Teemburra fires up the barra
  |  First Published: October 2008

Last month I wrote about catching Spanish mackerel around Mackay and I had intended on giving an update on the run of smaller macks. However, the winds have only just swung to the northeast and heated up the days, therefore we will have to wait for the water temps to rise and bring on the bait schools, which will then be followed by the small macks. So my update on small macks will have to hold over for another month.

So this issue I will return to my favourite fishing spot that is really starting to fire up. Long time readers will realise that I am referring to Teemburra Dam approximately 45 minutes up the Pioneer River valley from Mackay.

Teemburra is absolutely firing up as I predicted earlier in the year. Most of the small barra that were driving everyone nuts earlier this year have enjoyed their mild winter, freshly flooded bait grounds and abundant feed and are now over legal size. Wahoo! Barra, barra and more barra everywhere.

The influx of water from the floods earlier in the year has kept the dam full and there is no shortage of top spots to try out. For those who have fished the dam at FSL (full supply level), this means a return to many of the old haunts to renew acquaintances with old mate barra.

For those new to the dam, I will give a couple of pointers on some of the more reliable spots to try.

I know this will sound slightly silly but the boat ramp area is often overlooked by anglers, who seem to want or need to scatter far and wide over the dam searching for fish. Many good size barra, in Teemburra this means up to 1m or better, are caught either side of the ramp. This area had been well grassed and the pasture grasses are now setting into the various weed beds. This attracts the bony, small gudgeon, rainbow and similar barra tucker.

On the right looking down the ramp is a large bay with the depth shelving down into deep water and the barra patrol in this area. This is a good spot for non boaters to enjoy some great barra fishing, but watch where you walk as there are some big brown snakes around and as the weather heats up they will be more active.

Directly out from the boat ramp, about 50m, there is a ridgeline that is now under a couple of metres of water. This can be easily picked up on a sounder and the old regrowth suckers from the low water levels can still be seen. This is also a great little spot to either cast shallow divers or to troll slightly deeper along both sides of the ridgeline. Again this is an area ignored by most boat anglers and it can produce some real horses, so give it a go on the way past to other areas.

In general, the types of spots to fish are fairly typical, particularly down in the main basin of the dam. Look for open areas dotted with regrowth suckers and preferably with a sloping bottom. A lot of these spots are further up slopes from the bays fished when water levels are much lower. These areas are easy to identify and are good places to hook the once-in-a-lifetime barra as the fish will not have a lot of heavy cover to bolt into.

These slopes have drowned pasture grass on them, up to about a metre tall and are now (start of spring) starting to form heavier weed beds. These aquatic weed beds will grow very quickly during the longer and hotter days.

Once the underwater weeds form, the trick is to work the lures along the faces of the weeds and around any islands. Until these beds form properly, the barra continue to mooch around in the drowned pastures and they can be worked with weedless plastics or flies. Normal treble hooked lures are a bit of a pain to work here because they continually foul the long grasses.

Moving further away from the ramp, there is good water in Pinnacle Creek over to the right. It has plenty of similar country, as described above, together with lots of small bays with standing and lay down timber. These small bays and gullies also have regrowth suckers and some remnant lantana that is worth checking out.

Directly across the dam from the ramp is Middle Creek and there are a couple of small bays off to the left as you motor up. Again, there are lots of open areas and timbered sections. Up around the right-hand bend there are more open old creek flats and a section of bank with large gum trees right at the current water edge.

There is a fair amount of lay down and fallen heavy timber in the region, and it is a favourite spot of mine. I have seen barra working this area even in winter and have lost numerous fish here. The heavy snags make life interesting, but you have to fish where the barra are if you want to get the adrenaline rush.

While there are barra further up Middle Creek, there is a lot of heavy timber and it is better for sooties than barra.

Back in the main dam along the western side, there are several bays that can be accessed. These bays feature similar layouts with drowned pasture grass, and some regrowth suckers with old standing (dead) timber and plenty of lay downs. The best ones are those with lots of open areas and good weeds, which seem to suit the barra just perfectly.

Continuing in a general southerly direction and towards the main dam wall we come to Teemburra Creek itself, which heads off to the right. This creek can be fished for quite a few kilometres and there are hundreds of spots to try. The old homestead area is, as you would expect, fairly open with a few big trees and the ‘home paddock’ area fishes well. The old shed is marked with a buoy so it is easily identified.

Up past this area there are old creek flats with old lantana and other drowned shrubby bushes. Weeds are now starting to really form here, and there are plenty of barra stooging around these old flats. There are also lots of areas with water up to 6m depth and these are worth a run over with the sounder to look for bait and/or big fish. Trolling runs are easily set up in this region, but the old creek bed twists and turns a lot so it can be difficult to follow. If trolling, I suggest working along the right-hand bank as you travel up the creek.

Finally we get to the area of the old top cow yards. This area has plenty of weeds and lilies, along with plenty of barra. Here is where Mick Martin and I caught the first barra in Teemburra Dam way back in March 2001, and I have had many enjoyable sessions there since. While this may not be the most productive spot in the dam it’s where it all started with the Teemburra barra and it holds a heap of great memories for me, including seeing our kids, Katie and Lachlan, catch their first ever barras.

The great thing about Teemburra is the absolute abundance of places to chase barra, and you could have a hundred boats on the dam when at FSL and still not be crowded. Once barra are located and caught, the same type of country will yield barra all over the dam.

While this sounds simplistic, barra can still be finicky and just knowing where they are does not guarantee catches.

So what type of gear will catch barra here? The same that works everywhere else, a mix of shallow and deep divers, surface lures, and plastics will keep the lure angler happy. For the fly fisher, a good selection of large bulky deceivers, pink things and similar, as well as some surface types like garsides and poppers, will be a good all-round starter pack. I prefer an intermediate sink line on an 8 or 10 weight outfit.

Everyone wants to know ‘the’ lure for barra, well sorry there just isn’t one that fits all the territory in Teemburra Dam. This is a good reason to expand your lure or fly collection – but please don’t blame me if you get into trouble from your other half for spending too much at the tackle shop!

As always, visitors to the area should go to the local tackle shops as they are staffed by keen anglers who know what is working and where the fish are.

Many people think that Teemburra barra are a full moon night fish, but that is not the case. The barra feed all the time to keep their metabolism going, so they are available to be caught at all times. The best times are the perennial freshwater favourites of early mornings and late afternoons into the night, preferably on a hot humid day with a bit of cloud cover. Having said that, the next barra I catch in Teemburra Dam in the middle of the day on the ‘wrong’ side of the moon will not be the first or last!

So that’s a snapshot of what’s happening at my favourite fishing spot at the moment and what I expect to be the go during the summer. I know I’m going to be spending heaps of time there so why not come to paradise and enjoy it too. See you at the ramp.

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