Rain Brings Bass and Barra
  |  First Published: March 2008

Over the past couple of months there’s been a lot of water flowing around the state. Some lakes have received the benefits of this with a much-needed top up. Some have roared over out of control, while others have missed out all together.

If you’re a freshwater angler, there’s nothing like fishing a dam that’s just risen. Lush green banks all the way to the water’s edge and submerged snags and vegetation invite you to make your next cast. A fresh can really get the fish moving too. Even though there’s extra water between the fish, a rise normally signals the start of better fishing. The time at which this hot action occurs will vary from lake to lake and there are many influencing factors. In some instances the lake will fire during the rise or after the level stabilizes. Another scenario is a bite that takes place a month or two after the water has settled. It’s this action we can expect over the coming month. The boost of nutrients should really have given the whole lakes’ ecosystem a boost and the predators should now be keen to feed.

Some lakes have poured over their spillways, allowing fish to exit their dam with a reasonable chance of survival in the rivers and creeks below. I’ve heard a few reports of big bass being caught in the wild. I wonder if any barra will show up in the north. If you have any stories or information about this type of fishing, I’d love to hear them. As more rain approaches, it’s time to send off these reports. Their accuracy will depend on water levels being influenced by the rain. You can always reach me at my email address --e-mail address hidden-- with any of your freshwater fishing reports. The more information I receive, the more accurate my reports will be in the future. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Crows Nest, Toowoomba

Having fished at Cressbrook for many years, I have seen a number of patterns and trends take place. These seem to repeat themselves through the seasons. It’s great to see so many bass whacking surface lures again. Cressbrook’s bass once had a reputation for loving surface offerings. Their surface feeding frenzies have died down over the dry years but in the last couple of months, the action has really picked up.

Most of the fish taken on surface are small but the thrill of seeing the fish repeatedly strike the lure until it hooks up is enough to make it exciting. Mornings and afternoons are the best times to try topwater lures. Occasionally the bite period will continue right through the day, encouraged by cloud cover and rainy periods.

When fishing surface lures, most of the bass will be caught from the lake’s edges. A few will take lures right out from the banks in open water but targeting these fish will produce less action. It’s a good idea to always keep an eye on the water. Spotting feeding fish or disturbed baitfish is a sure sign there are active predators nearby. An accurate cast placed past the disturbance will often result in a hookup within seconds of the lure making its way into the fishes’ territory.

Cressbrook’s fish aren’t fussy about the type of surface lure they are presented with. They will eat stickbaits, poppers, fizzers and wakebaits, though some brands work better than others. The most important thing is to use a stop start retrieve. Every time the lure is moved a metre or two, allow it to pause for at least a couple of seconds before continuing the retrieve. Most hits will come close to the lake’s edge or in the first half of the retrieve. Concentrate efforts around any form of submerged structure such as roots, sticks or even weed. On the more open banks, work areas where the bottom contours change. Regardless of the size of the feature, bass will feed more actively around it.

Most anglers visiting Cressbrook will have difficulty catching the bigger fish that live there. You can play a numbers game and sort through undersized fish until a quality one happens along or specifically target bigger fish. Some switched on anglers have been successfully targeting the lake’s bigger bass by opting to use bigger lures. My nephew, Adrian Ehrlich, has had quite a bit of success by tossing 6” jerkbaits to the lake’s edges. He has found patches of weed holding bigger fish that seem to respond well to his bigger than normal presentation. If you’re willing to give this type of fishing a try, Rapala Husky Jerks and Bombers can be used to entice the strikes. I’ve seen plenty of bass cough up garfish that were just as big and had the same profile as these lures.

Around a month ago, there was a report of a couple of anglers scoring some big bass by trolling lures in the middle of the lake to suspended fish. Rather than using smaller bass sized lures, they opted for 5m diving 125mm RMG Scorpions. Who would have thought a barra lure could be used to successfully catch bass, when other lures running at the same depth had failed? It wasn’t a fluke or one-off occurrence. The guys managed about four bass all over 45cm – quality fish for Lake Cressbrook.

If you’re not keen to experiment and play around with some of these new ideas in search of quality bass then you can opt for a more proven method; trolling Mask Vibe Jackalls. Place a long cast behind the boat and vary the troll speed using an electric motor. The speed of the boat will determine the depth that the lures are able to sink to. Keep a close eye on the sounder to effectively fish the depth the fish are holding.

Don’t forget your $2 entry fee at the gate. This allows you to access the boat ramp, BBQ, picnic and playground facilities. The ramp is still in good condition with gravel all the way into the water. Take care when navigating, as the dam is lower than ever so new hazards could be emerging. For an update on the fishing and boat launching or to stock up on all your fishing supplies, call in and see the guys at Fish’n’Bits in Alderly Street Toowoomba.

Closest Town: Boonah

Lake Moogerah is showing positive signs of a comeback after its rise and fish kill late last year. The lake water quality and clarity have improved greatly. Now at a stable 16% capacity, the lake is again popular and busy with skiers. It is difficult to forecast the fishing throughout March but if a recent trip is anything to go by, I have good news. Using my new Westside Marine supplied Hummingbird 777c colour sounder, I concentrated around the dam wall area and upper Coulson Creek. I not only sounded out good numbers of baitfish but also caught several golden perch and small to average sized bass.

Launching at the lake is now from the concrete ramp. If you are heading to Moogerah for a fish, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail to let me know how you go at --e-mail address hidden-- – Chris Galligan

Closest Towns: Boonah, Rathdowney

Lake Maroon’s latest rise to 53% capacity has seen a large boost in popularity amongst fishermen and water sports enthusiasts. The higher water level gives anglers a good opportunity to fish new areas and different techniques.

Water clarity is still not 100% and a small algae bloom has occurred. Fishing the lake two to three times a week has given me a good opportunity to follow fish movements and habits during and after the inflow. Run-off flowed into the lake continuously for approximately four weeks. While this was occurring large numbers of golden and silver perch made their way upstream into Burnett Creek to the cooler water to spawn. Literally hundreds of average sized bass also made their way upstream to hold in an area only 100m long and 50m wide. As the run off slowed, fish species scattered and then returned to typical fish holding areas.

Fishing to edges around the sunken brush and grass are the most exciting and best areas to focus on. Reaction baits will be the best option throughout March. Spinnerbaiting the edges can produce good results. Try single blade baits for super shallow work along the tapering flooded grass banks and tandem blades on the steeper walls.

Shallow and medium running crankbaits will definitely produce good numbers of fish. Try using Ecogear’s CK40 or Jackall Bros D Cherry and DD Cherry. Two techniques stand out when using these lures.

The snap retrieve can be used effectively to fish the flooded grass especially when the bass are holding shallow but not responding to a topwater presentation. A snap retrieve involves diving the crankbait just under the surface of the water and letting it float back to the surface. The diving action is best imparted to the lure with a downward motion (snap) of the rod tip. Take up any slack line in between snaps.

A lipping retrieve is a technique best used for cover cranking. Lipping is when the rod is swept sideways to dive the lure to its depth and swim it back to the boat. Keep a tight line on the lure after each sweep. Lipping gives the angler plenty of control over the lure. With this technique, a floating crankbait can be walked through any form of structure. Lipping triggers plenty of strikes after the pause between rod sweeps.

Boats can now be launched from the concrete boat ramp, though there isn’t much room for car and trailer parking close to the water. Considering you’ll be competing with fishermen and water skiers for a space it’s a good idea to get to the dam early. – Chris Galligan

Closest Town: Gold Coast

Massive amounts of water flowed into the Hinze at the start of the year. Water poured over the spillway and it’s quite likely that some of the dam’s bigger bass made their way into the river below. The good news is that plenty of fish have been caught since the rise. Bigger fish have been elusive but there are still a few turning up. Last winter was the time when the lake’s big bass were most active. So until this winter, we’ll be left wondering how many were lost in the flood. Anglers visiting the lake haven’t been disappointed with the numbers of fish caught in recent times. Sessions with 20-30 fish caught are common.

Smaller bass have been smacking surface lures in the early morning. These lures can be worked around any flooded vegetation or features in the shallow water at the dam’s edge. Later in the day, vibration lures have been doing the trick. Most of the bass are holding close to the bottom in 4-6m of water. Once fish are located on a sounder, lures like Jackall Masks and TN60’s or beetle spins fitted with 3” Gulp Minnow Grubs can be cast to the schooled fish. An alternative is to troll the same depth of water. Select a speed on your electric motor to keep the lures as close to the bottom as possible.

A license is needed to fish this electric motor only dam. Licenses are available from the council office in Davenport Street, the Kiosk at the lake or the ranger. Note that all outboards must be removed from boats that are fishing this lake.

Launching boats is a bit difficult. There are launch points on the eastern and western sides. On the eastern side a road enters the water. It has gravel edges and makes a reasonable boat ramp. Parking spaces are limited so try to get there early.

For all your tackle needs, call in and see the guys at Tackle World in Nind Street, Southport. The store carries one of the best ranges of bass, freshwater and saltwater gear around. The guys at the store will be able to help you out with a few tips and give you the most up to date information.

Closest Town/s: Imbil, Gympie

After a rise of around 20% Borumba’s fishing has really fired up. It’s been a great year for this dam and the action has just got even better.

Saratoga are slurping poppers from the surface in the mornings – and they aren’t fussy about the type of topwater lure either. Scum Frogs, stickbaits and cupped face poppers are all drawing strikes. An important thing to remember is saratoga have bony mouths so sharp hooks are essential. The upper reaches of the timbered arms are where most of this surface action is happening. Look for shallow water of less than two metres deep that is laden with snags and these fish won’t be too far away.

Stacks of bass should be holding along the steep banks in the main basin of the dam. The steep rock wall on the right hand side as you head up the lake is one of the productive areas. Lure casters can focus on these bass using a Mask Vibe Jackall and a hopping retrieve. Hop the lure each time it reaches the bottom and follow the contour into the deeper water. The most productive depth is between 3-7m. Once the lure sinks too deep, wind it slowly back in to try and tempt any suspended fish hanging close to the steep bank. Bass will also be found around features like bays and points in the main dam area.

Soon, the bass will migrate back into the timbered areas. Good numbers of fish will probably start to show up on the flats around the first bends in the Kingham and Yabba arms over the next couple of months. Again, hopping Mask Vibe Jackalls is a proven technique in this area.

Mark Pertot has had plenty of success fishing bass tournaments over the years. If you’re after a few tips on fishing Borumba or any of South East Queensland’s bass dams, he has loads of knowledge. Most days you’ll find Mark working at Davo’s Bait and Tackle. Davo’s stock a great range of fishing gear that caters for both fresh and saltwater anglers. The store can be found in the Homemaker Centre in Noosaville.

Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

After flooding and losing many of its mature fish, MacDonald is already showing signs of a recovery. Small bass were common after the dam dumped water and mature bass over the spillway. It looked like the big fish were lost.

Now the water has settled, better quality bass are starting to bite more often. The bigger 50cm models have been elusive or thinned out after the dam ran over but there are fish over 40cm being caught. Fishing to the edges in the dam wall area with vibration lures has accounted for most fish. An early start or a late session on the dam would be the ideal time to try some surface lures. These lures may be just what are needed to tempt those bigger fish.

Noosa River

The upper reaches of the Noosa River have always held a good population of wild bass. The area known as The Everglades is a spot that regularly produces. In the past, the bigger bass have been just a touch over the 40cm mark. This was the case for years until just recently when loads of bigger bass started showing up. These bass have been up to and over the magical 50cm size.

These wild monster bass showed up just after rain caused flooding of the river and creeks in the area. It’s quite likely they escaped from a farm dam somewhere above the river.

As with any wild fish in such a pristine environment, they are best released when caught. These type of fish need to be protected to preserve this type of fishing for the future.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

The action at Cooby Dam has died off over the past month. There are still some good sessions to be had but the fishing has been very hot and cold. Lure fishing results have suffered the most while bait fishing continues to produce a fair amount of fish.

Trolling small 3m diving lures, TN60 and Mask Vibe Jackalls along the edges to the drop off and up the main channel will score a few fish. Golden perch will be scattered right through this water. When luring, the best action normally occurs just before dark. Murray cod can be lured right through the middle of the day but they are a much harder target species than the golden perch.

Casting Mask Vibe Jackalls and hopping them back across the bottom can produce goldens and cod. The middle of the dam out from the buoy line at the wall seems to be one of the most productive areas for this type of fishing. If this technique fails, it’s probably a good idea to consider another option, as it will work one day but not the next.

Live shrimp are the number one bait at Cooby. You can also use worms or frozen prawns. Fish’n’Bits tackle store in Alderly Street Toowoomba sell all these bait and of course all the lures you could possibly need. When bait fishing, target fish close to the drop off to the deeper water. The big areas of flats such as those out from the boat ramp are more of a hit and miss area.

Only electric motors can be used on Cooby although an outboard can be left on the boat. The boat launching is pretty good from a temporary gravel ramp. There is a boom gate at the entry to the dam that requires $2 in coins to open.

Closest Town: Inglewood

After the dam rose to about 80%, the fishing has really suffered at Coolmunda. It’s likely the fish that were easy to find near the drop off to the old creek bed now move all over the dam. With freshly flooded areas and heaps of food they have had good reason to spread out all over the place. It seems like some locations are still holding good numbers of fish. Some anglers have bagged out on 20 golden perch while others are missing out altogether.

As the dam settles down a bit more, the fish will be forced to regroup into tighter schools. When this happens it will be easier to catch more fish once they are located. Although there are fish being caught on bait and lures, lures may be the better option. Trolling lures gives you the ability to cover a lot of water. This is a good practice, especially when the fish are spread out. Choose lures that dive close to the bottom and have a strong vibrating action. Trolling lures will also increase the chance of hooking a Murray cod.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only 1-2km away from the lake. With Easter well on its way, this would be a great place to consider for the break. The park is off the Cunningham Highway and 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. It’s the ideal place to relax with the family while being able to catch a few fish as well. 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
Bjelke Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

A couple of months ago, Bjelke rose from 2% to 4%. This puts it at the same level it would have been at around a year ago. A 2% increase might seem insignificant to us but to the fish it has doubled the water volume they had to live. This will create a more comfortable environment and should give them more food for the next few months. More food should mean the fish are more actively feeding and the results will be some hot sessions.

Trolling lures in the deeper water between the two boat ramps will produce both bass and golden perch. Spinnerbaits and Jackalls are the best option. Only last month, 20-25 fish per day were common.

Fishing from the bank is a good option. Bjelke is one of the few lakes that consistently deliver mixed bags for shore-based anglers. Eel-tailed catfish, bass and golden perch can all be caught. Prawns and worms make good baits or you can opt to cast and retrieve lures. Like trolling, Jackalls and spinnerbaits are the most reliable lures to use.

The far boat ramp is again accessible from the road that heads towards the dam wall. The gravelly banks near The Quarry make launching boats easy. Even larger boats can be launched with a 2WD vehicle. Once on the lake navigate with caution, as there are some dangerously shallow areas.

To check up on the fishing or boat launching, give Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy a phone call on (07) 4162 7555.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

After both the Boyne and Stuart arms ran, the dam rose about 3%. The water clarity should be back to normal this month and the fishing should be good.

The majority of fish will be caught in the deeper water of the main basin. Here bass will be suspended or holding close to the bottom in the deep water. When these fish are found on the sounder, they can be presented with lures like Mask Vibes or soft plastics. Casting generally works best but a slow troll using an electric motor can also do the trick.

Golden perch will be found closer to the banks. Trolling deep diving lures around the rocky points is a proven method of luring these fish. You can also anchor up in the same areas in 5-7m of water to bait fish. Live shrimps,and worms as well as frozen prawns are good baits. The odd bass and eel-tailed catfish will fall for these as well.

Now that the water is slightly higher, it might be worth a run up to either of the timbered arms. The start of the trees should be holding some goldens and bass. Spinnerbaits or bait fishing the area will soon reveal if the fish are there.

As the flooded vegetation dies off, the fish will return to the shallower water around the edges. Around the same time weed beds will start to develop and these will hold fish in the shallower water all day long. The better the weed growth, the more chance the fish will be present. To fish the weed, cast Jackalls and spinnerbaits.

Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy can look after all of your fishing needs. Call in and see the guys. The store is in Youngman Street and the guys can help you out and offer some useful advice. Bass to Barra Marine can also be found in Dalby. This shop stocks a great range of quality gear for bass and barra fishing. It’s located in Shop 2 Drayton Street so be sure to check it out.

For accommodation at the lake, give the managers a call on (07) 4168 9694. Boondooma has excellent amenities, bunk houses, cabins powered sites and camping facilities that will make your stay enjoyable. Boats can be launched below the far boat ramp from a reasonably hard bank.

Closest Town: Maryborough

Lenthalls has received some water and the level is above the old high water mark. There has been an extension on the dam wall so it will take more water to take it to full capacity. The stained water was yielding a few fish last month and as they clear, luring should get even better.

Bass have been the main species targeted. These fish will take spinnerbaits, Jackalls and surface lures fished around the edges of the dam. If schooled fish are found, try using soft plastics.

After the barra kill last winter, the barra have been quiet. Some smaller specimens around 40cm have been turning up. Even these fish won’t take long to reach legal size. Within a year or two, the barra fishing may take off again.

Closest Town: Monto

The water level at Cania is still low. The water rose about 2ft earlier in the year, which is a bonus. Even a small rise like this can get the fish more active.

Bass have been common on both lures and bait. The humble worm will even account for some of these fish. They will prefer live shrimp but these can be difficult to acquire. For the next best thing, substitute with a packet of frozen prawns.

Trolling lures is a great way to cover the water and look for fish. At its current level, it doesn’t take long to explore most of the water with trolled lures. Once fish are located, you can concentrate on that area. Bass are a schooling fish and where one is caught, there is likely to be many more. Small profile lures that dive 4-7m deep will work in the right zone. An alternative that will usually out fish anything else is to troll TN60 Jackalls. Here the speed is important. A bucket towed beside the boat will slow an outboard propelled craft down to a more suitable speed. The better option is to control the speed of the boat with an electric motor.

The Lake Cania Fishing Classic is on the 1-2 March. With around $10 000 dollars in cash, trophies and prizes to give away it should be a great weekend. For more information on the Classic you can call Graham on 0419 781803.

To find out more about the lake or to book some great accommodation nearby, call the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park on (07) 4167 8188. There are excellent facilities including camp sites, cabins, playground and a swimming pool. It’s worth a visit to the park just to see some of the rare and beautiful wildlife that regularly drop in and live in the area.

Closest Towns: Gin Gin, Bundaberg

A small rise in water level will keep the dam at a more stable level even though water is being released periodically for irrigation purposes. The rise had dirtied the upper reaches of some of the arms but the barra have still been willing to bite. It didn’t take long for this fresh water to warm up to a suitable temperature. In places the shallows may even be too hot. A couple of degrees either side of 30C is ideal. Above or below may call for either a change in location or a change in the fishing methods used.

The dam has been tough but still anglers are encountering fish all over the lake. Most people will have some action in the way of strikes, boils, hookups and bust offs. The dam can be challenging and actually landing a fish is very rewarding. There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of landing a fish. A good start is using 50lb braided line that has good abrasion resistance – I like lines like Stren Braid and Fins. Attach a length of 60-80lb leader to this, I only use Vanish or Stren Fluorocarbon line. This has superior abrasion resistance against rasping mouths, sharp gill spikes and punishing snags. This system will greatly increase you chances. I fish it on a 6’6” Berkley Dropshot rod fitted with an Abu Revo reel. This combo allows me to apply heaps of drag from the reel. With some help from the thumb, you can push the 50lb line right to its limit.

Hook upgrades are important when pulling so hard on a fish. Remove old hooks and rings and replace them with heavy duty split rings and suitably sized Owner ST66 treble hooks. If you adopt this system there is a far greater chance that you will fight it to the boat on most occasions. The other option to take is the complete opposite. A soft approach will also land barra but I think it’s far more risky given the territory the fish live in.

If you’re on your way to Monduran, be sure to call in at Foxies Barra Pro in Gin Gin. The store has all the gear you’ll need. The staff here will be able to give you a few tips and steer you in the right direction.

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 the houseboats and boat hire. Bookings with Guide Lines which is a guiding service specializing in Lake Monduran can also be made through the store. The kiosk’s number is (07) 41573881.

Capricornia Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Despite plenty of rain in the general area, Awoonga didn’t receive the benefits – though there have still been plenty of barra on the bite. Most fish are taken around the full moon period although this is the time most anglers are on the water.

Casting soft plastics takes fish year round. These versatile lures can be used in different depths of water to suit the mood of the fish. The big weed bed before the end of the run up to Dingo Island is holding plenty of barra. Most of the barra are 80-95cm in length. Watch the sounder to find submerged weed. The weed that is around 2m deep below the boat is ideal. There are big flats of weed that fit this description. If you don’t score any barra buzzing plastics over the top of the weed, move to where weed drops off into deeper water. Position the boat in the open water and cast back on top of the submerged weed beds. Work the plastics fast to the edge and then slow the retrieve as the weed drops into deep water.

Awoonga’s stand out plastic has been the 5” Berkley Mullet. When fished alongside other pre-rigged plastics they have been the most successful. These lures can be used straight from the pack, though you might consider adding a stinger hook to increase hookups. Gamakatsu Siwash hooks in 3/O and 4/O are excellent for this. The eye of the stinger is threaded over the plastic’s hook and held in place with a soft glow bead or tiny piece of milk bottle plastic.

The mass of weed that extends on the surface out from the point of Dingo Island might be worth a frogging session. Soft plastic frog imitations like Zoom Horny Toads and Berkley 4” Kicker Frogs can be rigged on TT Snagless Weight System hooks. The result is a weedless lure than can work through weed on the surface. Use long casts across weedy pockets and skim the lure back along the top. Hookups are the easy part – just try landing them.

Central Coast
Proserpine (Peter Faust)
Closest Town: Proserpine

Lake Proserpine has had a significant rise. The water level is at around 40%. Unfortunately the rise didn’t stir the barra up too much. There are fish to be caught but the action is quite slow.

The main basin has been regularly producing barra when trolling deep running lures. The 5m Poltergeist in the purple dazzle colour is a proven fish taker. Since there was a rise, the area around the dam wall may hold better numbers of fish. Barra have the urge to swim downstream during a flood and congregate around the wall when they can go no further.

Shallower water around points and timbered shallows will also produce a few fish for lure casters. The 110mm Slick Rig in the evil minnow colour and Rapala 14cm shallow X-Raps are ideal for this work.

Lindsay Dobe runs charters on Lake Proserpine. Lindsay also owns Proserpine Bait and Tackle, which stocks all the gear to successfully target the lake’s big barra. You can call in to the store on the highway in Proserpine when you are on your way to the dam or give them a call on (07) 4945 4641.

New England Ranges (N.S.W.)
Copeton and Pindari
Closest Towns: Inverell, Ashford

The upper reaches of Pindari dam are producing quite a few nice Murray cod. Look for the thickest timber and cast right into the heart of it. Big Mumblers have been the standout lure.

Copeton will produce both cod and golden perch for lure casters. Copeton is the home to some huge fish. Purple spinnerbaits are a great option. It’s also worth trying some in Spinners and Mumblers.

For information about fishing and camping at Copeton Dam, contact the Copeton Waters State Park Administration Centre on (02) 6723 6269.

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