Having a ball on barra
  |  First Published: December 2004

At the time of writing, all three of our local dams are suffering from very low water levels and the whole district is hoping for a wet Christmas. Here’s what’s happening at the moment, but remember that it could all change before you read this.

Kinchant dam

All water activity on Kinchant has stopped. There is about 2.7% of water left and Sunwater has said it will drain the dam if necessary. There are ongoing talks about this subject which can affect any dam in Queensland.

To assess the fish health in the dam, Sunwater commissioned DPI&F to electrofish the ‘lake’ and I was lucky enough to be invited along. We got 33 barra in under two hours, every one of them 900mm or better! All the barra were in great condition – sleek, muscled and shimmering silver in the early afternoon light.

This was very interesting as the last two times this dam has been electrofished the barra were in roughly two size classes: around 600-700mm and 800-900mm. I presume these are also three distinct year classes of stocked fish.

These barra were in the deepest part of the lake at around 3.5m, and showed up clearly along the drop off on the sounder. Another interesting point that Tim Marsden and I discussed was the amount of 75-100mm long bony bream that were in the same area as the barra. Tim tells me this is a regular occurrence, and people who have checked the guts of Teemburra Dam fish have also told me that the barra had been feeding on small bony bream.

If the larger barra like to track down schools of small to medium size bony bream, this would explain why the soft plastic shads around 80-100mm long are such great fish catchers on our dams.

My thanks to Tim Marsden and his team, Kristen Woods and Dave Croker for an enjoyable couple of productive and thought-provoking hours. The back and shoulders got sore lifting those bloody great barra around, but it sure beats working.

Teemburra dam

Teemburra is firing on all 12 cylinders, with the fish concentrated in the small amount of water that’s left. Teemburra is becoming a Mecca for many Brisbane anglers, and this will only continue as the fish grow and more are stocked by Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association (MAFSA). Teemburra is roughly 11-12 hours from Brisbane hauling a boat, and any Brisbanite who’s tried it will tell you it’s worth it.

Steve Morgan of QFM and ABT, who will be running a BARRA tournament series in 2005, recently ran a trial in Teemburra to check on the logistics etc. and came away most impressed. There was basically no publicity and, apart from some tournament jocks from Brisbane, MAFSA members made up the rest of the 19 anglers who took part.

The weather was the big fly in the ointment though, with a cold snap coming through with moderate to fresh southeasterly winds. Off went the barra switch from the previous week, where 15 to 20 fish a day was the norm. Even so, some anglers caught four or five for the trial.

Brissy tournament anglers took the highest five places, with John Schofield the winner. I guess their dedication and concentration showed through. Mind you, many of the MAFSA crew enjoy chasing barra on poppers which isn’t as effective as slowly worked plastics, which were the big winners on the weekend. Don't worry too much about colour – just get plenty of the Tsunami shad tails around 80-100mm long with the built-in weight and work mainly the open areas of the dam (although some fish were taken in the timber).

The Storm range of plastics also worked well on the barra. No secret technique is needed, simply cast out, let it sink to the bottom and then start a slow retrieve. I like to mix up my retrieve with pauses, jerks and slow movement. On my latest trip though, just keeping the lure slowly mooching along near the bottom triggered plenty of interest. In all, 30 barra were measured, photographed with digital cameras and then released. The fish were up to just a whisker over a metre and the smallest – a 520mm fish – was caught by yours truly. The little tacker sure had some ticker amongst the light timber though. Check out the results at www.mafsa.com.au or on the BREAM and BASS bulletin board at www.fishingmonthly.com.au.

On the Sunday morning John Trigg and I set off up the lake at 4am and, because we’re fond of chasing sooties, we decided to spend a couple of hours targeting them. We caught up with friend sooty and lost a few on poppers before we went back to chasing barra. Neither of us improved on our overnight score, but we had a ball on those sooties!

The dam is fishing really well for sooty grunter at the moment. If you’re coming to Teemburra, don't forget to bring some poppers around 75mm long to chuck at the sooties. You’ll find them around the deeper water tight to the timber or in the shallower stuff around the lake fringes. One of the best things about sooty lure fishing is that most times they’re not fussy. They’ll usually respond to any lure that gets within 10m.

So if it’s barra or mega sooties you’re after, trot on up to Teemburra!

Eungella dam

Very dry, but all reports indicate that it’s continuing to fish well. Unfortunately, the boat ramp is just about unusable and recently Steve Morgan wouldn’t even try to negotiate it. With a small tinny this wouldn’t be a real hassle; just make sure you have a 4WD to pull your trailer out.

Anyway, the fish are co-operative and a number of low 50s sooties have been caught (or perhaps people just tell me that cos I can't get one). The best lure is still a Gold Rattlin’ spot style lure out in the big timber, followed closely by plastics and spinnerbaits.

For maximum fun I like to use poppers first thing in the morning. Many times a sooty will nail a lure just as it touches down and before the reel is in gear, so keep your wits about you and get that reel into gear real quick. If you don't you’ll get stitched up big time!

Have a Happy New Year and may all your trips be great ones!

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