Get ready for south Queensland bass
  |  First Published: June 2017

Cooling weather and shorter days means that bass are following their age-old breeding patterns and getting together in big numbers to do what comes naturally. Being totally freshwater though, these fish won’t actually be able to breed. This means that right until spring, we can expect to find big schools of bass in our stocked impoundments.

While bass are found in quite a few impoundments and water storages between Bundaberg and the border (as well as in good quality rivers and creeks) it’s the big bass in South East Queensland’s larger impoundments that are the major attraction. In impoundments where bony bream are prevalent, these feisty fish just seem to grow larger and stronger each year. Following the recent lift in water levels from early autumn rain, the fishing should just become better from now on.

The main dams of interest to the bass angler living around this region are Wivenhoe, Somerset, Moogerah and Maroon. Yes, I know there are plenty of bass in Boondooma and Bjelke Petersen dams as well, but this article will focus on the impoundments I’ve mentioned.

Wivenhoe Dam

Looking at what these southern dams offer, from largest to smallest, we should naturally start with good old Wivenhoe Dam. Following the easing of power craft restrictions – boats are still limited to low emission direct injection or four-stroke engines and a speed of 6 knots – there has been a major increase in fishing activity on this huge waterway.

Wivenhoe is something of an enigma. Sometimes the bass are in a specific location, say off White Cliffs out from Logan Inlet, other times the sounder will just show a nice clear bottom section, devoid of fish. these can cometimes be big areas unfortunately.

The clue is to maintain a careful track and have the sounder searching in the 10-12m mark. Wherever possible, maintain a course along the old Brisbane River bed. Bass have a penchant for hanging together just off the riverbed in this dam much the same as they do in Somerset Dam.

Be warned, sometimes the bass on the sounder in Wivenhoe Dam are of the fork-tailed croaking variety – big catfish, in other words! Fortunately, as the water cools the catties tend to tame down their attacks on lures and flies. It’s just a matter of moving to another area if the catties are on the job.

Many anglers launch at Logan Inlet, which is an excellent central area with a lot of easily found flats within reach. A boat can cover a lot of water at 6 knots and it’s so easy to move from one area to the next to search for fish. One saving grace about fishing Wivenhoe dam is the sheer beauty of the area. It really is a wonderful dam in many respects and there certainly are some massive bass in this impoundment thanks to the huge schools of bony bream that these great sportfish feed on.

Wivenhoe Dam has excellent camping facilities, but its popularity means you’ll need a prior booking for a stay.

Somerset Dam

Renowned for both XOS bass and exciting catches from the mid 1980s, this dam has been fishing reasonably well in the past month. Reasonably well means that the fish are easily found and on the job hitting virtually any item attached to a leader that is offered for their perusal – on one day. On the very next day the same school in the same area at the same time of day has developed lockjaw. The fish are on the sounder, why won’t they bite? It’s because they are native fish. Sometimes there are few things more fickle.

The good news is that, much the same as last autumn and winter, the more active schools seem to be in the Kirkleigh area. Fish are holding on the flats out off the northern side of the camping area just before the timber (adjacent to the Stanley River bed) or anywhere close to the riverbed within the big flats area to the south between Kirkleigh and Queen Street.

Schools of bass holding in the magical 7-10m depth seem to be the ones most likely to please an angler. If a few birds (gulls) are hanging about the schools of fish, it’s a good bet that the hapless bony bream below are getting a good hiding from the bass. Birds swooping, circling or hovering just above the water are a really good indication of fishy action far below.

Wounded bony bream often make their way to the surface. As they circle aimlessly, those birds don’t miss the chance to enjoy an easy feed. A plastic around the size of bony bream (or a fly of a similar size) will usually be snapped up when brought through the school in small stop-start jerks and twitches.

Note that there are no weed beds adjacent to the main fishing areas (similar to Lake Wivenhoe) so a sounder is vital to help locate schooled fish.

Somerset Dam is always an enjoyable outing and anglers often like to put a couple of days into a crack at the fish. Luckily there are camping areas both at the town of Somerset Dam to the south (ten minutes from the Spit) and Kirkleigh to the north so anglers can easily select a camping area as a base.

Moogerah Dam

Again, this is a great dam to visit and enjoy some camping. It’s very easy to camp close to the water, with the boat perhaps left handy for next fishing session, when the dam level is right up. While this impoundment is not as large as Somerset or Wivenhoe, it is unique in that it offers flats, timbered areas, cliffs and some massive weed beds all within a short boat ride of each other.

Starting from the main ramp there are massive weed beds to the north and fish are often located schooling just off these weed beds (in the usual 7-10m depth). A plastic or fly worked against the edge of the weed, especially where a bay in the growth has formed, will often be slammed by a hungry bass. Other great areas to fish are easy to locate. It all comes down to watching the sounder to locate the schools.

In this dam in particular the fish seem to enjoy schooling to adjacent standing timber. That’s not to say that they will be right in the timber, but likely just on the outer edge of it. Interestingly, Moogerah’s bass seem to fight very hard. There are 55cm fish in the mix, but even a 48-50cm fish seems to give a very good account of itself.

Once again, bony bream are the main food source, hence these bass like larger offerings if you use a plastic or lure. Bony bream imitations are also very good for the fly angler. Have a look at Seqwater to ascertain some new speed limits on this impoundment.

Maroon Dam

Of all the South Queensland impoundments this has to be the most productive. Summer, autumn, winter and spring, this is a four seasons fishery. Making the effort will usually see fish caught on any chosen method. Weed beds, a bit of timber in the main creek arm, points that drop off into deeper water – this one has the lot.

Yet it’s a very small body of water in comparison to the other dams I have mentioned. What’s more there are no schools of bony bream in this impoundment. Instead the fish have a steady diet of surface tucker at times of low light. If they’re feeding deeper, the preference is for the small firetail gudgeons that inhabit the weed beds by the millions. Accordingly, these bass are somewhat smaller and certainly have the numbers.

There are two main fishing methods, depending on the time. The pre-dawn and evening or after dark fishing will see surface offerings taken readily. Remember to slow things down and not make too splashy a retrieve, which can put fish off.

Nothing a bass eats in Maroon Dam will make a big surface commotion. Likely, the opposite is the case. Any critter suddenly hitting the drink will often sit for a spell in a state of shock before tentatively moving. This is why a surface offering worked carefully can be the best way to go. Note that once the sun hits the water of a morning or it becomes really dark, things get a bit quiet. A late night session with surface lures can be an exciting time.

Once it’s full daylight the clue is to fish deeper and maintain contact with the weed beds. The fish will still be there, going about their business of eating for a living. Like the other dams the bass schools will be often found holding deeper. The depth can be as little as 6m or less.

Camp Lake Fire or Pointro offer good camping opportunities for anglers wanting extended times on the water. There are also new speed restrictions on this dam so a look at the Seqwater site on the net will be wise.

Summing Up

Things are looking up in our popular bass dams. There is still some question as to the final rainfall tally for this autumn, so dams might be quite high. This won’t stop you from having a good time at all. Lastly, don’t forget the redclaw pots. All four dams feature them and these crustaceans proliferate when dam levels are high.

forget the redclaw pots. All four dams feature them and these crustaceans proliferate when dam levels are high.

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