May the fish be with you
  |  First Published: May 2015

The fish will start to change habits this month and anglers who spend plenty of time on the water will really notice these differences.

The water of the lakes will hold their core temperatures, but they will already be starting to cool due to cooler days and nights. The fish pick up on this. They know the season is changing and therefore change to suit themselves. The cooler water can start to slow species like golden perch and barramundi down. They won’t feel like chasing a lure as it rips past them. This doesn’t mean they can’t be caught though. A simple change of approach is all that is needed. A more in-your-face presentation that sees the lure enticingly dancing around their nose will get a response.

Bass can bite well right through winter and are a lot more tolerant of the cold temperatures. I’ve spent countless icy cold mornings watching the sun come up and then peeling off layers of clothes as it rises. On a lake is a great place to be on a calm and sunny winter day.

A lot of anglers give the barra fishing away over the cooler months, expecting to catch them only when the water is at its warmest. The lakes further north can fish quite well right through winter and further south can be awesome this month and even next. Big fish still need to eat when it is cold; they just do it less often. Some of my best sessions were in May years ago when Awoonga was in its prime. With reports of Awoonga barra being caught, it would certainly be worth considering a trip this month. I know if I was a barra and I could feel the cold coming on, I’d be gorging myself on all manner of critters. Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

The fishing has still been tough. Smaller bass are willing to bite, but the bigger fish are scattered out in the deeper water where they are more elusive. Hopping blades and tail spinners around the first point out from the campground has been a reliable way to score the smaller bass. These fish can be found on the sounder and are nearly all undersized. They are a bit of fun and can be used as a fallback plan if all else fails.

The deep water out from the boat ramps has held reasonable numbers of big bass. These fish cruise around in the deep and can move a lot from day to day. It’s always worth a look along the buoy line across to the island and then back to the west where the dam narrows at the campground point. These bass will suspend and can be targeted with trolled lures. Deep divers like the Blitz Baga, Golden Child, Kezza Freak and Little Rippa all perform quite well. The fish can be fussy and will prefer a certain lure style or colour on the day, so vary your selection and place a mix out to see what they like. Even when running a few lures, the bass can favour just 1 colour and all the strikes will come on it while others are ignored.

There have been a few stories of guys casting deep diving lures for the fish suspending in the middle of the lake. I’m not sure what lures they are throwing to get them to the correct depth, but if you find a patch of fish, it might be worth a go.

There is no longer an entry fee at the boom gate, but the 8kt speed limit is still in place. Hours for boating and day use of the recreation area have now changed and will remain at 7.00am-6.00pm until September. 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: Esk, Kilcoy

The water in Somerset had started to clear well at the back of the dam in March, but the early April rain may have added a bit more colour. The basin of the lake has cleared up heaps and is very fishable. The bass and golden perch were taking lures well last month, so hopefully the action continues.

Golden perch numbers will probably drop off noticeably for lure fishermen. Baits of live shrimp and saltwater yabbies will still produce good numbers if you can keep them away from the pickers. Try fishing the timbered area to the north of Kirkleigh and work areas 6-8m deep.

The bass schools have been holding around the middle reaches of the basin between The Spit and Kirkleigh. Try sounding over the usual spots like Pelican Point, Bay 13 and Queen Street. These fish have been responding quite well to a mix of lures, but you may have to experiment to see what will fool them on the day. Blades, tail spinners and Mask vibes can produce good numbers when they want to chew, but if they are stubborn, use extra-long casts and soft plastics rigged on ½oz jigheads.

Trolling hardbodies or soft plastics can score heaps of fish. Keeping the boat moving is often the key to the bites coming from Somerset’s heavily pressured bass. Even when casting, I like to keep the boat moving slowly and fish in front or out to the sides where I’ve not yet passed over fish. If fish show on the sounder, I’ll increase the speed to leave them behind and then flick back once they are away from the boat.

I checked out the boat ramp up in the timber above Kirkleigh for the first time about a month ago. The single lane ramp is on Westvale Road (off Neurum Road) and is a great option if you are planning on chasing a few bass, goldens or redclaw up in the timber. This section of water can fish well over the colder months, so it’s certainly worth a look. With the 6kt speed limit in place from the start of the trees north of Kirkleigh, this is a good time saver, which places you well up the timber only a short run from the Neurum Road Bridge.

While I was at the ramp, I noticed the number of big snub-nosed garfish cruising over it. It’s no wonder there are so many of these fish about, as there are stacks of quality weed beds for them to cruise around in. Some berley to stir them up and then a small hook with a bit of flesh bait had a few in the esky to use as mackerel baits. It would be a fun way to fish with the kids. Even big kids like me enjoy it. Just don’t wear a good shirt or you’ll make the missus cranky. Garfish poo shoots out and gets over everything.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Rathdowney

The weed edges will continue to fish well at Maroon. Spinnerbaits and reaction lures like Beetle Spins, lipless crankbaits and blades have been fooling the fish. The quality bass are likely to be close to the weed beds, while smaller fish can be found outside the edge in schools.

As the water cools off, the bass may change a little and better quality fish could venture out wider from the weed edge and into the schools with the smaller models. Reaction baits can also lose their appeal in the colder water, as soft plastics and deep diving suspending jerkbaits become a better option. The fish will be the judge of what works best, so be prepared to try everything until they show you what they want to eat.

Closest Towns: Aratula, Boonah

Moogerah has fished quite well over the last few months. Bait fishermen have been getting a mixed bag of bass, golden perch and eel-tailed catfish. The 6-10m deep flats in the timber have been producing well.

Lure fishermen have found good numbers of bass in the timber. These fish have been caught all over the place. Casting TN60 Jackalls to the edges in the timber is a good way to spend the morning. During the day, the bass tend to favour the deeper water areas. They have been suspending high in the water column, so lipless crankbaits are again a good option. Try casting to the tops of the trees in the deep water and sinking lures into them, before slowly winding them back out. Keeping an eye on the sounder for any signs of fish will give you an indication of how deep to work those lures.

As the water cools down more, keep an eye on bass school movements. They may venture out of the timber and hold in the basin of the lake. Check the flats in front of The Palms and also the 7-9m contour line between the boat ramps. If the fish school up in these spots, try working soft plastics through them.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The golden perch action was pretty slow last month and things are set to die down even more as the Darling Downs cold sets in. Keen boaters and kayakers may need to resort to using bait to get the bites. Try fishing live shrimp or saltwater yabbies around any good shows on the sounder. The fish can turn up anywhere out in the middle of the lake and can be found in deep water at this time of year.

Trolling or casting closer to the edges may tempt 1 of the lake’s monster Murray cod. These fish are few and far between, so expect to put in a lot of time to get results.

The dam hours are now 7.00am-6.00pm right up to September. Cooby is an electric motor-only dam and is well suited to kayaks and canoes. Make sure you wear a life jacket if you are fishing from 1 of these vessels. In the water is the last place you want to be at this time of year, as the cold shock can be quite dangerous. It pays to practice and know how to get back into your kayak if you are unlucky enough to tip out.

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

The action at Leslie had already started to slow down last month. The fish will be tough to tempt with lures and better results will come on bait. Hopping blade baits and soft lipless vibes around any of the deeper rocky structure should see a few golden perch and even the occasional Murray cod boated. This hopping approach keeps the lure in the face of the fish and you can work it at the speed and aggression they desire. Trolling may pick up the odd fish, but you’ll have to drag the lure past their nose to get the bite.

Bait fishermen can catch golden perch right through the winter months. Live shrimp will be 1 of the best baits. Dropped straight over the side of the boat and fished vertically, a shrimp flicking away is too much to resist. Fishing from the banks with worms and shrimp will also pick up a few fish. Eel-tailed catfish and golden perch can be quite common in the Washpool area.

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

There were good numbers of cod and golden perch caught from Coolmunda last month. Both lure trollers and bait soakers were able to get into the action. Based on the good results, I believe it will be the place to head if you intend on luring up some wintertime golden perch. The back of the timbered MacIntyre Brook arm, the hole to the left of the boat ramp, and out in the middle along the dropoff to the old river will be the places to explore. Trolling may still score a few golden perch and Murray cod. The Kezza Weirdo in the brighter colours was a standout lure last month. Orange and purple lures seemed to get most of the bites.

If you are able to locate a patch of fish, try hopping small blades like the Eco Gear ZX40 or Berkley Powerblade 40 in the darker colours. This hopping technique will keep the lure right in the face of the fish and get bites when they refuse to chase down a trolled hardbody. You can also try hopping blades while bait fishing and hedge your bets.

Live shrimp numbers at the dam may drop off due to the cooler water, so bring some frozen saltwater yabbies or purchase live shrimp. The bait fishing action should be okay right through winter. There will be tough days where it is hard to get a bite and other days when you almost bag out. This is just the nature of the fish and their reluctance to move around at this time of year.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around a kilometre 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, 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
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

There should be some great action at Boondooma this month. The timbered arms of the Boyne and Stuart rivers will hold bass and golden perch. Spinnerbaits in the deeper water performed well last month, but the fish are likely to move closer to the edges as the water cools down. There have been a few saratoga caught in the Boyne timber. These fish have taken spinnerbaits intended for bass and it is great to see there are a few about. If you do manage to land a ’toga, take good care of it and release it back into the water in good health to ensure they will be able to establish an even stronger population.

In the basin of the lake, schooling bass should start to show up around Leisegangs Ledge, Pelican Point and the Barbers Pole. If you can locate these bass, try casting blades, tail spinners and soft plastics to them. They can also be quick to snatch a jigged ice jig as well. Try looking in 5-7m of water and venture deeper as the water cools down even more.

Live bait will produce golden perch and bass. The timbered arms seem to be reliable. Try fishing in 5-8m of water and move around if the action isn’t happening.

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 1 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 dam level has fallen since last year. There may still be a few fish in the timber, but due to the lower level, it will be better to try your luck in the main basin. Casting spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and blades around the edges will produce both bass and golden perch. Target the steeper banks and work lures down the contour. If fish show up on the sounder, try hopping blade baits or working soft plastics through them.

Bait fishermen will also score better in the lower part of the dam. Live shrimp are the best all-round bait, as they will tempt plenty of bass and golden perch.

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 team 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 1. Be sure to call in and check it out. Give them a call for accommodation and camping bookings on (07) 4168 4746.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

Once again, water level fluctuation in the Isis has caused the weed beds to die off. This has significantly lowered the quality of the water around the edges of the lake. This forces the majority of fish out into deeper parts. These deep schooling bass will be easy to find on the sounder. Try looking where the 3 arms meet right in the middle of the lake. Zig-zag around in this section while keeping an eye on the sounder for signs of life. The depth the fish hold can vary, so pinpoint the schools before you start casting.

Once found, start peppering the area with lures. Hopping ¼ and 3/8oz blade baits through the schooling bass is sure to get a response. Soft vibes like the Jackall Mask Vibe can also be hopped and the bigger profile of this lure will often reward you with better quality fish. Tail spinners can be worked through the schooling bass with good results. Isis fish aren’t usually as fussy about lure choice as bass in other impoundments. This is a great thing to take advantage of, as you can enjoy catching fish on a range of lures and working on different techniques.

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 have 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 Towns: Monto, Biloela

Even with all the rain around in the area, the fishing has still been okay. Bass and saratoga will be the 2 species most anglers focus their attention on. Bass can be caught all over the lake. Usually the upper part of the lake inside the timber fishes well for them. In this area, try casting lipless crankbaits and blades to schooling fish on the flats in 5-7m of water. There have also been reports of suspended bass in the main basin. Trolling deep diving lures is a great way to locate them. Once found, you can pull up and cast lures to the area. Suspended bass will respond well to lipless crankbaits, blade baits and tail spinners.

Since the inflow of water, saratoga captures have been on the rise. These fish are doing well and can be caught all over the lake around the edges. The upper half of the dam seems to hold reasonable numbers in the bays that feed into the main river. Cast to structure around the edges, or work right up into the backs of the bays and you should be in with a good shot. Saratoga love spinnerbaits and beetle spin-rigged soft plastics, but will also take surface lures, soft plastics and hardbodies.

Capricorn Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Some good reports of barra from the dam have started to flow in. Mark from Awoonga Gateway Lodge has been harassing the fish whenever he has an afternoon free and is scoring 1-2, as well as missing others each session. His favourite area is somewhere up in New Zealand Gully and this spot seems to fish well with shallow running hardbodies and soft plastics right on dark.

In the basin of the lake, it is worthwhile checking for barra around trees on the eastern bank on the way down to Dingo Island, as well as the mouth of Iveragh Creek. These fish can be caught through the day and will often favour water around 5m deep. Casting deeper suspending lures like the Jackall Hank Tune Squirrel or 3m Halco Hamma will put you in with a good chance. At times, the fish are tight to the trees, while at others they will be roaming out in the open. A sounder is the best way to find them. If the fish are showing on the side image, be confident and thoroughly work the area over. When the barra are holding close to the bottom, hopping a soft vibe through them can be the secret. There are now stacks of soft vibes available. Stick with the smaller ones around 80-100mm long like the Transam 95 and you’ll be in with a good shot.

The quality of most fish has been great. Barra of 80-90cm in length are common, and they’ll give you a run for your money if they are hooked near the timber.

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 have been unusually tough for the time of year and weather conditions. All that was lacking this year was a serious Wet and it has anglers scratching their heads as to why the barra are being so hard to catch. Fishing is full of mysteries and I guess that is one of the reasons we love it so much.

As the lake cools, the barra in the main basin of the lake tend to retreat into the timbered areas. Here they can be targeted on weed edges, points, bays, and in deeper water. One of the best ways to get bites is to anchor or spot lock onto a chosen spot and fish it hard for a good hour or 2. The more confident you are in the spot, the more time you should put in. What brings this confidence, you ask? Some spots just scream fish, but these days we can put our sounders to use to see how many fish are in the area. Side imaging units can throw their beams way out to the side of the boat and spot fish as they cruise past in casting range. The shadows of barra moving through are unmistakable on the sounder display, as they actually look like barra shapes.

While staking out a fishy looking spot, try casting soft plastics and shallow and medium diving hardbody lures. The new PowerBait 4.5” Rib Shad is a top plastic to use on barramundi. It can be rigged on different weight jigheads to suit the depth being fished. It pays to have a selection of big hooked ¼-½oz heavy duty heads that can handle the abuse dished out by a big barramundi. In the hardbody department, try using the Rapala X-Rap or the Halco Hamma. The Hamma comes in 3 sizes and has interchangeable bibs. The different bibs allow the lure to run at different depths with a slightly different action. The latest model, the Hamma 105, is a slow riser straight out of the packet and is my favourite for twitching, ripping and slow rolling. Being so versatile makes it a good all-rounder.

Barra can often be found in schools in the deeper water in the cooler months. Look in the creeks and main river channel up in the trees. Often they will hold in 7-12m of water and you’ll need a sinking lure to reach them. Hopping soft vibes around 100mm long seems to get a good response. Pre-rigged 5” heavy soft plastics like the PowerBait Mullet can also work well when the fish are feeding on bigger bait. With the plastics, the trick is to fish them slowly and allow plenty of pause time, with the lure just sitting on the bottom. Try both vibes and plastics to see what mood the fish are in if you find them schooled down deep.

Fishing guide Lindsay Dobe likes to wrestle big barra from the deeper trees. Lindsay fishes the tops of these trees where the barra seem more active. When you look at the number of trees in Faust, you’d be excused for wondering where you would even start with such an approach. Faust has several submerged creeks, which wind their way through the trees and into the main basin. These creeks therefore form distinct passages. Try targeting barra with medium and shallow diving hardbodies either side of them. Fish the lures slowly and give them time to float up when they are in the tree. It can also pay to actually knock them into some dead wood before allowing them to float up. This stop-start retrieve accounts for plenty of monster barra.

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. Store owner Lindsay Dobe runs charters on the lake and bookings can be made on (07) 4945 4641. Proserpine has a maze of trees to negotiate and explore. A guided fishing charter will certainly help you learn how to fish this tricky lake.

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