Fruitful winter fishing
  |  First Published: June 2009

After a few months of fishing the saltwater, I’m keen to get a taste of some freshwater winter action. I may be mad but I love defrosting my toes and fingers on a cold winter’s morning, which will be a big change from my last trip.

I left home with ice on my windscreen to jump on a plane and head for Weipa. I stayed and fished with fellow QFM writer Mark Ward. Mark’s a great bloke who steered me in the right direction and I was soon catching some great fish. You can check out some of the action on my blog dated 25 May at www.purefishing.com.au/berkleypro.

For those willing to brave the cold weather, July will be a rewarding month. In the South East, big bass will be on offer in several of the lakes. Winter is the time impoundment bass put on condition and get really fat. Fish over 2kg will be fairly common and I’m sure there will be a few landed that pull the scales down to more than 3kg. Different methods will account for these monster bass and are usually determined by the lake being fished.

Further north, the barra dams will still be producing fish. Timing trips around the warmer, sunny days is the key. Big lethargic barra can suddenly become more active after a run of nice days. A lot of these big fish will be lazing in the shallows trying to keep warm. It’s an awesome place to target them. With no room to dive deep, the fish show their blistering speed and power when they run and jump and thrash on the surface.

Winter might not be the most comfortable time to fish and early morning starts can be painful. On clear calm days, it doesn’t take too long to warm up and then there’s no place you’d rather be than on the water, basking in the sun.

There has been a lot of hype about a new lure hitting the market. It’s turned the heads of plenty of fresh- and saltwater anglers. The MF40 is a hybrid soft plastic lure combining the action of a blade with the fish catching scent of Powerbait. Many anglers would be familiar with the Jackall Mask. These lures are very similar. At only 40mm long they may be small but will have plenty of applications when targeting freshwater fish like bass and golden perch. Lure designer, Matt Fraser had been working on these lures for some time before their release. I was lucky enough to sample some of his prototypes.

The lighter models come in at 5.9g and these were very similar to the prototypes I used. Schooled bass found them irresistible when they were worked with a hopping type jig. Worked alongside an ice jig, the plastic vibes out fished the ice jig hands down. The tiny treble hooks are able to pin more fish. Even those that are just inquisitive and get a little too close are often hooked on the outside of the mouth. Imagine a bait that gets hit as much as an ice jig (they are often hit but the hooks miss the fish) but the result is a hookup almost every time.

The heavier model is still 40mm long and weighs 8.6g. This bait will be ideally suited to hopping in deeper water. The key to fishing them is to use light braided line and move the lure fast enough to feel the vibrating action through the rod tip.

The MF40 should be available in a tackle store near you this month. If they’re not in stock, ask for their ETA and make sure they put some aside for you. The MF40 is sure to be a desirable item and stocks could run low.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Despite flooding rain making water roar into the dam, the lake is still around 90% capacity. As the water ran in, the gates were opened to give Wivenhoe a good top up. The influx of water dirtied the upper half of the lake and this will take a month or so to clear right up. The fishing action had previously been hot and cold. Weekdays are always the best option, because when there are fewer boats on the water, the fish seem more responsive.

As of early June it seems the bass have shut down, but there are still scattered fish holding around the Bay 13 and Pelican Point area. Some reports indicate numbers of fish holding in almost 20m of water close to the bottom. It will be just a matter of time before we can actually see how the fish react to the latest change in conditions.

Fishing to the edges hasn’t yet fired up. If the water stayed high on the freshly flooded banks, I’m sure the bass would have been actively hunting in the shallows. It is usually around July that we find some big bass venturing into the shallow water around the edges.

The upper reaches of the dam can fish quite well. If the water remains dirty, try moving down towards the wall until you are happy enough with the water clarity. The big fish shouldn’t be too far away so a little trial and error can’t hurt. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits tossed into the edges have been successful in the past. These big bass won’t hesitate in taking a spinnerbait with bigger blades. Often the smaller downsized baits don’t draw as many strikes at this time of year.

Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

After flooding rain hit South East Queensland back in May, Wivenhoe has risen considerably. Much of this water came from Somerset Dam, which flows into Wivenhoe. The boosted water level has flooded plenty of banks.

The fishing from Logan’s Inlet and Billies Bay had been quite good around the lake edges prior to the water running in. Considering the bass were already close to the edges, they will be enjoying the freshly flooded areas. For the rest of this month, there should be some good action for those willing to cast lures and move around to find productive banks.

Try using lipless crankbaits and 1/2 and 5/8oz spinnerbaits. Cast these up into the shallows and retrieve them back to the deeper water. When fishing the banks, try to target areas that have deep water nearby. This deep water retreat not only gives fish a place to hide but ensures a constant rotation of fresh fish up onto the banks. This type of area will stand up to fishing pressure.

Schooled fish are likely to be moving around in the Billies Bay area. A sounder is a good way to locate these fish before starting to cast. Once located, try hopping Jackall Masks or the new Powerbait MF40 vibes, or using a stop-start retrieve with soft plastics or 1/2oz blade baits. Trolling the deeper water with deep diving lures is another way to locate quality fish. Running lures like Blitz Bagas, 1/4oz Hot Lips and RMG Poltergeist 50 Crazy Deeps will draw the strikes. Fork-tailed catfish will undoubtedly take a liking to these lures but usually big bass will take them too. Working inside Billies Bay or around the creek bed drop-offs between Platypus Cliffs and Logans Inlet should do the trick.

Wivenhoe is an electric motor only dam. Trailer boats can be launched at Logans Inlet provided you have a boating permit.

Closest Town: Boonah

Maroon Dam received a good boost of water last month during the torrential South East Queensland rains. The lake’s water clarity is the best it has been in over a year and the fishing has improved. Fish have been easier to find and tempt in the right areas. Midday trips avoiding the cold mornings and afternoons are not only the most comfortable but also most productive.

Fish tend to be attracted to constant moving finesse presentations. My personal favourite is rolling jighead rigged, original 3” Slider Grubs, using Ultra Bite scent of course. I vary the jighead weight to keep the lure hard into weed or close to the bottom. Generally 1/4-3/8oz jigheads are the best choice. The biggest set back when using grubs is hanging up in the lake’s thick weed beds. Some anglers overcome this by simply ripping the bait out with sharp downward tweak of the rod and others are experimenting by worm rigging their baits. Worm rigging has the disadvantage of not having a great hook set on wary fish.

Anglers who are brave enough to venture out at daylight or stay until dark might also find using deep diving jerkbaits a good way to pick up a few fish. Heading out to Maroon during July is a great way to defrost the toes, soak up the country atmosphere and have a blast with the family catching some fish on lures. – Chris Galligan

Sunshine Coast Region
Closest Towns: Cooroy, Noosa

Flooding rain has filled the lake and given mature fish a quick escape route from the dam a number of times this year. Even though many have escaped, the fishing has still been reasonably good.

The weed beds in the areas of The Runway, Bass Bay and The Gazebo have been producing some reasonable fish. There are plenty of undersized ones but mixed in are quite a few decent fish up to 40cm long.

Casting around the weed structure with lipless crankbaits seems to be the most effective approach. If the fish fall back into deeper water and school up, try using soft plastics and blade baits.

If you’re fishing Macdonald or the Noosa area, check out the excellent range of lures at Davo’s Bait and Tackle in Noosaville. The guys there will help you to find the fish and give you an up to date report on the action.

Closest Town: Imbil

The lure fishing action will be steady this month while bait continues to produce the goods. Redclaw have been plentiful throughout the lake. Opera house style traps dropped around the points in the timbered arms should produce a feed. Redclaw generally steady up over winter but considering their numbers, it shouldn’t be too hard to get a feed. Try baiting traps with pilchards, melon or even cat food.

For those casting lures, the action will be steady. There should be a few bass in the upper reaches of the Yabba Arm that are willing to bite. These fish can be caught on 1/2oz Little Max blade baits. The same area will also produce some saratoga. If targeting these fish, try casting into shallow bays or across shallow flats that have plenty of structure. Light spinnerbaits and beetle spins would have to be my favourite lures at this time of year. Any bass that happen to be actively hunting the shallows are quite partial to these lures too.

Over the past month or two there have been reports of silver perch being taken on surface lures. This is quite interesting as I’ve yet to pull a silver off the surface. The silvers were taken on 50mm poppers tossed around an area where the black cormorants were thick and feeding on baitfish. It might be worth a shot if you come across the same scenario.

Be sure to call in and see the guys at Davo’s in Noosaville if you are fishing at Borumba, or anywhere in the surrounding area. They’ll help to set you up with the right gear and give you some valuable tips.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Bjelke Petersen
Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

Rapidly dropping water levels are making the fishing tough. Water is being taken out until the dam reaches only 4% capacity. At the current rate, this should occur sometime early this month.

Although the fishing is tough now, once the water level stabilises, the fishing will pick up within weeks. Once at this low level, Bjelke will be a great spot for those anglers without boats. Fishing from the banks between the two boat ramps will produce bass, golden perch and catfish. Live shrimp are the best bait but as a backup try frozen prawns and live worms.

Walking the banks and casting lures can also produce a few fish. Bass will be the main species encountered. Spinnerbaits, blades, lipless crankbaits and shallow diving hardbodies can all entice the fish.

If launching a boat or driving around the banks, take care as some of the edges may be soft. The best place for boat launching will be below the ramp closest to the dam wall. The banks here are solid and putting boats in shouldn’t be too much problem. Once the level drops, the best fishing will be found in the lower part of the dam. Take extreme care if navigating further up the lake.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

So far this year has been excellent on Lake Boondooma. There have been a few periods when the fishing has been tough. These tougher times always seem to be when the fish are under more fishing pressure. Lately Boondooma has been fishing really well and all indications show these patterns will continue. Both baits and lures have been scoring fish.

Live shrimp and worms fished around the banks of the dam and up in the timber have tempted quite a few smaller bass and some big golden perch. If you’re trying bait, move on to another spot if you don’t experience any action after fifteen minutes.

Big schools of bass are holding in the deeper water in the middle reaches of the lake. Spots like Pelican Point, The Islands and the bends in the Stuart River arm can all hold fish. Boondooma’s bass are mobile and where you find fish one day, they can be gone the next. A quality sounder will help you locate fish. Try sounding in 8-12m of water. Once they have been found, it seems the easy part is catching them. Casting blade baits, soft lipless crankbaits and soft plastics into the schools will get them interested. A new bait that will be perfect for Boondooma’s bass is the Powerbait MF40 vibe. This soft plastic vibration bait can be hopped in the school.

If you want to take a break from fishing the schools, you can try casting lures to the banks. There have been a few bass and golden perch holding in the shallower water around the edges. Try a 1/2oz Smak spinnerbait or a 60mm lipless crankbait for this type of work.

For more information on the fishing scene and your supplies, call into Bass to Barra Marine in Kingaroy. The store is in Youngman Street and the guys can help you out and offer some useful advice. Bass to Barra Marine can also be found in Dalby. As the name suggests, this shop stocks a great range of quality gear for bass and barra fishing. It’s located in Shop 2 Drayton Street so be sure to check it out.

For accommodation at the lake, give the managers a call on (07) 4168 9694. Boondooma has excellent amenities, bunk houses, cabins, powered sites and camping facilities that will make your stay enjoyable.

Closest Town: Monto

Casting lures will be one of the best ways to catch fish in Cania during winter. The bass are in poor condition but their numbers make up for this. Tossing blades to the edges and to any schooling bass will work well. Other lures that can produce are spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and soft plastics. Most of the fish will be in the lower half of the dam.

If you are keen enough to hit the water early or stay out late, try some surface lures. Fish these around the banks allowing plenty of pauses. Surface lures will attract bass and saratoga but the action will be pretty slow. It gets cold around Cania at this time of year so make sure you dress for the occasion.

To find out more about the lake or to book some great accommodation nearby, call the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park on (07) 4167 8188. There are excellent facilities including campsites, cabins, a playground, 9 hole par 3 golf course and a swimming pool. Each Saturday, the park offers wine tasting. On Saturday and Wednesday nights as well as all school holiday nights, there are outdoor movies on the big screen. It’s worth a visit to the park just to see some of the rare and beautiful wildlife that regularly drop in and live in the area.

Closest Town: Eidsvold

Last July I fished Wuruma Dam and had a great session, but the action has been slow in the lead up to the cold weather. Now that it has arrived, the bass should be right up in the shallow water. Cruise around the banks using an electric motor or even a kayak. Stealth is the key.

Cast lures right up into the shallows and vary the retrieve. Some days fast can be the key. Other days the fish will want the lure wound slowly. With little structure in the lake I have found it productive to fish more parallel to the banks. There are several bays around the lake. The mouth of these bays will often hold a few schooled bass in the shallow water. The gun lure for winter time fishing at Waruma for me has been the TN60 Jackall.

Take care when launching. Bigger boats can be hard to get onto the water and you may find that bass boats that need to be floated off of the trailer are just too hard.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

The barra have been tough at Monduran lately. Some huge fish are still being caught. The lake is much quieter with less boating activity. This means the fish will be less pressured. Keen lure casters will still stand a good chance of catching some nice fish.

Some smaller barra have been hanging around the dam’s steeper banks. The bigger fish seem to prefer the shallower water at this time of year. Both bays and points will produce fish. Scattered fish are being reported from the top and the bottom ends of the dam. Some of the thicker weed beds and weed islands in the lower section of the dam are worth a flick on the way home in the afternoon.

Soft plastics are a good choice. If using a pre-rigged bait, remove some of the weight from the head so it can be fished more slowly. Surface frogs are a good option too. Don’t just fish these on top but target subsurface as well. Shallow diving hard bodies like Bombers, B52s and 120 Laser Pros are ideal for a steady, jerky retrieve through the shallow water. Another lure that also accounts for stacks of big barra during winter is the Stiffy Bony Bream.

Gentlemen’s hours are the time to be on the water as the barra activity is better from late morning until afternoon. If you can score a run of nice warm weather, the fish activity is likely to be much better.

For your best chance of scoring some barra, call into Foxies Barra Pro in Gin Gin. The store has all the gear you’ll need. The staff here will be able to give you a few tips and steer you in the right direction. It’s a huge dam so one of the detailed maps they sell would certainly be a bonus for both navigation and fish location.

Another option might be a charter with local guide Rob Wood. Rob runs a Skeeter bass boat and has plenty of knowledge to share, having spent countless hours on the lake. He can be contacted on 0427 590 995 or check out his regular column in this magazine.

Accommodation can be booked through Lake Monduran Kiosk and Tackle Shop. They look after all the cabins, houses, powered and unpowered campsites as well as the house boats and boat hire. Bookings with Guide Lines, a guiding service specialising in Lake Monduran, can also be made through the store. The kiosk’s number is (07) 41573881.

Capricorn Region
Closest Towns: Mirani, Mackay

The amount of barra anglers fishing Kinchant Dam is slowly declining as the fishing gets tougher. The fish are right up in the shallow, protected weed seeking cover and warmer water. Up in this weed, they gather their energy for a particular time of the day when they will then move through the weed bed and feed. For anglers, this means that many hours may be needed to find just when feeding time is. In June, these feeding times will most likely be in the warmer parts of the days around mid-afternoon. Trolling will be out until the water warms up as the fish down in the deeper water will rarely feed at those depths, because the water is very cool.

The active fish will most likely be on the western side of the dam in the shallow, wind-fed weedy bays. A keen eye on the water temperature is needed as even a degree or two warmer can mean the difference between a strike and a fish. Also look for bait, bird or wildlife movement within a particular area as this often indicates bigger fish are in the area.

Slower worked hardbody lures or weedless plastics will be the most productive choice of lure. Try hardbody lures like the large Rapala Super Shad. This lure is very buoyant, which allows it to be worked within thick weed at a very slow pace but still allowing maximum vibration and action through the water.

Also, try the Stiffy Boney Bream. This is a sub surface lure that flashes, rattles and glides though the water. But, the most attractive thing to the barra is its ability to suspend. For the soft plastic lover, try to run lures like Hollow Bellies, Squidgy Fish, Berkley Jerk Shads and Horny Toads. These lures can be worked in very thick weed that, during the cooler months, means the barra can be targeted no matter where they hide. For any extra information on the Mackay area feel free to email me at --e-mail address hidden-- . – Daniel Grech

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