Saratoga for Samsonvale
  |  First Published: April 2005

A small but intrepid band of Pine Rivers Fish Management Association members recently made an arduous trek to Central Queensland to collect Dawson River saratoga to stock in Lake Samsonvale (North Pine Dam).

Armed with a specific Fisheries permit, Albert Onzen, Wayne Hardy and Ross Cobb left Brisbane on a Friday night at around midnight. Wayne had volunteered the use of his vehicle to tow the PRFMA fish transportation trailer, equipped with tanks and oxygen bottles, and the band headed off for their destination near Theodore.

A seven-hour drive saw them arrive at the Gyranda Pastoral Co, a cattle property with 25km of river frontage on the Dawson River. The property has a series of dams used for breeding and growing the magnificent saratoga.

After breakfast, the willing band, assisted by their host Louise and her daughter Haley, headed out for the breeding ponds to start the collection process. After filling the tanks on the trailer, many hours of hard work saw a nice collection of ‘togas up to 70cm long, ready for the long trek back to Lake Samsonvale.

After a long drive back, with several stops to check the condition of the valuable cargo, the weary trio arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning. This allowed time for a short camp before the arrival of more members of the PRFMA to assist with the release.

The addition of these mature fish will add to the exciting variety of fishing already available at the lake. Some information on saratoga (also available on the PRFMA website) is shown below.

Saratoga Scleropages leichardti guntheri

The saratoga is the only true Australian freshwater fish. All others are marine species that have made the transition to freshwater over time. Saratoga can breed in dams, giving them the potential to be a very successful stocking fish for recreational sportfishing.

Saratoga are easily distinguishable by their colours, sleek body shape, upturned head and barbels on their lower jaw. The colours of the southern saratoga are magnificent, with olive green on top fading to bright silver below, and each of its large scales has several bright orange-red spots.

Angling Hints

Saratoga feed on forage fish, shrimp and frogs and will readily take a variety of baits, lures and flies. However, because of their primitive, hard, bony mouths, they are hard to hook. Once hooked though, they provide spectacular sport, leaping clear of the surface repeatedly and fighting doggedly.

A light rod and reel combination is quite adequate when fishing for saratoga. The most important part is to ensure that your hooks are ultra-sharp to enable them to lodge in that bony mouth.

When and Where to Fish

The best time of year to target these fish is during the warmer months, when the fish feed more actively. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to fish.

There is currently a limited supply of saratoga in Lake Samsonvale and these may prove hard to find. Because they prefer swimming near the surface they can sometimes be seen cruising near the edge of weed beds. In these circumstances, a fly or surface lure cast to them should see you with a strike.


Saratoga are not good tablefish, with coarse and flavourless flesh that’s riddled with bones. It has been said that you only ever eat one! Although they will reproduce in the lake, their reproduction rate is extremely low and their cost to stock is very high. Please return this magnificent sportfish to the lake as soon as possible after capture so that other keen anglers may enjoy them also.

For information on size and bag limits, visit www.dpi.qld.gov.au/fishweb.

Boating access to Lake Samsonvale requires a permit available from the PRFMA. Permits are issued on an annual basis, and application forms and information papers for the 2005/06 season (commencing May 4) are available at bait and tackle stores, or by contacting the PRFMA at PO Box 131, Lawnton, QLD, 4501. You can call them on 0417 742 023, or contact them via email at --e-mail address hidden-- . The forms and further details of the program can also be found at the PRFMA website at http://prfma.tripod.com .

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