Many anglers still believe it’s almost impossible to catch the barra of your dreams in winter at Lake Monduran. But I can tell you that catching a 25kg-plus barra at winter in Monduran is more than just a dream, it can be a reality.
Monduran can be an exceptionally difficult place to fish for barra and the lake has earned its not so polite moniker of Lake Misery hundreds of times over. For starters the lake is so vast. Even at current levels (around 35-40%) Monduran is massive. There are arms, bays, points, rocky ledges, vast flats and more that all hold barra at some stage and you need to have an idea of where to start. Frustrating for first timers.
So how do you give yourself the best chance of connecting to a Monduran monster in winter? I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few days at Monduran during winter over the last couple of years and with the help of Rob Howell from Lake Monduran Holiday Park and Guidelines Fishing Charters, and Jason Wilhelm from Barra Madness I have discovered that you can have a sensational winter escape catching massive barra in the relative warmth of central Queensland. And with a group of six Melbourne-based anglers, a week in barradise will cost about $1000 including air, accommodation, boat hire and food – sensational value!
Mind you, this does not mean you won’t have to work hard and have plenty of persistence – they are considered mandatory pieces of equipment when visiting Monduran at any time of the year.
Everyone seems to be rushed these days and fishing trips just don’t happen too often on the spur of the moment. Most of us have to plan when, where and how we are next going to fish.
Unlike the warmer and thus more popular times of the year, winter is a great time to visit Monduran as you can usually find accommodation on the houseboat or in the cabins so you are well protected if the weather does turn nasty. Although harsh winter weather is a relatively mild affair in central Queensland when compared to a big southerly buster smashing full force into windy old Warrnambool!
For our most recent winter trip we had started planning about two months before the trip date by making sure we could have the houseboat for three nights. And that is the minimum time I’d think about booking the houseboat for – a week would be more serious and give you a better chance at tangling with a few massive barra.
Rob Howell, manager of Lake Monduran Holiday Park, booked us in and we also booked Rob for a few afternoon sessions as a guide to show us around and give us a bit of a head start on where to go and what to do.
So with the planning done we started to prepare tackle and dreams not knowing whether the lake would be fishing good or bad or even if the weather was going to be with us or against us.
We had 6 anglers in 3 boats and planned to meet Rob at the Kiosk just after 11am, so we could get organised with the houseboat and get settled in before we fished the last few hours of the first day.
On reflection the stop in at the Kiosk formed a very important part of our trip’s success. As Rob is permanently at the Park or on the water he really does have his nose to the ground when it comes to up-to-date information.
His words were like music to my ears saying that the last two weeks had been slow but the fish had started biting again up in the main arm’s bays on Slick Rigs, shallow minnows and plastic frogs the day before and a few had been coming from Bird Bay’s shallow bays as well. He then pointed us in the right direction on the map, said look to the shallow, warmer bays and we went about launching the boat and getting all our gear to the houseboat.
The houseboat is ideal for six anglers with plenty of room for all your combined gear and a bed each. Two anglers drew straws for the doubles and everyone else bedded down in the four bunks. The houseboat can sleep 10 anglers, but I would max out any group I went with at 6 for comfort.
We hit the water after lunch and headed up the main arm following the map provided by Rob at the Kiosk. We started at the first bay and worked our way slowly upstream. I got a tap that started the ball rolling. I didn’t get a hook up, just a little tap that felt like a small fish had bumped the lure. This is usually a sure sign that a barra had engulfed the lure and I was too slow to set the hook. The frayed 60lb leader was also a sure sign that old Boothy was a little slow in the reaction department.
We filed that spot away and kept working shallow bays as Rob had told us. After two hours and with an hour and a bit of daylight left we went back to the strike bay and anchored up. Anchoring allowed us to turn off all our electronics and concentrate on fishing the bay hard. We had noticed that this bay had wind pushing into it and the water temperature was up about 1.5C from the water in the main basin.
That afternoon we landed two barra, had half a dozen awesome, bow waving follows and dropped another fish boat side. It was great to get a fish or two under the belt. We went back to the houseboat confident that Rob had led us onto fish and looked forward to checking out what the other anglers had achieved.
We arrived at the houseboat to find dinner cooking on the BBQ at the front of the boat and found out the other two boats had similar action but landed fewer fish.
The next morning we took it easy as early starts in winter tend to do nothing except make you tired before the afternoon bite really starts in earnest. Rob met us just after lunch and we headed up to some backwater country that Rob called Barra Alley. Unlike the weed-filled, shallow bays in the main arm, Barra Alley was choked with timber and the water was shallow with scattered weed.
Rob sat us down and explained what he was going to do using shallow running, hard bodied lures and we sat off his tail watching and learning how a local makes the most of a winter fishery. It was an education in itself, especially for the two boys who were on the boat with Rob.
While it wasn’t fast fishing with only a couple of barra landed, it really showed the advantage of using the tools available to give yourself the best shot at success.
Winter is a great time to chase barra at Monduran for many reasons.
Firstly the houseboat is a welcome refuge from the cool nights and early mornings. You can locate the houseboat near the best bays and almost be within spitting distance of them. There are prepared anchorages located in strategic areas so all you need do is clip on the mooring rope to a buoy and you and the houseboat are safely moored.
Next is the fact that fewer anglers hassle the fish in winter. That means that if you find a patch of warmer water with fish in it, you are a really good chance to keep that spot for yourself for the duration of your trip.
Thirdly is that real possibility of tangling with a massive barra. My biggest barra in winter at Monduran knocked the tape out to 116cm and about 28kg and was caught with ace guide Jason Wilhelm of Barra Madness. That is serious in anyone’s language. The smallest fish I have caught in winter measured 92cm and fought every bit as hard as any I’d caught in warmer weather with wild leaps and headshakes showing its anger at me.
And lastly, as most of the fish are in shallow bays trying to find warm water, the action is visual and in your face. You’ll definitely need to be able to cast a fair distance and you will need to modify your casting to land lures gently, but when a foot high bow wave comes careening after your lure, you will understand why winter fishing is so much fun.
And I almost forgot that the afternoon bite is almost always better than the morning bite – and a sleep in is a great way to recharge batteries drained by a cold southern winter.
So what are you waiting for?
The houseboat can sleep up to 10 anglers but for a group of male anglers I reckon 6 anglers is about perfect. That leaves 4 anglers in the single beds and two lucky anglers with a Queen bed each. The houseboat has a shower and toilet, three bedrooms and a roomy dining and kitchen area up front with the helm. Inside this front area is a massive BBQ that serves as the primary cook top.
The kitchen itself has hot and cold water, gas cook top, gas fridge and freezer and enough supplied plates and cutlery to see you through any trip. Storage is not an issue for food as there is plenty of cupboard space and shelving. We had cool boxes with us too, so all out food was kept in tiptop shape for the duration of the trip.
The houseboat is naturally very popular so it pays to really plan ahead if you want it. I love the ease of rolling out of bed and into a boat to go fishing any time you want – it’s fantastic. And you can drive the houseboat up into the middle reaches of the lake where prepared anchorages are already there. All you do is clip on to the anchorage and you’re firm in one spot.
The houseboat costs $400 per night and between 6 anglers (or 10) the price is fantastic for such unparalleled access to the water. By the end of a trip you really do appreciate how much time is taken up launch and retrieving your rig and getting to your fishing location.
The houseboat is booked through the Lake Monduran Holiday Park on 07 4157 3881.
We took a variety of rigs with us to land the Monduran monsters and I’ve included the outfits we took to give you an idea of what you may need. I’ve also included a list of lures we had on board as a starting point.
Zaneq MYS Twitch and Daiwa Branzino filled with 35lb Daiwa PE braid.
Garry Howard built Bobby Loomis IMB665 and Shimano Stella 4000 filled with 30lb FINS
Blue Acres XS705BA and Daiwa Steez 2508 filled with 35lb Saltiga braid
EGrell S10 and Daiwa Certate 3500HD filled with 35lb Daiwa PE braid
Adam Royter built Northpoint 4kg and Abu Revo Offshore filled with 20lb Stren Microfuse
Daiwa TD-AA 661 HFB and Daiwa Redback filled with 30lb TD Sensor Tournament
e21 Carrot Stix and Shimano Chronarch 100SF filled with 30lb Tuflline XP
Squidgy Slick Rig Pro
Squidgy Slick Rig
Berkley Hollow Belly
Lively Lures Arafura Barra Shallow
Tropic Angler Floater
Zoom Horny Toad
Squidgy Boof Frog
Rob Howell runs Guidelines Charter Fishing on Lake Monduran. Rob also runs the Lake Monduran Holiday Park and is always up to date with what is happening in his back yard.
You can hire Guidelines for a half day, full day or consecutive days depending on your requirements but we found having Rob come out and show us around did wonders for our confidence. Rob unashamedly wants people to catch fish. He reckons if a visitor catches a barra they will come back and Guidelines can certainly help you do that.
Rob does not guarantee you will catch a fish, as no guide should, but what he offers is the opportunity to learn where and how to catch a fish. This to me is the most important ingredient in a guiding operation as I want to learn how to and Rob offers general areas where the fish are biting.
On our trip Rob showed us some shallow water luring techniques that were spot on. While we were following Rob and the two boys on his boat around we saw them miss three fish including one spectacular jump off. We used Rob’s locations and information to land most of our fish for the trip, so that is where the value of Guideline is found.
I also like Rob’s general feeling about information. He insists there are no secret spots, secret lures or secret retrieves. He will tell you everything he can to get you onto a fish and even show you if you book with him.
Contact Rob at the Lake Monduran Holiday Park on 07 4157 3881 to book some time with Guidelines.