Fishing in peace this month
  |  First Published: February 2017

Christmas holidays seem to draw people out by the thousands to our most popular lakes and rivers. I can’t say I blame them. Our waterways provide excellent outdoor fun and great camping opportunities. I braved the crowds on Leslie Dam just after Christmas and it was pretty hectic out there. Up the back of the dam, where it is less than 100m wide, the water skiers were doing slalom (zigzag) runs through the lure trollers. It was almost just as busy in the main basin and the banks were littered with cars, people and a tent city.

Fishing in crowded locations isn’t really for me. The peace and quiet usually associated with fishing is one of the attractions. If you are prepared to travel, you can usually find a quiet spot that has plenty of fish. On this occasion, I just didn’t have the time. Despite all the water activity, we still caught plenty of fish, so you can imagine how it will get better now the crowds have packed up and gone home.

We are now in our rainy season of the year. Low pressure systems could possibly dump widespread rain and cause runoff, which will change the fishing in the rivers and dams. Some of the lakes could use a top up, but fingers crossed they don’t pour over and lose fish over their spillways. Keep this in mind while reading these reports, as significant weather events or even big isolated storms can really alter the fishing at this time of year.

The managing bodies of the lakes have online information to show lake capacity. Visit the SunWater and Seqwater websites if you want an update when planning your next trip. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!

Toowoomba Tackle Stores

Toowoomba-based anglers must fish a lot, as there have always been so many stores offering fishing tackle. It was sad to see the closing down of one of the greatest stores, Tackle World Toowoomba. Formerly called Mullet Gut Marine, the store was responsible for taking my weekly paycheque on many occasions when I was a youngster. Older Toowoomba anglers will know there is a lot of fishing history that goes along with this store and its owners, so it is sad to see it close its doors.

There was some confusion when Highfields Bait and Tackle made their move from their old location on the New England Highway behind Subway to the new location at Coles Shopping Centre late last year. Plenty of old customers thought the store had closed down. This isn’t the case. Doug moved his shop to the corner of the main Coles building at the Plaza Circle Shopping Centre. Since the move, he has concentrated on stocking a lot more hand-crafted timber lures, which have been very popular.

Fish’n’Bits is still in the same location on Alderly Street on the Southern side of Toowoomba. Kris and the team have the biggest range of freshwater tackle in Toowoomba and the skills and knowledge to help you use it.

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest

There will be a good mix of small and big bass to be caught in Cressbook. The smaller fish are usually easy to find in schools and will be easily fooled into eating 1/4oz blade baits. Occasionally there are bigger fish mixed in with the rats and they will fall for the same presentation.

Bigger bass tend to school together in Cressbrook and if you can find their location, you will reap the rewards. There probably won’t be too many schools of bigger bass, as a lot of these fish scatter in the deeper water. Try looking around the campground point, Deer Island, and the toilet points up either end of the lake. The bigger fish will be keen to eat reaction style lures like spinnerbaits, tail-spinners, and blade baits. A soft plastic wound through them on the slower days can also get the job done, so play around with these different offerings until you work out what they want most.

Lure trollers can take advantage of the suspended fish out in the deep water. These bass are often spread out, so dragging a deep diving lure behind the boat is a good way to cover heaps of water and fool a few. The bass encountered while trolling are often the better quality models with most fish over 40cm and some over 50cm. Just because they are bigger fish, don’t make the mistake of using heavy line.

To achieve the maximum depth out of your lures and the best action, stick with a 2-5kg rod and a reel spooled with 4-8lb braided line. This thinner line will slice through the water with less resistance and drive those lures down deep to where the fish are holding. Take your time and let the drag on the reel do its thing when hooked-up. There is no rush and there isn’t much they can wrap you around out in the open. Medium-sized deep diving lures seem to be better out in the deep water. The Blitz Baga, Golden Child and Little Ripper are some of my favourites. There was a report of a massive 67cm bass taken trolling the deep water using a downrigger to push lures even deeper.

Bait fishers will catch fish when using live shrimp. Other baits will be a lot slower to get a response. Try fishing in over 8m of water and target the points that extend into the dam. If you have a quality sounder and can locate fish out in the deeper water, it can pay to use your electric motor to spot lock on top of them. A slow drift can also work on the still days when wind is at a minimum.

Drop your live shrimp straight over the side and fish them at the depth the fish are holding. It is important to watch your rig’s depth on the sounder or measure the line as you let it out to get it as close to the fish as possible. Often the bass will school up below a stationary boat, so the action can be quite good when the fish are in the mood.

For all your fishing supplies and the latest reports on Cressbrook and the surrounding dams, call in to see the specialists. In Toowoomba, Fish’n’Bits in Alderly Street have a great range of lures and fishing gear. At Highfields, you will find Highfields Bait and Tackle at the Coles shopping centre. Doug has a top range of freshwater gear and plenty of hand-crafted timber lures. 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 will be extended this month to 6am-8pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

The fishing fired up a notch over the Christmas holidays. Plenty of big bass were caught from schools around Pelican Point, Bay13 and Queen Street. In typical Somerset fashion, the lake can be on fire one day and tough the next. When the bass have decided to bite, there have been plenty of double figure tallies in a session with quite a few over 50cm long.

Try looking for schooling bass in around 10m of water on the edges of the old riverbed as it wanders past Pelican Point. Other areas have also held fish. From all reports, the bigger ones have been closer to Pelican. Once found, the bass have been responding well to lures with a bit of flash. Spoons and tail spinners have been the standout offerings with blades and soft vibes a close second. Fish are more responsive in the morning and late afternoon would see similar activity. During the middle of the day, things have been tough for the lure casters. Switching to trolling is a good way to keep the action going.

Trolled deep divers will account for plenty of fish. The secret to trolling lures in Somerset Dam is to get them to run as deep as possible. Use 4-8lb braid and have them swimming around 50m behind the boat while trolling on the outboard. Lures like the Blitz Baga, Little Rippa and JDK Rippa are ideal for this dam, as they can reach over 10m deep if necessary. Tighter schools can also be targeted by trolling tail-spinners. Motor along using the electric at 2km/h and have your tail-spinner out 50m behind the boat. This should see an 18g Jets tracking at about 10m deep. Check out How to Troll Tail Spinners on Youtube.

Mixed in with the bass will be quite a few golden perch. These fish will also take trolled lures along the riverbed drop offs in the mid-section of the dam. Goldens can also be targeted along the rock walls around Pelican Point and opposite the Spit. To the north of Kirkleigh, switch to a shallower offering, which runs 6-8m deep and explore the timber and drop offs.

Bait fishing will be exceptional if you are able to score some live shrimp. The river below the dam has always been a reliable place to set some shrimp traps. If you are staying in the campground below the dam wall, there are several tracks leading down to the water’s edge. Traps can be baited with cat food or pilchards, as these really seem to attract shrimp well. Some tackle stores sell live shrimp. Fish’n’Bits Toowoomba and Highfields Bait and Tackle are two stores that definitely carry them.

For the latest reports, check out Somerset Fishing Tackle online and on Facebook. The store has now closed in Kilcoy and moved to the dam. The trailer can be located in the day use area at Kirkeigh where it will be open every day over the school holidays. The opening days are due to be re-evaluated and you can expect them to be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week.

Somerset Tackle has a great range of lures and gear suited to fishing the dam. They also have the knowledge and skills to help steer you in the right direction. Call in and see them or consider doing a phone or online purchase, as they mail order fishing gear all over the place. For some of the most competitive prices around, visit the website www.somersetfishing.com.au.

Closet Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

The weed beds at Maroon continue to produce plenty of bass. Early and late sessions using surface lures will see you in with a good chance of nailing some bass. Last month the better quality surface fish were a bit over 40cm long. During the brighter parts of the day, switch to soft plastics, beetle spins, spinnerbaits, tail spinners and blades and fish them around the edges of the weed.

Bait fishers will catch plenty of bass next to the weed edge on live shrimp. The occasional golden perch can also be caught on bait. Try the points where the weed protrudes out into the dam or out from the left-hand bank in the start of the timber. Position the boat where the sounder shows the weed finishes and the bottom is clear or in about 5-7m of water.
Sunshine Coast Region

MacDonald is a prime location to fish some topwater offerings early in the morning. The weed growth has really taken over. Finding where it is just below the surface and working lures over the top will draw strikes. Walk-the-dog stickbaits like the Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy are perfect for this approach. Use plenty of stealth when you are moving along on the electric and try to place long casts over the weed to avoid spooking fish.

When you’re hooked-up, don’t hold back and go hard with a high rod angle to keep the bass out of the vegetation for as long as possible. Usually the fish will make it into the weed. If you can take some energy and fight out of them before they bury you, you will stand a better chance of getting them and your lure back.

Soft plastics, blades and spinnerbaits will be good offerings during the daylight hours. Fish these tight to the weed drop-offs. Rip them out if they become weeded up and continue fishing. Lures tearing out of the weed can often be a bite trigger.

Closest Towns: Imbil

There will be a lot less boat traffic in the main basin of the lake this month. Lure casters may find bass on the points or up at Borumba Flat just before the timber. Bait fishing with live shrimp can also be productive in these locations. Just inside the timber, there will be schooling bass, which will fall for soft plastics and blade baits. Quite a few bass have also been taken when fishing spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits around the tight structure lining the edges.

Saratoga are often the target when edge fishing and they are still about in good numbers, as you venture further up the lake. The toga aren’t a fussy fish and will take all types of lures including small hardbodies, spinnerbaits, plastics and surface lures. I like to fish a 75mm paddle-tail plastic rigged on a 1/4oz jighead and beetle spin frame. This lure is great for exploring heaps of water, ideal around the weed and the single hook can produce a better hook set in the toga’s bony mouth.

Davos at Noosaville has all the gear you’ll need to tackle the fish at Borumba and Lake MacDonald. The store caters well for fresh and saltwater anglers. They can be found in the Homemaker Centre on the corner of Mary and Thomas streets.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields,Toowoomba

Cooby has fished well over the last month. Golden perch are still the main fish caught and most boats score a few for their efforts. Small Murray cod just below 60cm long have been mixed in. The standout fish, which really got the locals talking, was caught by Kris George from Fish’n’Bits.

Kris was fishing with Carl Jocumsen and Nathan Palmer targeting the lake’s bigger cod. He was using a Megabass Magdraft soft plastic swimbait when he hooked what the boys had been chasing for several Cooby fishing sessions. The Murray cod was landed and measured 122cm long – an absolute beast of a fish.

The weed edges will continue to produce for trollers working their hardbodies in 4-5m of water. Smaller lures like the Halco 3m Poltergeist or StumpJumper No.3 are ideal. I like the darker coloured lures for lure trolling and they seem to remain the best choice when the water is clear. A trolled TN60 Jackall can also be quite effective and doubles as a good casting lure too. If fish are spotted outside the weed edge, you can slow the boat down and work these sinking lures closer to the bottom by retrieving or hopping them back to the boat.

Some goldens are still being taken by hopping blades. The Ecogear ZX40 remains the number one fish taker and accounts for most of the bites when using this approach. It is best to find a few fish in open water before you start hopping blades. There aren’t a lot of big schools this year as the golden perch seem to be spread out in all depths and hold all over the lake.

Bait fishers will be able to catch goldens, eel-tailed catfish and maybe a cod if lucky when using saltwater yabbies and live shrimp. A few fish can be caught by land-based anglers from the rock wall, which is half way to the dam wall from the boat ramp. There are well-worn vehicle and walking tracks leading to this area.

Boat fishers can try from the private ramp or on the northern side of the lake opposite the rock wall. Position the boat in around 6m of water and fish late in the afternoon as the sun goes down. The lower light level will see the fish venture away from the weed more looking for their next feed.

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 worth a visit. The dam hours are now 6am-8pm, which is perfect to fish into the dark for a late arvo cod. 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. 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 at the Coles Circle Plaza Shopping Centre 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 Dam has been fishing very well for golden perch and smaller Murray cod. There seem to be ridiculous numbers of undersized goldens being caught at the moment. This is great for the future. If you are catching these babies, return them quickly and safely to the water to grow up. Mixed in with the small yellowbelly, there have been quite a few nicer fish.

Trolling lures in less than 7m of water will put you in with a good chance of catching fish. Some trolling action will come from the main basin. The upper half of the lake should produce better numbers. The green 3m Poltergeist was very effective on my last trip and we caught fish on a range of lures, which we kept rotating through the day.

Lure casters will be able to get into the golden action around the rocky structure on the bottom. It pays to run a side image sounder to pick up rocks or fallen trees out to the sides of the boat. These can be jigged with blade baits or lipless vibes. Bigger lures used around this structure are more likely to produce a Murray cod. Casting the rocky edges of the lake with bigger spinnerbaits is another good way to fool the bigger green fish who call this lake home.

Along with getting a fishing report, stock up on all your gear 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

Golden perch are still pretty quiet for the lure angler. Most fish have been caught on bait. Try live shrimp around the drop off to the old river and creek beds out from the boat ramp. Fishing along the rock wall can also be worth a shot either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. These rocks hold plenty of bait and are a good place to toss in your shrimp pots.

Murray cod are taking lures. Try trolling the drop offs of the lake leading into the timbered areas. Big lures like the Kezza Mud Rat and Codculla are ideal for this. If they are dragging bottom, just shorten up the line until they are swimming just above it.

Once inside the timber, give casting swimbaits or cod sized spinnerbaits a try around the structure. Fish tight to the trees and allow the lure to sink past your target area before dragging it back through. Cod bites are super aggressive at times and will wake you up in a hurry when things are slow and you’re not ready. The cod come in all sizes at Coolmunda with fish ranging from undersized to well over a metre long. The dam is shaping up to be the best impoundment cod fishing spot in Queensland, so make the most of it while they are biting.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only one kilometre away from the lake. The park is just 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. 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 Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Trolling will be very effective this month. Suspending bass and golden perch will be found in the basin of the lake, through the Narrows, the Barbers Pole and at the Junction. Most of the suspended fish will hold at 7-8m deep, so choose a hardbody lure capable of reaching them.

For fishers using mono lines or heavier braids over 14lb, deeper lures like the Smak 19 or Golden Child will be needed to reach the fish. Shallower offerings will be capable of reaching the same depth when running 4-8lb braided line. In this case, lures like the Brolga, Smak 16, 3m Poltergeist and No.3 StumpJumper are ideal. Darker lure colours have been most popular.

In the timber, the fish have been quite pressured and are getting harder to catch. Casting spinnerbaits can be successful in this area. Lure casters can also catch plenty of fish up near the dam wall in deep water out in the middle when there aren’t many other boats on the dam. With fishing pressure, these bass quickly disperse.

Bass to Barra in Kingaroy carries a great range of trolling lures and other lures suited to freshwater fishing. The staff there are experts on their local dams, so be sure to ask a few questions and get pointed in the right direction.

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 an excellent range of proven fishing tackle. For campsites, cabins and bunkhouse rooms call (07) 4168 9694.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The lower half of the lake has been great for lure trolling. The falling water level has concentrated fish numbers in this area and also introduced a few boating hazards. If you are unfamiliar with the lake, take it slow. The islands and Lightning Ridge can be just below the surface and will destroy your prop if you run aground on them. If you have a Lowrance or Simrad sounder, make use of the Insight Genesis map feature, which provides detailed contour maps of the dams.

Lure trollers have been having plenty of success on 5/8oz spinnerbaits. The Smak and Smako models have been working a treat when trolled using the outboard motor. The key is to fish them on lighter lines of 4-8lb braid. The light, thinner line slices through the water and ensures they reach their maximum depth.

If trolling hardbodies, opt for lures with smaller bibs and less action. These lure styles seem to draw more interest from the dam’s bigger fish. Even working a bibless lure like the TN60 Jackall behind the boat can score the better quality models.

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 staff 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 and you can reach him through the 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.

Closest Town: Maryborough

Lenthalls Dam has been fishing well for bass and barra. Bass fishers have had success along the steeper and medium tapering banks. Casting TN60 Jackalls or similar lipless crankbaits is a great way to explore water. Work these lures down the weed edges and bounce them off any nearby drowned timber. Always keep an eye on the sounder, as bass may be found in schools outside the weed edge. If these fish are found, good numbers can be caught by hopping blade baits through them.

The barra most willing to take lures have been the smaller models of 50-60cm. These fish will be lurking around the shallow weed edges and lilies. Barra will come from all over the lake. At times they’ll be found in tighter concentrations. These sweet spots are often up the backs of the smaller bays in the creeks leading into the dam.

It’s hard to beat surface lure presentations, as they just seem to perform well all day long. Barra-sized lures like the Cultiva Tango Dancer surface walker are ideal for these fish and the smaller barra don’t hold back on whacking this bigger lure. If by chance you encounter a larger fish, you can guarantee the lure will be able to handle any abuse the fish dish out.

Smaller topwater lures, which are more suited to bass or mangrove jack, will also draw plenty of interest from the smaller class of barra. Skimming a soft plastic frog over broken weed beds in the shallows can be a way to single out the bigger barra. Soft plastics rigged on weedless jigheads like the Owner Beast Hook can be used to extract barra holding tight to the weed. I like to hop and slow roll Transams down the weed face. The lighter gauge hooks on these lures rip through the weed well. You can accurately fish them close to the weed and pop them out to keep them clean.

As darkness falls, the barra will start to move more and can be seen cruising through on the side image outside the weed beds. Here, the fish can be caught on standard soft plastics with the hooks exposed or even with an added stinger hook.

Lenthalls Dam has boating restrictions in place. Only 4-stroke or direct Injection 2-strokes (not carburetted) up to 60hp can be launched on the lake. A speed limit of 6 knots applies when on the move. The gates to the boat ramp and campgrounds are locked between 8pm-6am each day.

Capricorn Region
Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Gladstone, Benaraby

The fishing has been a bit tougher over the past month. When the weather patterns are stable it has been at its best with many smaller barra reported. These fish are mostly below 60cm, but there is still the chance of a bigger fish up to a metre long and even the possibility of one of the lake’s older fish, which could be even bigger. With the chance of hooking a larger specimen, it pays to fish a suitable line class just in case. Braided lines of at least 20lb topped with a 60lb leader should suffice.

Small hardbodies like the Jackall Squirrel and Lucky Craft Pointer are ideal for working the lake edges and standing timber. These lures can be ripped down to depth and then paused for long periods before twitching them back to the boat. The trees in the basin of the lake and start of each arm will be worth exploring. There are also reports of fish inside New Zealand Gully and along the weed edges on the eastern side of the lake.

If you want to tangle with a bigger fish, switch to soft plastics and work the weed edge. Concentrate on points and bays and position the boat a cast away. Fish late in the afternoon as the light fades. Keep a close eye on your sounder for any passing fish as they move just outside the weed edge. Just keep casting. Around the full moon period, fish can be a little more active and willing to bite better into the night.

Mark from Awoonga Gateway Lodge has a few productive secret spots up New Zealand Gully. The Gateway Lodge is on the way into the dam after turning off at Benaraby. The accommodation is great with plenty of boat parking space right beside the comfortable air-conditioned, self-contained cabins. Each cabin has its own verandah. To book in a stay, give Mark or Lyn a call on (07) 4975 0033.

Mackay Region
Closest Towns: Mackay, Mirani

After heaps of rain in the Mackay area, the dam has had local runoff and been pumped full of dirty water from the Pioneer River. The barra fishing has been tough for some time and will start to improve over the coming month as the fish adapt. Look to the flooded grass areas and try fishing lightly-weighted plastics or surface lures.

If you are planning on fishing Kinchant, Teemburra or Eungella, be sure to call in and see Bruce and Ash at Nashy’s Compleat Angler on Harbour Road, North Mackay. Ash works in the store, but also as a fishing guide on the lakes. Some firsthand information as to where they are biting always goes a long way. Nashy’s has a great range of tackle suited to the dams as well as all the other fishing options the Mackay area is blessed with. You can call the store for more information or to put some gear on hold on (07) 4957 2272.

Closest Towns: Pinnacle, Mackay

Teemburra has also dirtied up after the inflow from the Mackay area rain. The dam would usually stay quite clear but the floodwater coming in actually ran dirty in both creeks and this had a significant effect on the water colour. The basin of the lake is stained and more fishable than the water up the arms.

As the dam settles, the fishing should improve this month. Look for barra over the newly flooded grassy areas. Flooded grasses seem to attract plenty of bait life and the barra won’t be too far away. Surface lures like the Cultiva Tango Dancer or Rapala Skitter Pop are perfect for probing this water. A weedless rigged soft plastic like a PowerBait Rib Shad or Reflexion Swimbait can also be worth a toss into the shallows. Slow and shallow presentations are most likely to do the trick. Other options worth playing with will be a twitched shallow running hardbody and a slow rolled glidebait.

Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

With rain in the hills at the back of the dam last month, there was some inflow at the top end of the lake. This saw barra caught in the Proserpine River around the trees where the water was pushing in. The bite here will slow down if the water stops pouring in. The basin of the lake close to the dam wall has been producing some of the best action.

Lure trollers are catching plenty of fish on deep diving lures fished around 7-10m deep. Metre plus specimens are common here and can be found in tight concentrations at times. The fish tend to come and go and will often bunch up around a tide change in the salt or late in the afternoon just before dark.

Lure casters are also finding these deeper water fish, which will suspend in the deepest water of the lake. Using a sounder to pinpoint a concentration of fish is the key when casting. There is a lot of barren water between the fish, so understanding your sounder is very important. Once found, these barra will fall for bigger soft plastics slowly wound through the school or a hopped vibe like a Transam or Samiki vibe. It is important to present the lure close to the depth where the barra are suspending.

For all your fishing supplies or a guided trip on the lake, call Lindsay or Dane at Barra World on (07) 4945 4641. The store has just ordered in heaps of new tackle and will stock a bigger range of gear from this month. Barra World is right on the highway in Proserpine and specializes in barra fishing tackle as well as catering to the needs of anglers fishing the nearby estuaries and offshore.

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