Hard to believe isn’t it? Another year draws to a close and we have time to reflect on what the year has meant to us and what we have achieved. This is a good time to reappraise our priorities and our approach to our favourite pastime, recreational fishing.
As all regular readers will know, sooty grunter and barra are about my favourite fish species and our local dams, especially Teemburra, are probably my favourite fishing spot. This year Teemburra dam has been absolutely firing, despite the water level rising from about 24% to 100%.
The rise in water levels has been great for the resident fish and the new stockings this year. There is now a huge increase in available habitat areas and also increases in bio mass of bait and other food for both sooties and barra. Thanks to the good work of MAFSA members and the dollars form the SIP scheme the numbers of sooties and barra have significantly increased over the last year. More stocking will continue over the next 12 months to take further advantage of the increase in water levels, ensuring Teemburra dam remains one of the most desirable fishing spots in Australia.
Coinciding with the rise in water levels, anglers have to review and revise their previous successful methods of fishing the dam. Old hands can simply revisit their old haunts from when the dam was previously full. For those who were not privy to fishing at Teemburra when it was first full, in last months issue I gave advice on new places to try that will fire now with full capacity.
The lift in capacity has also allowed for some new methods in order to get maximum benefit from t he changed conditions. From fishing over the last nine months, there are a number of definite fishing trends happening and there have been a number of personal high points for me. These include my best barra on fly at 78cm on a fly pattern I adapted and tied myself, which was a real blast.
I have noticed more and more anglers trying the fly rod on the dam. If you are just starting out as a fly angler, I suggest calling into Tackleworld in Mackay. Some of the guys regularly fly fish and can give good advice on rods, reels, lines and fly selection. They also have a very good range of materials available for the fly tier.
While I am an enthusiastic fly fisherman, I definitely rank in the amateur status but have found that some patterns seem to be working for me. I like purple colours in my flies and have tied a number of patterns like the whistler or pink things but using different colours. I also tie a couple of my own patterns about 50-70mm long and have found they work quite well. A recent late afternoon early evening trip to the dam found us with a hot bite at our ‘patch’. In the spotlight, the water in the shallows was alive with small banded grunter and other baitfish, so I am going to tie up a couple of flies to resemble banded grunter and see how they go.
The main trend on the dam though is the use of soft plastics and to a lesser extent poppers or surface lures. Plastics have really taken off with the drowning of large areas of previous pasture grass slopes and flats. Trying to use a hard bodied treble hooked lure in these areas is a source of much frustration due to constant fouling of the hooks with grass and weeds. Believe me trailing a metre long strand of pasture grass behind a lure does absolutely nothing for its fish attracting abilities and should be avoided.
Plastics in several forms, on the other hand can work these places quite successfully. Plastics is a generic term and covers a wide range of lure types and sizes from 8” long worms and various shads to crayfish and lizard imitations and other unidentifiable ‘things’. The most successful though are the shad types or the newer stickbait styles with a convenient slot to lessen the chance of the hook snagging.
I do not have a particular favourite lure among the plastics but I regularly use several types and brands that have scored for me. No doubt others have different types of preferences but I suggest a good starting point would be to use some of the following.
In shallow water the Berkely jerk shads and similar stickbaits can be worked right up to the bank and are a must have item. Chartreuse and blue over white colours have proven successful for me, but I don’t think the colour is a big issue. The chartreuse colour has the added bonus of being easily visible by the angler even in low light conditions.
Squidgy curly tails can also be used in similar areas. I rig them with a large hook only and the bigger models can be easily cast the required distance from a sturdy bait caster. Colours don’t seem to matter, but care in rigging will make the lure run true. On both these lure types I use Owner wide gape hooks usually around 5/0 to 7/0 and have found them to be very sharp and strong. They are not cheap but quality never is.
The other surface style plastic that I have just started to use is the frog pattern. River2Sea make a couple of different sizes and the Step wa70 has impressed me so far although I have not yet landed a fish on one. Again these can be worked in and around some pretty weedy areas and I am sure will be winners.
Out in the deeper waters, the Tsunami range of shads with the built in weight are good and there is no hassles with rigging. Just tie one on and go fishing. I also use Squidgy shads up to the 130mm size. These I rig with different weight heads including some resin heads, to vary sink rates and depths. Experimenting is the best way here.
Tropic Angler have an intriguing shad style in their range with the tail wrist cut out sections giving a really flexible tail action. This works at very slow speeds and the honey and clear coloured swk 75mm lure is one I recommend. This can be rigged even with a very light resin head and fished in shallow water as the cut outs mean that the lure does not rely on the weight of a jighead to give it action on the drop, which is when most plastics are taken.
It is often said that there is nothing new in lures, and in the case of hard bodies, that’s about right. New techniques of old favourites are sometimes developed with good results though.
One of the new ways I have been working some lures is almost a non retrieve but still works the lure. This can be achieved by winding the lure down to its working depth then using just the rod tip to work the lure by moving the rod through an arc of about 60-90º, with a few twitches thrown in for good measure. With a buoyant lure this creates the effect of a small bait fish darting, weaving, rising and diving but all in about the same spot. This gives any nearby fish time to get to the lure and also annoys the hell out of a fish that is not committing to strike.
But this type of retrieve does not work with all types of minnows. I suggest trying this technique with the Koolabung range, B 52s, Mad Mullets, Downunders, Rapala fat raps and shad raps and any other buoyant type minnow. Size range varies from 70-50mm and again colour does not seem to be an issue, although gold and silver types with darker backs are a good bet.
Success on hard surface lures is not new although the traditional cup faced piopper has been joined by the stickbait walk the dog style lures such as the Owner Tango Dancer and similar lures. Tango Dancers are among my favourite lures and barra in particular seem to have a penchant for smashing them when they are just bobbing in the water. These are primarily a casting lure, but if you are a troller I suggest trying one set about 30m behind the boat while trolling a diving lure.
The lures get a real walk the dog style action at low speeds and are very effective trolled behind an electric outboard. In fact I reckon an electric increases your chances greatly over a conventional motor. Trollers should also not neglect soft plastics as they can be worked very well behind a slow moving boat. I know a few guys who regularly troll from canoes or kayaks on the dam with both hard lures (diving and surface) and plastics and they are quite successful.
So that’s a bit of a run down on some new ideas and revisions of older techniques that I have found to work. The popularity of our dam fishing has turned a whole new lot of anglers onto the joys of lure fishing and as more and more anglers experiment, we find new ways to enjoy our favourite pastime.
Judging by the various levels of governments continuously criticising fishing activities you could be forgiven for thinking that anglers are a blight on society and must be subject to ever more stringent controls and rules. The recent closure, (sorry zoning sounds much more technical doesn’t it?) in parts of Moreton Bay is a prime example of the way these things are orchestrated to appease the greenies. It is obvious to all and sundry that the decisions had already been made prior to the “consultation” and “input from stakeholders”, which shows how invaluable recreational fishing is deemed by governments.
This action is shades of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), whose methods and decisions are NOT made based on any scientific facts but on key words and phrases such as “maybe, could possibly, believed to be, better management, resource preservation, precautionary principle” and so on.
The snapper fishery is now under scrutiny, and the “misinformation” has already begun to lay the ground work for greater restrictions. On the television news on Monday 20th October, a DPI representative was quoted as saying that snapper stocks are endangered and that 70% of the snapper catch is made by recreational anglers. Not one shred of proof was offered to substantiate either statement.
How was this 70% calculated? Has DPI carried out detailed surveys of ALL anglers catches in the snapper areas to check just how many fish are being caught by recreational anglers? Did they have SOLID information on the state of the snapper stocks from past history for comparison purposes to determine what, if any, decline there has been? For example what information on the levels of snapper stocks is available from 20, 15, 10 or even five years ago? Do the DPI have detailed information on the commercial take of snapper for the same period?
This unsubstantiated comment suggests that because recreational anglers account for 70% of the snapper catch, then further restrictions such as a ban on all snapper catches for several months should be imposed. This is supposedly to allow the fish to breed and let the stocks “return” so that future generations can enjoy them. Great sentiment and I am all for my kids and grandkids having the opportunity to catch snapper should they so wish. BUT I understood that size limits applying to ALL fish species in Queensland were calculated to allow ALL species to breed at least ONCE before they reached legal length.
If this statement that I have heard many times from DPI Fisheries staff is not correct, then they have been wrongly manifesting with their “scientific” based information on breeding size of snapper, or their whole strategy for minimum size lengths is flawed. If the current limits allow the fish to breed at least once, why are further restrictions now being floated? What new scientific information and facts have now come to light to necessitate further restrictions? If current strategy is not right then why isn’t the minimum legal length being upgraded and possibly smaller bag limits being allowed?
If the current policy is the right one, and note it has been applied across the board to ALL species, then the problem is a compliance and enforcement issue, not the state of the stocks. If compliance and enforcement are the problems now, how in heavens name do the policy makers expect further restrictions, such as a closed season, will have any better result? All pigs are now fed and ready to fly, sir!!!!
Alternatively is this just a part of a strategy to get everyone up in arms about this “floated” idea then “listen” to the stakeholders concerns and water the restriction down to minimum bag limits and increased minimum sizes? Call me paranoid if you like, but I have seen this type of shafting of recreational anglers over so many issues over the years that I have a healthy distrust of the so called “facts” the governments and bureaucrats use to support their adopted positions.
Make no mistake there are plenty of people in the government who are very opposed to recreational fishing and they are determined to restrict further our legitimate pastime.
A logical person could be forgiven for thinking with child obesity being pushed so heavily on the agenda and children spending frightening amounts of time in front on computers and X-boxes, that the healthy pastime of recreational fishing would be actively encouraged rather than subject to further restrictions.
Perhaps DPI could come up with some “scientific” studies on the extent of carbon footprints of anglers and compare that to activities relating directly to power usage from plasma tvs, computers and various other screens. Perhaps they could also come up with some “scientific evidence” on the other impacts on fish stocks, such as urban run off, sewerage discharge, land clearing, removal of mangroves, international shipping and last but not least everyone’s favourite tourism. None of these issues have been reported as having any impact on the snapper stocks issue. Strange that don’t you think?
Anyway enough of the politics and associated hay after it has passed through the bull.
Have a happy and safe Christmas, may the big fella in the red suit bring you some great gear and I’ll see you at the boat ramp.Reads: 931