Not so Silent Night at Christmas
  |  First Published: November 2009

Christmas is just around the corner and this month will be a good time to get stuck into the action before the holiday period. During the Christmas holidays, the most popular lakes will be packed with people and boats making the fish tougher to catch.

It’s great to be able to dig into the tackle box and pull out a lure style that was catching fish years ago. Soft plastics have always been great fish catchers and I guess they always will be, however, we forget about using these old, proven lure styles in favour of the newer baits, like blades and crankbaits. There are still those times when the cheap old soft plastic will out fish its Japanese rivals. This has been the case on quite a few occasions in the last six months, so it pays to have a good range of lures. So remember to remain flexible and willing to try them all out.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Crows Nest, Toowoomba

There have been plenty of smaller bass on the bite at Cressbrook. These fish are patrolling the weedy edges of the lake and will take a range of lures, but soft plastics have been scoring plenty of the undersized fish. Along with the dozens of baby bass is the odd decent specimen. Try using 3” paddle-tailed grubs or shads and rig them on a 1/4oz jighead.

While the fish are holding along the edges, surface luring is a good option. Casting topwater lures around the weed beds is a great way to catch bass in the morning and late afternoon. Surface lures popped along the top and allowed to pause every metre or so will draw plenty of strikes on most days. Try lures in the 50-75mm size range.

The water level is very low but boats can still be launched safely. Speed restrictions of 8 knots in open water and 4 knots close to the shore are still in place. Don’t forget your $2.50 entry fee at the gate, which allows you to access the boat ramp and BBQ, picnic and playground facilities.

Fish’n’Bits in Alderly Street, Toowoomba can set you up with the necessary tackle and live shrimp. They’ll also provide a more up-to-date report to help you on your way to scoring some decent catches.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

There were still plenty of bass schools holding around the lake during November. The southern side of The Spit, Bay 13 and Pelican Point are all holding schooling bass. When the water heats right up this month, the fish usually scatter and suspend mid-water making them hard to catch for lure casters. It looks as though the schooling fish may stay together this year for a little longer as they are yet to show signs of either suspending or breaking up. This should mean good numbers of bass will be caught right throughout the month.

The key approach to fooling these highly pressured fish has been to use soft plastic lures. Shads and t-tail grubs around the 3” size have been ideal. Rig these on at least a 1/2oz Nitro Dam Deep Jighead to ensure they stay deep enough.

Somerset’s bass can be hard to find and catch due to the amount of angling pressure they receive. A quality sounder will help reveal the fish arches when you are trying to locate your quarry. Time spent searching will be worthwhile once the bass are located. Simply pulling up and hoping for the best in one of your old spots will often draw a blank.

If bass schools start to disperse and are seen suspending in the deeper water give trolling soft plastics a try. Alter the speed of the boat and the amount of line trailing behind to position the plastic at the right depth. If you can work your lure at the depth most fish are holding it shouldn’t take too long to get a strike.

As always, fishing on weekdays when there is less boat traffic around seems to produce the best action. If you can’t manage this, try the early mornings on the weekend or late Sunday afternoon when most boats will have headed for home.

Sunshine Coast Region
Closest Towns: Cooroy, Noosa

There have been plenty of bass on the bite in Macdonald but you’ll be lucky to catch a legal sized one. These small fish are hanging around areas like The Gazebo, 3 Ways and the entrance to Borer Creek.

The little tackers will provide plenty of action if you toss 1/4oz and1/2oz blade baits.

Remember that Macdonald is an electric motor only lake.

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 find the fish and give you an up to date report on the action.

Closest Town: Imbil

Bass have been the main target over the last month. They’ve been holding in several locations around the lake and are quite willing to munch soft plastics.

Slow rolling 3” paddle-tails rigged on 1/4oz and1/2oz jigheads will get the lure down to the fish. The weight of the jighead will depend on depth, wind and the speed of your retrieve. It is important to keep the lure down in the water column. With the boat positioned in about 35ft of water, casts can be made up into the surrounding trees in 20ft. The plastic needs to sink to the bottom before a steady retrieve brings it back to the boat.

Light lines will produce more bites but you run the risk of losing some tackle to snags and fish. The hot spots for this technique have been the right hand side leading into the Kingham arm and the points around Eagle Bay.

The upper reaches of both arms have been holding good numbers of saratoga. These fish have been of smaller sizes from 40-60cm. The bigger models should really come out to play now that they have finished mouth brooding. Saratoga will take surface lures in the morning and then shallow running offerings like topwater crankbaits or spinnerbaits later in the day.

Borumba’s silver perch are still taking surface poppers early in the morning. Clear poppers like 45mm clear Bubble Pops tossed under roosting shags have been drawing the hits. Long pauses of up to 20 seconds followed by small movements seem to be what excites the silvers into striking.

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.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

Cooby has some well defined weed edges that make great casting areas for spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and small hardbodied lures. Fishing around the weed has been producing golden perch and the odd silver perch and Murray Cod.

Lure trollers have also been picking up some fish, though the action can be hit and miss. Running lures down the creek channel has been accounting for golden perch and the occasional Murray cod. Cod can be caught right through the day but the goldens will be most active in the fading light after the sun has dropped below the horizon.

The rock wall has been producing mixed bags for anglers using bait. Eel-tailed catfish, golden perch, silver perch and even cod can be caught from this area, with the mornings and afternoons likely to be the most productive periods.

There is a boom gate at the entrance to the lake that requires $2.50 in coins to open. Only electric or paddle powered craft are allowed on Cooby. Outboards can be left on the boat but must not be used. If you need an update on the fishing or to renew your SIP, give Fish’n’Bits in Toowoomba a visit. Fish’n’Bits is found in Alderly Street or can be reached on (07) 4636 6850.

Closest Town: Inglewood

The action has been surprisingly slow at Coolmunda. The golden perch have been tough to catch which is unusual for this time of year. Every year when the fish have come on the bite they have done it in a big way with many boats reaching their bag limits and catching fish just for fun. This bite is well overdue so don’t be surprised if the action really improves this month.

Trolling lures out from the boat ramp and dam wall will produce the goods as will bait fishing along the drop off to the creek bed. Live shrimp can be caught in collapsible traps left in the dam overnight. Shrimp are top golden perch tucker and if you have some of these for bait you stand an excellent chance.

There have been several whopping big Murray cod caught in the last couple of months, one fish measuring 107cm long. These old fish deserve a lot of respect and the big specimens are best released to fight another day. If you take a picture to show off to your mates make sure you support the weight of the fish. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible or even jump in with it for the photo.

Closest Town: Warwick

This small lake requires a Stocked Impoundment Permit as well as a membership with the Warwick District Recreational Fish Stocking Association. You can join the club for $10 by calling in to the house at the lake. The lake is only open to boats on weekends and only electric powered craft can be used.

Despite the restrictions, Connolly is a great place to visit. The Fish Stocking Association has done a great job of stocking the lake that is now on the SIP scheme. The dam is home to Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch.

We found the fishing tough on our last visit, although I scored a silver perch after tea bagging a wayward cast from a tree. The suicidal silver attacked a CodMan spinnerbait and hooked itself in the back. We thought the surface explosion was a small cod. My brother Kerry managed to boat one small cod using a 1/2oz Mumbler. The fish whacked the lure as Kerry worked it off one of the lake’s many rocky banks.

I’m tipping the fishing to fire up this month and late afternoon sessions will produce quite a bit of action. I’ll definitely be trying to get back to the lake in the next month or so.

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

Trolling lures is likely to be the best way to tempt Bjelke’s fish this month. Bass and golden perch are suckers for lures trolled around the old creek bed. With the dam so low, the area between the boat ramps is probably one of the most productive spots. Smaller lures that run to 3m, like the Smak 12 and 3m RMG Poltergeist will put you in the right zone.

A mixed bag of fish can be caught from the bank too. Casting lures can produce the occasional fish while bait fishing is the guaranteed method. Over the past month, eel-tailed catfish, yellowbelly, silver perch and bass have all been caught from the bank.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Lure trolling will be quite successful at Boondooma during December. Schooled fish will have broken up and scattered all over the lake. When this happens, you can’t beat covering the water by trolling a lure. Check your tackle box to make sure you have lures like a Brolga, Golden Child, Blitz Baga or Smak 16. Working these lures around the rocky points in the main lake basin or across the drop-off to the creek and river channels further upstream should draw strikes. Golden perch and bass will fall for these lures.

There are good weed beds around the edges of the lake that will be hideouts for bass and golden perch. Casting spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the weed edge can produce good numbers of fish. One spinnerbait that has been very successful lately is the Mini Coop.

If lure casting these areas isn’t your scene, try positioning the boat close to the edge of the weed and dropping bait over the side.

A few fish have been getting around up in the timbered arms. Like their mates hanging out in the weed, they can be caught on lures or bait. Try both the deeper trees and closer to the edges in this area.

There may be some bass suspended in the deep water close to the dam wall. Sound over the area to see if they have moved into the region and at what depth they are holding. Casting lures to these fish seems to work better than trolling. Lure selection will depend on the mood of the fish and the depth they are holding. Good lures can include soft plastics, ice jigs, lipless crankbaits, crankbaits and blade baits.

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

The bass have been biting extremely well at Cania and this trend should continue over the coming months. Summer presents a host of fishing opportunities at this magic lake.

The early mornings and late afternoons can be spent casting surface poppers to the lake’s edges. Bass up to 40cm in length are a common capture. Lures like Mazzy Poppers, Skitterpops, Sammy 65’s and Zara Puppies are all good options. And don’t be surprised if a saratoga decides to smash one of your surface lures.

As this action dies, try casting suspending jerkbaits around the same edges. Give these lures a decent pause between twitching them along and the fish will usually load up after a solid whack.

Spinnerbaits, beetle spins and lipless crankbaits are yet another option. These lures can be cast or trolled around the banks of the dam. When fishing always keep an eye on the sounder for concentrations of fish. Hopping a lipless crankbait, vibration bait, blade bait or soft plastics through them is a good way to get a reaction.

The bass are very widespread and can be caught from the boat ramp right up into the creek area. This also makes trolling and bait fishing quite effective too. Although bass will be the main species encountered, expect to see some golden perch or saratoga mixed in.

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 camp sites, 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: Gin Gin

Warm stable weather patterns should produce consistently good fishing this month. Monduran has become the home of monster barramundi and is a popular destination. The warmer water temperatures will have encouraged barra to move out of the shallows and into deeper haunts. Here they can be targeted using different methods.

Some big specimens should be caught by trolling the wall end of the main basin. Use your sounder to pinpoint the depth the barra are holding and then choose a lure to suit. Afternoon, morning and even night sessions can be worthwhile. Proven barra lures like Classics and Scorpions will handle most fish. Spinning and baitcast outfits can be used but it is important they have a smooth drag to wear these big fish down. Any weakness in the system will be exposed by these powerful fish.

Lure casters may find barra have moved from the shallow water into slightly deeper areas. Here they will find more comfort in the middle of the day. Shallow bites will still occur but will be experienced early and late in the day. Therefore an ideal location will have shallow water with deep water access nearby. Creek beds and gullies provide this scenario, as do underwater rises that can be found in the middle of the dam body or feeder arms.

When fishing in deeper water, try using heavier weighted plastics. Full weight Slick Rigs, Hollowbellies on 1/2oz Backbone Jigs and 5” Powerbait Mullets are prime examples of plastics suited to these types of areas. Switched on anglers will also try hardbodied lures like 3m Scorpions weighted so they suspend. These hardbodies can be worked down to fish holding structure then paused and twitched right in the face of fish.

Some of the more recent hotspots have been the top of the Kolan River and the mouth of Bird Bay. The barra in the lower section of the dam have been hunting big bait schools. If you see any bird activity it could mean baitfish are nearby and the area should be investigated.

To increase your chance of scoring some barra, call in to 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 camp sites, 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) 4157 3881.

Capricorn Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Awoonga Dam can be a tricky lake to score good numbers of barra. It seems that a lot of anglers are catching a fish here and there but not being rewarded with good numbers of fish. The fish are there to be caught and there are a few things you can do to increase your catch rate.

In the past, soft plastics have been very effective around the weed beds during the day. This has changed and now the fish are tougher to coax. When fishing the weed during the day, move around using an electric motor. The barra seem to be lazing right at the base of the weed beds. Casting lures into the weedy pockets and retrieving them back from the bottom has been working better than retrieving lures mid-water. If an area fails, don’t persist too long; just move off and try a different location. If the main dam body fails, give the arms a go.

Some monster barra have been holding in deep water. The occasional one will take a trolled lure and trolling is a great way to find them. When numbers of deep holding barra are located, try casting heavy soft plastics at them. Berkley Powerbait 5” Mullets are ideal. Try to keep your lure at the depth the barra are holding. This may mean you need to alternate between retrieving and hopping the lure to keep it in the strike zone.

Night sessions are producing fish in better numbers. Basing your trip around the moon can help. Provided the moon is lighting the water, the action is usually better than in pitch black darkness. Several lure styles and luring methods can produce the goods. Casting soft plastics, surface lures and suspending hardbodies will keep you busy, but if you want to take an easier approach, try trolling hardbodies and plastics slowly using an electric motor for stealth.

Stealth is a big key to catching barra. The fish can be easily spooked. Some anglers take their time electric motoring into their spots, turn their sounder off to reduce underwater noise and be careful not to stamp and bang around the boat. This is often spoiled by inconsiderate anglers who drive too close to them using their outboards.

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