ONE of the big drawcards of our South Queensland impoundments at this time of year is the bass fishing. Right on cue, as winter ends and spring approaches, the fish are full of roe and just as full of fight. When you look at the quality of the fish being taken in Somerset Dam it’s not hard to gauge why this particular venue is so popular with anglers.
Visitors to Somerset are accommodated by the great camping facilities at Kirkleagh on the northern end of the dam. This well established camping venue has been considerably revamped in the last couple of years, so I decided it was time to re-visit this angler-friendly place for the benefit of folk who might like to enjoy its charms.
Somerset Dam is located near the town of Kilcoy in southern Queensland. The road to the dam – the Esk-Kilcoy Road – is situated virtually on the western outskirts of town. After you’ve continued along this road for around 10 minutes you’ll see the turnoff to Kirkleagh on the east side of the road. From there, the entrance to the Kirkleagh Holiday Park comes into view very shortly.
If you’re travelling north on the Esk-Kilcoy Road, you’ll pass the main housing area of the Somerset Dam community before continuing on a circuitous route overlooking the dam for approximately 15km until you reach the turnoff.
The most noticeable new feature of the Kirkleagh Holiday Park (ph. 07 54971093, fax 07 5487 1184) is the boom gate system. In keeping with other holiday parks, entry is regulated and visitors can’t enter the park for any purpose without a PIN code to lift the boom. Business hours at the kiosk are from 7:30am to 6:00pm, but if you’re entering after hours (up to 9:00pm) you can make a call on the intercom system near the kiosk window to obtain a temporary entry PIN code. It’s free to enter the park, but if you plan to stay there’s a fee of $16 per couple per night.
Also available at the kiosk are the required permits to fish the lake. Boating permits ($15 per week, $100 per year) and Stocked Impoundment Permits are issued, and for those in need of lures there’s a pretty good range on hand. Other items available at the kiosk include ice (you won’t need it at this time of year – just leave the icebox open at night) gas, bait, snack foods, cold drinks and some grocery items as well. If you need anything more it’s only a short drive to Kilcoy, where there’s a full range of retail outlets. There are also a couple of service stations at Kilcoy.
Once you’ve gone through the boom gates you’ll find a massive camping area, available on a ‘first in, first served’ basis. The layout is superb. Kirkleagh forms a quite long spit with an easterly aspect, and there are no actual allocated sites. This means that, with the exception of designated picnic areas and the fenced-off areas around the five shower/toilet facilities and other fixtures, you can set up your tent or park your campertrailer or caravan virtually anywhere within the 80 hectares of grassed and lightly tree-covered grounds. In all, this holiday park is spread out, relaxed, and very different. It’s certainly a far cry from the more populated parks where signs and instructions are more plentiful than the trees.
You can opt to set up camp on either side of the main camping area to take full advantage of the lake views, but even if you set up in one of the nicely grassed flats right in the centre of the Park, you’ll still be able to enjoy the excellent sight of Lake Somerset. It’s also feasible to set up camp virtually on the water. There’s a shortage of grass away from the more elevated areas, but if you’re prepared to camp on gravel or bare ground so you can be by the water, so be it!
The toilet and shower facilities at this holiday park are among the cleanest to be found anywhere. Kirkleagh also has numerous picnic shelters, free barbecues, very clean fish-dressing areas complete with taps and bins, and firewood provided for campers during these cold times. Before lighting up it’s wise to talk to Allan or Annette at the kiosk to see whether fires are permitted, and you should seek out a fire drum as well. The management don’t want to freeze anyone so fires confined to drums are the wise move.
Fishing is the favourite pastime at Kirkleagh. While it’s possible to fish off the shore along the deep edge on the northern side of the park, a boat really opens up a lot more possibilities. Water-skiers mainly use the magnificent triple-lane concrete boat ramp on the northern side of the camping grounds, just past the cleaning tables. There is another ramp on the southern side of the camping area but it’s currently closed due to lack of water [Somerset Dam is currently at approximately 50% capacity – Ed].
If you’d like to launch away from the main ramps and on a reduced slope, tow the boat right up to the end of the main camping area and simply turn left to the 100m-wide section of waterside ground available for an easy launch.
Out on the lake it’s a matter of watching the sounder to locate schools of bass for those of us who like to use lures, plastics or flies for our sportfishing. Having said that, you shouldn’t overlook the possibilities of employing good old-fashioned bait to catch yellowbelly (golden perch), catfish and tilapia. The introduced tilapia is a noxious species, of course, and any you catch must be removed from the water. You may have heard they taste good, but it’s an offence to have tilapia in possession so just bury them above the high water mark.
I’ll finish off with a tip: Don’t crack the throttle open soon as you launch to go and search out a school of bass; check out the deep channel just in front of the ramp first. The largest fish I’ve caught at Somerset was taken right there. You just never know!
I give this unspoiled camping area top marks for friendliness. It’s clean and tidy and it’s one of the best camping spots to enjoy in Southern Queensland, and only at Easter time does it become anything like crowded. The vista of hills all around and the wide expanse of water stretching to the north, east, and south are always very easy on the eye. Wildlife lovers will appreciate the bush curlews calling at night, the possums and hares prowling the grounds after dark, and the friendly noisy miners and other birds visiting the camp sites to say “g’day” and to cadge a crumb or two.
As for me, I just love those early mornings on the water and those big black wavy lines on my Lowrance sounder that tell me I’ve just lucked onto a school of feeding bass!
1. Why not just take a seat and enjoy the sight of boats launching?
2.The Kirkleagh entry now features a boom system. The kiosk is on the right.
3a. The triple lane launch ramp at Kirkleagh is a beauty.
3b. Although not a formed ramp the gravelled area at the eastern end of the main camping area is ideal for launching boats of all sizes.
4. Tents are easily set up on the level ground at Kirkleagh. That fire drum beside the camp is a great idea for cold weather.Reads: 3514