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Post holiday recovery
  |  First Published: February 2016



We’ve had a great start to the year with some of the biggest freshwater monsters willing to take a lure. Murray cod in the lakes and rivers have pleased anglers in the south, while the stocked barramundi have been on fire around the Mackay and Proserpine dams. With the opening of the barra season at midday on 1 February, there will be even more opportunities to catch these fish in the rivers. Further south, we should see the Kolan River below Monduran and the Boyne below Awoonga produce quality fish. The big fish have stolen the spotlight but bass, golden perch, saratoga and other species are still available for those who put in the effort.

So far we have had little in the way of rainfall across the state to influence lake levels. While the lakes are stable or falling, the fishing should remain much the same. Sooner or later, it is bound to get wetter, especially further north in the tropical areas. Over the past few years, we have experienced heavier rain further south and if this happens again, it can change how the lakes fish.

Run-off not only raises water levels but also dirties up the dams, rivers and creeks. Dirty water and lure fishing don’t mix well when it comes to southern species. If we cop a heap of rain, it’s not the end of the world though, and there is always somewhere to go to flick lures. It takes quite a bit of rain to influence the clarity of a lake. The upper parts of the dams will be first to dirty as the water pushes in. The main basin often remains clear unless the dirty water is drawn through as the dams overflow. This clearer water is the place to target. Good fishing will be found around the change from the clear to the dirtier water. The fresh and dirty water can push a good percentage of the fish down with it, as they prefer the clearer water rather than the new dirtier stuff. Try vibrating and rattling lures or spinnerbaits around the edges if there has been a rise in level. If the fish stay schooled up, stick with normal offerings like plastics, blade baits and tail-spinners.

Below dam walls are good spots to head to if creeks and rivers are dirty and you’re longing for some skinny water kayak action. If the dam holds the water from spilling, these areas receive much less run-off than further downstream where the water has a chance to build up and have more impact. If you are heading to these places, please keep in mind you are not allowed to fish directly below dam walls and weirs. The no fishing zone can be up to 400m but make sure you check out where you can wet a line on the Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website: www.daf.qld.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/rules-regulations.

Fishing reports are always predictions and there is no way of knowing what will change. Flooding or the opposite, sudden water level falls, can have a big impact on the fishing. Keep this in mind and if you have a trip coming up do your homework first so you don’t get a shock when you arrive at your destination.

South East Queensland
Cressbrook
Closest Town: Crows Nest

There have been plenty of smaller bass holding around the boat ramp area. These rats eat blade baits and tail-spinners. The bigger models have been harder to locate. Some better fish were caught close to the Eagles Nest rock wall. These fish came from around 7m of water on spinnerbaits. When fishing this depth, opt for heavier model spinnerbaits (1/2 and 5/8oz) with a downsized body. There are quite a few Australian made models and a few Japanese styles that fit the bill. Bassman Carls Compacts, Smak Lures Smako and the O.S.P. High Pitcher are all good choices.

Trolling in the main basin in deep water may also produce some better quality bass. Deep diving lures like the Golden Child, Blitz Baga and locally made Little Rippa are great for this approach. Look for scattered fish on the sounder and cover plenty of new water until you find a patch. The bass will often suspend over the drop-off to the old creek beds. In the basin of the lake, this can be around 20m deep but the fish will likely be found at 8-12m deep.

For all your fishing supplies and the latest reports on Cressbrook and the surrounding dams, call in to see the specialist tackle stores in Toowoomba. Tackleworld Toowoomba in Ruthven Street on the north side and Fish’n Bits in Alderly Street closer to the south side have a great range of lures and fishing gear. Support these tackle stores because they will be able to direct you to where the fish are biting and offer invaluable advice.

Just remember there is a speed limit of 8 knots and a restricted area at Cressbrook Dam. Check out the signage to ensure you stay out of trouble and abide by the rules. The gate hours for the boat ramps and day use area are 6am until 8pm.

Somerset
Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Mixed reports have come from Somerset, which is to be expected at this time of year. The bass can really fire up one day and be tough to entice the next. Schooling fish are found around Pelican Point and Bay 13. These fish will suspend in deeper water and are often scattered until a boat stops near them. They then swim over and school up under the boat, refusing to bite. Using long casts with soft plastics has scored a few fish. Last month some anglers had great sessions using Jets tail-spinners hopped through the bass. Golden perch were also in good numbers in the same area and pounced all over the tail-spinners.

In the timber north of Kirkleigh, the golden perch have been active. Troll the creek and river edges through the trees with medium and deep diving lures to get onto a few. Venture up onto the flats in 6-8m of water and you’ll find them. The flats out in the middle at the entrance of the trees are always worth a look and will often hold a few bass as well.

Timber lay downs on the flats are worth a jig with small blade baits. Try vertically hopping these lures around this structure and you’re bound to score fish. Keep your eyes glued to the sounder screen to find potential jigging spots as you troll.

Moogerah
Closest Towns: Aratula, Boonah

The timbered area has fished excellently at Moogerah Dam. This is also a good place to head to keep away from the skiers. Troll with hardbodies to catch the occasional fish outside the trees, but once around the structure, lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits perform better. Blade baits and tail-spinners are definitely worth a toss if you can find better patches of bass. Some smaller bass have reportedly been caught from the steep walls of the gorge on spinnerbaits.

Bait fishing in 6-10m of water in the trees with live shrimp can produce a mixed bag of bass, golden perch and eel-tailed catfish. For something different try venturing into the creek at the back of the dam and fish the deeper areas there early in the morning or late in the afternoon for bass and goldens.

Maroon
Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

With the air and water temperatures still up, the fish will be tuned into reaction lures and topwater offerings. In the early morning, work your surface lure around the weedy sections. If possible, cast on top of sunken weed and work the lure back out into deeper water. Allow plenty of pauses as these really turn the bass on.

As the sun rises, the fish go deep and hold tight to the weed and the shadows it creates. Rolling 1/2oz spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and beetle spin rigged plastics on 1/4oz jigheads should keep them biting for most of the day. Work the lush weed formations on the northern bank and in the bay just before the timber.

Darling downs granite belt region
Cooby
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The action still hasn’t picked up much at Cooby Dam. There was a good run of Murray cod late last year but since then things have quietened down. Golden perch numbers are quite low, with most boats managing only a few per trip. Fish have been caught on a mix of techniques, some on trolled lures, some casting, on bait or jigging lures.

The deeper areas around 16m have probably been the most consistent for lure anglers. Here the fish can be caught on sinking lures. Jigging small blades or dead slow trolling with lipless crankbaits can work well. If any other patches of fish are found in shallower areas definitely give them a go as well. I’m not a fan of pulling golden perch from the really deep water. It bloats them with air as they come from such depths (barotrauma) and makes it harder to release them.

The dam hours are now 6am-8pm. 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.

Tackle, lures 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. The action could pick up suddenly so drop in to any of the local tackle stores in the area to check how the fishing is going.

Leslie
Closest Town: Warwick

The golden perch fishing has picked up at Leslie. One of the most reliable areas for bait fishers has been just south of the dam wall around the rocky outcrop. There have been bulk amounts of fish here, and plenty of anglers have managed a bag limit on live shrimp or salt-water yabbies.

Lure trollers have whacked a few goldens in the deeper water while trolling hardbody lures. Several anglers swear by green and black lures. Lipless crankbaits are also effective when trolled. Make sure you drag them along slowly by using the electric motor or slowing your boat speed when puttering along on the outboard with a bucket over the side. Good numbers of Murray cod have been caught over the last month using this approach with both undersized and legal specimens making their way to the side of the boat.

At the lower level, take care when you launch. The banks can be muddy around the edges, which makes it boggy to launch and retrieve boats. You can normally find a more solid spot, which has seen a bit of use by looking at the wheel tracks going into the water. Kayaks are a great way to access the water when the lake is lower and it doesn’t take long to get around on this smaller lake. If you venture out into the middle in a kayak, it could pay to fly a flag to make you more visible to ski boats. Keep a lookout for them just in case they don’t see you first.

For the latest information and hottest fishing reports, call in to the local tackle store, Warwick Outdoor and Sports at 115 Palmerin Street Warwick. For a small store, it carries a great range at a very competitive price. Warwick is only a 10-minute drive from the dam and you can pick up any supplies you might need.

Coolmunda
Closest Town: Inglewood

Murray cod have still take lures at Coolmunda. They seem to go through periods of activity. I had a fish with Nigel Middleton just prior to Christmas. The dam was getting low and there wasn’t a lot of water left up in the timber so we stuck to the edges of the old creek beds. The deeper parts of the lake were around 8ft of water. We only managed one fish for the morning but it was a nice cod of 76cm. The fish nailed my favourite casting lure at the dam which is a black and red Bassman Codman spinnerbait sporting a Berkley Rib Shad soft plastic trailer.

There are more cod out in the main basin of the lake. Trolling is the preferred way to cover heaps of water and drag lures past these fish. Work deep diving lures around the drop-off to the old creek channel to increase your chances. The drop-off holds quite a few snags that the cod call home. Even the golden perch tend to bunch up tighter around the drop-off snags. You will only see this structure on a fish finder as it is hidden in around 5-6m of water. There are plenty of logs and tree roots if you work the edges of the channel between the dam wall and the island.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around one 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, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. The park now has an extra 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 REGION
Borumba
Closest Towns: Imbil, Gympie

The lake copped a flogging as a multitude of boats tried their luck over the Christmas and school holidays. This fishing pressure and boat traffic made the action slower. Saratoga were one of the main targets, and because these fish feed shallow, they were easily spooked by all the extra activity. Fishing the top end of the dam in the Yabba and Kingham arms produced most of the bites.

If you are planning to give toga fishing at Borumba a go, the action should be better this month now things have quietened down. Head to the upper part of the dam and look for structure. Saratoga love lilies, weed beds, overhanging trees and sunken trees. They feed shallow most of the time and there are few better ways to hook one than on a surface lure. Lures like the Megabass Anthrax and Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy are very popular and irresistible to a toga tuned into feeding on the surface.

Sometimes the saratoga prefer subsurface presentations. They will eat just about any lure you pull past them including hardbodies, lipless crankbaits, plastics and spinnerbaits. I love to use a beetle spin attached to a 1/4oz jighead with a black and gold soft plastic on it. The small, sharp hook of the jighead easily penetrates their bony mouths without causing unnecessary damage. Trebles can catch them around the outside of the face and cause excessive injury to a fish that is too good to be caught just once.

The bass fishing has been a bit tough. Smaller fish coming through the timbered areas seem to make up the bulk of catches. Better numbers can be found around the start of the trees at The Junction. These fish like to take a 3/8 or 1/2oz jighead rigged plastic. Blade baits and tail-spinners will also catch fish but are a more expensive lure to lose in the trees.

Borumba Dam was closed on 12 January due to the discovery of blue-green algae. SEQ Water has been monitoring the dam and hopefully we will see it reopened soon.

MacDonald
Closest Towns: Cooroy, Noosa

The bigger bass have been hard to find in MacDonald. The weed beds produce better quality fish but catching them all day is the issue. Early in the morning, surface lures twitched around the weed can capture some of these beauties. As the sun rises, switch to subsurface offerings. Some of the lake’s regulars use weedless rigged soft plastics in the weed beds. This is a technique I haven’t used a lot, as I have always preferred to fish with the hook exposed and pop the lure out of the weed. Try working the weed until midmorning with a mix of plastics and spinnerbaits before venturing deeper. The bass should bite in the middle of the day outside the weed in around 5m of water. These deeper schooling fish will munch tail-spinners and blade baits.

Bass can be caught all around the dam, but the left arm at the Three Ways has fished well over the past few months.

For all the inside information on chasing bass in the area call in to see Dane Radosevic who works a few days each week at Davos Tackle in Noosa. Davo’s has expanded its range of bass and freshwater tackle so call in to check it out.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Boondooma
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

The fishing at Boondooma has been red-hot. The Christmas period saw it slow down a little but as things have quietened down to a more normal pace, the fishing will go off. Trolling, casting and bait fishing will yield good results.

There are plenty of golden perch and bass at the start of the timber in both arms. Catch these fish by trolling hardbodies or casting spinnerbaits. In the second basin of the lake you’ll find good numbers of fish. Unfortunately they can be in excellent numbers and biting one day, only to be scattered and hard to tempt the next. When scattered, trolling is a great option as it allows you to cover more water and pull the lure past more fish. Casting works better when the fish are holding tighter together.

Most of the bass and golden perch have suspended at around 5m out in deeper water. Try looking around the usual areas like The Islands, Barbers pole, The Junction and up towards Pelican Point. When trolling, don’t make the mistake of fishing too deep. Lures should run at the same depth as the fish. If they remain at 4-5m deep like last month, try running a lure like the Smak 12. More naturally coloured hardbodied lures have performed well. Whites or cream as the main colour is the go for spinnerbaits.

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 including fishing tackle. For campsites, cabins and bunkhouse rooms call Corey and Niki on (07) 4168 9694.

Bjelke
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The dropping water level has seen most of the better action take place in the dam’s main basin. Areas like The Island, Bass Point and Lightening Ridge have been worth fishing for a mix of bass and golden perch.

Position the boat in around 5m and cast lures in to the bank to get the bites. Try to land lures in around 3m of water and fish them back to the boat following the contour of the bottom. There have been plenty of fish out in the deeper water of the main creek bed but they tend to be smaller than those caught close to the edges. For some reason spinnerbaits have been the standout lures. Like any fishing this could change but I’d be tossing what was proven last month and experimenting after that.

Lure trollers should work the edges in around 4-6m of water or venture out deeper into the creek channels. Shallower lures like the 3m Halco Poltergeist will catch quite a few fish. Darker colours are popular, and purples, browns and greens work well.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into your local Bass 2 Barra store. Bass 2 Barra stores stock an awesome range of gear suited to chase 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. Give them a call for accommodation and camping bookings on (07) 4168 4746.
Capricorn region
Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Most fishers have reported the action to be slow at Awoonga. It was fished quite a bit over the Chrismas and New Year period for little return. Some anglers have put in a bit of time and found good numbers of fish. There is a lot of unproductive water mixed in with the fishy spots. Patrick Morgan fished the dam and found fish outside the weed edge in the main basin. The sounder showed plenty cruising through and it was then a matter of persisting in that area to get the bites. Deeper hardbody presentations fooled the fish he caught.

An electrofishing survey was conducted around the same time Patrick caught his fish. The feedback from this showed most barra were found in deeper water, which is typical for this time of year. Warm water temperatures will see them sitting in over 3m of water and they will spend a short amount of time in the shallows when the sun has set and it is cooler.

The river below the dam will again be an option from midday 1 February when the barra season opens. These fish should hopefully have had a break from enthusiastic anglers during the closed season. There were still good numbers caught either side of Pikes Crossing prior to the closure. This is a good spot to keep in mind if you have travelled to the dam and the action is slow. Pikes Crossing is only a 5-minute drive from Awoonga.

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.
Mackay Region
Teemburra
Closest Towns: Pinnacle, Mackay

The barra fishing has still been exceptional at Teemburra. The action is likely to continue like this until the first big rain causing the lake to rise. Until then, work the shallow points with soft plastics and hard swimbaits. Late afternoon and fishing into the night should produce better numbers of fish.

The average size of fish caught has really picked up. Most models are 80cm+ and there have been a few in excess of 120cm in length. Fish like this are a lot of fun to fight when you throw in all the surrounding timber. With the chance of a bigger fish, it may be time to step up the size of your fishing line to 50lb. Rarely do we fish the line to its breaking point but the thicker diameter gives more protection around the snags should a fish decide to do some knitting between the trees.
Whitsunday Region
Proserpine
Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

The barra fishing has still been quite good at Proserpine. Fish are scattered around the dam and should continue to be easy to catch until the first flooding rain arrives. When the dam has a big inflow, the barra move and can be harder to find over the newly flooded ground.

Until then, work the tree line, which is where the creeks feed into the main river bed. The Three Brother area is a good place to start. If you can find any of the feeder creek channels just inside the trees, give these barra highways a good work over. Trolling is possible but expect to hook plenty of snags. Cast deep diving lures around the trees in these fish freeways will see you stand a good chance of hooking a Prossy beast. Lures like the 20+ Barra Bait, BTD General or the 5m Halco Scorpion are perfect for the job.

Another popular method is to jig with vibes or bounce plastics to fish holding deep. Barra need to be located on the sounder in reasonable numbers for this approach to be effective. It pays to have rods rigged and ready to go or the lure close at hand to tie on when fish are spotted on the sounder. The barra move through the deep water using the channels like highways so there is no telling how long they will stay in the area. If you are able to find a staging area where the fish pull up to rest, there is a good chance you’ll nail good numbers of fish.

The shallower water will also produce fish during the night and at dawn. If conditions are still, work a topwater lure over weed beds before the sun rises to see some explosive strikes. Listening to barra boof in the darkness and wondering if they have taken your lure is something that every fisher should experience.

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

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!
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