Winter fishing in the South Burnet
  |  First Published: July 2016

There’s nothing quite like waking up to a cold, frosty South Burnett winter. It can be quite hard to pull yourself away from those woollen blankets, but the anticipation of a promising fishing session is always enough to get me out of bed, into some warm clothes and into the truck with either the boat hitched, kayak tied down or boots ready for an early morning start.

I’ve been lucky to live in the region for quite some time, and if you’re not familiar with the South Burnett it’s a comfortable driving distance from the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane. There’s plenty to see and do with the Bunya Mountains in close proximity and a plethora of wineries to explore. To top it off, we have some of the best farming country in Queensland and our peanuts are a testament to this as they are world renowned.

Not only that, we have some of the best holiday destinations in Queensland, Boondooma and Bjelke-Petersen dams, which are both located within a short driving distance of Kingaroy. The icing on the cake is the other fishing options you have all within a short distance of Kingaroy, Nanango, Wondai, Murgon and Blackbutt.

Lake Barambah (Bjelke-Petersen dam)

Lake Barambah or BP Dam is a reasonably shallow dam that has an abundance of shallow flats and a long submerged creek bed (Barkers Creek) that runs from the back of the dam to the dam wall. The dam itself was constructed in 1988 and covers 2000ha and holds 120,000 mega-litres that is delivered via a catchment area of 1600 square kilometres.

The great thing about BP is that its abundance of shallow flats and warmer water encourages the growth of biomasses of bait like shrimps, redclaw, bony bream and barred grunter. In a case where the bait is in abundance, the fish tend to gorge themselves on these flats.

What occurs within the stocked populations of bass, yellowbelly and silver perch is a massive annual growth rate. Fish that were released in 2013 now have the food and capacity to grow up to 50cm within 4-5 years. Recently, the number of 40-45cm bass has been quite standard and common captures of 50cm yellowbelly are becoming the norm. So within 12 months or so, I’m expecting to see bass up to 50cm and beyond being caught on a regular basis. At the present time Lake Barambah is sitting just above 40% water capacity, so it would be great to see some inflow in the next 12 months.

Fishing BP in winter tends to slow down considerably in comparison to the warmer months. The water cools quite quickly when the temperatures plummet but there are still some great fishing options when the winter months are in full swing. BP dam is best accessed by boat and has two boat ramps. There’s one at the Yallakool Tourist Park and a public ramp adjacent to the park at the picnic area. Both ramps have the added bonus of fish cleaning stations.

During winter there are a few things that I like to do to get the fish to bite. Commonly in winter, the fish like to sit deep on the deeper flats and in the main creek bed. Sometimes these fish can be hard to get to bite, but I like to target these deeper fish with a couple of lures.

I usually sound around the deeper sections of the dam up near the dam wall and along the submerged creek bed. When a show of fish is located, I position the boat on top of them and try vertical jigging. Jigging blades and ice jigs is a great way to get those sluggish fish to bite. The key is being persistent in this scenario, as the deeper fish may take a while to fire up. Commonly though, once you get that first bite the fish tend to wake up and actively feed.

Remember, winter temperatures can slow down the fish and they can be stubborn and sluggish so persistence is a major player when it comes to winter fishing in BP.

Another option is fishing shallow edges. I usually look for edges that have a bit of structure like trees or rocks. I’ll usually position the boat 30-40m from the bank and cast up as shallow as I can. I generally use small blades for this technique, as the bigger fish tend to go up shallow looking for an easy feed. Once the long cast has been made, slowly hop the blade back out into the deeper water, maintaining contact with the bottom after each hop. Try a number of banks for this until you get a bite or a fish, as you’ll usually get a couple along a stretch of bank if they are there.

Bait anglers have it a bit easier during winter as the fish respond well to a live bait. Shrimps and worms are always a great bait on BP. You can either anchor out in the deep along the old creek bed, or go up to the back of the dam and tie up to the trees along the creek. I can almost guarantee you’ll catch a couple of fish if you persist long enough.

Camping and other accommodation options are great at BP, as Yallakool Caravan Park is positioned right on the banks of BP and has fully furnished cabins and powered and non-powered sites available. It has a large playground, tennis courts and a pool for extra entertainment, as well as a well-maintained camp kitchen, toilet and shower blocks. If you’re looking at visiting BP dam give Corey and Nikki a call on (07) 4168 4746 to make a booking.

Lake Boondooma

Constructed in 1983, Boondooma Dam has a water capacity of 210,000 mega-litres and covers an area of 1900ha. Boondooma is a reasonably deep dam with an average depth of 10m. It’s fed by two major systems, those being the Stuart and the Boyne river catchments. Being a reasonably deep dam, Boondooma fishes well in both the warmer and cooler months and has the availability of some of the best sports fishing available in the South Burnett region. Regular stocks of Australian bass, silver perch and yellowbelly are readily catchable and the dam even has the added bonus of past stocks of saratoga and Murray cod.

Winter fishing on Boondooma is something that I always look forward to every year. Generally in summer, the fish like to suspend in the timbered arms of the dam and in the main basin. But in winter, the fish like to sit out on the flats and venture up shallow into the weed. This is where fishing becomes fun for me, as there’s a variety of methods that I like to use to tempt the fish to bite.

Most days fishing in winter I will start the day early and fish tight to the weed banks in any section of the dam that holds a good amount of weed. I will position myself just wide of the weed bed and begin casting either a small spinnerbait through the weed patches, or will cast a jerkbait in the same areas. The spinnerbait technique in the weed is a great way to tempt the fish as they position themselves in the weed pockets waiting to ambush an easy meal.

I will cast the spinnerbait in over the submerged weed patches and quickly work the spinnerbait back. The spinnerbait will frequently get caught up in the weed but a quick jerk of the rod tip should see it come free and start working again as you continue to wind. Eventually, a good bass should come from these pockets and smash your spinnerbait.

The jerkbait technique is a little more subtle and effective. I cast my jerkbait into the same areas around the submerged weed patches around the edge, and then wind it down and start a stiff twitching retrieve. Keep twitching the jerkbait though the weed and make sure you pause the bait for a few seconds every few twitches. If the bait gets hung up, give it a rip to get it out and continue the twitches. Most often, the bass will hit the jerkbait when it’s paused, so keep that drag fairly loose so that the line doesn’t pull away from the bass on the strike. It’s one of my favourite techniques during winter.

Later in the day when the temperature warms, I’ll move out wider into that 6-10m range and start looking for scattered fish sitting on the bottom. When I have located a showing of fish, I turn to tail-spinners and blades worked along the bottom using the following techniques.

The slow lift is a great technique to get those fish on the bottom to bite, because the lure is regularly in their face and in the strike zone. Make a long cast and let the lure sink to the bottom, and when you see the line go slack, begin to lift the tip of the rod until you feel the lure starting to slowly work. Lift the rod tip above your head, then let the lure sink back to the bottom. Keep doing this until you have the lure back below the boat or until you get a bite. Most bites will come when the blade or tail-spinner is fluttering back to the bottom, so make sure you maintain contact with the lure all the way back on your slow lift retrieve.

The burn and kill retrieve is also just as effective. Again, make a long cast and let your lure sink to the bottom, and when the line goes slack, start a fairly quick retrieve for about 7-10 turns of the handle. After ‘burning’ the lure, stop the lure dead and let it sink back to the bottom, and continue this routine. Most bites will come on the fall back to the bottom.

Just like BP, Boondooma offers some great baitfishing opportunities, especially around the timbered arms of the dam. Live shrimp are the better choice of bait and the great thing is they can be caught from the weed around the edges of the dam. Set a few opera house pots with some soap, cheese or meat as bait and check them regularly until you have enough bait. The best way to catch a feed with bait is to tie off from the trees in either the Stuart or the Boyne arms. Drop the bait to the bottom rigged on a 2/0 hook and small sinker and gently jig the bait on the bottom. You won’t have to wait long until you get a bite.

Camping and accommodation are available right on the water’s edge at Lake Boondooma Caravan and Recreation Park. The park also has fully furnished cabins, a bunkhouse and powered and non-powered sites available. It has a large playground, and picnic areas as well as a well-maintained camp kitchen, toilet and shower blocks and fish cleaning stations. If you’re looking at visiting Boondooma Dam, give Lorraine and Steve a call on (07) 4168 9694 to make a booking.

Gordonbrook Dam

Constructed in 1942 on the Stuart River system near Memerambi, Gordonbrook Dam is a relatively small dam that holds 6600 mega-litres of water with a surface area of 236ha. Gordonbrook was originally constructed to provide water for the air force training base during World War II. Now, Gordonbrook is a quiet place of peace and attracts anglers and birdwatchers alike.

The dam was originally stocked with bass and yellowbelly but the floods of 2011 saw the majority of the fish stocked in the dam move over the wall and back into the Stuart system. Since then, stocking groups have replenished stocks of bass and yellowbelly back into the dam. At this stage, the fish in the dam are now of legal length, averaging about 30-35cm. The great thing is that not all the previous stocks went over the wall, and bass of over 50cm have been caught in the past six months and some enormous yellowbelly of 60cm.

The best way to fish the dam is by kayak and it’s easily accessed by a small boat ramp at the picnic area. After launch, there are two ways you can go, right up towards the wall or left upriver into the winding Stuart River.

The dam itself is quite shallow and massive concentrations of bait (mainly bony bream and shrimp) can be located all the way through the dam and river. The best way to fish this dam is to imitate the bait, and in this case it would be throwing blades. Blades are great little lures that have a tight vibration on the retrieve and can also be jigged vertically. The best thing about them is they imitate a small bony perfectly. When I fish Gordonbrook, I generally throw a 1/4oz blade.

I will find a location, either in the timbered edges around the dam or out on the flats and make long casts and let the blade sink to the bottom. I use a couple of different retrieves, either a burn and kill retrieve or a slow retrieve with lots of hops off the bottom, and sometimes I simply jig off the bottom. The dam water is reasonably clear and generally I use colours like silver, gold and black.

Other lures do work in Gordonbrook, so if you’re not having any luck, make sure you try spinnerbaits around the weed and timber and also lipless cranks.

There is no camping at Gordonbrook, but there is a large picnic area with tables and a toilet block while you’re there for the day. Memerambi and Kingaroy are only a stone’s throw from this beautiful location.

Barambah Creek

Barambah Creek begins in the hills between Kingaroy and the Sunshine Coast just north of Gallangowan. The creek runs for roughly 240km and ends when it reaches the Burnett River just east of Gayndah. What makes Barambah creek so enticing is the sheer amount of fish that are in the system, as previous floods have pushed the water over the wall at Lake Barambah and the dam lost tens of thousands of fish to the Barambah Creek system. The great thing is we can all still access this system and the fish that were once in BP can now be caught in the creeks below, so all is not lost.

Fishing varies throughout the summer and winter months and different techniques are more effective than others. Summertime sees the reaction baits come out like spinnerbaits and crankbaits cast to the edge, but winter fishing requires a bit more tact than just fishing for a reaction bite.

Ficks Crossing is a great waterhole about 5km South of Murgon. Ficks has a car park and picnic areas for the family to enjoy and it’s nestled right on the banks of Barambah Creek. Ficks is best accessed by kayak and there is a great launching site just below the picnic area at the end of the fishing hole. There is quite a lot of water to fish as the creek gives you the opportunity to fish roughly 10km before you reach the next weir upstream. Barambah Creek is a great location to fish for bass, yellowbelly and silver perch. The creek itself is lined with bottlebrush and has plenty of structure to target. Big rock walls, laydowns, grass, weed and snags are some of the areas that should be targeted while you’re fishing there.

In winter, the fish in Ficks tend to sit quite close to the bottom and become somewhat lazy when it comes to eating. Though over the years, I have found that they can be caught quite well with a little work and wit. The best way to target fish in winter is to hop dark blades near the bottom, especially around structure. Look for big logs or laydowns coming off the bank and imagine where the tops of the sunken trees would be under the water. Cast out or drop a black or purple blade down and simply hop it off the bottom. The fish will be lurking around the structure, so take the time to work the snag properly before moving on. On the odd occasion, you will come in contact with a big eel or two but this technique in winter is deadly on the more desirable species.

Silverleaf Crossing is another great location along Barambah Creek to try. Located about 20km west of the town of Murgon, the fishing is almost identical to Ficks crossing and the same techniques are used during winter. Blades hopped or jigged around structure are deadly. The creek is best accessed by kayak, and the water to explore is quite expansive with plenty of structure and areas to fish.

There are access points to Silverleaf at the crossing on Silverleaf Road or just above Silverleaf Weir itself. Take some time to look on Google and make sure you know where both locations are. Make sure you take a close look when you get there to make access easier for you.

Stuart River

The Stuart River begins below Mount Kiangarow within the Bunya Mountains National Park and flows north through the outskirts of Kingaroy, before flowing west through Gordonbrook and past the town of Proston. The river enters Lake Boondooma where it reaches the junction of the Boyne River and becomes the Burnett River. The Stuart offers some great fishing opportunities, but also flows through private land. The best way to access the Stuart is through the following locations and I would recommend fishing by kayak as the water’s edges can be overgrown and hard to fish on foot.

Memerambi can be accessed by Gordonbrook Road crossing, 7km west of Memerambi.

Chinchilla can be accessed at Wondai Road Crossing, which is 20km west of Tingoora.

Finally, Proston Weir on The Weir Rd, 3km south of Proston will also offer you access to the Stuart River.

Winter fishing on the Stuart can produce some seriously big bass as the fish that escaped Gordonbrook a few years ago are still in the system and still very healthy. The best lures to use are small deep diving hardbodies around snags, plastics rigged with beetle spins, small spinnerbaits and vertically jigged dark blades around underwater structure.

Barkers Creek

Barkers Creek is a small winding creek that begins at the base of the Bunya Mountains National Park and meanders its way north for approximately 100km. Barkers runs past the town ship of Nanango and is a feeder creek to BP. Just below the dam wall of BP it ends when it enters Barambah creek. This creek system is quite small and tight and holds a tremendous amount of structure. The best holes in the system are located below and a kayak option would be the best to fish from.

Barkers Creek Flat Weir is 5km west of Nanango on Mcauley-Roome Road.

Mondure Crossing is another good access point and is 8km north of Nanango.

Broadwater Camping Reserve also offers some great access to this system and sits 15km north of Nanango.

Barkers Creek has produced some of the best fishing sessions that I can remember, particularly early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Surface fishing generally goes quiet over the winter months, but because Barkers has so much cover the fish still hit the surface through winter as well. Small hardbodies, plastics rigged with beetle spins and lipless cranks are always a popular choice of lure when I fish this system as well.

Plan well and good luck

So there you have it, the information that I have given above is the most comprehensive winter fishing options that I can give you for the South Burnett region. Please be mindful that if you’re travelling a distance to come to the above mentioned locations, be sure to do your research first and know exactly where you’re going.

Accommodation and shopping can be easily found in any of the major towns that you’re fishing near and if you’re going to attack the dams, make sure you stay at the parks. I also encourage you to practice catch and release, as these locations should be shared for future generations of anglers to come. I hope this helps improve your fishing in the South Burnett over the winter months.

Hopefully I’ll see you out on the water.

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