Wintertime blues before the boom
  |  First Published: August 2016

Winter has taken its toll on the freshwater fishery. The lakes have finally cooled down and the fish must be feeling the effects. While they can still be caught, the action is much slower now and you will have to put in some work to turn their heads. They’re not impossible, although on the bass scene some days it may appear so. This is pretty typical for this time of year. Some days they eat, some days they don’t!

With spring just around the corner, we can expect to go from slow fishing to sensational and this can happen as if somebody has just flicked a switch.

Bass are usually first to respond to the change in season. In the dams, they don’t breed, but at this time of year they school up and tend to feed ravenously. While they are tough, slower presentations like soft plastics and ice jigs will entice the bites. Once they fire up, it’s hard to beat tail-spinners, blades and vibes.

Golden perch will still be a little slow, but there are a few spots where they have been biting lures and baits all winter.

Cod are on the prowl and tolerate the cooler temperatures better, so now is a great time to put your beanie on and toss some bigger lures for these fish. Look to lakes like Leslie, Glenlyon and Coolmunda or head across the border to where the monsters have been chewing topwaters, wakebaits and swimbaits for the last few months, Copeton Dam.

Barra will be tough to fool this month, but if you time your trips around the better, warmer weather, you’ll greatly improve your chances. Next month will see them fire up a notch and the action will only improve the following month.

So, while things may be slower now, great fishing is just around the corner. Dust off your rods, polish your reels and change those rusty hooks. The freshwater will have plenty to offer next month. Until then, let’s see how and where you can get a fishing fix. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!

Closest Town: Crows Nest

Cressbrook has been one of the more reliable lakes for bass fishing over winter. The schooling fish seem to be showing up more widespread on the deeper points and flats all over the lake. Having more than one school to target has been a blessing, as sitting on the same school of fish in this lake tends to shut them down.

Spinnerbaits and blades have been accounting for a few fish around the edges of the dam, but the better numbers are coming from schools. Ice jigs are a good way to fool these fish when they are reluctant to hit faster presentations. If they are a little more active, I’d be reaching for a tail-spinner or soft vibe to try and weed out the smaller fish.

Look for fish in areas like the main points in the dam’s basin, Bass Bay (between the boat ramps and pump tower), Deer Island (opposite the pump tower) and out from the toilet points up both arms. Use this as a guide as the fish have been turning up in different areas, which is a great change for Cressbrook.

Sounding in 7-10m of water should reveal the schooling fish. When they are up off the bottom, experiment with a range of lures. If you see them sitting hard on the bottom switch to an ice jig, a small blade (using small hops) or a deeply presented fly.

The quality of the bass has been getting better and better. While most are still around the legal size of 30cm, there have been plenty caught over 40cm in length. These bigger fish are sometimes in a school of similar sized fish or out cruising on their own.

Lure trollers have had a lot of luck on the bigger bass, which suggests they are a little more scattered. Deep diving lures like the Blitz Baga, Golden Child and Little Rippa are ideal to target these scattered big fish.

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 until 6pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Somerset fish are up to their old tricks again. Just when it looked like they would bite reasonably well all winter, they have given us a demonstration of their lockjaw. In typical Somerset fashion, the bass will bite one day and not the next, although it does seem the days they do bite well are becoming less common. This isn’t out of the ordinary for this time of year, and on most days the fish can seem impossible to tempt. Come spring, when the switch flicks, this will all change and they will start feeding well again.

An early morning start and braving the cold is your best chance of turning their heads on the tough days. It is not uncommon to start the day with a flurry of fish before they get really tough to entice. The middle section of the main basin has been holding fish for over a month now. Look around the flats and drop offs from Bay 13 to Kirkleigh. The schools have been quite good once found, which means there will be quite a bit of barren water to rule out before you start fishing.

Once those bass are found, try hopping a tail-spinner or vibe through them. The reaction bite is usually an early morning thing and a good way to get a few fish in a row. As the action slows, move off the school and try to find another at least 100m away, as they can also turn it on if you show them the first lures they have seen for the day.

When all is slow, you can either pack up and go home or put in the hard work to tempt them into biting. Ice jigging is one of the best methods, apart from using live shrimp. Keep jigging the bottom around areas where the fish are sitting tight to the lake bed. Occasionally the fish will fire up in windows and take other lures and it may be worth staying until late in the afternoon to see if they have another feed before dark. All you can do is keep a lure in the water and fish with confidence in the hope they will switch on.

Lure trollers are still able to manage bass and the occasional golden perch. The same mid-basin flats are ideal for lure trolling. Pushing lures down deep in the fish is the trick to getting the bites. The Little Rippa and Blitz Baga are two of the best lures around for this style of fishing. Colour does matter and some days the fish will only eat one lure out of a spread of three. Make sure you carry lures with yellow or chartreuse, brown, black and purple and mix it up to find the best one.

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

Moogerah is going to be a bit tougher this month. Schooling bass will still be found around the lake. Try to locate them at the start of the timber and inside it on the flats. At the wall end of the lake, the Spit and the flats to the east are also worth a look.

Sounding around in 7-11 metres of water should reveal some fish. It can also pay to move in closer to any prominent weed edges and sound around the base of the weed where it drops off into the deeper water.

It will be a guessing game as to what these fish will eat. If they don’t respond to reaction lures like soft vibes, blade baits, spoons and tail-spinners, make the switch to ice jigs and soft plastics. When it is tough, slow it down and see if keeping it in front of their face longer is enough to make them bite your lure.

Closet Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

Soft plastics and suspending jerkbaits are about all you’ll need at Maroon Dam. These two lure styles continue to catch the bass around Maroon’s weed beds. Earlier in the day, jerkbaits fished around the face of the weed and inside any deeper pockets are a fun way to fish. Allow the lure to pause between twitches and jerks as this stop-start action is the key ingredient to switching on the bass in the cooler water.

Soft plastic anglers can downsize their jigheads to less than 1/8oz and try their luck popping plastics through the weed. This ploy can work well in the mornings and afternoons in the shallower areas, but as the light level increases, the fish tend to go deeper. You can persist with the same method and allow the lure longer to sink or target fish outside the weed.

Schooling bass can often be found where the weed bed ends and meets the lake floor. If you add to this a point or nearby drop off, there is even more chance the fish will be there.

Slow rolling soft plastics on 1/4-1/2oz jigheads through these fish should get the desired response. If this fails, switch to the gun cold water lure, the ice jig.
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The action at Cooby has been pretty slow. A few golden perch are being caught on saltwater yabbies. The mornings and afternoons have been the best times to try your luck. The better fishing has been taking place in deeper water around 13m deep.

Lure trollers and casters haven’t had a lot to report. If you are working lures around the edges, it may be worthwhile forgetting the golden perch and targeting Murray cod. There aren’t heaps around, but the few that are will be more willing candidates for lure munching. In the deeper areas, stick to hopping small blades like the ZX40 for the golden perch.

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, 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

Leslie still remains one of the better winter fisheries. The golden perch have been still taking lures with some regularity. Hopping vibes and small blades has accounted for quite a few golden perch in the main basin of the lake. The deeper water here and up past the Washpool Reserve seems to be the most reliable are.

Bait anglers are still catching a mixed bag of silver and golden perch from boats and off the bank. Last month a legal sized cod was landed on a frozen shrimp. If you plan on targeting cod, lures are probably a better option than bait. Another nice cod also fell to a spinnerbait. You can cast these around the rocks and edges or just slow troll them with the electric motor in about 3m of water. Cover plenty of water in the hope you drag it past the nose of a big hungry green fish.

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 10- minute drive from the dam and you can pick up any supplies you might need.

Closest Town: Inglewood

There haven’t been many reports coming in from Coolmunda. Due to the cold weather, a lot of anglers have been a bit too uncomfortable to take on the challenge. The golden perch will take frozen saltwater yabbies, but if I was heading there, I’d be chasing the cod.

With a lot of focus on Copeton Dam over the last few months, Coolmunda’s big Murray cod should have had a bit of a rest. We are now moving into the time when the dam went crazy last year with heaps of big fish boated. The water level has changed significantly to last year, so the habitat will also have changed a little.

Try casting and trolling around any deeper timbered areas or along the old riverbed drop offs. Cod love structure, so keep your eyes glued to the sounder for any sign of sunken logs or tree roots. When trolling, move up onto the flats out of the creek bed in the vicinity of any snag areas.

If you can find any significant hideouts up on the flats, you can almost guarantee there will be a cod living there. Try working in 3-5m of water. When trolling, big hardbodies with strong action get best results. Shorten the line up if the lure is ploughing in to the bottom too much so that it is thumping away just out of the mud.

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.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

The fishing is likely to be a bit tougher this month. Bass and golden perch can still be caught but you’ll need to work that little bit harder. Boondooma does present a lot of opportunities for catching fish with several techniques worth exploring.

In the timbered arms, spinnerbaits are standout lure. Casting around the edges and working the lures back in up to 5m of water will see a few golden perch and bass loading up.

In the basin of the lake, the edges are also worth a shot. Suspending minnows and jerkbaits are performing well. Deeper divers are ideal and even though you are fishing to the edge, keep an eye on the sounder. Often schooling fish will move up to the shallows to feed. If you have fish in deeper water under the boat on the sounder, there’s a better chance of finding them up in the shallows nearby.

Schooling bass will also be found in the lake’s second basin. Areas like the Junction and Pelican Point are definitely worth investigating. The bass do move about so a slow sound around the banks and point in 6-9m of water should reveal a few schools.

If the bass are up off the bottom, try your luck casting reaction lures like soft vibes and tail-spinners. If they are hugging the bottom, persist with ice jigs and try to annoy them into biting. When the fish school up thick below the boat and refuse to eat, a soft plastic rolled through them can do the trick. Small grubs worked vertically are ideal for this technique. Rig them on a 1/4oz jighead and wind them dead slow up through the fish and then drop back to the bottom and repeat. Switched on grubbers watch the sounder closely to see their lure going up and down and watch how the fish follow and respond to it. Sometimes they can even predict the second a fish is going to bite it!

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

Bjelke is still fishing pretty tough. Bass and golden perch are still being caught but it takes quite a bit of effort. Some are coming from the deeper water around Bass Point and the nearby hump. These fish will eat small blades and ice jigs.

Around the edges of the lake, spinnerbaits can be tossed to the shoreline and wound back. The action will be slow, but you stand a chance of nailing a big golden perch or a few bass.

Next month, this should all change and the fishing will pick up. It’s unreal how quickly things can turn around from being dead to going nuts. You don’t want to miss it when it does, so get the boat ready.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into Bass 2 Barra. The store stocks 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 at 119 Youngman Street Kingaroy. Matthew Mott also runs fishing charters on the dams and you can reach him through the store for bookings and enquiries on (07) 41627555.

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.

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