Many freshwater rivers in South East Queensland are split into sections by manmade barrages and concrete walls that divide fresh from salt water and high country from low. While it is illegal to fish at many barrages these days (as they are areas where breeding fish congregate in large numbers), those that are fishable have seen some extraordinary captures.
Bass are not native to many of these rivers, but due to stocked fish getting washed downstream after rains, many creeks and streams now teem with large healthy bass populations just waiting to have a lure casted into them. Dad and I recently had a good session of bass fishing upstream, and many of the fish were between 35-50cm in length and healthy. They bit savagely on one particular day and a total of 25 bass were landed between Dad, a couple of friends, and myself in about half an hour. One of the hooked fish managed to get the line tangled around a snag and still must have spooked the other bass and they unfortunately went off the bite.
Some unusual by-catch has been caught around the freshwater reaches lately. Species from saratoga to yellowbelly, sooty grunter, jungle perch and even the odd barramundi, as well as some less than welcome catches of salmon and eel-tailed catfish. On top of all this, the occasional Mary River cod has been caught, which shows that their population is doing well. These rarely seen fish have been released quickly so as to protect them from harm. As far as lures go, small soft plastics in fluorescent colours, shallow running hardbodies, and miniature surface poppers and stickbaits work in calm patches of water or around the timber. While I haven’t tried it before, apparently a live shrimp casted into a likely position and held just off the bottom works well.
As with almost all freshwater fishing, carefully releasing the catch is important as freshwater fish are not only muddy and foul tasting, but taking too many fish in a small creek or river would result in their numbers dramatically decreasing.
Dawn and dusk are, in theory, the best time to fish freshwater as this is when predators like bass and barra are hunting. The baitfish cannot see them and the predatory fish feel safe in the darker conditions, with just enough light to see their prey.
In the tropical north, this kind of fishing can be successfully practiced year round, however in the colder south the fishing is generally only good in summer when water temperatures are higher and the fish aren’t sluggish or hibernating. Summer is generally when rain events occur, but they can occasionally occur in winter or early spring. If the angler is in the cold southern region these occurrences are generally not as successful when it comes to fishing, but persistence pays off.
Make sure to pack plenty of lures and/or hooks when fishing small freshwater streams, as snagging lures is an all too common event and un-snagging them requires a lot of skill, otherwise on light gear you will most likely never see your lost tackle again. It might not be a bad idea to pack a lure retriever or a long stick with a piece of wire on the end, or just something to help you when you snag a line.
Don’t forget to seek local knowledge on whether or not the local barrages and weirs in your region are fishable by law, and if they are not, find out what distance you have to stay to be safe.Reads: 1057