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Making the Most of the Puddles
  |  First Published: July 2007



In the past I’ve never been one to stir the hornet’s nest. However, I’d like to take the opportunity to express some of my views after an issue was raised by some concerned individuals.

As many people are aware, Queensland has an awesome barramundi impoundment fishery. The stocked fish have the ability to quickly reach immense proportions. When they reach these large sizes, they become the dominant predators. It’s proven that barra feed on many things when stocked into lakes. They terrorise bony bream and bait fish, chew on crustaceans and of course won’t pass up stocked fingerlings – even of their own kind if given the chance. We’ve even seen a barra suck a water hen off the surface.

Because of their need to feed, it has been published on many occasions that the big fish should not all be returned to the water as some need to be culled. After speaking to guys who regularly see and hear what’s going on around the lakes, it’s come to my attention just how literally some anglers have taken this opinion. Some anglers are keeping their five barra and quite often the fish are all over a metre long. I realise that people aren’t breaking any laws when doing this during the open season, however, it seems greedy and wrong that anyone would want to take so much fish. A metre barra can weigh around 20kg, so multiply that by five and that’s 100kg of fish.

I believe big fish are a prize and to catch them is a thrill. They are certainly not unlimited so we can’t kill them all. We can’t continue to waste such a valuable resource, especially when lakes’ stocking groups are finding it difficult to get their hands onto barra fingerlings. The slaughter of big barra needs to stop.

The idea of culling big barramundi started back in the earlier days when Lake Tinaroo failed to produce smaller barra. The fingerlings were going in but it was believed the big barra in the lake were making a meal of them. Unlike Tinaroo, many other barra lakes have one of the best food sources available – bony bream! Bonies live in huge schools and can be found throughout the entire lake. It’s not uncommon to see birds diving and working them in Lake Awoonga, simply because there is such a mass, they are forced to the surface by their mates. With this abundant food source swimming by all day long, the barra has to exert little energy to have a feed. It’s certainly not going to pass up an easy meal to hunt down another barra or other stocked fingerling. With all this food available, is there any need to cull big barramundi to make way for the new generation?

All I ask is that anglers take responsibility for their action. Let the big barra go, and handle them with care. Give them a chance to grow as we still don’t know just how big they are going to get. There’s no need to slaughter fish – just take a feed. As I always say to every fish I let go, “I’ll catch you later”.

If you have any views on this issue (both for and against), I’d like to hear them. You can send me an email – --e-mail address hidden--

South East Queensland
Cressbrook
Closest Town/s: Crows Nest, Toowoomba

The action at Cressbrook has been pretty slow. There are still plenty of bass to be caught and, though they haven’t been cooperating, the hit and miss action may pick up as the water temperature cools down this month.

The lake’s low level has created a lot of fish holding drop-offs along the edges to the old creek channel. The flats around these edges have been holding stacks of under-sized fish. It seems that even these smaller fish are hard to entice. Last month, hopping Mask Vib Jackalls was one of the best ways to get into some fish. Trolling these lures is another great way to get them down to where the bass are holding. Most fish caught from this area are small, however there have been some over 40cm. Cold weather is sometimes the trigger that swings this around and the bigger bass can actually become more common than the smaller ones.

Casting lures to the edges has always been the number one approach in winter. It pays to experiment with a number of lure styles including soft plastics, jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Taking an educated guess at the two most productive lures for this season, I’d go for a lipless crankbait and a deeper diving jerkbait. Try a natural or ghost coloured TN60 Jackall in both normal and silent. If these aren’t working, use a slower presentation of a suspending jerkbait like a Jackall Squirrel or a C’ultiva Rippin’ Minnow.

Mid-winter has always been the best time to fish Cressbrook for consistent catches of better quality bass. Even though the action has been slow, there’s a fair chance it will pick up soon. If you’re heading out to the lake, don’t forget your $2 coin to enter through the boom gate. Boat launching is still pretty good from the extended gravel ramp. It is steep, so take care and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Wivenhoe
Closest Towns: Fernvale, Ipswich

Lake Wivenhoe has been fishing well for big bass. These fish are holding on the flats and drop-offs in the lower part of the lake. Anglers with a key to the Sailing Club area have only a short run out to the productive area towards Platypus Cliffs. The alternative is a two-hour run on electric motor after launching at Logans Inlet.

Trolling Mask Jackalls or deep diving lures like Blitz Bagas or Cobras is the ideal way to locate fish. Work along the old river bed and creek bed drop-offs or on top of 5-8m deep flats. When bass are located cast to them with Mask Vib 60 Jackalls, soft plastics, spinnerbaits and jigs. Quite often, there will be fork-tailed catfish in the same area. Schools have been small and the fish quite scattered. As the month progresses, the fish should start to school in larger numbers.

As everyone is aware, the lake is very low and the falling water level means the shoreline is totally different to last year. Boat launching is best done by 4WD. If you don’t have this luxury, then take care and don’t get too close to the water’s edge or try on too steep an angle. There are a few places to pick from for launching so choose wisely. Big boats that need to be floated off the trailer would be a problem – maybe even too hard.

Moogerah
Closest Town: Boonah

I took some time to head to the lake and check it out for myself several weeks ago. It was my first visit for a few years and it was great to get into some quality bass. Chris Galligan was my guide for the morning and he has prepared the following reports for both Moogerah and Maroon.

Fishing the shallows for concentrations of big bass will be the highlight for July at Lake Moogerah. Bass of around 2kg can be really exciting to catch from 2-3m of water.

Bass can be located in and around the original creek bed and other areas with deeper water access. Try locating fish in 7m of water using a good sounder. Once you’ve pinpointed a fish holding area, concentrate casts across the nearby shallow flats. The more active fish should be moving around, travelling out of the deep water to feed on the shallow flats.

A variety of techniques will catch bass this month but there is one standout method to entice the most strikes and hook ups. Rigging 3” paddle-tailed soft plastics such as Charlie Brewer’s Sliders or Ecogear Power Worms and Power Shads on 1/4oz jigheads seems to do the trick. Sliders can be worked dead slowly to achieve subtle tail movement and hold some air bubbles during the initial stages of the retrieve in their ribbed body. Ecogear Power Shads can also be worked slowly. Unlike Sliders, the body of an Ecogear soft plastic has a slight wobble and roll creating a natural bait fish movement. A simple, slow, continuous retrieve can be effective with these baits. Mix it up a bit and try a slow roll, pausing to allow the plastic to touch the bottom after each pause. Alternatively, you can opt for a hopping retrieve to invoke reaction strikes.

Bass will generally strike the lure’s tail. This is felt as a hit by the angler. By dropping the lure back to the fish or twitching the bait, your rod should soon be loaded.

Eels and eel-tailed catfish will also account for some catches this month. These species are more receptive to lures with vibration that are kept close to the bottom. They are also an option for those targeting fish from the shore with bait.

With the current water level, the main boat ramp is only suitable for smaller boats. Launching larger boats is best done from the temporary ramp on The Spit. Large boats like the US style bass boats that need to be floated off their trailers would be quite a handful under the current conditions. I guess where there’s a will there’s a way, but take extra care.

Maroon
Closest Towns: Boonah, Rathdowney

Still winter days will be most enjoyable on Lake Maroon this month. Fish holding patterns on the lake will be slightly different to the warmer times of the year. With a stabilised water level, Maroon’s bass will hold shallow and close to the edges during the morning and move into 3-5m of water out from weed bed structure during the day.

Soft plastic baits will be the most effective way to catch fish. Baits like the Berkley 3” Power Hawg or Ecogear 2” Bug Ant come to the fore during the winter season. These presentations are fished most effectively on light line, leader and jigheads, or Texas rigged. The Hawg style lures can be cast hard onto the lake’s weed edge and worked back along the bottom. Small twitches and hops are best to keep the lure low and in the strike zone. Allow plenty of long pauses as fish will also pick these baits up from the bottom with no rod work.

Working 3” paddle-tail soft plastics over flats adjacent to weed beds will also be an effective searching tool for locating and catching fish this month. Schooled bass will be prevalent on Maroon’s flats and out from prominent points. These fish are generally smaller but can be a lot of fun when receptive to a wide range of presentations. Smaller profile soft plastics of only 1-2” or sinking flies will account for good numbers of these bass.

Launching at the lake is easy from the boat ramp and larger boats can use the hard bank.

Lake MacDonald
Closest Town: Noosa

The fishing at Lake MacDonald seems to have slowed somewhat over the past few weeks. This is particularly the case for lure fishers and is likely to be due to the cooler weather. The dam’s early morning surface bite, which was producing big bass, will die off for the winter months. It may be a struggle to hook the better quality fish on lures. Having said this, someone is likely to stumble onto a pattern that will produce the goods.

Several weeks ago, Danny Manning cleaned up well and truly. Using live shrimps for bait, he landed 40 or so bass, a couple of yellowbelly and a catfish or two. Danny’s best bass were both over 48cm to the fork of the tail.

Coolmunda
Closest Town: Inglewood

Since the last report, the dam level has dropped making it trickier to launch trailer boats. Care needs to be taken as every now and then a car gets bogged. Even 4WD vehicles can get bogged to the axles if they back in too far in the wrong spot.

Winter is usually a slow period at the lake but so far this season, the fishing has been better than average. The fish won’t be biting their heads off but if you put in some time, you can expect to catch some nice golden perch. Fishing with live baits is the most productive way to fish while the water temperature is low. Trolling will still pull the odd golden and is the preferred way to target the lake’s cod.

Local angler, Noel Sutton, reported losing a big cod. He was doing well until the fish surfaced, rolled and flapped on top – then it was all over. This shows that if you put in the time you just might be lucky enough to experience catching one of the lake’s big Murray cod.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only 1-2km away from the lake. 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. Why not take advantage of some great fishing opportunities in the lake and the river below and give them a call on (07) 4652 4171?

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Bjelke Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The biggest news at Bjelke is that the camping and cabins closed down last month until further notice. Despite there being nowhere to stay, the dam is still open to fishing.

The water level has remained quite stable over the cooler period. At around 3%, boats can still be launched quite easily off the gravel bank below the ramp. The best fishing from boats is found in the lower part of the lake. The area between the boat ramps and further towards the wall holds the most fish while the lake is low. Fish can be caught casting, trolling or bait fishing in the creek bed and deeper channels. Exploring the shallow flats that are adjacent to the creek bed is another worthwhile option. When trolling, you can use a mix of casting lures or opt for a standard 6-7” diving lure.

Anglers can also cast lures from the bank. The main species caught will be bass but the odd golden will still turn up over the winter period. Fish will respond to a wide variety of lures including soft plastics, Jackalls and spinnerbaits.

Boondooma
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Boondooma has been receiving plenty of fishing pressure and boat traffic due to the water at neighbouring Bjelke Petersen being so low. Boondooma levels have also been falling quite fast. Dropping water levels make the fishing a little tougher so the fish may be a bit tight-lipped. However, anglers who are prepared to work for their fish should be rewarded.

Bass are the most common species during the cold months. The deep water tends to hold the better quality bass while the shallow edges are littered with smaller ones. Sounding the deep water around the wall end and in the channels up to the well-exposed islands, should reveal the location of some bass. Slow rolling plastics through them can catch these fish. Three inch paddle-tails like Sliders and Eco Gear Power Shads or Gulp 3” minnow grubs rigged on 1/2oz jigheads are good choices for tempting the deep holding fish.

With the falling water levels, it should still be okay to launch boats (especially if you use a 4WD). It will pay to check if you’re travelling up to the dam and you can do this by calling the camp grounds or Bass to Barra Marine.

For the latest fishing information and lake report, give the guys at Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy a phone call on (07) 4162 7555. If you’re passing through Kingaroy, call in and say hello. They have an awesome range of freshwater fishing tackle.

For accommodation at the lake, give Bob and Deb a call on (07) 4168 9694. Boondooma has excellent amenities, bunk houses, cabins and camping facilities that will make your stay enjoyable.

Capricornia Region
Awoonga
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Despite what you may have read or heard, barra can be caught at Awoonga right through the winter period. By adapting your fishing methods to suit the mood of the fish you should be able to boat a few.

On the odd occasion, barra will still turn up on trolled lures. This method of fishing is a little unreliable compared to the results that can be achieved when casting lures.

Soft plastics are a standout presentation for winter barra. Pre-rigged plastics like Slick Rigs or Berkley Mullets with some of the weight cut out of the belly are my two favourites. If you find that the locations you are fishing require a lure with less weight, a resin head jighead or a 1/6 oz 5/0 Berkley Nitro jighead can be dressed with a suitable plastic. Some plastics worth trying are Squidgy Fish and Gulp 7” Jerkshads. These lures should be cast into the shallow water and retrieved at a pace to keep them just above the weed or bottom. Two areas that are likely to stand out over the cold months will be the freshly growing submerged weed beds and the shallow bays. In both areas, barra can sun themselves above the bottom or weed in very shallow water. In many cases, you will be casting to water that is less than a metre deep and slightly warmer than the open parts of the dam.

Provided there is enough water to cover the back of the fish they are likely to be there. If you’re new to this style of fishing, it may be hard to grasp the concept of such big fish hiding in such shallow water. As you work along the shallows, use long casts so you don’t spook the fish. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the water and look for bow waves or movement from big barra disturbed by the boat, as this will reassure you that you’re in the right area.

The winter action may be a bit slower but the barra can certainly be caught. It’s an impressive sight to see a barra powering through the shallows and dancing on the surface, so why not try your luck?

Matthew Mott runs barra tours on Lake Awoonga and has a wealth of knowledge to share. To learn how to target impoundment barra and for the chance to tangle with Awoonga’s awesome fish, give him a call on (07) 4168 4811.

Callide
Closest Town: Biloela

Winter is a great time to target the lake’s golden perch. Goldens in Callide Dam are huge and can be caught in numbers when fishing with bait. The golden perch don’t draw all that much attention with the main focus being on the dam’s huge barramundi. It’s good to know that when the cold weather makes the barra tougher to catch, there’s a backup fish to make the fishing day more enjoyable.

Live shrimp are the best baits at the lake. These can be caught from the dam edges by using collapsible shrimp traps. Bait up with some cat food, pilchards, fish or raw meat and monitor the traps throughout the day and night. When positioning the boat for a bait fishing session, anchor or tie up in 4-5m of water. The area out from The Quarry is a popular spot to try.

The barra may be quiet but this certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t be caught. Choosing nicer days that are still and warm will increase your chances of success. Target the big fish that should be lazing in the warmer, shallow water. Soft plastics are a good choice. A slow retrieve will suit the mood of the barra so removing some weight from the plastic can be beneficial. Use side cutters to slice off pieces of lead in the belly of pre-rigged plastics until they suit the depth you are fishing.

Creek to Coast Fishing Tackle in Biloela stock a great range of tackle. The store services the lake that is just a short drive away. For any tips or the latest information call in and say g’day at the shop. For the latest information on what’s happening in the area, give Norm a call on (07) 4992 1288. There are no camping facilities at the lake but Biloela is close enough to be a great home base for any trips to Callide.

Central Coast
Proserpine (Peter Faust)
Closest Town: Proserpine

The barra fishing at Lake Proserpine will be steady this month. There’s no need to be up at the crack of dawn for the early morning bite. The colder weather keeps the barra quiet until the water warms up around mid-morning or even later in the afternoon on calm days.

The calm, warm days are the best times to target the lake’s lazy winter fish. Exploring the shallow water with soft plastics and shallow diving minnows like Rapala X-Rap Magnums and big gold Bombers will draw the occasional strike. It will be hard work, with lots of casts between fish, but they can still be caught over the entire winter period. Lindsay Dobe from Proserpine Bait and Tackle recommends casting the sandy points that extend into the lake. You can pick up the odd fish in bays but the points seem to perform best.

On the warmer, calm days, fishing in deeper water around the trees can also produce fish. Look for the carrot tops in the trees. These are spindly bits of timber below the surface that the barra seem to favour. There are a couple of options when working these snags. You can run a shallow diver straight over the top or work a deeper diver. When using deeper lures cast past the snag and work the lure deep down beside it. Pause the retrieve and let the lure float up close or all the way to the surface. This presentation gives the barra plenty of time to get interested and inspect the intruder.

If you’re looking for the latest information and tips on catching fish in the area, give Lindsay Dobe a call. Lindsay runs barramundi charters on Lake Proserpine. You can drop in to his tackle store on the highway in Proserpine when you are on your way to the dam or give him a call on (07) 4945 4641.

New England Ranges (NSW)
Copeton
Closest Towns: Inverell, Ashford

Golden perch are still being caught at Copeton Dam on live bait. Lure trolling has been quiet and the dam is now at only 9% capacity. The rivers in the area, the Macintyre and Severn, are producing Murray cod on lures.

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

funny Feedback

Every month, I ask for fishing feedback to contribute to my report. It’s great to see some anglers putting in the time to let me know what’s going on around the lakes and I really appreciate all reports. Recently I had a surprise email that I’ve entitled ‘What Not to Do’. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

What Not to Do

Dear Colonel

In QFM May edition you asked for fishing reports from any dams you may have overlooked. I have one such report for you. It is not a large dam and doesn’t see a lot of fishing pressure, however we have been getting some great catches of late. With falling water levels I am always on the lookout for new fishing methods as the fish become harder to target. One fishing method that has been working well is shooting with a 303 or, my personal favourite, netting – which never fails to produce good results. We recently stumbled onto what could be the best method yet – pumping out all of the remaining water and simply picking up your catch. You do get a little muddy but it is a no fail method. Species targeted include catfish, carp and eels. Sometimes if you’re lucky you may even get the odd spangled perch.

I hope this can help inform your readers and promote a new fishing hotspot. There is good accommodation in the area with stretcher beds and a shady tree, though showers are cold and come from the left over muddy water. No boat ramp is needed as there is no water. If you would like to book a weekend tour, bookings can be made on xxxx xxxx. I look forward to a return call to discuss a regular column.

Thank-you, Warren, for your input.

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