Big rains deliver big fishing opportunities
  |  First Published: May 2017

We can expect quite a few changes this month. Big rainfall last month flooded rivers and creeks sending plenty of dams over their spillways. There were still some which saw little change in water level at all. Mix this influx of water with the shorter days and cooler conditions and we have the perfect recipe to see change. This month I’ll focus on where to fish after the rain event, discuss where it will be tough and offer some alternatives.

Dirty, still water is a lure fisher’s worst enemy. Dams that are muddied up with poor visibility are going to take some time to settle. Cooler water seems to help sediment settle to the bottom faster so it may only be two or three months before all our lakes are back online for luring.

Big rain and run-off sees the main inflow come into the dams via the creeks and rivers. This is the first part of the lake to dirty. Slowly the dirty water works its way into the main basin of the lake. Even an overflowing dam can be spilling clear water to the section below. Of course, bigger amounts of water entering the dam will eventually see the whole lake dirty as the water spilling and being released draws the dirty water right through the whole lake. It was interesting to see an aerial picture of Awoonga Dam four days after it started to flow over. You could distinctly see a dirty water line making its way from the Boyne River at the back of the dam through the main basin towards the spillway. It took several days and a large amount of water overflowing and being released to draw it to that point.

While the bulk of a lake can be dirty, the spilled water directly below is often clean and fishable. If there has been an escape of fish from the dam, the area may be well stocked. Keep a couple of things in mind when fishing the water below a dam:

Firstly, restrictions are in place below all dams and weirs in Queensland. No fishing is allowed inside an exclusion zone. These no fishing zones allow fish some protection as the barriers can attract them in huge numbers where they could easily be overfished. The no fishing areas vary in distance from the wall and are often marked. Usually it is 200m below, but in some cases can be up to 400m. It pays to check the closed waters distance below each area you intend to fish on the Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

Secondly, water can be released from dams creating a rise in level and strong currents. Keep this in mind when launching, retrieving, camping and using these waterways.

Access can be tricky but that’s where Google Maps comes in handy. In most areas below dam walls, it is best to use smaller boats or canoes and kayaks. If it is unfamiliar water or is likely to have changed due to flooding, take extra caution until you learn your way around. Great fishing opportunities lie in such areas.

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest

Cressbrook had little inflow so the level remained stable and the water clear. The bass have been active with plenty of smaller fish about. These rat bass are found all over the dam with the area out from the boat ramps and most of the prominent points holding fish. The bigger models are mixed in with the tiny ones but some areas tend to produce quality fish with more regularity.

The Cressbrook Creek up around the Eagles Nest rock wall is one of the better spots for big bass. Rather than concentrating on the steep rocky banks, work the flats that extend out on the adjacent shallow tapering banks. The bigger bass are around 50cm in length. Generally you can nail one or two before they wake up to what is going on and stop biting. Rest the spot once the action slows and come back a couple of hours later. Having a run of spots to fish is the trick to keeping the bites coming. For some reason these Cressbrook bass do not like the fishing pressure. Thinking back some 20 years ago when I was running fishing charters on the lake, things were exactly the same. The fishing pressure was less but they, were still awake to a boats presence and must somehow associate that with danger. I relied heavily on fishing new ground and resting the best spots to keep the fish coming to the boat even in those glory days.

Tail spinners have been a standout lure for attracting the bites. These lures can be hopped or wound through the schooling fish. They are bite sized and will entice bites from fish of all sizes. The new Hot Bite Jets 18g colours are sure to be a hit. Spoons have also accounted for plenty of fish. The bigger profile of these lures will see the smaller bass missing the hooks more often and give a more respectable model the chance to hit the lure. The Gang Banger 20g spoons are 65mm long and the perfect weight to fish schooling bass. A few fishos have commented on the fact they look a bit big to target bass. The results speak for themselves. If you have ever thought a spoon is too big for a bass, think about the size of trolling lures used to catch them. Some of the most popular trolling lures like Blitz Bagas, Golden Childs and other proven deep diving models are way bigger and the fish don’t hesitate.

On the trolling scene, try working lures around the edges of the lake and following the contours. Fishing 5-10m of water will see you in with a good chance. Just pick a lure that will run close to the depth you intend to fish. Watch the sounder closely for areas holding more fish or to see if they are more comfortable in a particular depth. Make the most of lure trolling now as it will start to slow down soon.

Bait fishers can have plenty of fun using live shrimp. These shrimp are expensive to buy, but they work so well. They are one of the must-have baits. Nearby stores like Highfields Bait and Tackle and Fish’n’Bits Toowoomba sell shrimp. If you are going to the expense of buying these little critters, make sure you fish them on the right type of hooks. Wide gape patterns are ideal for live shrimp and produce the best hook-up rate. Hot Bite Fishing just released a wide gape hook for shrimp and these should be available in the local stores. If you have a supply of your own shrimp, expect to catch masses of fish. Local waterways and farm dams can hold these tasty morsels so explore your area. Baiting a shrimp trap with catfood and checking them at night is the best way to acquire good numbers of shrimp. If you are camping at one of the lakes, be sure to toss one in overnight and check it regularly as there may be a few about.

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, 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 until 8pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

I was worried the rain would spoil our run of fun at Somerset Dam, but the water level barely changed. Any water that flowed into the lake must have been released to Wivenhoe. The water has remained clear in the middle reaches of the dam basin where the bass have been schooling thick around Pelican Point and Spot X. Further north through Bay 13 and up to Kirkleigh there have been colour changes. I did hear one report of schooling fish up near Kirkleigh flats taking soft plastics. Visibility must still be good enough and will only improve.

Look for the bass schools around the edges of the flats in the Pelican Point area. The fish can move around a bit and will sometimes be found in over 13m of water. On the same day, they can migrate back to the flats and be seen in 8m. Keep this in mind when sounding over an area. If you focus too much on one depth, you could be missing all the life.

Spoons have been the gun lure over the last few months. We’ve absolutely smashed the fish on the Hot Bite 20g Gang Bangers each trip but reports are now starting to change. A few fish can still be taken on the spoons. It pays to really mix up the retrieve. Rather than just hopping or slow rolling, combine the two presentations into one. Hopping interests the fish and then the slow roll hooks them.

A swing towards soft plastics may soon occur. Already reports of more bass being taken on plastics are filtering through, so be sure to mix it up to see what works best on the day. Plastics around 3” (75mm) in size rigged on 1/2oz jigheads will do the trick. Soft plastics can be of the shad, grub or t-tail grub variety.

Golden perch have been active and are quite often caught out on the flats when chasing bass. A lot have fallen for spoons and they will also take trolled lures. Trolling the flats is a good way to score a mixed bag. Lures like the Little Rippa, 50mm Poltergeist Crazy Deep and Blitz Baga and Smak 19 are perfect. Again, mix up your troll run to zig-zag the drop-off and explore different depths around Pelican Point. Once the fish are found, work that area hard. Last month there were plenty of bass to 50cm caught trolling hardbodies.

As the water cools, the action may slow but rather than giving up on trolling, a change is usually all that is needed. Try trolling tail spinners using an electric motor. The smaller offering will keep the bites coming. We use 18g tail spinners and troll them 50m behind the boat at 1.8-2.1km/h. This combination of distance and speed sees them tracking around 26-30ft deep when running 4-8lb braid. 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 Kirkleigh. The opening days could change to include more weekdays but 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.

Closest Towns: Nerang, Gold Coast

Hinze Dam poured over the spillway. The dam will be dirty but should clear quickly especially up the top end where the water will now be running in clearer. Even this month, the top end will be worth a try. For those wanting to chase some bass the river below will be a good option. With so much freshwater, hopefully the fish didn’t all end up out in the broadwater.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

After big rain in the area Maroon should still fish well. The water will be a bit coloured but not too much for luring. Surface lures will be a good option early and late in the day. Bass should be focussed on the top at this time of day, especially after the run-off put plenty of food in the water for them to slurp off the top. Get into the topwater action now as it will only slow down as the water gets colder. Now is a really good time as the shorter days allow a later start in the morning and earlier finish in the afternoon.

The weeded edges will still produce fish. I would usually say throw a soft plastic, but if the water has some colour opt for a lure with more flash or vibration. Lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits are ideal in these conditions. Once the water clears right up, consider soft plastics or deeper diving suspending jerkbaits.

The upper section of the lake would have fished well last month around the bottle brush trees in the running water. Pitching lures or unweighted shrimp into the edges is a great way to have some fun when the water is running. This may all be over now as the best action takes place early when the water first runs in.

If you are bait fishing, try live shrimp or saltwater yabbies around the trees in the upper part of the dam. Position the boat in 5-7m of water and fish baits close to the bottom.

Closest Towns: Rathdowney,Boonah

The lake is dirty after it spilled over the dam wall. Still, fish are being caught in the dam with lures. The rise in water level flooded new grounds and lure casters were able to move up on to this to chase fish feeding in the shallows. The edge bite will probably die down once the flooded grasses die off, but there should still be a few bass around this month. If the action is dead in the shallows over the flooded country, move to the steeper edges especially the windblown ones. There may still be some active fish feeding shallow.

The creeks up the back of the dam ran clear as the flooding water slowed down. This pushed clearer water into the top end of the lake. Now that the water has stopped running the clear water may blend with the coloured stuff as the wind pushes into the back corner of the lake. It will be worth keeping in mind as it could be clearer and worth investigation.

On the luring scene, stick to lures which make their presence known. Lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits are ideal for exploring the shallow edges. If the fish are found schooled in deeper water after the edges die off, switch back to tail spinners and blades. The dirtier the water, the slower the presentation should be. Use smaller hops rather than big long lifts and draws. This will keep the lure in front of the fish longer and give them a better chance of finding it.

Sunshine Coast Region
Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

Macdonald flowed over the spillway but still produced bass last month. The deeper weed edges and bubble trail produced the goods. The same areas will continue to fish well with smaller blade baits, soft vibes and tail spinners. Explore the weed edges with the sounder working closely to where the weed tapers off and meets the lake floor. The Botanical Gardens area inside the bay will also be worth a close investigation.

Early and late in the day, it can pay to move up on top of flooded weed beds. Surface luring is the ideal way to call fish out of the weed. If you can find good clear runs where the weed is just below the surface, try walking a stickbait across the top. The Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy is ideal for this. Walk the lure side to side for 1-2m and then give it a pause of 1-5 second. If you have a bite, try to avoid striking back. Keep the lure in the zone and slow it down and an interested fish will often come back for several tries.

Fishing topwater over the weed beds calls for an upgrade in tackle. At least 10lb braid and 14lb leader is recommended to help extract the fish. Most will find their way back into the weed and you will need to do some gardening to get them back out of the vegetation.

Davos in Noosaville is just a short drive away and they carry all the right lures to use on the toga and bass.

Closest Towns: Imbil, Noosa

After a top up in level, the boat ramp is again usable for all sized boats. The water is still clear in the basin and the freshly flooded ground produced well last month.

The schooling bass were hard to find around the Junction area but keep an eye out as they may return as the vegetation around the edges dies off.

The steeper banks and rocky bottom structure in the basin has a lot less grass so chances are the fishing will still be good over the flooded areas this month. Aaron Kemp had success fishing topwater lures early and then switching to 3” Shads Ribbed Candy and Shads 17g Vibes. Similar lures should work well this month. A great option for exploring the edges is a spinnerbait/soft plastic hybrid. A 3” soft plastic rigged on a 1/4oz jighead and then fitted to a beetle spin blade will deliver the goods and is one of my favourite lures for this lake. If there are any saratoga around they are suckers for these things as well.

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.

Closest Towns: Maryborough, Hervey Bay

Lenthalls Dam overflowed and will be dirty for some time. This may have allowed some of the mature barra to escape into the river below. The smaller class of fish that the lake was loaded with should hopefully have stayed and will be waiting once things clear up. For now maybe a session in the river below is worthwhile if you can find access.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

No changes for Cooby this month. The water is very clear and the level hasn’t changed. The water is so clear it actually makes fishing a bit difficult. When trolling lures, you will need to be scraping along the weed edge. From here, hiding fish can dart out and ambush your lure. Lures that dive 3-5m are ideal for most of the dam’s basin where the weed grows thick. Along the rock wall, there is less weed and deeper lures that reach 5m are preferred. Another good option is to slow troll or stop and start with a lipless crankbait.

Golden perch have been most common of late with fewer reports on Murray cod. The big green fish are still there and as things cool down we can expect golden perch number to taper off and the cod to become more common.

Bait fishing in 6-8m of water with live shrimp or saltwater yabbies can produce better numbers of fish as things cool down. Even live shrimp can be out-fished by the yabbies as the mood of the fish changes and they become less active. Bites turn to picks and it can take a bit of time to sink the hooks into an interested fish. If you are using yabbies as bait, Hot Bite Fishing has just released a saltwater yabby hook. It is a bait holder pattern with small barbs on the shank to help hold the soft-bodied yabbies or other softer baits in place. Keep an eye out for these at the local tackle stores or places you would normally find your bait supplies.

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 then Cooby is definitely worth a visit. The dam hours are now 6am-8pm - perfect to fish into the dark for a late arvo cod. Just remember that no outboard motors can 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 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

Only a small inflow to the dam rose the level slightly but is has barely changed the way it is fishing. Make the most of this month before the water cools down and the fish get tougher to tempt.

Bait fishermen have scored well with live shrimp and saltwater yabbies fished in various locations from the shore. Boats will have the same results but have the ability to easily try different depths. A lot of the action has been taking place in less than 6m of water.

Lure trolling in 3-6m will produce quite a few golden perch. Smaller fish are common at the moment but some areas do seem to hold better numbers of quality fish. The Black Boys area has held bigger models and so has the eastern bank of the main basin. If standard hard bodies aren’t producing, switch to a slower troll and use a lipless crankbait. These lipless baits have the ability to keep producing right into the winter months.

Along with getting a fishing report, stock up on all your gear while at Warwick Outdoor and Sports at 115 Palmerin Street Warwick. Warwick is only a ten minute drive from the dam and you can pick up any supplies you might need.

Closest Town: Inglewood

After a couple of rises in water level, the dam is now very dirty. The lure fishing will be almost too hard to be bothered with for several months. Hopefully winter helps the sediment to settle and give us a good crack at the fish in Spring.

Bait fishing will be the best bet with live shrimp and saltwater yabbies the standout baits. Try fishing these out in front of the ramp and campground or up at the start of both timbered arms.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is around 1km 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 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 SOUTH Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

The arms of the lake are dirty after water flowed in but the basin of the lake has remained clear. The dirty water in the Stuart and Boyne won’t be worth fishing for some time so stick to the clearer water in the dam’s basin.

The fish have moved away from the dam wall and the middle reaches of the lake should start to fish better. Trolling hardbodied lures at around 7m deep and close to the bottom should produce a few fish.

The schools will tighten up so keep an eye on the sounder for better shows as this is where you’ll want to cast a lure. Soft plastics, soft vibes, spinnerbaits, blades, tail spinners and spoons can all perform well so mix it up to see what they want.

On the edges, spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits will fool fish in the mornings and afternoons. Stick to roughly the same location and work the clearer water in the basin of the lake. Mix it up and explore shallower banks as well as the steeper rocky ones.

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 dam level has remained the same with no rise after the rain. The water is therefore clear and very fishable. The best action will come from the dam wall to where the dam narrows up halfway up the main basin.

The fishing has been a bit tough with mostly smaller bass being caught on cast lures. Blade baits hopped through the schools or a slowly wound 3” Gulp Grub has been the way to hook the fish.

Conventional hardbody trolling is likely to slow down. Purple lures worked well last month. As it gets tougher, consider trolling casting lures. Spinnerbaits and tail spinners trolled at the depth the fish are holding can perform really well when they refuse to eat a hardbody.

Bait fishing will continue to catch fish but ensure you have live shrimp to have the best chance of success. Shrimp can be caught in the dam at times so a baited trap left in at night may produce a few. Otherwise, go exploring in the local creeks to see if you can find a supply.

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.

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: Monto

Cania filled and ran over the spillway during the flooding rain. The water is a bit dirty but good numbers of bass are being caught. Look for deeper schooling fish in about 10m of water. The main basin has held good numbers but they can be in tighter schools. Soft vibes, blades and tail spinners will be the lures to use.

Closest Towns: Eidsvold, Monto

Wuruma filled to capacity but didn’t overflow much. The dam is still looking very clear in the main basin. It is a great place to visit with an upgrade to the campgrounds and toilet and shower facilities. The fish receive very little fishing pressure from experienced lure fishers. Big golden perch and bass are common here.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

Monduran Dam spilled over recently. Some barra were reported to go over the dam wall. The lake is coloured but still clear enough to fish. Barra around 1m have been caught since the flood. Most of the action has been coming from further up the dam in bays that are being oxygenated by the wind. For a more detailed report keep an eye out for Rob Howell’s reports in this magazine.

Below the dam, Monduran Crossing will definitely be worth a fish for barra and bass. The crossing itself can fish well and also provides kayak access to the surrounding water.

For all your barra fishing supplies and tips on the lake, go to Barra Havoc at 26 Mulgrave Street, Gin Gin. If you are after specialized tackle for impoundment barramundi, this is the store for you.

Closest Town: Biloela

Callide Dam had started to fish well for barra before the floods. Plenty of water escaped and allowed the mature fish to go with the flow. The water will be dirty and the best options will be redclaw and bait fishing with live shrimp for golden perch. Stay tuned in coming issues to find out more on how the barra faired.


Awoonga Dam poured over the spillway for days and there were definitely barra lost into the river below. The dam was just starting to make a comeback but to see it return to its former glory days we are going to need years of drought to prevent the fish escaping. The extent of the fish lost will take some time to evaluate.

Pikes Crossing below the dam will be the place to be over the coming months. It will get a hammering but amazingly it seems to keep producing barra. Prior to the flood it was holding plenty of smaller size barra. There should now be a few more big models around 1m long mixed in.

The salts will be netted as the pros move in which is a real shame as these stocked fish were never meant to be sold commercially. If you can find a spot that hasn’t had the population decimated, the tidal reaches will also be worth a go.

For accommodation when fishing the dam or river below, book into Awoonga Gateway. The Gateway Lodge is on the way in to 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 with its own verandah. To book in a stay give Mark or Lyn a call on (07) 4975 0033.

Mackay Region
Closest Towns: Mackay, Mirani

Kinchant Dam overflowed when the area took a hammering from the cyclone. Fish managed to escape. Hard working locals jumped in to rescue them from the drains as the water receded. Sooties, catties and some monster barra to 130cm were returned to the lake.

The water will clear up quickly and barra were being caught right after the flooding. Freshly flooded weed beds and grass will be worth exploring. As this dies off, look for healthier patches of vegetation as this will be pumping the oxygen back into the water. Windblown areas are also vital once the vegetation dies off. The rolling action of the water will see it more oxygenated and all manner of life will be present from smaller baitfish to the predators.

Casting soft plastics over the weed is one of the most reliable ways to fish it. Also try rolling soft vibes over and through the weed beds. These lures can be ripped hard out of weed when they foul up freeing them so you can continue fishing. The stonger vibration of the soft vibe may be just what the barra need to turn them on.

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 on (07) 4957 2272.

Closest Towns: Pinnacle, Mackay

Teemburra copped an absolute hammering in the flooding rain. The dam poured over and fish may have been lost. The water will clear quickly in the lake and it will be fishable before the cold of winter hits.

If fishing the lake, look at different areas if the water is dirty. The rivers and creeks should now have cleared to push cleaner water into the top end of the dam. Soft plastics and surface lures would be two lures I’d have tied on if fishing the dam.

peter faust
Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

Despite being in the path of the cyclone, Proserpine didn’t fill and overflow. It was one of the only lakes to not spill and lose fish. There is little to report Local tackle store owner and fishing guide Lindsay Dobe was like many other locals, exhausted from the clean up after the event. Proserpine was a mess but the good news is after all the aftermath is tidied up the fishing will still be there and only a stone’s throw away.

You can expect Lake Proserpine to remain one of the best impoundment barra fishery we have. Now is the time to start planning a trip. The locals can use the tourism dollars so what better place to go and visit and nail some metre plus barra?

For all your fishing supplies or a guided trip on the lake call Lindsay or Dane at Barra World on (07) 4945 4641. Barra World is right on the highway in Proserpine and specialises in barra fishing tackle as well as catering to the needs of anglers fishing the nearby estuaries and offshore.

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