Mixed action around the lakes
  |  First Published: May 2016

It seems a few of the lakes are firing up just before the colder weather kicks in. The days get noticeably shorter around this time of year so it only makes sense that fish feed more aggressively in the shorter period of daylight they have. If you hate the South East Queensland cold, now is the time to get out and try your luck before the icy weather arrives.

This is a transition time of year where fish move about to the most comfortable water and can change their feeding habits. For deeper schooling fish like bass and golden perch, these changes take place quite slowly as the core temperature of the water is enough to slow the variation in air temperature.

Up in the shallows, barramundi are more likely to feel the effects once they set in. Barra will soon be looking for the warmer water and may move even shallower to find it. This is the time where it pays to have a sounder, which shows water temperature. In big lakes like Proserpine and Awoonga, or those like Teemburra and Monduran with heaps of creek fingers, there can be significant temperature differences from one spot to another. These more comfortable waters are likely to attract barra and concentrate their numbers, making it easier to find and hopefully catch them.

Hot Bite Fishing is back! It has been a while since the last 18g Jets tail spinners were stocked into stores. Most were sold out back around Christmas but I have managed to get my hands onto heaps more. I was caught out by how popular these lures were.

For more information, check out the Facebook page – Hot Bite Fishing.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest

While the fishing has been quite steady, quite a few anglers have landed quality bass at the lake. Big fat bass well over 45cm in length have been taking trolled lures around the dam. Some of the better fish have topped 50cm to the fork of the tail so if you are able to find them, you’re in for some good action.

Bunches of smaller bass are holding straight out from the shallow boat ramp in 7-10m of water. Many of these fish are undersized, but you may find the occasional legal fish amongst them. Scattered fish can also be found all the way through Bass Bay on the way across to the buoy line near the pump tower. These bass will be holding in 6-10m of water. Trolling has been picking out the bigger fish from these schooling fish. They have also been very responsive to tail spinners, but most of the bites are coming from tiny fish.

Up around The Eagles Nest rock wall in Cressbrook Creek and the Toilet Point up Beams Creek is where most of the better quality bass have been coming from. These bass are pretty scattered most of the time which is why trolling lures has been so effective.

Medium to deep divers will get the hits with purples, browns and black being some of the better colours. When better patches of bass are found, reaction style presentations are getting the best response. Tail spinners are drawing most bites but it is definitely worth casting a spinnerbait or blade bait into the same schools of fish.

Early in the morning, the edges are worth a cast with spinnerbaits. Not all the lake edges will hold good numbers of bass, so cover water quickly to try and find where there are a few bass holding in shallower water. The two bays either side of the Toilet Point up Beams Creek end of the dam certainly look the goods. They have been holding stacks of bait and scattered fish. I’m guessing these fish may feed around the shallower water early as they can be found in as little as 4 and 5m during the middle of the day.

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 change this month and will be 7am until 6pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Somerset Dam fired up last month with plenty of bass and golden perch taking trolled and cast lures. Hopefully this action will continue into this month as well. Pelican Point has been one of the best spots to fish with a few other schools also being found around the lake’s middle reaches. Falling water levels from a couple of months ago seems to have concentrated fish numbers in this area. Look for the schooling bass in 8-13m of water around the perimeter of the flats. Often the fish will be close to the drop off ledge of the old riverbed and once found in big numbers, get ready for action.

Trolling deep diving lures has been producing plenty of fish. Bass are the main species encountered but a few golden perch have also been getting in on the action. Small lures can be very effective at times with the Poltergeist 50mm Crazy Deep a standout. Other medium profile deep diving lures that have also shone have been the Golden Child and Blitz Baga. Troll these lures through the bass schools at 4-6km/h for best results. While moving on the troll, the bass are less likely to follow the boat and become harder to catch as they do when casting.

Lure casters have also been having success but you may find that once you have been on a school for a while, you may need to move away until they spread out and become more active again. Reaction lures have been enticing the bites with some exceptional bass around 50cm in length on offer. The biggest bass I heard of last month was a ripper of 58.5cm fork length.

Try casting spinnerbaits, tail spinners and vibes into the schooling fish. Hopping retrieves work well with tail spinners and vibes, but stick to a slow rolling retrieve off the bottom of up to 15 winds before sinking again with the spinnerbaits.

For the latest reports, check out Somerset Fishing Tackle online and on Facebook. The store is in Kilcoy but they mail order fishing gear all over the place. For some of the most competitive prices around visit the website www.somersetfishing.com.au.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Aratula

The fishing at Moogerah was tougher toward the end of last month but there were still a few fish being caught. Bass are making up the bulk of catches. The main basin of the lake is holding a few fish where they are being fooled with soft plastics and ice jigs worked close to the bottom.

The timbered area will be worth a look for lure casters as well. Search the flats for schooling fish, and once found, rotate through the proven lures. Powerbait 7cm Ripple Shad plastics rigged on 1/2oz heads, Jackall Mask Vibes, Jets 18g tail spinners and 3/8oz Little Max blades would all get a run if I were prospecting a newly found school. The bait anglers have been nailing bass and golden perch in the timber on live shrimp, but not in huge numbers.

The margins of the lake are worth a cast with spinnerbaits. Last month a few bass were coming from this area early in the day. I’d expect with the cooling water the fish may continue to bite in this shallower are for a longer period. The TN50 Jackall is another great lure option for casting to the edges of the lake. There are plenty of banks to explore, not all of which hold fish, so keep moving. Once you find a patch of fish, they are likely to be in the same area on consecutive trips.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

There has been mixed action at Cooby. Some days it is very tough to put a fish in the boat while others they seem to be more willing to bite. Golden perch have been falling to trolled lures around the lake’s weed edges. Try working along the weed edge or just outside it in 4-6m of water with medium diving lures. The 3m Poltergeist and size 3 StumpJumper in the darker colours are perfect for this lake. Slow trolling TN60 Jackalls can also produce a few goldens as well and they have been known to fool the occasional Murray cod.

Bait anglers can expect to fool a few goldens and eel-tailed catfish when fishing with live shrimp and saltwater yabbies. Try anchoring the boat in around 7m of water. If you can find fish on the sounder, that is where you want to try your luck. If the sounder isn’t revealing too much be prepared to move about every 10 minutes until you start getting bites. Some of the best action is likely to take place just before sunset.

Cooby Dam’s proximity to Highfields and Toowoomba make it a very popular fishery. If you are looking for somewhere close to home to drop the boat or kayak in, Cooby is definitely worth a visit. The dam hours are now 7am until 6pm. Just remember no outboard motors are allowed to be used on the dam. 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.

Closest Town: Warwick

There are still quite a few golden perch being caught on bait and lures. The cod have been a bit quiet but there were a few reported last month. One of the better Murray cod went 90cm and was taken out in front of The Washpool near the old creek bed on a trolled hardbody.

Bait anglers have been doing quite well on live shrimp fished in 5-8m of water. Try fishing the main basin of the lake. One angler mixed it up last month and started tossing a TN60 Jackall around the boat while bait fishing. He was lucky enough to score half a dozen goldens casting, so it just goes to show it pays to be able to present different offerings.

Lure trollers are also taking a few fish. A mixture of hardbodies and lipless crankbaits are getting results. Jigging the bottom with soft lipless crankbaits and blade baits like the Ecogear ZX40 is always worth a shot. To increase your chances, find fish or structure on the sounder.

Boat launching is still a problem due to the falling water level. Cars often get bogged if they don’t choose their launching spot wisely. It is a 2-person job to get boats off with one in the boat and the other in the car. Giving the car a bit of a push with the outboard can also help and ensure it doesn’t lose traction on the way out.

Big bass boats and ski boats are still being floated off the trailer in places. You will need to have the water lapping your doors to do this. On the dam wall side of the high and dry concrete ramps is a sandy spit which is solid enough to back cars right out in the water. Take care as there are plenty of muddy traps around. A 4WD is certainly recommended.

Along with getting a fishing report, stock up on all your gear while at 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 ten-minute drive from the dam and you can pick up any supplies you might need.

Closest Town: Inglewood

The fishing action has been slow at Coolmunda. The lake’s regulars are still managing to score fish on trolled and cast lures. These anglers spend a lot of time fishing the drop offs and any structure around it. The drop off in the main basin of the lake is likely to produce a few fish but the areas where the creeks narrow up before the timber are still deep enough and tend to fish better.

These creeks can take a bit to learn as they duck and weave their way through the otherwise barren flats of shallow water. A sounder and GPS combo is perfect for plotting your way through the creek and marking any hidden structure below.

Trolling hardbodies and big spinnerbaits will see you in with a good chance of scoring a cod or golden perch in this country. With the cooler weather approaching, the Murray cod may start to move a little more and dominate catches. With big fish well over a metre in length a possibility, Coolmunda is definitely worth exploring.

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 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.

Wide Boondooma
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

As we move into a transition time of year, the fish may start to change a little. The deep schooling bass and goldens, which have been found in the main basin suspending midwater in deep areas of the lake are likely to make a move closer to the shore. Here these fish will take up residence in 8-10m of water and hold closer to the bottom. They have been quite responsive to a range of lures over the last few months and the fishing is likely to continue to be good once they make the move.

Many anglers find fishing to these bottom hugging fish much easier. When casting sinking lures, the angler has a reference point (the bottom) to let you know when to start working the lure. Fill the tackle box because soft vibes, blades, soft plastics, tail spinners and spinnerbaits will all be worth a try.

Trolling lures may slow down a little as the fish tend to bunch up more into tighter schools rather than spreading out.

In the timbered arms, the bass and golden perch may also move to shallower areas. Casting 1/2 and 5/8oz spinnerbaits around the weedy edges or trees closer to the shore will be the best approach.

Bait anglers can try their luck in the timber using live shrimp. Try out in the normal areas where water depth is 7-9m deep, but if that fails, move closer to the edges in 4-6m of water.

Boondooma is a great place to camp right near the water and sit by the fire while enjoying the view. Pack some warmer clothes, as the nights will be starting to get rather chilly. 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.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The fishing has been steady at Bjelke, which is possibly due to the continued falling water level. With the cooler water temperatures a few changes are likely to take place. Bass and golden perch will move from the deeper water and head in closer to the edges. There isn’t a lot of healthy weed about due to the falling level, but the fish will still school up on the shallow and medium tapering banks.

Casting spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and blade baits will entice bites from these fish. There is plenty of shoreline to explore and only certain areas will hold good numbers of fish. Move about until you find them concentrating on the dam’s middle reaches without venturing too far from the deeper creek beds.

At the start of the timber, there have been quite a few golden perch. Try casting to these fish with spinnerbaits worked through the standing timber.

Bait fishing with live shrimp is also worth a try. While bait fishing, don’t be afraid to jig some small blades off the bottom at the same time. Bait and blade jigging make a good combination. The smell of the bait and vibration and commotion of the blades seem to complement each other and increase catches on both.

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 chasing our freshwater fish and the boys have all the knowledge to guide you on how to use it. You’ll find the stores in Kingaroy and Dalby. Matthew Mott also runs fishing charters on the dams and you can reach him through the Kingaroy store for bookings and enquiries on (07) 4162 7555.

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

There hasn’t been a lot to report from Awoonga. Either this month or next, the barra should concentrate more around the edges of the lake making them easier to catch once found. Try working along the major weed beds on the western side of the main basin either side of the entrance to New Zealand Gully. Up the back of New Zealand Gully, Gold Mine Point area and the mouth of Iveragh arm will also be worth a shot.

If you do manage a barra bite (and not a catfish), spend plenty of time exploring the area and the barra movements through it, as the fish are seldom loners.

The dam has received a huge boost in fish stocks. Many of these fish will still be small but some of the first to go in after the floods are now around a metre long. With hundreds of thousands going in, we can only hope they have had a good survival rate with predators in the form of birds and other fish making daily life a struggle. It won’t be too far down the track that Awoonga brings back the crowds. If the water level is kind, expect big things from this lake in the next few years. Barra grow fast.

The freshwater reaches below the dam either side of Pikes Crossing will be worth a shot. Trolling hardbodies and soft plastics down the middle at night can produce some quality barra. Casting the edges with soft plastics is definitely the preferred approach. If the thicker weed beds have returned, buzzing a soft plastic frog over the top might get an explosive response.

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
Closest Towns: Marian, Mackay

The dam is still looking quite healthy after the water level rising. Water was pumped in from the Pioneer River to raise the level by around 40%, which flooded plenty of grass and shoreline. The vegetation growth wasn’t out of control prior to the rise, so as it dies off and new weed beds form, there shouldn’t be too much effect on the barra.

The margins of the lake have fished quite well for barra with anglers catching fish from the shore and boats. Lightly weighted soft plastics and shallow diving hardbodies and stickbaits have scored plenty of fish over the past month. The action may slow a little but fishing smarter rather than harder will keep the bites coming.

If the oxygen level drops with dying vegetation, look for influences which counteract this. Fresh growing weed will be pumping in the oxygen during the day but you can’t beat a wind-blown bank. Head to these areas that receive the wind and try fishing the dirty water line or right up in the shallows where there is flooded grass.

Whitsunday Region
Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

So far, the barra have started a weird transition. The cooling weather has seen the deeper holding fish more active than those in the shallows. Trolling in the basin was still producing pretty good numbers last month. Lures like the 20ft Barra Bait and Halco Scorpion Crazy Deep were getting the job done.

This month the transition phase should see the fish move more away from the main basin. There will be a migration of fish to the western side of the dam where the water temperature is warmer. In this tree-filled area once you find a fish keep in mind there will be others nearby. To steal Lindsay Dobe’s phrase, they position themselves on “good real estate” for a reason and at this time of year they tend to hang together more.

On a clear sunny morning, head to the edges of the lake or shallows where the barra will be actively roaming until midmorning. Here try casting hardbodies and soft plastics over the fish as they pass through. Keeping an eye on the side image on the sounder will let you see the procession.

As the day warms up or on those more overcast and windy days, try fishing the tree tops, which border the creeks running through the timber. These creeks are hidden and need to be found on the sounder or by picking the old creek line running through the trees. The barra will hold out in deep water of over 13m but will be found shallow in the top of the water column. Casting floating hardbody lures with big bibs allows you to walk the lure over the timber. The BTD General and Halco Scorpion 5m are perfect for this style of fishing. Crank the lure down into the tree and allow it to pause and float back up. This pause is crucial to getting the bites.

Staging barra will also be found in deeper water on the edges of the creeks. These fish prefer 3-5m of water to take a rest. These fish are often in good numbers and will be spotted on the side image of the sounder while exploring the timber. Hopping vibes and rolling soft plastics through them will draw a response. You may need to work these fish hard though until a bite window opens. Persistence is the key with barra fishing.

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.

WEStern rivers
Closest towns: Dalby, chinchilla

The Condamine River is quite low at the moment with the dry weather and cotton season upon us. The water is crystal clear in most places and is still producing good catches; however there is some water around Cecil Plains and Condamine yet to clear up.

The fishing has proved to be a bit difficult with the weather and water level changes disrupting normal activity. Spinnerbaits have been consistently effective during early morning and late afternoon, and shallow and deep divers are working well throughout the day casting at snags.

Brighter coloured hardbodies in green and yellow have been working well but darker lures are becoming increasingly favoured by both cod and yellowbelly. Working snags over a bit longer has been the key to success recently.

The cooler weather is creeping up meaning big Murray cod will be moving about more freely. This time of year will also increase chances of surface catches.

Bait has been working well with live worms and frozen saltwater yabbies being the favourite. Spangled perch have been the main catch on bait, however reports of good sized yellowbelly are also wide spread.

Cod have been consistently caught around the beginning of the river in the Warwick and Killarney area and also further west around Dalby and Chinchilla.

The yellowbelly have been particularly fiery in recent weeks taking large spinnerbaits and lures intended for cod and putting up a great fight. Persistence is key this month. Work the snags hard and you will be rewarded. – Olivia McKenna

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