The Boondooma Caper
  |  First Published: August 2005

Since moving from down south to the sunshine state, my partner Teresa and I have settled on a game plan to explore the inland impoundments of central Queensland.

Our first trip to Lake Mondooran was a flop, as we simply didn’t know what we were doing and were fishing the wrong areas for that time of year.

The next trip we hit the jackpot at the mighty Lake Awoonga. Most of the people camped at the caravan park were dedicated fishos and were the friendliest and most helpful lot we have met on any of our camping and fishing trips. We managed to boat our first barramundi on this trip, but I won’t mention who caught it because it’s still a sore point with me.

This trip we decided to head south into bass country and try for another first. Catching a bass had eluded me all these years, simply because I have had limited chances to fish the waters where these little scrappers live. Boondooma Dam, situated in the South Burnett a few kilometres from Proston in the heart of peanut country, looked like a good place to start. All of our information told us there would be bass and yellowbelly aplenty.

The trip did not start well and would get worse when we hit the water. For the first time we failed to check our ‘must take’ list before we hit the road and 26km down the highway we discovered we had left the sounder back at base. Fishing a new dam hosting bass and yellowbelly without a sounder was not an option, so we had to backtrack and start again.

We finally reached the dam around midday after a pleasant drive; the rural scene in this part of the country simply blew us away.

The caravan park, which is situated about 5km from the boat ramps, has powered sites and a laundry, but we decided to camp in the non-powered area adjacent to one of the boat ramps and overlooking the dam. A kiosk, office and two very clean amenities blocks are situated in this peaceful setting.

The level of the dam was down to 37% at the time of our visit so the camping area offered quite a few options, including large areas down near the water, or up above high water level in the normal camping area. On the down side, there are not too many level sites and the ground can be hard, so good solid tent pegs are the go.

The first day we set our bait traps and a couple of opera house traps just in case there were red claw in residence. We spent the rest of the day trolling the main area of the dam, but didn’t score any fish.

The next day we planned to check our traps before exploring the upper reaches of the waterway. The first thing to go wrong was that someone had checked our traps for us and all we had left was about a dozen live shrimp. Pulling traps that belong to someone else is a criminal offence, so don’t be a fool for a few shrimp. See me on the water and I’ll give you half of mine.

The second thing to go wrong was a little more serious than loosing a few shrimp – at troll speed the motor was over heating and the alarm was going off. Running at speed was not a problem so we decided to fish the bays and rocky headlands close to camp. As trolling was not an option we drifted the bays tossing lures to likely looking spots, but by midday the score was still nil.

As the boat drifted out into the deeper water the sounder came alive, showing depth at 30m, a clutter of baitfish at 7m and good fish signals just below the clutter.

At this stage, our arms were tired from tossing lures with no result so it was out with the pride and on with a couple of live shrimp. Dropping the bait down to the required depth brought almost instant success and a few minutes later after a gutsy little fight, I had my first bass at 36cm. A couple more drifts over the same area nailed a few undersize critters that we carefully released.

We were down to our last couple of shrimp when I hooked and landed my second bass. This one measured 43cm and put up a real fight, getting the line around the propeller at one stage of the struggle. I felt sorry for Teresa because she missed out, but she copped it sweet and not so gently reminded me who caught the barra on our previous trip.

The next morning was pack up time, and we headed to Tweed Heads for a promised visit to rellies, and to get the motor repaired. If you are in the Tweed area and have outboard trouble I can highly recommend Tweed Coast Marine for excellent service and honesty: fitting a new impeller and a service to the lower end of our motor came in at less than half the cost of the original quote.

If we sound impressed with the fishing and camping potential in this area you can bet your life we are. Even when things went wrong we still had a ball! At the time of writing we are planning our next trip and meanwhile, here’s to calm days and tight lines.

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