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Bass schooling and barra biting
  |  First Published: May 2006



Bass will start to school up and be a little more predictable this month, but barra will slow down as temperatures drop. But don’t discount a late season barra trip, as there are still plenty willing to bite.

Cressbrook

The lake’s low water level hasn’t been helping the fishing – you’d think that fish would be easier to catch in a smaller area! Cressbrook’s bass population is quite poor when compared to other lakes and this was certainly the case in early April. An influx of water to flush some nutrients into the lake would help.

As the colder months approach, bass tend to feed more actively. Cressbrook has a plenty of gar and they become lethargic when it’s cold, making them an easier target for bass and golden perch. With the cooler water and shorter days, predators are likely to prowl the shallows all day long. Bass and goldies can be caught from most banks in the lake, but also like to have some deeper water nearby for safety and comfort.

When casting to the banks, try a variety of lures. The fish in Cressbrook can be fussy and will respond well to certain lures and refuse others. In the mornings and afternoons, try small surface poppers. During the day, try suspending minnows, lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits or soft plastics.

There have been plenty of schooled bass at either end of the lake. These fish are usually small but some legal sized fish are mixed in with the tiny ones. Working the water around or on top of schooled bass seems to attract the bigger ones. Try casting or trolling lipless crankbaits, soft plastics or beetlespins.

Somerset

With the cold season approaching, bass will school in the lower parts of the lake. The Spit in particular should be holding a lot of bass in water 5-10m deep. The flats on the point and around the southern side often hold the best concentrations of fish. When you see them on the sounder, try casting lures like soft plastics, spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits, such as the Mask Vib Jackalls and TN60 Jackalls. Hopping Masks across the bottom is one of the best ways to entice Somerset’s bass. It’s also one of the easier techniques to learn.

Another method that seems to work well when bass suspend off the bottom is to wind lipless crankbaits through them. Vary the speed of the winds until you find what works best. Using light line such as 4-8lb Fireline will keep your lure deep and in the productive zone.

There was a slight rise earlier in the year which has helped the growth of weed around the lake’s edges. Provided the water level doesn’t drop too fast, this area will be worth exploring for some big bass. Casting spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits into the shallows and using a medium paced retrieve should get the desired result if the fish are there.

Bjelke-Petersen

Bjelke could get as low as 3% in May. At this level, the rate at which it has been falling will slow down, as no more water will be drawn for irrigation or supply to the power stations. It’s lucky that it will reach its lowest level in the cooler months. If water level hasn’t risen by Christmas, the hot water will take its toll on fish stocks.

With the lake so low, the fish have been forced to hold at the bottom end near the wall. Trolling lures is one of the best ways to catch a mixed bag of golden perch and bass. The popular trolling run between the boat ramps continues to be one of the best spots. Any of the other drop-offs to the old creekbed in the lower part of the dam should produce similar results. With the fish all holding in such a confined area it shouldn’t be hard to find them. It’s just a matter of working out the best lures to use.

Once the lake has stopped falling so quickly, the shore below the far boat ramp will be fine for launching. 2WDs will be able to carefully launch bigger boats.

Boondooma

The water level in Boondooma is dropping fast. There have been some good weedbeds around the edges, but if the level drops too fast these will die off. As the water drops lower a lot of the banks will get steeper and more of the rocky banks will become exposed, making it harder for the weed to take root. If the weedbeds are still noticeable in the lower and middle reaches of the dam in May, it should be worthwhile to cast lures at them. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits worked around the weed should attract bass and golden perch.

There are plenty of fish to be found in the deeper water. Most of these are bass, which are likely to be holding in the main basin and around The Islands. These bass will respond to cast and trolled lures. Soft plastics, spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits will all take their share. If you’re trolling these lures, keep the speed slow. Using an electric motor is ideal for this type of work.

Hinze Dam

Earlier this year Hinze Dam rose to full capacity for the first time in many years. Bass have been biting well and the occasional saratoga has also been caught.

Casting spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the flooded banks and small stands of timber has yielded good results.

To get the blood pumping, try tossing small poppers to the edges in the early morning. Buzzbaits, which look like a hybrid spinnerbait designed to paddle across the surface, are great for working grassy and weedy edges. They cast a long way and can be worked through thick cover.

Soft plastics, such as Sliders, should produce bass along the front edge of submerged grass beds. The best colours have been baby bass and smoke/yellow core. The addition of a Bett’s Spin blade (beetlespin) improves their fish attracting qualities even further.

If the dam continues to fish well it will be a popular place to visit. If the fish become pressured and start to shut down, slowing down your retrieves or opting for a more subtle approach could be the answer.

See the boys at Gold Coast Fishing Tackle for up-to-date info on the best fishing spots and for all your Hinze tackle needs.

Lake Coolmunda

Lake Coolmunda, near Inglewood, is a couple of hours drive southwest of Toowoomba. There’s plenty of water in the lake and lately the action has picked up. Golden perch are the most common species, but the lake also has a reputation as a reliable Murray cod fishery.

There have been plenty of golden perch caught right in front of the boat launching area. If March’s fishing is any indication, it shouldn’t be too hard to reach your bag limit. Trolling deep diving lures around the drop-offs to the old creekbed is the best approach. Dark coloured lures like black with white or purple stripes should produce good results.

Baitfishers have had good catches fishing the drop-offs to the old creekbed. Live shrimp have been the best bait. When the fish are biting well, other baits like frozen prawns, freshwater crayfish or worms will also do the trick.

With quite a few anglers taking advantage of the good fishing, it won’t be too long before reports of cod start coming in. The drop in water temperature should make the cod hunt down trolled lures more actively. Use bigger deep diving lures fished close to the drop-off of the old creek bed, and use a sounder to find areas that have plenty of snags on the bottom. Cod love to hang around structure.

Lake Pindari

Pindari is the Aboriginal word for ‘high rock’, and when you see the terrain surrounding this lake you’ll understand how it got its name. Pindari was constructed on the Severn River in Northern NSW. The headwaters of the Severn River are in the New England country, which is famous for its cod fishing. The lake can be reached by travelling along 22km of bitumen road from the town of Ashford, which is around 70km south of Texas.

Entry and camping at the lake are free, although you do need a NSW fishing license. This covers all fishing in NSW, in both fresh- and saltwater. With the lake’s level at 65%, it’s easy to launch your boat. There is a concrete ramp near the amenities block and a gravel ramp closer to the camping area.

The fishing has been a bit quiet. Golden perch and jew have been the most common species caught and bait has been working better then lures. Try livebaits like shrimp and small crays for the best results.

Redfin are an introduced species and if you catch them, they must not be returned to the water. Redfin are a good tablefish, so at least they don’t go to waste.

Trolling in the lake while at its current level can be difficult because of snags. When the dam filled after an extension on the wall, it flooded thousands of trees that surrounded the edges. These trees are now standing around the edges above and below the water.

Groceries, liquid refreshments and fishing licenses are all available in Ashford. For more information on the lake, call the Inverell Tourist Office on (02) 6728 8161.

Copeton Dam

Copeton Dam is another lake that offers some awesome fishing in Northern NSW. Copeton is famous for its large Murray cod and big golden perch.

Recent reports indicate that baitfishing has been more productive than trolling. Golden perch have been the most common fish caught. In NSW, golden perch have a bag limit of five fish per day for each angler with a 30cm minimum size. Cod have a bag limit of two fish per day with a minimum size of 50cm, and only one over 100cm is allowed in possession. Cod are beautiful fish and the big ones are important breeders for future stocks. I think it’s a shame to kill such a valuable creature that’s earned a legendary status. They are best handled with care, photographed and then released.

If you want to target cod, the fishing area towards the wall produces reasonably well. Look for submerged granite boulders or other fishy structure. Casting big hard-bodied lures that have plenty of action can do the trick. Big spinnerbaits are another option. The beauty of these lures is that they are quite snag free and can be presented at various depths.

Lake Awoonga

It’s a great time of year to visit Lake Awoonga, as this is the last month before the cold water shuts down the barra. Barra can be caught using all types of methods in May.

Casting shallow diving lures around the lake’s edges should stir up some interest. Pick likely areas such as points or drop-offs that have some form of structure. B52s and the newer Big B52s are ideal as a shallow presentation. In the early morning and late afternoon, big surface lures are worth a try. A night-time session can also produce the goods. Bill’s Bugs, 9cm Rapala Skitterpops and Tango Dancers are some of the proven models.

Casting medium diving lures to the banks and structure is another option, particularly later in the day. A slow presentation with plenty of pauses, rips and twitches to entice a strike will pay off. A couple of lures to try are the Classic Barra 10+ and the 150mm Barra Bait 12+.

Fish are caught throughout the dam casting to banks. With kilometres of shoreline, there are lots of places to explore. If you’re starting out, try the banks in the main basin on either side of the lake heading towards Dingo Island. Concentrate on any points, drop-offs or underwater structure. Futter Creek, Dingo Island and the surrounding points are also worth a try if you’re casting lures.

The most reliable way to put fish in the boat for the average angler is to troll lures. In the deep open waters of the lake, deep diving lures are most successful, and lures that reach at least 6m are ideal. If the fish move shallower, run a short line to make the lure track shallower. When the barra are holding deep, use a lighter line like 20lb braid to get your lure down closer to them. Ensure you have a heavy mono leader of at least 60lb to avoid being busted off. In the past, lures like the Storm Deep Thunder 20+, Bandit, 150mm Crazy Deep Scorpion and Barra Bait 20+ have all worked well.

In the low light periods, open water fish tend to rise higher in the water column to take a lure. Use the Predatek Viper when this happens as these shallower lures can also be worked closer to the banks in shallower water. This way, you can mix up your attack with a combination of trolling deep water, shallow points and tree-lined banks.

When trolling, the expansive area between the wall and Dingo Island produces well. The deep water in the big bay between the wall and the mouth of Iveragh Creek is also worth a look.

Fishing Guide Matthew Mott has expanded his guiding services in the Burnett Valley area to include some of the lakes further north, and he now runs charters on Awoonga. For more information give him a call on (07) 4168 4811.

Lake Proserpine (Peter Faust)

Launching at Lake Proserpine has become more difficult, and launching bigger boats now requires a 4WD. The ramp is out of the water and some work has been carried out to improve access. To put your boat in you need to stay within the launch area. This is due to the lake containing the noxious weed Mimosa pigra. There are plans for future work to be carried out to improve the launch area.

Like other barra lakes, Faust has been producing the goods. The quality of the fish in Lake Proserpine is awesome, with most barra over 1m and plenty even bigger.

In the main basin, barra have been caught in the open water but have also been falling for trolled lures all over the lake. If you put in the time and cover plenty of water, chances are you will be rewarded. Trolling shallower water closer to the weedy edges can also work well at times, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon. Fish caught in the shallower water have been a bit smaller than their mates in the deeper, open water.

Lures like the Bandit and the 150mm Crazy Deep Scorpion have been two of the top performers. These lures are able to push deeper than some other barra lures and often receive more attention. When trolling the open water, there aren’t many snags for the barra to wrap you around. Lighter 20lb braid can help to get your lures down deeper if the fish are holding out of reach. Remember to use a heavy leader of mono so you don’t get busted off.

To get an update on the fishing or launching at the lake, call in and see the guys at Proserpine Bait and Tackle in Proserpine or call them on (07) 4945 4641. Proprietor Lindsay Dobe also runs fishing tours that have been reporting good catches.

Lake Callide

With winter looming, the barra will start to go deep in search of warmer water so trolling deep divers will be the go. Lures like Killalure Flatz Ratz and River Rat or the new Prowler 6m+ are good choices.

The golden perch action is expected to increase, and these fish will also fall for trolled lures. There are some real thumpers in Callide.

Redclaw crayfish should start creeping back into the shallows and around the rocky edges. Using opera house traps baited with pieces of rockmelon or potato will do the trick. (KFC chips have been reported as one of the best baits, but I think I’ll stick to the other baits and save the KFC for myself.)

Lake Wuruma

With the lake’s level now at 1%, the fish are confined to a much smaller area. There’s still plenty of water to fish though, with the deeper part still about 6m deep.

The council has upgraded the boat launching facilities with a new ramp. Instead of turning right to the old boat ramp, turn left and head past the old steel punt to find the new launch area.

With most of the remaining water being the course of the old river, it’s safe to navigate if you stick to the middle. Take some care as there could still be some hidden obstacles that have washed down the river in years gone by.

There will still be a few barra about but the cooler conditions will make them more difficult to catch. Barra in Wuruma respond well to soft plastics, and Squidgy Slick Rigs in the drop bear colour are the most popular. If the plastics fail to produce, try barra style hard-bodied lures.

The bass, golden perch and even the odd sleepy cod become more likely targets in May. These fish all respond to various methods. Baitfishing with live shrimp is one of the more relaxing and easy ways to catch a mixed bag. Casting lures and trolling can be the best way to find concentrations and schools of golden perch and bass.

On 19-20 August, the Eidsvold Shire and the Fish Stocking Association are running a fun day event at the lake. It’s called the Nogo River Challenge and will be held annually. Keep your eyes on QFM or other local advertising for more information.

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