capable of diving deep are good options at most times. At night, some anglers have a lot of success on big shallow runners like the 2m version of the Laser Pro 190.

There are still plenty of barra spread out through the back of the dam in the timber. During the day, try fishing a little deeper around the trees lining the creek channels. Slow floating hardbodies are ideal here, as they can be worked down into the guts of big trees and allowed to slowly rise before being cranked down again. When it is hot and sunny, it’s likely you’ll find the barra here.

Early in the morning, late in the afternoon and at night, the barra will frequent the points as they move around. Casting soft plastics and hardbodies to the points behind the timber and working them back will see some rod jarring strikes and singing braid as the fish tear off. Soft plastics like Slick Rigs, Z-Man SwimmerZ and the new PowerBait 4.5” Rib Shad are ideal. If you prefer hardbodies, try shallow divers like a 1m Laser Pro 120, B52 or the Bomber Long A if fishing shallower water. You can also work deeper on the points as well, with lures like the Halco Hamma and Rapala X-Rap.

If you have a side-imaging sounder, you should be able to set it to shoot up to 20m out to the sides of the boat to see when the barra are cruising past. If you’re not getting bites and not seeing fish, it’s time to move on after you’ve given the spot a chance.

If you are heading out to the dam, make sure you call in at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. The store is on the highway through Proserpine and stocks all the barra gear you could possibly need. The guys will be able to send you in the right direction and help with nailing the lake’s big fish. Lindsay Dobe the store owner runs charters on the lake, and bookings can be made on (07) 4945 4641.

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Quality Murray cod will be one of the many fish keen to pounce on lures this month. This Coolmunda fish ate a trolled 80mm Poltergeist.

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Keeping golden perch in a livewell may be a bad idea this month, unless you cool the water with a frozen water bottle first. Hot water holds less oxygen and rolls healthy fish quickly.

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Trolling will produce fish around most of the lakes this month. Bass, golden perch, cod and barramundi are all on the hit list.

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When the action is hot, golden perch fire right up. Expect double hookups when you find the right lures for the job.

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Casting for bass may be tougher this month, due to the fish being more scattered. Trolling will produce, but there should still be some concentrations of fish around for the lure casters.

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