Mid-winter options
  |  First Published: July 2016

We had quite a big rain event in Southeast Queensland last month. This dumped plenty of rain along the coast but failed to influence water levels at most dams. Lake MacDonald, Ewen Maddock and Hinze were all full after the rain but the rest had only minor rises or no noticeable change at all. This means we can’t blame dirty water for stopping us from wetting a line!

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest

Towards the end of last month, the bass fishing slowed down at Cressbrook. I visited the dam to give the boat a run and tried pretty hard for a few hours to put some bass in the boat, without any luck. The fish were quite easy to find and the dam showed a lot of future potential. Many of the points and drop-offs throughout the lake held fish. These smallish bass were holding tight to the bottom on this particular day, but we all know how fishing changes from one day to the next.

The Bull Creek arm of the dam has produced some of the better quality fish around the toilet point area and the banks opposite on either side of the two branches. These fish can be caught on tail spinners, but will also take soft plastics and blade baits if the schools are thick enough. With some specimens well over 45cm caught last month from this location, it will again be worth a look to see if the bass are still in the area.

Smaller fish are all over the dam. Directly out in front of the steep boat ramp and the hump (which is now a continuation of the island) opposite the Eagles Nest is a great place to start. These fish are suckers for a tail spinner bounced across the bottom, but also love a blade bait hopped. The reaction lures got the job done last month but don’t be surprised if the fish back down from this style of lure in preference of a soft plastic or ice jig. This normally happens around this time of year.

Spinnerbaiting the edges will also be worth a shot early in the mornings. On the calmer days, when the sun takes the sting out of the cold air, the bass should be cruising the shallows looking for a feed. Try casting 1/2oz spinnerbaits and follow the contour of the bottom as you fish them back into deeper water. Considering the bass were so spread out last month, there is a very good chance of nailing a few quality fish using this approach.

Baitfishers had a bit of luck fishing schooled bass last month. The water temperature was still up around 19°C but by now it should be a few degrees lower due to some cooler days and nights. This can steady the fishes’ reaction bites, but a well-presented shrimp should still get some sort of response. Sometimes all the fish want to do is nibble at the legs or eggs on the shrimp. A hook like the wide gap Owner K style will give you the best chance of hooking up.

Fish with a tight line using a running ball sinker directly on top of the hook or with the sinker on the bottom of the rig with the hook attached to a loop around 50cm above. This allows you to keep the line tight and get the best feel. Through light braided line, you will even feel vibrations as the shrimp flicks on the end of your line. If a fish is picking at the legs or eggs of the shrimp, you stand a better chance of pinning it when you have the ability to feel what’s going on.

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. Tackle World 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 under winter hours, which are 7am-6pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

The boat ramp will be a quieter place this month with fewer anglers and water skiers braving the cold. It really is an awesome time to venture out onto the peaceful lake when you time your trips with pleasant weather. I love the freezing cold mornings with frost on the ground, as you can guarantee the day will start out nicely with no wind and warm quickly. It doesn’t take long to start peeling off the layers, and if the wind continues to stay away you’ll often find yourself stripped down to a fishing shirt and no jumper.

Last month the bass were still chewing reaction lures, which is a little odd for winter. Trolling hardbodies like the Blitz Baga, Golden Child and Little Rippa was one of the most effective ways to hook fish. There was a mix in size too with fish from undersized right up to over 50cm caught.

Lure casters found reaction lures one of the most effective options too. The cooling water temperature will see lure trolling slow down as the fish turn their focus to more aggressive presentations. The slower roll of a soft plastic is one way to entice the bites when the fish refuse to eat faster moving offerings. Jigging is also a good way to tempt them into biting, as the repetitive hopping of the lure is hard to resist.

Golden perch numbers will drop off this month but you can still get into some golden action by using live shrimp. The timber to the North of Kirkleigh will be the place to try your luck. Try baitfishing in water of 6-8m depth and move often if you aren’t getting any bites.

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 at www.somersetfishing.com.au.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Aratula

Moogerah has been one of the most reliable bass fisheries over the past month. The dam is looking sensational with the development of lush weed beds. These weed formations may die off a bit over winter but should continue to hold the fish. The bass have been stacking up just outside the weed in the timber where they have been fond of hopped blades, soft vibes, spoons and tail spinners. It will also be worth trying soft plastics if these faster presentations fail to get a response. Some schooling bass have held around the point that extends to the dam wall from the camp ground boat ramp.

Most of the action has taken place in the deeper water around 6-8m deep. In the mornings it will also be worth working lures inside the schooled fish areas tighter to the weed bed. Soft plastics, spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits can pick up shallow water feeding fish. These active hunters don’t usually spend all day feeding close to the weed, so as the action dies off try your luck on the bulk of the fish, which are positioned in schools outside the weed edge.

Closet Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

The colder water temperature will see a few changes at this little weedy lake. Surface feeding bass will be hard to find, as the fish become less willing to chase their food. Just because the predators are more lethargic doesn’t mean they won’t eat. Smaller baitfish species will also be a little slower off the mark during the cold months so all we need to do is imitate this behaviour.

Fishing around the weed edges with jerkbaits is a great way to start the day. Shallow divers are prefect for early in the day but as the sun gets brighter, you’ll need to send your lures deeper. Deeper diving lures like the Jackall Squirrel or C’ultiva Rippin’ Minnow SP are ideal to probe deeper around the weed. Work the lures down with a rip of the rod tip to make the lure dart and then pause before darting off again with the next rip of the rod tip. Suspending lures are perfect for this style of fishing. They hold their depth once paused and stay right in the face of inquisitive fish. Longer pauses of up to five seconds are fine once the lure has reached the most likely spots. Most of the time you only need to pause for a second. After a longer pause, try twitching the lure as well. Small movements after the pause are often a better trigger than an aggressive rip.
Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

There has been a late flurry of fish at Cooby. In the last month, the action picked up with quite a few golden perch and the occasional small cod caught. Most fish were taken on bait with a few on lures.

Moving forward, the cooler water will see bait fishing as a better option than luring. The fish will be less willing to chase anything so a bait dropped almost on their nose is the trick to getting bites. Salt-water yabbies are often the best offering, even out-fishing live shrimp. These yabbies are available through many tackle stores. Drop one straight under the boat weighted with a small sinker about 8mm round. The wide gap-style hook is good for securing a solid hookset once the fish takes the bait. Smaller hooks can be used with yabbies as the bait is only small so opt for a No.4-No.2 sized hook.

The afternoon is most likely to produce better numbers of fish, especially around sunset. Try to fish just outside the weed edge or right out in deeper water about 12m in depth.

Cooby Dam’s proximity to Highfields and Toowoomba makes it a very popular fishery. If you are looking for somewhere close to home to drop the boat or kayak in then Cooby is definitely worth a visit. The dam hours are now 7am-6pm. 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

I’m tipping Leslie to be the best golden perch fishery over the winter months. It’s already looking likely with good numbers of fish reported last month. The golden perch will be keen to take baits like frozen saltwater yabbies, shrimp and cray tails.

The area around the Washpool Reserve has produced well and you can almost guarantee a few fish if you put in the time here. Golden perch and eel-tailed catfish will be first on the scene but you may be lucky enough to encounter silver perch and Murray cod too.

Lure fishers should still be able to nail a few goldens, and there is always the chance of catching a cod. Hopping vibes around the structure and drop-offs will see you in with a good chance. Vibes have scored plenty of fish so far this winter and would be my first pick. A bigger profile will attract Murray cod if they are lurking in the area. If the action is too slow on vibes, switch to a 1/4oz or 40mm blade bait and hop it vertically below the boat. If you want to mix things up, you can try a bit of luring while keeping baits in the water.

The water level is only around 14%, so take care when launching and retrieving your boat. Watch out for underwater obstructions as well as there are a few rocky boulder outcrops around.

Along with 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

We are moving into big cod time at Coolmunda. There have been a few reports of cod in the 85-100cm bracket. Where these fish are coming from has been closely guarded! With the lower lake level, there isn’t a lot of water in the timbered parts of the lake. If you are heading up into the sticks to try, take your time until you work out where the deeper water of the old creeks are.

There are some deeper holes in the creeks around the timber and fishing near these will be your best option. The cod tend to roam in very shallow water during winter and spring and there isn’t usually a need to fish any deeper than 3m. If you have a GPS you may also be able to work the old creek edge and the submerged structure on it in a similar depth of water right out in the middle of the lake.

Golden perch will be a lot slower but can still be caught using live shrimp and saltwater yabbies. The deeper water on the old creek bed drop-off will be the place to drop your baits. Patience is key as the goldens will be pretty steady.

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 has great wheelchair friendly cabins. 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

Boondooma is still one of the best all-round spots for bass and golden perch. It will be a great place to try a variety of techniques in different areas.

The edges of the dam should fish quite well with spinnerbaits. The points and banks in the main basin and up in both of the timbered arms will hold bass and golden perch. Roll spinnerbaits off the banks and into deeper water letting them drop down a few metres as you reach the middle of the retrieve. There were a few saratoga reported over the last couple of months from up in the timber and this is usually how they are encountered.

In the main basin of the lake, schooling bass should be easy to find by sounding around. Look along the 4-7m mark following the contours around the lake’s second basin. Spots like The Junction and Pelican Point are always worth investigating. The bass schools can be mobile so just use these areas as a general guide and drive along all the banks in the area until you spot fish on the sounder.

Once the schools are found the trick will be to figure out what they want to eat. Take every lure you have because they can be caught on just about anything. Soft plastics rigged on 1/2 or 3/8oz jigheads are a favourite but also give ice jigs, tail spinners, blades and vibes a run. The fish can be stubborn and will dictate what style of presentation to use.

The mornings can be freezing cold so dress accordingly and enjoy what winter has to offer.

Take some firewood. 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.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

It has been a hit and miss affair at Bjelke over the last month and not much will change now until spring. The fishing is tough with tournament level anglers only managing a few fish per session. The trick has been to sit on top of fish and wait them out. The fish have been caught on blades, ice jigs and soft plastics in deeper parts of the dam around The Ridges and Bass Point. Bass will be the most common capture for lure fishers and golden perch and eel-tailed catfish for baitfishers.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into Bass 2 Barra. The store stocks an awesome range of gear suited to chasing freshwater fish and the boys have all the knowledge to guide you on how to use it. You’ll find the store at 119 Youngman Street Kingaroy. Matthew Mott also runs fishing charters on the dams.

The Yallakool Kiosk is 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.

Closest Towns: Gin Gin, Bundaberg

For a quick bash at the barra, Monduran will be the destination to head for Southeast Queensland anglers. The fishing has been good considering we are now well into winter. Things may slow a little but choosing the warmer days with constant wind direction is going to dramatically increase your chances of finding and hooking fish.

The Mask Vibe has been one of the best lures. Hopping these through fish on the sounder has paid off with quite a few small models and the occasional one around 90cm in length. Another lure to try is the Kamikaze 96S stickbait. These lures can be hopped like a vibe, but have a slower swimming fall. This slower sinking action may be just what the barra need to trigger the strike now that they are reacting slower.

Finding fish is the key to catching, as there is a lot of barren water. You have a few options here. One is to put in the hours and search for them yourself. Not many of us have the time to do this so a few hints are certainly going to be beneficial. Consider booking one of the guides in the area or call in to the tackle store in Gin Gin for some advice. A few tips can save you a lot of fruitless time on the water.

Foxies Tackle Store in Gin Gin stocks a range of effective barra lures. The store will mail order and you can check it out online at www.barratackle.com.au. Be sure to call in and get directions to some of the best barra fishing in the area or pick up one of the detailed maps.

Accommodation can be booked through Lake Monduran Kiosk and Tackle Shop. They look after all the cabins, houses, powered and unpowered campsites, as well as houseboats and boat hire. You can also make bookings for Guide Lines Fishing Charters through the kiosk, on (07) 4157 3881.

Jamie Bein runs Lake Monduran Barra Charters and fishes that dam more than anyone I know. His regular visits ensure he has a good understanding of what’s going on. Contact Jamie on his mobile, 0407 434 446 or through his website www.lakemonduranbarracharters.com.
Whitsunday Region

The barra fishing is never easy over winter. The fish can still be caught so head out on the warmer days. If you have a run of good warm days with light winds or even constant wind direction, the barra fishing can pick up.

Some anglers will fish the deep creeks in the timber with hardbody lures. Slow is the go for winter fishing so crank the lure down into the treetops and then let it slowly float back up to the surface. Adding lead weight or heavier hooks can be beneficial to slow the float rate of the lure. The locally handcrafted BTD General and other 5m divers like Scorpions and Barra Baits are ideal for this area.

Another option that requires a lot of stealth is to move up on top of the weed beds and drift over the top. Use your polarised sunnies to spot any fish resting just below the surface on top of the weed. Casts will need to be dead accurate to ensure the fish are not spooked by the splash of the lure or by the line hitting them. Soft plastics rigged on weedless hooks are perfect for slowly fishing the lure in front of the fish. If you aren’t spotting any fish, the same lure can be rolled over the tops of the weed in the hope of running past one. This is deadly when the fish sit camouflaged inside the weed beds and dart out to nail a passing baitfish. Slow presentations are going to be best so try lightly weighted hooks like the Owner Beast Hook 6/0 with a plastic like the Berkley Rib Shad or similar.

Most people wouldn’t even consider throwing a diving hardbody into the weed but there is one that is an absolute standout. The Halco 90mm Scorpion with the Skin Deep bib has an amazing ability to work through the weed without fouling up. These lures can be fished like a popper or slowly wound subsurface right past any sunning barra. A few twitches usually frees them up from any weed and you can continue working the top 40cm of the water column. If you’ve never given them a go, they are a must for any barra fisher’s tackle box.

If you give the weed bed fishing a go, try a quality 20lb braided mainline. The thinner diameter of this line cuts through the weed better than heavy braid, which allows you to stay in better contact with the fish. If you manage to hook a beast in this shallow weedy water be prepared to do some gardening to get the fish back out of the vegetation.

Lindsay Dobe owns the tackle shop in Proserpine right beside the highway. The shop has always been known as Proserpine Bait and Tackle but has just undergone a name change and will now be known as Barra World. As you can imagine, they carry plenty of the best barra lures and gear available. The store also caters for the close-by saltwater fishing in the estuaries and offshore. Call in to see Lindsay or Dane and check out what they have done with the place after the renaming. You can call them for all your barra needs or book a Lake Proserpine barra charter on (07) 4945 4641.

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