Blessed for choices
  |  First Published: March 2015

This is a tough month for decision-making. Every freshwater fish can be successfully targeted so there are so many options and destinations to consider. A bit of rain at the start of the year has changed a few fisheries but most are still producing if you are prepared to put in the time.

I was all geared up for a barra session in the freshwater reaches of the Kolan River below Monduran Dam but the dirty flood waters were enough to put me off.

My freshwater gear has had quite a spell of late due to chasing fish out in the blue ocean at every chance I get. As I write this report, I am planning to change that on my next break off work. Some bass or other freshwater natives are going to have sore mouths after I’m finished with them. I’m keen to try a new lure, which has been in the back of my mind for months. It’s a different concept and one that I’m sure bass have never seen before. Hopefully it looks and performs as good in the water as it does in my head. All I have to do is whip one up in the workshop before my next session. Since that’s the case, I’d better get cracking. I’ll keep you up to date on testing and reveal it if it is the success I imagine it will be.

Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Cressbrook bass have stayed scattered all over the dam. Some of the better numbers can be found out in the deeper water between the boat ramps and the buoy line that marks the no fishing area near the pump tower.

Trolling hardbody lures behind the boat is one of the most reliable ways to catch these fish. Covering heaps of water with lures will ensure they are worked past more fish. It’s the perfect approach for spread out fish. Lures like the Smak Brolga and Golden Child worked in over 20m of water seem to perform well. Some of the best action occurs through the morning and afternoon. The middle of the day can be a tougher period to get a bite from these fish. Late in the afternoon, they also tend to stop biting and disappear as they move to other areas.

There is no longer an entry fee at the boom gate but the 8 knot speed limit is still in place. Hours for boating and day use of the recreation area are 6am to 8pm. 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 are experts on the freshwater scene and really know their stuff.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Rathdowney

Lure casters will be able to score quite a few bass from Maroon this month. The weed edges and banks on the southern side of the lake fished well last month. This section of the lake is usually reliable for most of the year.

Try casting spinnerbaits and sinking them down the face of the weed before retrieving. Soft plastics can also work well using a similar approach. One of my favourite lures for enticing bass from the weed is the beetle spin. These are a hybrid of a soft plastic and spinnerbait. A 3” paddle-tail can be rigged on a 1/4 or 3/8oz jighead and then fitted with a spinning blade on a wire frame. When the blade stops vibrating, you know the lure is fouled with weed.

Closest Towns: Aratula, Boonah

The bass are still a little scattered through the lake. Schools can be found one day but the same spot can be barren the following day. This indicates the fish are moving around. Most catches are coming from the timbered part of the lake.

Earlier in the morning, the bass can be caught on the edges using lipless crankbaits. This action tends to die off by 8am and it is then time to look in the deeper water. In the trees, scattered fish can be caught by working spinnerbaits past the structure. Try for suspended fish by keeping the spinnerbait at 5-8m deep for most of the retrieve.

Schooling fish are likely to show up on the humps in and around the timber. Look for these schooling fish in 7-10m of water using a quality sounder. Once found, it is just a matter of testing which lures will work best. Spinnerbaits and tail spinners performed well last month indicating the fish were responding well to bigger baits. Other reaction style lures like Jackall Mask Vibes and blade baits would also be worth a try. If the fish fail to respond to these stronger vibrating lures, fall back to the subtle action of a soft plastic.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The fishing at Cooby has changed a little over the last month. The golden perch have moved deeper where they are hugging the bottom for most of the day. This makes lure trolling a lot slower. The best results while trolling will come on 10m divers. Lures like the Blitz Baga or 50mm Poltergeist Crazy Deep will scrape the bottom in this depth and get some bites.

Lure casting can actually produce better than trolling. Anglers should locate schools of golden perch and use sinking lures to reach the bottom and stay in the zone where the fish are positioned. Lipless crankbaits always seem to score well. Blade baits up to 3/8oz can be very effective as well. Both lures can be hopped or wound slowly along the bottom. When the fish are right below the boat, try vertical jigging the same lures. It can be a good idea to try a jigged lure while you are fishing with bait.

Bait fishers should also target fish in the deeper water. Look for schooling fish on the sounder out in the middle of the dam on the humps, which rise to around 8-10m. These areas are located between the creek beds in the centre of the dam and in the start of the northern arm. Live shrimp and frozen saltwater yabbies will get the bites. Drop weighted baits straight over the side of the boat and keep the line tight or almost tight.

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.

Closest Town: Warwick

Luring at Leslie slowed down last month. Bait fishers were still able to hammer the golden perch while casters and trollers struggled to boat good numbers. This month should produce similar action.

Bait fishing with live shrimp or frozen saltwater yabbies will produce good catches of golden perch. A lot of the action comes from the back part of the dam where and the dam narrows up and the water is shallower. The section just before, and including, the Black Boy run is perfect for bait anglers.

Lure trollers will score fish on medium diving lures. Trolling is also a great way to tempt Murray cod. These magic fish will continue to bite even when the golden perch action tapers off. Last month there were good numbers of goldens taken on Kezza Lures Mud Mouse. Warwick Outdoor and Sports has just started to stock these proven fish takers so make sure you check them out. The wide thumping action creates a vibration cod can’t resist.

If you prefer to cast lures, you will have several options. Tossing spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the edges can produce both cod and golden perch. Try around the rocky banks and concentrate on fishing the shadows and crevices in the rocks. In deeper areas, locate the granite rock structure on the sounder and hop lures across the bottom. Golden perch and the occasional Murray cod can be caught like this. Good hopping lures include the Jackall Mask Vibe 60 and Transam 95.

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 which is well suited to catching our Australian natives.

Closest Town: Inglewood

The fishing at Coolmunda slowed right down after it had a rise after Christmas. Storm rain again last month made the dam rise and dirtied the water even more. This dirty water makes it too hard for luring and even bait fishers are having trouble enticing a bite.

If you are able to gain access to the Macintyre Brook below the dam and around Inglewood, I would suggest trying your luck there. If the water is clean, lures like strong action hard bodies or spinnerbaits will catch both cod and golden perch. If the water has less than 40cm visibility it might be better to try fooling the fish with bait.

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 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.

Sunshine Coast Area
Closest Towns: Cooroy, Noosa

There should be some good bass action this month at Lake MacDonald. The fish will vary in size and it may be necessary to spot hop to find the better quality ones. The Bubble Trail and Bass Bay have been productive for local angler Matt Williams. Matt loves to use blades with two of his favourites for MacDonald being the Vault 42 in flash gill and ayu colours. Slow rolling the blades or hopping them along the bottom can produce so mix it up to find what the fish are looking for.

Look for schools of fish as you move around the dam and pay particular attention to the deeper edges of the creek beds. Fish in these areas will respond to blades as well as soft plastics. Try rigging plastics on 1/4oz jigheads to suit the shallower water these bass tend to school in. A lot of fish life should show up in around 5-7m of water.

Baroon Pocket
Closest Towns: Montville, Maleny

With the continual influxes of rain within the catchment of Baroon Pocket Dam over the past couple of months, Dave Brace has been targeting bass in the changing fishery with good results. The lake has produced some amazing sessions with quite a few bass measuring the milestone mark of 50cm, however the average size of the fish caught is around 40cm.

Trolling hardbody lures such as Rapala’s X-Rap and Max Rap Fat Shad along with TT 1/2oz Switchblades and Vortex Spinnerbaits in approximately 5m of water has proven to be the best method to catch these feisty fish from his kayak.

Expect more great action this month. Kayaks are the best option to take advantage of this awesome fishery, which is only a short drive from the Sunshine Coast. Some of the best action is only a short paddle from the launching area. Like all lakes, take caution and wear or have a life vest handy in case you need it.

The stocking within Baroon Pocket Dam is managed by Ewen Maddock Fish Management Inc. and this group released another 10,000 bass fingerlings into the fishery in January.

Ewen Maddock
Closest Towns: Landsborough, Caloundra

Earlier this year, the dam rose to 100%. Even with the inflows, the water remained clear in the main body of the lake that meant fish were able to be successfully targeted.

Kayaks are great to access the water and chase Ewen Maddock’s bass population. Trolling lures is a great way to cover water while having a chance of putting a fish in the yak. Lures which dive to 3m are ideal when trolled along the weed edge or creek bed drop-offs.

Lure casters will be able to get into the action once patches of fish are located. Both bass and golden perch will take spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits cast in and retrieved out from the weedy edges.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Bass and golden perch will be on the bite this month at Boondooma. The fishing has been fairly consistent over the past months and really only seems to drop off when the fish receive a lot of fishing pressure.

Fish numbers in the timbered arms have picked up. Quality bass and golden perch can be caught by casting 1/2oz and 5/8oz spinnerbaits in over 3m of water. The Stuart arm of the timber has fished quite well and there have been a few positive reports coming from the Boyne River timber as well.

Back in the main basin, tail spinners and soft plastics are taking bass from schools around the Junction and The Barbers Pole. Most of these fish have been sitting in deeper water over 6m.

Lure trollers will still pick up a mixed bag of golden perch and bass. Deeper lures like Blitz Bagas and Brolgas should perform well. The Junction area will definitely be worth a troll with purple and green offerings although other colours will work too.

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.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The golden perch and bass continue to impress at Bjelke. Number of fish can be caught from schools around the dam. Bass numbers have increased dramatically with plenty of fish between 30 and 40cm being caught. Golden perch are still common with some absolute crackers over 3kg mixed in with the smaller ones.

Lure casters will be able to locate schooling fish in around 5m of water. Good schools have been found around the dam wall points and flats and right up to Bass Point and Treasure Island. The smaller models are quick to pounce on blade baits cast and wound or hopped through the schools. I heard a rumour of heaps of fish falling for fluoro pink coloured blades last month. Both Berkley and TT do blades in this colour which are usually sold to catch flathead. It’s not normally something I would throw at bass but after hearing the stories it might be worth having at least one in your tackle box. Better quality bass have been falling for a cast or slow trolled lipless crankbaits in dark colours.

Lure trollers are making the most of the action scoring plenty of fish on medium diving lures. The Smak 12 and Smak 16 are ideal for working the depths the bass and goldens have been holding. Try working any schools of fish or venture out to the creek bed drop-off in the second basin and work lures along the edge of it.

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 Yallakool 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.

Closest Towns: Maryborough, Hervey Bay

Last month, the dam had a slight fresh, which dirtied the water a little, but it is still clean enough for luring. After the fresh water ran in, the fish went into shut down mode but they should have fired up again by now as long as there has been no further flooding into the dam. Once this lake gets dirty, it takes ages to clear up.

Surface luring is one of the best techniques to fool both bass and barramundi. If you choose a lure suited to both species, you will be more likely to encounter both in the same session. The ideal bass size is around 70mm while barra often prefer a lure around 120mm. You could target one or the other with a specific lure or find a happy medium, which pleases both. I’d opt to use lures between the 70mm and 100mm size in the hope of tempting both fish. Surface walking stickbaits are a great choice. Their walk-the-dog action fires up both bass and barramundi. Don’t be too worried if you can’t get the side-to-side action perfect. As long as you are twitching and pausing between movements, you’ll attract a fish. One of my favourite mid-sized surface baits is the Cultiva Tango Dancer 95mm (TD95).

Surface fishing will be better in the morning and afternoon. During the day, probe deeper water with suspending jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits. If the water is still a bit stained these lure styles will create enough noise and vibration to attract a predator. Try casting around the lake’s edges concentrating on structure, points and shade lines. As weed and lilies develop in the lake make sure you fish the fringes of them.

There are entry gates in place at Lenthalls. These open and close to allow access with fishing times being from 6am to 8pm. Only 4-stroke outboards or low emission 2-strokes up to 50hp are allowed on the lake. The speed limit is 6 knots.

For more information on fishing the lake, call in and see Dane or one of the other guys at Fisherman’s Corner in Hervey Bay. The store is at 59 Torquay Road.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

Over the last couple of months, there has been quite a bit of rain in the Bundaberg area. This has caused freshwater to fill Paradise Dam and continue down the Burnett River towards Bundy. As irrigation draws it out, the water in Isis is topped up from the freshwater reaches of the Burnett River. Hence the name, Isis Balancing Storage.

This fresh but dirtier water coming into the lake seems to be just what the bass needed to fire them up. The dying weed had made the fishing quite tough but as the influx of coloured water entered, they started to bite again. Some of the best fishing has been in the morning and afternoons around the old weed edges. Some of these edges are in better condition than others so if you are hooking fresh, green weed, you are definitely fishing around a healthier weed bed.

Spinnerbaits cast to the edge of the weed and retrieved back to the boat have been scoring the strikes. Try using 1/4-1/2oz spinnerbaits and it can pay to run gold coloured blades while the water is dirty. Spinnerbaits are perfect for fishing the unseen weed edges as they can be ripped out of the weed and kept clean much easier than other lures.

Lipless crankbaits will also be a good option while the water is coloured. The fish will easily find these vibration making contraptions as they are buzzed around the weed edge. Lipless baits can be trickier to keep weed free. Their trebles love to dig in and eat the weed but if you are more experienced at locating and fishing the edge of the weed, they are definitely worth a go.

The boys at Saltys Tackleworld in Bundaberg are bass experts. They love to fish the dam on their days off so will be able to steer you in the right direction. Saltys has an excellent layout and an awesome range of tackle suited to freshwater fishing as well as catering for the endless fishing opportunities in the surrounding area.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

The barra fishing in Monduran has been tough. Rain at the start of the year has caused the dam to rise a little and the dirtier water can be found about half way up the lake. The basin is still clear but the action just doesn’t seem to be happening. Barra are being seen on the sounder and have even been seen happily cruising past anglers boats in Bird Bay.

The fish are still in there and should fire at some stage so it could be worth a visit.

The Kolan River below the dam had a fresh in January and water flower over the weirs. There are still plenty of barra left in the freshwater stretches of the river. It’s a great system to explore from a kayak or boat if you can find suitable access. The dirty water should start to clear up this month and the fish will be able to actually see lures for the first time since the barra season reopened. If you strike dirty water on your visit, venture right up to Monduran Crossing where there was less run off from the rain and visibility should be much better.

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 .

Closest Town: Biloela

The water level at Callide rose earlier this year. There was a brief period where the action slowed but already things have started to improve. Barramundi are being caught in the timber and around the edges late in the afternoon. Some of the better reports are coming from shore-based anglers. There are many edges, which can be accessed with a vehicle or by walking. Soft plastics or shallow diving lures, which dive to around 1m are ideal for flicking from the bank.

Boat fishers can also catch barra by doing the reverse and casting back in towards the shore. Deeper holding fish can be caught around the timber or by trolling 5m divers in the basin of the lake. There are still some thumper golden perch, which will pounce on a barra lure over these warmer months. Saratoga were once a common catch but they have been more elusive over the last couple of years. It will be great to see numbers of these fish return.

Capricorn Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Awoonga Dam is again 100% full. The rain at the beginning of the year saw the dam running over for weeks. The level seemed to fluctuate from 300-500mm for some time and varied as storms fed the already flowing rivers running into the lake.

The lake still looks very healthy as the level hasn’t raised much above where it was prior to the rain. Before the influx of water, the barra were chewing with quite a few fish around 80cm in length. The action will probably steady for a while in the lake but should be back into full swing as soon as the fish adjust to the conditions in the lake.

As a backup, the river below the dam will fish well for barra. Smaller boats and kayaks can access the freshwater stretches of the river and target the barramundi above Pikes Crossing. These barra become land-locked when the water level drops and it was surprising to see them stay once the overflowing freshwater rose and pushed right down into the salt. Some fish are likely to have followed the flow but catch rates in the area above Pikes Crossing indicate there are still plenty of fish left in there. Even with the dam running up to half a metre over the spillway, there were no reports of masses of barra leaving the dam. In previous flood events there have been plenty of dead fish which haven’t survived the ride out of the dam and on this occasion there weren’t any reports of floating, dead ones.

If you are fishing Pikes Crossing, give other boats some room and exercise courtesy, as it is a small waterway once you jam a heap of boats on it. If the water is running hard, try shallow diving hardbodies like the Laser Pro 120 twitched right in the fast running water. If the flowing water slows down, fish the mornings and afternoons with soft plastics. The 4” Powerbait Split Belly and Powerbait 4.5” Rib Shad rigged on a heavy duty 3/8oz jig hooks will get the strikes.

If you are keen to try to tackle some fish in the river or 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. Make sure you tell Mark I sent you and pump him for the secret spot.

Whitsunday Region
Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

The barra fishing has been tough but anglers putting in the time are being rewarded for their hours spent on the water. Casting lures to hook barra has been the tougher approach with more fish falling to trolled lures. Trolling around the main basin of the lake, especially the dam wall area can produce some monster fish. Numbers have dropped off but anglers putting in the effort have been able to locate active patches of fish. If fish are found in the deep water of the basin, jigging vibes can also produce. It’s important to drop lures right into the fish and keep them in the right zone. A quality sounder is the only way to do this successfully. Soft vibration lures will produce the hits but don’t discount heavier plastics like the 5” Berkley Mullet and full weight Slick Rig 130.

The fishing inside the dead timber at the back of the dam has been slow. Up the river, smaller 80cm sized barra seem keener to play. Lure casters should try the southern banks of the main basin. This area has well developed weed beds that hold plenty of bait and quality barra as well. When fishing the weed, try surface lures and soft plastics.

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. The store owner Lindsay Dobe runs charters on the lake and bookings can be made through the store on (07) 4945 4641.

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