Tantalising Teemburra
  |  First Published: November 2004

Recent angling results and DPI electrofishing have highlighted just what a great fishery Teemburra Dam has become. This dam, west of Mackay, is maintaining its reputation as a premier stocked impoundment despite low water levels.

As part of the Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association’s monitoring process, catch cards are regularly completed by a variety of anglers, and the results have averaged out to just under one fish per angling hour. Recent electrofishing has also shown just how thick the barra are in the dam, with around 130 barra raised, measured and released in less than 2.5 hours of survey work by DPI liaison officer Malcolm Pearce. The survey turned up distinct year classes of fish, ranging from 400mm to one just over a metre.

Combined with the low water levels, the number of fish per hectare of surface area is very high which means anglers have an even better chance of scoring on the hard-running Teemburra barra. The low water level is of concern as this storage supplies water for irrigating sugarcane, but if we get summer storm activity the irrigation demand will lessen and there will be some run-off into the dam. When water is running in all the little gullies and creeks, the predators line up to nail any food being washed in and the action is fast and furious. This is the dam equivalent of floodplain run-off fishing, and from past experience I can tell you it’s great fun!


This run-off fishing is tailor-made for soft plastics and flyfishing. While the traditional minnow lures like Reidys B52 and Gold Bombers will work, the plastics and flies give more action with less effort and are less prone to action problems caused by the fast run-off water. Poppers can also work well, but debris being washed down can cause problems for them, too.

My recommendation is to stick with the flies and plastics, which start to work as soon as they hit the water and start to sink. The plastics tail of whatever type will get moving as the lure sinks and the fly will also start to pulsate in the moving water. They’re proven barra takers in the dams and down in the mangroves.

The plastics and flies can also be worked much more easily across the current and downcurrent, whereas most hard bodied-lures work better against the current. It makes sense that the barra and sooties will be facing into the current on the lookout for any easy meal that is washed in so, to give yourself the best chance of scoring, work your lure downcurrent with the run-in and keep it in the strike zone longer. This also means you’ll cover a greater area much more effectively. Have a look at the diagram to get the idea.

The incoming food will mainly be small animals and insects, so keep your lure size fairly small. There are thousands of plastics that will work in this situation, but make sure the hooks and jigheads are up to standard as you are likely to get to tangle with a 50cm plus sooty (I wish) or a metre of rampaging barra.


Proven plastics include the great Tsunami range of shad tails and curly tails. I have had good success with the lime green colour and also the darker colours with the black back. These jigs are already rigged on quality hooks and are weighty enough to be very easy to cast off a baitcaster or spinning gear. The similar Storm shads also work well, and Berkley, Lunker City, Ecogear and Squidgies all have plenty of variety in their ranges to suit this application – just try to keep the size around the 75mm mark.

This is also the time to try all those oddball plastics we all have in our collections but never use. Lizards, mice and all sorts of creatures will be getting carried into the dam and all are fair game for a hungry predator, so break out those bright blue lizards and other weird looking creatures that don’t seem to resemble anything much at all. Chances are you will have it smashed and it may just give you enough confidence to try some of them more regularly.


On the flyfishing front, try the usual Deceiver and Bomber type of fly but in smaller sizes than you would normally use in the dam. Small Clousers with very light weights will also be taken readily. Remember the fly doesn’t have to be big; wispy small Bendbacks will work just as well as a bulky Bomber type fly. Just like the plastics, the fly will work just drifting in the current.

A floating line can be used in this situation, particularly with small Clousers, which slow down the sink rate of the fly and allow it to cover more territory per cast. For the other fly types I recommend an intermediate sink line so you can control the depth the fly runs at by counting it down as necessary. Again, this means the fly is covering the vertical water column as well as working in the current. The fly should be cast to the same spots as the plastics referred to in the illustration.


Many anglers ask me for the best lure and fly colours to use, and I simply tell them to use whatever they have. Because the water is discoloured and moving fast, the fish don’t have much time to decide whether to swallow an artificial or let it pass. Any offering is likely to be hammered, so profile rather than colour is more likely to trigger a response. If I had to nominate a colour, I’d suggest more natural colours with lighter undersides and darker backs. With the flies, a bit of flash will attract attention.


Just to whet your appetite on what fish are currently on the chew in the dam, fellow QFM writer Wayne Kampe and his wife Denise have just spent a week at the dam braining the barra on fly rods. Catches of up to 15 and 20 barra a day between them is top fishing in any man’s language, and the Kampes were rapt and are already planning their return trip.

Wayne top scored on the barra with a fish that went 1005mm and took him around 20 minutes to land on his 10wt rod. A great effort, and from MAFSA’s point of view it was tremendous to have a visiting angler score such a fish.

At the moment the best place to catch barra is in the open areas of the main basin. There are some barra still in the timber, but the chances of landing a metre-long barra from the timber are very slim. Take a leaf out of Wayne’s book and concentrate on the small bays and points in the main basin. He ran the boat into the weeds, anchored it and then fished intermediate lines with home-tied flies into about 4m of water. In this situation, when there are some regrowth suckers in the area it’s even better.

Some anglers believe it’s ideal to have a full moon to catch barra in the dam, but Wayne’s big fish was caught about a week before full moon on an evening when there was broken, scattered cloud cover. I later fished with him on the full moon, a beautiful moonlit night with very little wind and no cloud, and we caught only four fish in several hours. It seems that a full moon is more appealing to anglers than to the fish.

If you come up to fish Teemburra, remember you must carry a current Stocked Impoundment Permit at all times – the Boating Patrol boys check the dam and anglers out regularly. See you there!





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