Confused Bass and Prowling Barra
  |  First Published: April 2008

It’s always hard to predict the fishing, especially around times when lake levels are rising due to rain.

Last month I could have called on the use of a crystal ball. Several of the lakes’ water levels increased dramatically. This is great news, although my predictions would have been a bit off course. During March, low-pressure systems still hovered around our coastline and the chance of further rain remains.

The rising dam levels have made the lakes popular places to visit. Fishers, skiers and other water sports enthusiasts are all getting in on the action and enjoying the higher water levels. Some of this activity may ease off a bit this month as the days get shorter and the weather cools off.

With the increase in anglers visiting the lakes, the water police have been out in force. They have been checking bag and size limits, safety equipment, licenses and Stocked Impoundment Permits (SIP). It’s important to remember to always carry your SIP with you when fishing on lakes that require one. Neglecting to do so can and will result in a fine. To obtain a SIP or for more information you can visit this website www.qld.gov.au/fishing at anytime or call 132 523 between 8am-6pm weekdays. Be sure to call at least five days prior to use for a permit. Lakes requiring a SIP are shown each month in the current dam level table.

Despite many of the dams becoming much more popular with anglers, not all of them have been delivering the expected results. A hot bite usually follows a rise before a quiet period takes over. During the slower period, fish are affected by dying grasses and vegetation and adapt by finding the most suitable environment. After a month or two the action will again kick in. The rise in water has left the bass a little confused but their bigger cousins, the barra, have certainly been on the prowl. Read on to see which of the lakes I’m tipping to be on fire with hot fishing action.

You can reach me at my email address, --e-mail address hidden-- , with any of your freshwater fishing reports. I’d love to hear your fishing stories and where the fish are biting. The more reports I get the better. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Crows Nest, Toowoomba

While rain bucketed down in February, Cressbrook’s catchment area received only enough to raise the dam about one metre in level. This minor rise did little to influence the fishing. Bass have been dominating the fishing scene with a few golden perch or other species showing up. Bait fishing will increase the chance of catching other fish species but if it’s lures you’re tossing expect to catch bass.

There have been stacks of smaller bass hunting the flooded grass and weed beds. Most days the fish will be tiny but on some occasions about half of them will be over legal size. The vegetation around the shallow edges will only grow more in the coming month. The tangled mess is a great place for bass to hunt small bait species. Due to the shallow nature of the environment, surface presentations are the best approach. Periods of low light are ideal as this offers the bass some cover from predators. Surface lures like the Sammy 65, Zara Puppy, Zippin’ Ziggy, Rapala Skitterpop and Frenzy poppers will all catch fish. The key factor is that they are all around the same size of 60-75mm. Most surface action will occur either close to structure (weed or sticks) or near bottom contour changes.

The bass population that has always schooled in the dam’s deepest parts seems to be dwindling. These fish have moved closer to the drop-offs. With the low lake level, there are stacks of suitable fish holding locations. There are well defined drop-offs where the water drops away into the old creek beds. When the dam is higher, these areas are too deep to hold fish. Now at five to eight metres deep before dropping into the creek bed, they are ideal. The bass holding in these areas are of mixed sizes. Many are undersized and need to be released but a few are legal. The mood of the bigger fish on the day seems to influence their urge to feed. One day they will be biting well and the next they will be shut down.

The usual techniques will catch these fish. Soft plastics, Mask Vibes and lipless crankbaits rolled through the depths will draw some strikes. I believe they are looking for a presentation with far more vibration. Try a1/2 ounce jighead rigged plastic hooked up to beetle spin blade, a Chatterbait with a plastic tail or some of the new blade baits.

Trolling lures like small Stump Jumpers, Mini Busters and the Mann’s 10+ will put you at the right depth to score the strikes. Working close to the ledges is vitally important as the fish will be most active here. The strong vibrating action of these diving plugs seems to be drawing more attention than trolled Lipless crankbaits and plastics.

Don’t forget your $2 entry fee at the gate. This allows you to access the boat ramp and BBQ, picnic and playground facilities. The ramp is still in good condition with gravel all the way into the water. For an update on fishing and boat launching, or to stock up on all your fishing supplies, call in and see the guys at Fish’n’Bits in Alderly Street, Toowoomba.

Closest Town: Boonah

Lake Moogerah’s fishing has been slowly improving. Hardcore anglers are starting to make their way back to the lake for a fish with varying success rates. Water colour and clarity are improving after the lake’s last influx.

April should see a steady increase in fish numbers caught as water temperatures start to fall. Although it is autumn, temperatures and patterns can be compared to a springtime bite. Fish will hold in around three to seven metres of water on open points, creek bed drop-offs and near the timber. The style of fishing and presentations will be similar to those used to target Somerset’s bass. Lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits are the staple lures used to locate and catch fish. A good sounder is recommended for casting and trolling.

Launching is from the double lane boat ramp and there are ample parking spaces. Take care on the water as the lake is once again popular with water skiers. – Chris Galligan

Closest Towns: Boonah, Rathdowney

Maroon’s successful recreational fishing history owes a lot to its stocking success. It’s a little known fact among most new bass anglers that just over ten years ago, Lake Maroon was infested with a thick blanket of blue green algae or cyanobacterium. Scientists at CSIRO theorized that overstocking the lake would create a chain effect on the food web, allowing micrograzers to control the algae bloom. In 1997 and 1998 around 100 000 bass fingerlings were stocked into the impoundment. This number is over three times the normal stocking amount.

The theory behind this experiment seemed to work for some time before the algae returned. It was concluded that fish stocks should not exceed a certain threshold and the pest weed must have been a result of a change in nutrients within the lake.

This was also a time when bass fishing was new and exciting. Fish stocks and sizes had hit new, high levels and anglers were realising bass could be caught by casting, not just trolling and bait fishing.

The late nineties also spawned the inauguration of professional tournament fishing for bass in Australia. Maroon hosted a couple of important events that have helped shape our tournaments today. In 1999 the first Bass Pro Grand Final was won by Harry Watson. A Maroon tournament also contributed Angler of the Year points towards the winner of the first ever BASS Pro AOY, Brett Thomson. Soon after, the first Bass Electric Grand Final was held on Lake Maroon, won by Jason Ehrlich.

Next time you’re on the lake and manage a cricket score card of fish, sit back and think. There have been countless hours of blood, sweat and tears put in by stocking groups, ABT, master anglers and pioneers like Brett Thomson, Harry Watson, Jason Ehrlich and Steve Morgan. These people have helped create and shape the quality and style of fishing we enjoy today. – Chris Galligan

Closets Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

After the series of rises that took Somerset to over 80% capacity the bass went crazy, taking lures presented in the deeper water of the dam basin and on the shallow edges up in the timber. The fish have now gone quiet and the bigger schooling fish have busted up, making them difficult to locate. This change is normal after a big rise. I don’t remember ever seeing a rise similar to the one that Somerset has undergone. The rises occurred over a couple of months and the rainy weather caused masses of vegetation to grow. Grasses and weeds covered the banks before they were flooded. In some places, the grass would have been over a metre tall. This is different from other rises when a big rush of water brings the dam up over banks with little vegetation. All the grass and weeds will now die off and make the water quality poor. It’s not just around the lake edges that this will happen but right out into the deeper water of around five metres where there is still plenty of covered grass.

Due to this unusual rise, it’s going to be hard to predict how the fish will respond. After a month or two I expect that the action will fire up. The brief period of ordinary fishing should be over and the dam, now full of nutrients, should be fishing really well. The bass are likely to school up between the dam wall and Bay 13. Look for fish in water deeper than six metres. Trolling small diving lures that can reach five to seven metres in depth will allow you to cover plenty of water in search of fish. Keep a close eye on the sounder as it’s likely that some of the bigger fish will still be scattered through the water column. This means that in deeper water they may be suspended well off the bottom. Try to present lures as close to this depth as possible.

When casting lures, try usual offerings like Lipless crankbaits, soft plastics and spinnerbaits. I’m tipping the fish will respond well to lures with a bit more vibration and noise like Lipless crankbaits and blade Baits that weigh around 1/2 ounce.

ABT is running this year’s second round of the Bass Pro series at Lake Somerset at the end of March. With so many skilled anglers out on the water, a range of fish catching patterns are likely to emerge. Keep an eye out for the results at www.australianbass.com.au.

Closest Towns: Imbil, Gympie

This beautiful lake is now even more appealing at 100% capacity. The fresh, dirty waters have made the fishing a bit tough but as they continue to clear this month, the action will start to fire up.

Freshly covered edges will die off and the fish will then take residence in the lake’s shallows. The mid to upper reaches of the creeks will have attracted the fish. The running water will draw them from the main basin and hold them in the cover of the timbered area. Saratoga and bass will be the main targets. Fish close to the structure and concentrate on the bases of bottlebrush trees. These trees offer shade and an ambush point for hungry predators to launch an attack from.

Search for fish using reaction baits like spinnerbaits and Lipless crankbaits. If they are found and the action slows down, offer something subtler like a silent Lipless crankbait or a soft plastic.

Mark Pertot lives and works close enough to Borumba to fish it regularly and hear from others how it is going. If you’re after a few tips on fishing Borumba or any of South East Queensland’s bass dams, he has loads of knowledge. Most days you’ll find Mark working at Davo’s Bait and Tackle. Davo’s stock a great range of fishing gear that caters for both fresh and saltwater anglers. The store can be found in the Homemaker Centre in Noosaville.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

While many anglers have been doing it tough on Cooby there have been a few that are consistently producing good results. The falling water level has changed the environment of the lake to the point that the fish are holding in more specific areas. The main dam basin is one of the better areas to locate fish. The basin has a lot of shallow flats that do produce at times but are usually too quiet to be bothered with. If you take the time to locate the drop-off to the deeper water of the creek bed and work the ledge, you are far more likely to be rewarded.

Trolling lures like TN60 and Lipless crankbaits will produce a mixed bag of golden perch, silver perch and Murray cod. The action is pretty slow but the quality fish that can be caught make up for this. By trolling a mix of lures, you can locate the depth the fish are holding and increase your chances.

When the golden and silver perch aren’t biting, the action can be very slow. I’ve heard stacks of reports of anglers only getting one or two strikes for the day but these fish were cod. Murray cod are usually most active during the middle of the day at Cooby. I’ve had sessions where we’ve caught a few straight after putting the boat in for an afternoon session only for the cod bit to die off as the day moves on.

Murray cod can be targeted by casting lures. Work the drop-offs or any structure you may find on the sounder. Smaller lures can be used and will catch a mix of species, though the cod prefer bigger offerings that make plenty of noise and vibration. Try the AusSpin Pro Assassinator Clacker Blade Spinnerbait. The 3/4 ounce version is ideal for Cooby and has caught plenty of decent-sized fish.

I love cod and think they are far too precious to kill. If you are releasing these majestic fish, take care when handling them.

Only electric motors can be used on Cooby although an outboard can be left on the boat. The boat launching is pretty good from a temporary gravel ramp. There is a boom gate at the entry to the dam that requires $2 in coins to open.

Closest Town/s: Inglewood

After rising to over 100% the dam has started to produce fish more reliably once more. Golden perch have been hit and miss for some anglers. Some boats will catch stacks using the same baits as others that miss out. For this reason, be prepared to move around and try different areas until you start catching fish. Work on finding the fish rather than hoping they will find you.

Live shrimp can be caught in the dam in traps. The restricted fishing area at the wall also applies to shrimping so be sure to follow the rules and avoid a fine. Shrimp make a top bait but if you are after an alternative try frozen prawns. Prawns have even produced some quality Murray cod over the past month.

The creek bed drop-off out from the boat ramp is one of the prime locations for bait fishing. The creek mouths and further up into the timbered areas are also worth a shot.

Trolling is a very good option. Many of the fish are still scattered across the flooded flats after the rise in water level. These scattered fish are hard to target with bait and the ability to cover a large area when trolling makes it a better alternative. When trolling use a suitable lure to effectively fish the area you are working. The correct lure will swim close to the bottom without fouling up too much. This should have it working in the strike zone and the golden perch or even a Murray cod shouldn’t be too far away.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only a couple of kilometres from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway on the way into the lake. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. It’s the ideal place to relax with the family while being able to catch a few fish as well. 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
Bjelke Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

Bjelke has risen to 18% capacity. A smaller rise a month before the major one in February ensured the fish were comfortably able to adapt to the influx of water. The natural grasses and weeds that were flooded should now have died off enough for the action to start picking up.

Bass and golden perch will be schooling up in the main basin around the deeper drop-offs. Here, casting soft plastics will be a good option. Trolling spinnerbaits and Lipless crankbaits will also work on these deeper fish. Control the speed of the boat so the lures reach the desired depth.

By the end of the month, the dam edges should be fishing well. Both bass and golden perch will be hunting the shallower water for food. Reaction lures like Lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits will draw the strikes. These lures are great for exploring plenty of water. Use an electric motor to work along the banks in search of fish. If you don’t have an electric, choose a bank that has the wind blowing parallel to it and drift along it while casting.

Bait fishing will remain a good option. Anglers can try this from the bank or from boats. Baits like shrimp, frozen prawns and worms will produce mixed bags of quality fish.

To check up on the fishing, give Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy a phone call on (07) 4162 7555.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

After a rise of about 45%, Boondooma is now over half full. The flooding rain washed plenty of topsoil into the lake making the water very dirty. During the initial rise, the fishing was good but as the dirty water spread out over the lake, the action slowed right down. The sediment in the water should now be settling enough for the fish to start biting.

Bass will be schooling up in some of the areas they used to frequent years ago. The Islands, The Junction and Pelican Point will be some of the hot spots worth investigating. As the fish return more into their normal behavioral patterns, they will eat soft plastics and lipless crankbaits hopped across the flats. Flats of five to eight metres in depth will hold good numbers of bass. A good sounder is essential to locate these fish when casting lures. If trolling, use lures like spinnerbaits or lipless crankbaits to locate the fish.

Fishing in the trees is also worth a try up both of the river arms. Here, the trees and the banks can be targeted. The running water should have attracted some bass and golden perch to the area. These fish will have taken residence in the area and will be looking for a feed. Bait fishing or casting spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits will score the fish if there are any in the area.

There are plenty of options and new water to explore. As the dam settles more, the flush of nutrients should pave the way for some awesome fishing action.

Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy can look after all of your fishing needs. Call in and see the guys. The store is in Youngman Street and the guys can help you out and offer some useful advice. Bass to Barra Marine can also be found in Dalby. This shop stocks a great range of quality gear for bass and barra fishing. It’s located in Shop 2, Drayton Street so be sure to check it out.

For accommodation at the lake, give the managers a call on (07) 4168 9694. Boondooma has excellent amenities, bunk houses, cabins, powered sites and camping facilities that will make your stay enjoyable. Boats can be launched below the far boat ramp from a reasonably hard bank.

Closest Town: Monto

After a long time, Cania has had a reasonable rise in water level. The dam went from five to twelve per cent. Since the rise in water level there has been plenty of action on the fishing scene.

Stacks of bass in the 40-50cm size range have been active in the upper reaches of the lake. Here they are hunting through the flooded vegetation along with the lake’s saratoga population. Despite many lures being thrown at them, the best lure types have been surface offerings.

With the vegetation dying off, the fish may retreat to deeper water but are likely to remain in the same area. If this occurs, try using lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Cast up into the shallows and work the lures back following the contour of the bottom into deeper water.

Trolling the steeper banks near the boat ramps has also been scoring quite a few bass. Medium diving lures that dive around five metres should work well.

Boats can be launched from a new concrete ramp or the older dirt ramp that was in place before the dam rose.

To find out more about the lake or to book some great accommodation nearby, call the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park on (07) 4167 8188. There are excellent facilities including campsites, cabins, playgrounds and a swimming pool. It’s worth a visit to the park just to see some of the rare and beautiful wildlife that regularly drop in and live in the area. After the rain the Cania Gorge is looking great. Everything is green and there is water running in some areas. It’s a great place to take in the bush and experience some great bush walking.

Closest Towns: Gin Gin, Bundaberg

Monduran’s water level shot up to 38% in February. To give you an idea how high the lake is, the cattle yards are now well under water. Since the rise the barra have been aggressively taking lures in shallow and deep water.

Casting lures to the shallow, flooded areas will produce plenty of fish. The upper reaches of the lake are producing fish more reliably than the main basin area. The flats that skirt the river channel in “B” Bay have been one of the hot spots. Any similar areas of flats that are close to the smaller creeks in the same area are ideal. Anglers who took the time to note structure like fallen tress or log jams are now reaping the rewards. Many such features are now hidden below the surface. Another popular casting spot has been around “C” Bay. Keep these spots in mind but be adventurous and search different types of features, depth and experiment to find what works best for you.

Some of the hot casting lures have been the Arafura Barra 130 and the Classic Pro in the 12 and 8 feet models. Colours like red head/white body, Guns and Roses and gold with red stripes have worked well. It’s always good to know what lures and colours other anglers are catching on as this gives you the confidence to fish harder.

Trolling lures in the top end of the lake is also producing barra. Meandering through the trees that define the river channel should keep your lures close to the trees without fouling up too much. The stretch of river between “H” and “J” is a good place to start. The Koolabung bony bream pattern lure has been scoring some quality fish. This lure has a strong action, deep profile and no rattles and differs from many other barra lures. Try the red head pattern as it’s been performing well for other anglers.

Since the rise, there has been a report of lots of schooling bass. I’m sure that many of the bass tournament anglers would love to know their whereabouts. Unfortunately, the guys who caught them were pretty tight lipped. It does look promising though for some of the bass events to be held at Monduran later this year.

If you’re on your way to Monduran, be sure to call in at Foxies Barra Pro in Gin Gin. The store has all the gear you’ll need. The staff here will be able to give you a few tips and steer you in the right direction.

Accommodation can be booked through Lake Monduran Kiosk and Tackle Shop. They look after all the cabins, houses, powered and un-powered campsites as well as houseboats and boat hire. Bookings with Guide Lines, which is a guiding service specialising in Lake Monduran, can also be made through the store. The kiosk’s number is (07) 4157 3881.

Capricornia Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Anglers lucky enough to fish Awoonga experienced some awesome fishing. Wherever they could find fresh water running into the lake the barra were biting like mad. The follow-on effect of the rise can still be enjoyed as the fish are cooperating well, eating cast and trolled lures.

When the dam rose, it flooded the thick weed beds. By fishing on top of these, anglers have been able to pull plenty of fish. Trolling in the Dingo Island area over top of weed beds has been scoring plenty of barra. It pays to concentrate on the edge where the weed drops away into deeper water. This bite may die down and the fish could move off and suspend in more open water if the dying weed makes the water too undesirable. In the meantime check it out by trolling lures like three and five metre Scorpions, Vipers and Classic Barras in 10 and 15 plus. Colours like chrome gold, blue and white with a red head will work well.

On the casting scene, there are plenty of fish holding in the shallow water. These fish can be targeted using suspending diving lures. The Rapala X-Rap is ideal for this work. I upgrade all of my hooks for barra fishing in the lakes. I’ve found that placing some Owner ST66 hooks onto a 2.5m diving Laser Pro makes an excellent lure. This changes the buoyancy of the lure making it almost neutral. The ability to pause the lure in front of fish longer will often work in the anglers favour.

Surface lures have also been working well. This may have something to do with lots of creatures being washed into the lake when the water rose. This has had the barra tuned into any surface activity. Flooded banks also attract baitfish. Barra won’t be too far away and will smash them from the surface making their distinct boofing sound.

If the bite slows down by the end of the month, it may be time for a change in tactics. Try targeting fish closer to structure. If you took notice of any trees on the banks when the dam was low, now is the time to give them a thorough workout if they are submerged. Any dead trees or bushes that can be seen sticking out of the water are worth a go. It’s best if they are near some other attractive feature as well such as on the tip of a point. These places should fish well until the weed growth starts to take over and cover them.

For a holiday with a difference, enjoy a stay on one of the houseboats. This is an excellent way to fish the lake. Between sessions you can make a short trip to return to your floating home that has all the comforts you’ll ever need. If you’re interested in Lake Awoonga Houseboats and Leisure Craft, give them a call on (07) 4975 0930.

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