When I am choosing a camping destination, there are a number of things I look for. Firstly, there must be access to reasonable fishing; if that’s not possible I don’t see much point in recommending the place. Next, I look at the layout to ensure there is enough area to allow visitors to enjoy some quiet camping. Lastly, there must be sufficient facilities to make the experience comfortable.
Somerset Dam meets all of these requirements and more. My wife Denise and I spent three enjoyable nights there and fished each day, launching our boat at The Spit, which was only a short drive away. We caught some pearler bass on fly each day, one of which was 54cm, and during a particularly red-hot session, Denise took a good yellowbelly on fly.
Visitors entering the town can easily miss the Somerset Dam campgrounds on the southern outskirts. Yet these campgrounds are very important while the water level of the dam is so low, because they are close to easily accessible deep water. Although there are more spacious campgrounds at Kirkleigh at the top end of Lake Somerset, anglers have to navigate through channels full of stumps to get down to where there is plenty of water.
The Somerset Dam campground is quite large and sits between the main road and the old Stanley riverbed. The grounds stretch for a couple of hundred metres to the south and the dam wall is visible from the camping area with the main body of the dam just over the hill to the north.
If you are heading towards the dam from the south, either from Esk or via the Splityard Creek/Mt Glorious Road slightly north of Fernvale, the camping area will be on the right, opposite the store. If you are coming down from the Kilcoy/Kingaroy Road, turn into the road that is clearly signposted to Esk and Somerset Dam on the western outskirts of Kilcoy and then look for the camping area adjacent to the shop at Somerset Dam.
This is an informal camping area with a visiting ranger who collects the modest fees of $15 per couple per night. Bookings are not necessary: it’s first in, best dressed and you can pick your own spot. The camping area sits among some decent shade trees with barbecues, fireplaces and picnic tables to enjoy. There are heaps of possums and koalas in the area so keep an eye out for them. Showers are coin operated and it’s advisable to take your own wood for the BBQs. There is no power so make sure you take along a light and stove.
Opposite the camping area is the Somerset Dam store where basic groceries are available, along with gas refills, fuel, newspapers and ice. Your fishing permit (SIP) and boating permit for the dam can be obtained here as well. And if you’re a coffee addict like me, there is a cappuccino bar at the store.
Geoff and Julie run the store and are very helpful. If you don’t have your own boat, Geoff hires out 3.1m tinnies with 6hp outboards and all safety gear. This service is very handy because a boat is basically a necessity here in order to score a feed of fish. No licence is required and his phone number is (07) 5426 0176.
Launching at The Spit in Somerset is very easy. At the moment the bass are biting their heads off and have been for some time, with experienced fishers racking up tallies that sound like cricket scores. Even people who are new to fishing will be able to dangle a bait or work virtually any kind of plastic up and down off the bottom and score a fish.
If you don’t have a sounder, simply head for a point or drop-off. I fished for three days and never had to travel more than a kilometre from the launch area in search of fish. They seemed to be holding in around 10m of water, along flats, drop-offs and virtually anywhere around the Spit. The fish are likely to remain in these areas unless by some miracle a big dump of rain increases the water level in the dam.
With convenient access to such productive waters, a trip to the Somerset Dam campgrounds is a must for keen freshwater anglers.Reads: 2133