The hot weather has certainly warmed up the average water temperature in the freshwater lakes producing great fishing in some lakes and slowing down the others that are struggling with water levels.
The fishing at Cressbrook has been quiet over the past month. Anglers and those that use the water as their supply would welcome an influx of freshwater causing a rise. If you’re heading to the lake you’ll need $2 to open the boom gate which allows entry to the boat ramps, picnic facilities, walking tracks and playground.
On the fishing scene, casting lures in 3-7m of water has accounted for plenty of small bass. Both arms are holding good sized schools in their upper reaches. Another spot that seems to hold a lot of smaller bass is directly in front of the boat ramp. Using Jackals and spinnerbaits will draw a reaction bite from these aggressive little fish. Most of the bass on offer in the schools are undersized so if you’re keeping a couple, be sure to stick to the legal size limit of 30cm.
Around the weedy edges are scatterings of bass to be caught and the occasional golden perch will turn up as well. Casting spinnerbaits, Jackalls and surface lures will draw most strikes. The bass around the edges will vary from fish that are undersized to reasonable sizes around 40cm. The average fish caught will be just over the legal size limit and it’s often hard to find the bigger fish.
In the middle of the lake, there are thermoclines that bass favour in the deeper water. In the open water, bass feed on the occasional baitfish that may stray through this zone, but primarily feed on daphnia (water flea). The bass aren’t as concentrated as they have been in past years. This is most likely to do with the lower water levels, which reduces the effect the thermocline has on attracting and holding fish.
Casting lures like Jackalls, soft plastics and jigs in the deep water around the scattered schools will pull some good bass. The fish that suspend in this deep water will also fall for live shrimp and trolled lures – provided they are presented at the right depth.
The ramp at the lake has been well maintained so there is no problem launching small and medium sized boats with a 2WD vehicle.
Lake Cooby, near Toowoomba, is experiencing low water levels like many of the other lakes in southeast Queensland. Due to the low level, there are no longer boat launching facilities at this lake though small boats, canoes and kayaks can be carried to the water’s edge and launched by hand. As always, you can only use paddle or electric power on Cooby; petrol engines aren’t allowed.
Visiting or fishing at Cooby requires $2 to enter the boom gate.
Despite the low water level, there are a lot of weedbeds around the lake’s edge. If fishing from a vessel, trolling these weed edges with small shallow diving lures can be productive. Yellowbelly are the most common fish caught when using lures, though other species that occasionally fall for trolled lures are Murray cod and silver perch. Dusk is the most productive time to troll and using black and white minnows seems to outfish other lure colours. Try small Stump Jumpers or Eddy’s Mini Busters close to the weedbeds.
The walking tracks that head toward the wall end of the lake are popular with bank fishermen. Once you reach the steeper banks along these tracks you can fish over the top of the weeded edge. Baits like live shrimp, small crays or even worms will account for yellowbelly, jew, spangled and silver perch. The fishing here is steady with most anglers catching something for their efforts.
Casting lures from the banks is also an option. Purple and black spinnerbaits seem popular with yellowbelly and cod taking these lures, but the fishing is generally fairly slow. The chance of catching a big cod lures anglers to the lake to try their luck as cod to over 50lb are often seen and occasionally hooked along these banks.
The fishing at Bjelke should be good throughout February. Trolling lures is the most productive method, catching both bass and golden perch. Trolled hard-bodied lures like SMAK 12s, Merlins and 65mm Boomerangs are ideal; darker colours tend to work best. Try black, brown and purple or black and dark green.
Trolling spinnerbaits, Jackalls and Eco Gear VT65s will also do the trick. These lures are designed for casting but work exceptionally well when trolled.
When trolling, target fish holding around the drop-off to the old creekbed. Using a good sounder will help locate the better concentrations of fish. Work these areas thoroughly to increase your chance of success. The best fishing tends to be in the lower part of the dam. Areas like Bass Point, Bridgeman Downs and between the boat ramps consistently hold fish.
Bait fishing is worth a try, particularly early and late in the day. Jew and golden perch are the most common species encountered. The Quarry and the drop-off out from Bass Point are two of the more popular bait fishing locations.
The fishing at Boondooma can be quiet around this time of year. The fish will be scattered due to the warm water temperature, making it harder to catch them in big numbers. Despite saying this, most anglers will manage to catch some fish.
Trolling deep diving lures is a good way to cover a lot of water and ensure that your lure passes more of the scattered fish. In the deeper water, bass are the more likely species. If you move closer to the edges where the lure runs closer to the bottom, golden perch will dominate your catches.
Deep lures like Blitz Bagas and Ridgebacks, or slow trolled 5/8oz spinnerbaits and TN70 Jackalls, are fine examples of lures that are able to probe the depths. Using proven colours like green and black or purple will give you the best chance.
Most of the fish will be found in the deep water of the main basin. Look for them on your sounder in areas such as near the wall, between the third and fourth marker buoy, from The Island to The Junction and from here to the first bend in the Stuart arm.
Casting lures can work well at times. At this time of year, schools of bass can blanket an area one day and be gone the next. Look around the top of The Island and the drop-offs nearby, Pelican Point and the deep water of the main basin. Most normal casting lures will catch these fish with soft plastics and Jackalls at the top of the list.
Live shrimp and worms fished in five to ten metres of water around the rocky drop offs will attract golden perch. You can also target goldens in the same depth of water at the start of the Boyne timber.
Long, hot, cloudless days will have anglers and fish alike looking for a cool spot on Hinze Dam. Early starts are the most productive time.
Surface lures are a favourite for bass at this time of year. Small fizzers, poppers and stickbaits are all effective. Well placed casts to the edge are often rewarded. Use a stop-start retrieve, keeping the lure in the most productive zone for the majority of the time. Be sure to pause the lure between movements as this is when most strikes will occur.
Slider Grubs rigged with a Bett's spin blade and a 1/4oz jighead will be ideal to work the deeper water during the heat of the day. Long casts made across the points or parallel to weed edges should catch their share of fish. A slow, steady retrieve with the occasional pause is effective in getting connected to feisty bass.
Late afternoon sessions are a good time to get on the water. If there is a storm building in the west, bass generally bite well before it arrives. Reaction lures such as Jackalls and spinnerbaits are great performers, as are surface lures when the light starts to fade.
Fairbairn Dam (Lake Maraboon) will produce stacks of redclaw crayfish this month. Many people travel to the lake to take advantage of the masses of redclaw that inhabit it. Catching redclaw is quite simple. Placing opera house traps in rocky areas, especially near a drop-off, seems to be the prime area. There’s no need for fancy baits, raw pumpkin and potato are all that’s needed.
There has been the odd barra caught from the lake. The vast area of water makes it hard to know where to start targeting them. At the end of last year, the Fairbairn Fishing Competition raised funds towards the stocking of barra. These funds and a grant from the Emerald Shire Council went towards putting 21,000 barra into the lake. There should be more stockings in March.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay that’s close to the dam, try the Lake Maraboon Holiday Village.
Below the dam closer to Emerald, the Nagoa River has been producing a few smaller barra. The water below the first weir fishes the best. The river can shut down when water is released from the lake for the cotton farmers. The cold water from the lake slows the action down until the temperature rises again.
The fishing in Lake Proserpine has been tough for some time. It is about this time of year that the area can receive good falls of rain and if the lake rises over this wet period, the fishing should pick up.
At the moment, a lot of barra are holding in the open water of the main basin. These fish can be caught trolling deep diving lures. Mornings and afternoons are the preferred fishing times but the barra will take lures all day long.
Trolling is also an option in the shallower water just outside the weed edge. Working lures in around 4m of water will keep them weed free and in the right zone. If there has been or is a wind blowing, the windy banks seem to fire better.
Early in the mornings is the time to try your luck casting lures. Using topwater lures, shallow diving minnows or big soft plastics around the weedy edges will produce the odd big barra. Perseverance and hard work will be rewarded. As the day progresses, trolling becomes the better option.
If there is a significant rise in the water level, things can change dramatically. Barra tend to move toward the flush of freshwater looking for an easy meal ticket. Where the water runs in, there is plenty of disorientated bait and in the discoloured water, the barra can feed more easily. Look for the creeks or the main river in the southwestern corner when there’s been a good run of freshwater into the lake. Even in discoloured water, barra will respond well to lures and plastics. Try using Barra Baits (8ft) or big Squidgie plastics.Reads: 1975