Winter has become the time to chase big lake bass and this year looks no different from the previous few years. While some of the lakes are suffering from low water levels, there are still plenty of winter bassin’ options for those keen to tackle their personal best bass.
Cressbrook’s falling water level has confined the fish to a smaller area but hasn’t made catching them any easier. In the past month, the fishing in the shallows around the lake’s edges has been disappointing. Many fish are schooled in deeper water, but with the cooler weather changing the mood of the fish, the shallows are still worth a try this month. The prime times will be in the mornings and afternoons.
When fishing the lake’s edges, look for any sign of fish. Often bass will attack schools of gar. When this is happening, you will actually see the bass breaking out of the water. The best time to cast at active fish like this is before they actually make their attack. Keep focused and look for rippling water where the gar look to be agitated. When this is happening, a predator is often hunting them. Place your cast just past the action and bring it back into the disturbed gar. Good lures for this approach are lipless crankbaits and soft plastics - although you can’t beat a surface lure such as an Eddy’s Surface Buster or a suspending lure like a Husky Jerk.
Many of the fish will be schooling in 5-10m of water. Some of the better schools have been up the Cressbrook Creek arm. The Bull Creek arm, accessed by travelling through the buoys past the pump tower, has plenty of schooled fish but the active ones have been a bit smaller. When you locate a school of bass on the sounder, try casting soft plastics or TN60 Jackalls into them. The TN60 silent Jackall is also a good option. These lures can be trolled through schools of bass as well.
Bait fishing in the winter months tends to be a bit quiet. There will still be the odd bass and golden around, with live shrimp being the best bait. Some anglers use live or dead gar as bait, which attracts some quality bass all year round. A gar would be a good bait to have out while you’re fishing with something else like shrimp or crays.
The low water level in Bjelke-Petersen has concentrated fish in the lower parts of the lake. These fish will now pack into tighter schools for the winter period. There have been similar conditions at the lake in past years and after the fish schooled up, the fishing went ballistic. I’d certainly be keeping my ears open to hear if this is the case.
The shallow flats and banks will hold plenty of bass and golden perch. The best way to tempt these fish will be by casting lures like spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and soft plastics. When they are on the bite, this style of fishing is great fun. The fish demonstrate their power and speed in the shallow water when they can’t escape into the deep.
Boat launching is best carried out from the bank below the far boat ramp. As the lake is now at a steady level, the banks aren’t muddy and a normal sedan is fine. Call in and see the guys at the kiosk or visit Bass 2 Barra Marine in Kingaroy for the latest info and all your tackle needs.
Even though the levels have been dropping, the edges have been fishing quite well. Casting lures like spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the banks will produce bass and golden perch. The edges up near the Boyne River are certainly worth a look for this type of fishing.
In the deeper water, there will be plenty of bass schools. Look at your sounder to locate them in the deeper water from the wall down to The Islands. The fish will move around in the deep and can be found anywhere throughout the gorge-like county at the bottom end of the dam. Trolling can be a good way to find fish if you’re unfamiliar with their normal haunts. When located, soft plastics like 3” Slider Grubs are a great way to get them to bite.
The deeper water towards the dam wall has attracted most of the fish. Golden perch get a little bit quieter while the bass fishing can improve now that the water temperatures are cooler.
Casting and trolling are the most successful methods when targeting Somerset’s bass schools. The same lures used for casting can also do the job when trolling as well. TN60 Jackalls, Mask Vibe Jackalls and soft plastics all make great casting and trolling lures in Somerset.
A sounder is a valuable tool when locating schools. Often bass will congregate around the drop-offs to old creek and riverbeds. To get the most out of a sounder, you need to spend a little bit more than just a base model. Like other technology and electronic equipment, fish finders have come down in price over the past few years. For $400 or more, you can get a reliable unit. I use Humminbird Matrix sounders and have seen these perform well even on the less expensive models.
When schooled up bass are located, try casting or trolling soft plastics and Mask Vib Jackalls around them. Early to mid-morning is often the best time to be on the water – especially if there are a lot of other boats around as too many boats can shut the action down faster.
Lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits are worth a try around the banks. The success of some anglers casting to the shoreline last month would indicate that this style of fishing should only improve as the water temperature drops.
The quality of Somerset’s big winter bass is something all bass fishing anglers should experience. Big, fat bass that are in prime condition and fight hard commonly weigh over 2kg.
Lake Wivenhoe is sure to fire up this month. Winter is a great time to take advantage of the lake’s big bass on offer. The fork tailed catfish population becomes less active over the cooler months, allowing bass a chance to take a lure.
It’s most likely that the best fishing on offer will be found in the lower reaches of the lake. The flats areas from the sailing club to Platypus Cliffs will be holding scattered schools of bass. Trolling deep diving lures over the flats and near the drop-offs to old creek and riverbeds is an ideal way to locate and catch fish. Once found, bass can be caught by hopping Jackalls, tailspinners and chrome slices or by casting soft plastics.
The start of winter is a good time to try your luck casting to the lake’s edges. Bigger spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits are ideal for luring the active fish cruising in this shallower water.
Unfortunately, due to low water levels, boat launching is difficult. Care needs to be taken with trailer boats, especially bigger ones; so a 4WD is recommended.
Slow, slow, slow retrieves are the go at Hinze Dam during the cooler months. The bass are quite unwilling to take faster presentations during winter.
Soft plastics cast and retrieved slowly, or lightly hopped through schooled bass, is one of the choice methods. 3” paddletails and Mask Vib Jackalls are very effective. Try to position your boat just off the fish and roll your lure right through the schooled fish.
Fish will be caught off most of the shallower points. Fishing in 5-6m of water in these areas should produce plenty of fish. Once a few schooled fish have been stung, the schools normally shut down. Simply move on to the next likely spot and return to the productive area after it’s had a chance to settle down.
With the dam close to 100% full, there are still some active fish cruising in the lake’s shallows. Casting spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the banks will cover this water quickly. To work this water more thoroughly, try using suspending minnows and surface lures on the milder mornings.
Be sure to acquire a fishing permit before venturing out onto the lake. Permits are available from the ranger’s office next to the kiosk or at the council office in Southport. Gold Coast Fishing Tackle in Nind Street Southport offers a great range of fresh and saltwater tackle and checking out their well stocked range is a must. They’ll often have that hard to find lure or pack of plastics and even Jackalls in the most sought after colours.
Just north of Maryborough, Lake Lenthalls has produced quite a few small barra over the last couple of months. While the barra have been active, the bass fishing has been tougher. Now that the water temperatures are dropping, it’s likely that the barra will become less active and the bass will again rule the waters.
Lenthalls is a spectacular fishery. Although only narrow, there are miles of water to explore. Plenty of snags litter the shore and are hidden even in the deeper water. A sensible six knot speed limit is in place so to be safe, stick to it.
There isn’t much deep water in the lake so therefore the bass prefer the weedy edges or sometimes they school in bays and flats nearby. Working the weed with lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics will produce the goods. The surface action is still worth a go but tends to slow down in the cooler water.
One of the best areas to fish will be around any submerged trees. There are plenty of these a couple of kilometres up the arm that leads to the right of the boat ramp. A slowly retrieved Jackall is the best way to entice the fish around the trees. Allow plenty of pauses as you bring the lure from the bank and into deeper water. If the lure bumps a submerged tree, stop winding and drop the lure for a second or two before recommencing the retrieve. This technique effectively catches bass and, surprisingly, doesn’t snag up all that often.
With its multitude of barra, Lake Awoonga is one of the last barra lakes to shut down over the winter period. The fishing will be noticeably slower now that the days are shorter and colder. Timing a visit with the lead up to the full moon would be a good way to increase your chances of success.
Trolling in the main basin around the old creek and river beds will pull some big barra. Deep lures have been best due to the barra holding in the deeper water – most times too deep for any trolling lures to reach them. At certain times in the day, the open water barra will rise higher in the water column and the action will pick up. If you plan to troll, it’d be a good idea to ask the guys at the kiosk and tackle shop when most of the action has been happening.
Further up the rivers, trolling shallower running lures along the drop-offs and tree lines is a good way to pull some fish. Lures like Classic Barra 10+’s and Storm Mid Thunders that dive 3-5m are a good option. On still days an electric motor is a good option, but if using the petrol motor position lures well behind the boat.
Casting lures in the warmer water of bays and protected areas during the day and afternoon will be well worth a shot. Shallow lures like B52s and Tropic Anglers are ideal for working the edges. Often the bigger barra will hang around shallow flats that have drop-offs to deep water adjacent. When this is the case, opt for deeper diving lures like the Bandit Prowler or Classic Barra 10+. Soft plastics are another option and are great for beginners. They can be cast easily and don’t require any special rod actions to catch fish.
Special thanks to James Coate who has provided the information for this report. Koombooloomba is a new location for QFM and a beautiful area to visit.
Situated in a world heritage area at an altitude of about 750m above sea level, Koombooloomba gets cold. Very cold by TNQ standards! Despite this, the fish are still there and, with a bit of patience and experimentation, can be caught.
A couple of months ago, the fish in the dam shut down due to the sudden influx of water from tropical cyclones Larry and Monica. This rise saw the dam’s level increase by almost 80% in about four weeks. Whilst that was good news for the rafters in the Tully River, it turned the usual pristine waters of Koombooloomba into the bottom of a cereal bowl with suspended sediment. As a result, the fish weren’t particularly interested in any of the usual offerings.
The suspended sediment has now cleared and sight fishing for your quarry will once again be an option. Koombooloomba is well stocked with sooty grunter and also with barramundi, but to a lesser extent than Tinaroo. During June, you will find a lot of fish in the shallower warmer sections of the dam. Look for structure like large submerged or partially submerged tree trunks and boulders.
Sooties love surface lures and will readily attack them all year round. Try one of local angler James Coate’s favourite surface lures, the River2Sea Pop65. They are inexpensive but very effective. They cast well, track straight with minimal body roll and provide plenty of splash with only the slightest action required from the angler working the rod tip. James recommends working the lure slowly during the colder months. It only needs a couple of twitches followed by a 5-10 second pause. If the fish are interested, you will often see them hovering just below the lure waiting for it to twitch again before smashing it with gusto. If fish aren’t interested in the surface lure, switch to a sub-surface minnow and again work it slowly.
As for the lazy barramundi population, the colder months make them more finicky. You need to put a lure in front of their faces and keep it there if you want to be in with a chance. Try a soft plastic rigged either Texas or Carolina style and get it right into or just in front of the snag you’re fishing. James likes to use an Atomic Jerk Minnow in 6”. He also recommends Ecogear paddle tails of similar length with darker colours in both brands the best option.
Red-claw crayfish are commonly caught in the dam but are more of a summer time option.
To reach Koombooloomba from Cairns, the quickest way is driving to Mareeba via Smithfield. You’ll then find yourself on the Kennedy Highway, driving through to Atherton, which takes you down to Ravenshoe. Off to the left is Tully Falls Road, which leads you to the dam. The trip is around 175km in total.
To get to the lake from Townsville, head north, take a left turn up the Palmerston Highway and follow the signs to Ravenshoe. As above, follow the Tully Falls Road. This trip is about 380km in total.
The last 10-15km of the road into the dam is dirt and gets rough in places with some pretty decent potholes. Drive slowly as it also gets slippery. When you get to the dam, you will see signs pointing you in the right direction for boat launching and camping.
There is no proper boat ramp at the dam and everything is done from the bank. The banks are solid and even a 2WD should be able to launch successfully in dry conditions. There are only basic camping facilities and it’s recommend that you check the EPA website prior to planning a foray to the dam if you are intent on camping. It’s also recommended to check the dam levels on the Stanwell Power Company website, as there are restrictions on the waterway that can be found at www.stanwell.com.
Restriction 1 is that no power craft over 3Kva (approx 4HP) are allowed on the dam when it falls below 25%.
Restriction 2 is that no power craft over 3Kva are allowed on the dam when it rises above 90%.
Restriction 3 states that no more than 5 power craft are allowed on the waterway at any one time.
Koombooloomba is a beautiful waterway and well worth a visit, just make sure you take plenty of winter woollies and check on any restrictions before you leave.Reads: 1982