Sunshine Coast Sweetwater
  |  First Published: February 2007

The Sunshine Coast provides anglers with a wide range of fishing options from chasing blue marlin out on the Noosa Canyons, snapper on the inshore reefs to some fantastic estuarine luring. However, the freshwater dams of this region are often overlooked. There are several dams in the area that have been consistently stocked over the last 20 years but Lake Borumba, Lake Macdonald and Ewen Maddock Dam offer the best fishing for sweetwater enthusiasts.

Lake Borumba

Lake Borumba is 10km from Imbil; an easy hour and 40 minute drive from Brisbane. The dam sits in a deep valley surrounded by lush rainforest that is home to many deer. Borumba is one of those places that you could cruise around all day without even throwing a lure and be content – the place is very special!

The dam is best known for its large population of southern saratoga and most anglers venturing to the dam have the species high on their ‘to catch’ list. Australian bass, golden perch and silver perch are also around in numbers.

While sounding out schools in the deep water of the basin can be productive, it’s the vast timbered areas, bank-side structure and weed beds that hold the fish in Borumba.

There are three main creeks (Borumba, Yabba and Kingham) that flow into the lake and it is up these that the best fishing can be had.

It’s a great idea to pick one of the creeks and fish the insides and outside of any of the bends. On the inside of each of these bends you will find a shallow weed bed extending out from the bank. Fishing over the top and also the edges early in the morning can produce some great bass. Good lures for this are small spinnerbaits but my favourite is the Ecogear VT65.

As the sun comes up over the hills, move out from the weed beds to the outside of the bends. Keep an eye on the sounder and fish the old creek bed. In these areas slowly rolling a heavier (1/2 or 5/8oz) spinnerbait or hopping a Jackall TN60 will get you into a few. The creek bed is usually be surrounded by drowned timber, so when you hook up, stick it to the fish straight away.

While cruising from bend to bend, target any trees that are in or over hanging the water. Quite often you will find a few bass or a ‘toga sitting and just waiting to smack a spinnerbait.

If you want to chase saratoga, casting to areas of bank-side structure is a great option. Target any areas of drowned lantana bushes but also keep an eye out for any overhanging bottlebrush trees. I don’t know why but ‘toga just love sitting under these during the heat of the day.

In the still, low light times of dawn and dusk many ‘toga can be seen working the surface leaving behind large boils. If you are within range fire a cast as close as possible to these boils, as the fish will quite often return to see if it has left any tasty morsels behind.

My favourite lures for saratoga include 3” paddle-tail plastics rigged with bettlespins or TT Revheads, smaller spinnerbaits (1/4 and 3/8oz) and low light surface walkers like Jackall Water Moccasins or C’ultiva Zippin’ Ziggys.

While lures will catch you plenty of fish the best way to chase these tropical trout is on fly. Fishing during the morning and afternoon session with a small Dahlberg Diver and Muddler Minnow will see a few fish taken off the surface. As the day wears on switch to an intermediate line and a weighted Woolly Bugger or Hairy Mary fished 1-2ft under the surface.

There are no limits on boating in Borumba, so during summer the place fills up pretty quickly with skiers. Get up there early, get right up the back of the creeks and keep the rod tip low when that ‘toga jumps!

Lake Macdonald

Lake Macdonald is located just out of Cooroy about 20 minutes from Noosa. It’s quite a small dam but it has a very healthy population of big, hungry bass. The best thing about Macdonald is the diversity of fishing that can be experienced in one day. The fish are happy enough to hide and hunt in the vast weed and lily beds that line the dam, and deepwater fishing over the flats is equally productive.

Macdonald is electric only but you don’t have to remove your petrol motors. Please don’t abuse this privilege by running around on your outboard as it will only ruin it for the rest of the anglers who enjoy the dam.

You could easily fish the whole dam in a day but there are a few areas that anglers can expect to get a fish or two. The first is the weed point and bank that extends from the scout camp down to the Three Ways. Casting Jackalls and beetlespins and hopping them down the weed edges will see you trying to extract a few angry fish from there weedy home.

While holding a casting distance off this bank keep an eye on the sounder as you will quite often find a few schools of fish holding in the old river bed. These fish are very responsive to ice jigs and the little 15g Nilsmaster Jigger 2 fits the bill.

The most obvious piece of structure in the dam is the bubbler. Put there to stop outbreaks of blue green algae it also provides a great holding zone for the fish. Hopping Jackall Masks, rolling jig heads rigged soft plastics and ice jigging to schooled fish can be very productive, but the average size of the fish usually nothing compared to those on the more open flats. Be prepared to lose a few lures in this area as the tubes that the air flows along just love hooks!

The stretch from the boat ramp at the botanical gardens to the dam wall is a great place to look for schooled up fish. During winter the fish will hold in depths between 20-30ft and are very responsive to slow rolled paddle-tailed soft plastic. I found 3” Ecogear Power Shad in rainbow trout to be especially effective in this area so don’t go without a pack!

To help find the fish quickly in this area troll a few deep divers and keep your eye on the sounder, once you hook up or a school has been located stop and cast your plastics.

There is a stable population of saratoga in the dam, and fishing in the quieter bays towards the back of the lake with small spinnerbaits should see you connected to a few. Mary River cod are also stocked in the dam and slow rolling some larger spinnerbaits over the old creek beds late in the day and into the night should produce, but there will be a lot of casts between fish.

Ewen Maddock Dam

Ewen Maddock would be the easiest of the three dams to get to however it is the most restrictive. The dam is located between Caloundra and Landsborough and is an easy 50 minute from Brisbane.

The dam’s rules state that only paddle powered vessels are allowed, and even though this sounds like a right pain the quality of the fish in the dam will have you coming back for more. It’s a great place to spend a day in the canoe or kayak.

Most of the fishing is done casting to the weed beds that surround the dam’s shores. These thick food rich beds can be a little daunting to try and narrow down at first but if you find some with about 2-6ft of water over the top you will be in for a fish or two. Sit a cast length or so off the weed and throw Jackall TN60s (brown dog is a killer!) and 3/8oz spinnerbaits up on top of the weed, then slow roll and hop them of the edge into deeper water.

Beware, the bass in Ewen Maddock bass are big, bad and strong so once you hook up give it to them before the sink you into the salad.

Casting to any gaps in the weed on the shallower banks of the dam is also worth a shot around dawn and dusk. Jackalls and surface walkers like Lucky Craft Sammy 65s work well for this, and there is nothing better then getting a near 50cm fish off the surface.

If you are lucky enough to have a sounder on your paddle powered craft, sound around a little deeper off the weed beds as the day warms up. You will often find small schools of fish hugging the bottom and they are quite partial to slowly rolled soft plastics.

So next time you need your bass fix and don’t have the time to fish the big basins of Wivenhoe, Somerset, Boondoomba or Bjelke-Peterson give these local gems a go. You might be surprised at the good fisheries we have right on our doorstep.

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