For a long time now, the South Burnett region has been a must-do area for anglers and travellers alike. The two iconic lakes – Bjelke-Petersen and Boondooma – are stocked, fertile, and well catered for by quality camping, accommodation, and services.
The 2011 and 2013 floods knocked these lakes around a little – while red-claw fishing boomed, plenty of Australian bass headed downstream, over the dam walls and it’s taken a couple of years and some heavy stocking for these lakes to return to their former glory.
The good news is that these lakes are back in action! Boondooma has cleared, and is producing fantastic yellowbelly and bass fishing
Bjelke-Petersen recently played host to an ABT BASS Pro event and after the official practice day, one competitor reported that it had been “the best bass fishing day I’ve had – ever”!
The bass that headed over the walls have created a river fishery stocked with big long bass and, coupled with the recent dam performance, anglers visiting the South Burnett have never had it better.
So Fishing Monthly bit the bullet and headed out there to check it out for ourselves.
Our first stop was Lake Boondooma, 20km past Proston. I’ve got a reasonably long history with this place, as has the particularly well resourced and active stocking group. The first time I visited, the waterside camping and fishing was spectacular, however the associated facilities were a little second rate. Fast forward to 2015 and not only is the waterside camping and fishing still as good as it ever was, but the development of cabins, more camping areas and amenities blocks along with the all-seasons, all-levels boat ramp and kiosk makes this a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Tackle, fuel and even wood-fired pizzas are available on site.
Of course, we found a couple of hours to slip out on the water and see if the fishing was as good as we’d heard. I decided to try a spot that fired for me more than a decade ago, when the lake was at the same level – a gently sloping bank on the left – just past the junction on the way to Pelican Point. Within two minutes, pods of bass showed up on the sounder in 20ft of water. Within 5 minutes FM staff Will Lee and Michael Fox were hooked up onto Boondooma’s finest, and bass after bass hit the net after eating their little black bladed lures. These fish were all in pristine condition, fat and fighting hard!
The best part about Boondooma is that it’s relatively deep and fishes just as well in winter as it does in summer. If open water bassing isn’t your thing, you can venture up into the timber into either arm and cast spinnerbaits for bass and yellowbelly. But make sure your tackle is up to it. Sometimes you need to apply a lot of pressure to keep these fish from bricking you in the timber.
If the water’s cool and clear, jerkbaits along the edges of the weed are an exciting option and of course, trolling a deep diving hardbodied lure will always yield fish – no matter where you are in the south Burnett. Make sure you drop into the kiosk on the way to the ramp so that the guys can give you the good oil on what the fish are biting on at the moment – and what the red-claw are preferring in the traps.
Once known as the big-bass capital of Southeast Queensland, Bjelke-Petersen Dam has suffered from low water levels followed by flooding that took a lot of fish over the dam wall.
The good news here is that with some intensive restocking and great growth conditions since the floods, the fish are back and they’re growing as fast as anywhere in the country.
Take bass for example. In the recent ABT BASS Pro event held at Bjelke-Petersen, every boating angler (excluding one) caught their full limit in the first session of the event. This is virtually unheard of in tournament fishing. The best is yet to come though, as this kind of fishing should only improve in the next few years. Remember, this is a lake that has produced bass into the 3kg+ mark in earlier years. It’s fertile, shallow and primed for another big bass boom. Make sure you’re part of it.
Bjelke-Petersen has had even better services than Boondooma in a few areas. Firstly, it’s only five minutes from Murgon, so shopping and all of the standard country town facilities are very close by. Secondly, there is a well-developed caravan park styled accommodation with a sensational camp kitchen, pool and play areas for the kids – not to mention several wineries that are nearly within walking distance!
Both of the parks – at Lake Boondooma and Bjelke - are managed by Corey Goldie and his team. Corey is highly motivated and his aim is to make your stay as pleasant as possible. He even runs a charter service if you want to be fast-tracked onto the fish!
If you want to find a place to launch a kayak and experience some fantastic top water bass action, there’s barely a creek in the area that hasn’t benefitted from the overflows of the lakes during the floods. With thousands of trophy sized fish inadvertently stocked by the overflow, here is a fishery that we’re sure local anglers want to keep quiet. We’re happy to let it out of the bag though, and recommend public access points like Fick’s Crossing as a great place to start. Only fifteen minutes drive from Yallakool, it’s often a welcome change of pace from dam fishing and it gives you a chance to wet the bottom of the kayak that’s been collecting spider webs down in the shed. Navigating from the popular launch site, it doesn’t take much map-work to deduct several other public access points that can lead to even better opportunities on this skinny water.
I hadn’t spent any time at all in a winery until our visit to the South Burnett, but chatting to Jason Kinsella at Moffatdale Ridge opened my eyes to the possibility of fishing a morning on BP Dam and taking a long, lazy lunch at a winery after. At only just a little further than walking distance from Yallakool, Jason was onto something! Jason’s a great spokesman for the area’s wineries, which are all located in a compact area near Murgon.
“We’re only a couple of hour’s drive from everywhere,” said Jason. Indeed, that part of the South Burnett is only a couple of hours from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay and Bundaberg.
Not being experienced in winery tourism, we asked what it’d cost for a long, happy lunch and to toddle off home with a couple of bottles.
“You’d get change out of a hundred bucks, and you’d definitely have had a great time,” he replied. And we’re sure he’s seen that a hundred times before.
If you think you have what it takes to compete, there are always plenty of events being held on Boondooma and BP – from family oriented events like the Boondooma Dam Yellowbelly Fishing Competition in February each year, through to the high profile Australian Bass Tournaments events.
Keep an eye out on the Fishing Monthly Tournament Calendar for specific dates and contact details.
For more information on the area, a great hub of information is www.southburnett.com.au
5 MUST-HAVE LURES FOR THE SOUTH BURNETT
Paddle Tailed 3” plastic on a 3/8oz jighead
Black, 40mm blade
Deep diving trolling lure
1/2oz tandem spinnerbait in a light colour
Surrounding Bjelke Petersen Dam is a cluster of wineries. In fact the South Burnett is Queensland’s largest wine region. If you’re fishing at BP in the morning, here’s where you need to go in the afternoon.
|Moffatdale Ridge:||Barambah Road|
|Dusty Hill:||Barambah Road|
|Bridgeman Downs:||Barambah Road|
|Tipperary Estate:||Tipperary Road|
|Clovely Estate:||Steinhardts Road|