TEEMBURRA Dam, near Mackay, has delivered some excellent fishing lately. Barra stocking started there in February 2000 and, as of November 2002, barra up to 1003mm have been caught and fish of over 900mm are a regular event. The fish have shown outstanding growth rates and are more than willing to belt a lure or fly and put on a great show for the angler.
The majority of barra are now 600-900mm, and represent several stockings of fingerlings by MAFSA (Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association). All fish caught are in magnificent condition and range in colour from dark slate grey to beautiful silver slab-sided fish. This speaks volumes for the water quality in the dam, and also the abundance of forage fish and crustaceans like shrimp and crays.
I’ve written about the phenomenal catch rates in this dam before, and I’m pleased to say that the action is continuing this season. MAFSA catch cards indicate an average catch rate of just under a fish an hour, both barra and sooty grunter, and the barra fishing seems to be getting better and better. Son Lachlan and I spent an hour and a half lure fishing late one afternoon and raised five barra between us. I was using a Reidy’s fizzer and Lachlan used a Little Lucifer and a Gold Bomber. Interestingly, the barra were in a little bay across from the ramp where we had caught fish earlier in the year. We saw no big fish though, indicating that the larger fish had moved away from the lantana areas where we’d caught them previously.
Some of our members are regularly finding bigger barra in deeper water now. John Trigg pulled one from nearly 12 metres down after the fish showed on the sounder. In situations like these John uses the largest gold Rattlin’ Spots and counts them down to the fish depth. I’m sure large plastics would work well also.
Ron Beauchamp, another MAFSA member, finds most of his fish in water up to about five metres deep and casts deep divers to them. Ron also uses his sounder to locate fish in the more open bays, and he’s found them he works the area thoroughly. Ron’s favourite lure is a ScaleRazas in yellow and green. These work down to about three metres when cast, and pull the barra up from the lower reaches. Recently Ron put in 24 angler hours at the dam over two days and caught 24 barra. That’s pretty good fishing in anybody’s language.
His barra weren’t bad sizes either, as his catch card shows. In one session the fish lengths (mm) were 560, 580, 600, 640, 650, 740, 760, 870, 890, 955, 1003, all measured on the lie detector. The fact that Ron fishes areas completely different from mine shows that the fish are spread over the entire dam, and that we still have a lot to learn about the fishery.
If you’re planning a trip to Teemburra this Summer, I recommend that you expand your lure range to include some deep divers that get down to around three metres. I prefer ScaleRazas and Reidy’s Goulburn Jack and similar lures. Stay with the Aussie-mades because these barra are serious fish and will smash cheaper imported lures to pieces. I suggest that you include a few large gold Rattlin’ Spots as well.
Submerged lantana is a good starting point, and other good areas include the edges of weed beds in the open bays and small twiggy snags, also in the open bays. The points at the ends of the open bay areas are proving to be fairly reliable as well.
Teemburra barra also love lilies, because they provide ideal ambush points with shade and cover and (usually) plenty of tucker. If you can combine a number of these scenarios you’re likely to score plenty of barra. Match your lure to the water depth by using Gold Bombers or B52s in the shallow stuff and the other lures I recommended in the deeper water.
One of the best things about Teemburra’s barra is that you don’t have to be up with the chooks to score them. I’ve never caught a Teemburra barra before 7:30am, but I’ve caught them all through the day and into the night. Other mates have found similar results, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t get smashed at first light either.
My usual plan is to chase sooties early in the morning and then, at about 7:30-8:00am, I switch over to barra. Coincidentally, the sooties seem to go quiet around that time. I’ve caught many sooties casting barra lures later in the day, but this is the exception rather than the norm.
Sooties are still muscling up in Teemburra, with catches turning up fish just under 500mm. Big sooties are tough fish and hard to extract from their lairs. Fish for them around larger timber, particularly where there are branches out from the trunks just under the surface. If you see a mob of shags in the trees overhead, there’ll almost certainly be sooties nearby.
The best times to fish for sooties are in the early morning and late afternoon. These fish also keep on the chew after dark, but casting lures around Teemburra’s timber at night is not for the faint-hearted. Apart from the prospect of getting smashed, casting is a problem with so much timber.
When selecting lures for the sooties, pack some 50mm Fat Raps, Little Lucifers, smaller Rattlin Spots, Stumpjumpers and some spinnerbaits (I prefer gold blades). Plastics rigged on small jig heads are also productive, but the hooks on these sometimes won’t hold a sooty on the rampage. Remember also that sooties have fairly small mouths for their size and aggro attitude.
The sooties in Teemburra Dam may now be able to spawn. MAFSA, with some National Heritage Trust funding, has constructed a concrete and rock fishway around the causeway in Middle Creek that flows into the dam. Above the causeway there are good rapids and plenty of shallow well-oxygenated waters, but until now the sooties couldn’t get there because of the volume and force of the water going through the causeway pipe. I have actually seen spangled perch jumping up onto the causeway to try to get past it.
Tim Marsden from the DPI’s Mackay fishway team came up with the design, and MAFSA members provided the labour to mix and pour about a tonne of concrete to make the fishway. An excavator strategically placed the rocks to break up the flow and provide resting stations for fish heading upstream. The fishway will compliment MAFSA’s stocking efforts by allowing natural recruitment of sooties and other species such as spangled perch (which are a major food source for the barra).
The best way to appreciate this fishery is to come and experience it for yourself. Pick up an SIP permit and I’ll see you on the water!