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Getting Fresh in the New Year
  |  First Published: December 2009



It’s the start of a new year and a great time to do some freshwater fishing. All of our species are active and willing to take a lure or bait. It’s amazing to see when lake levels remain stable; the same patterns emerge year after year. Apart from new methods being developed to catch fish, everything remains much the same.

I had a very busy end to last year but managed to fit in plenty of fishing trips. My new (second-hand) Polycraft 4.1 Challenger has been great. The wheels of the trailer have barely stopped spinning as I’ve chased cod in the south and barra in the north. If you’re in the market for a new boat for fishing the impoundments, estuaries or even close inshore be sure to check out these awesome plastic boats or even shoot me an email at --e-mail address hidden-- .

After doing a lot more fishing, ideas have been running around in my head and I’ll be working on some new techniques for targeting our freshwater fish. Hopefully some of these will pay off and I’ll be able to bring them to you later on in the year.

I’m keen to hear as many readers’ fishing stories and reports as possible. You can even send your pictures through to me if you want them in the magazine at --e-mail address hidden-- . Hearing readers’ reports helps me forecast the following month’s fishing. As much as I’d like to, I can’t fish every lake each month.

If dam levels remain the same, here’s what should be happening over the coming weeks. It’s time for me to go out and pack the boat so until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Cressbrook
Closest Towns: Crows Nest, Toowoomba

Water levels continue to recede at Cressbrook. Despite the lake now looking more like a big creek than a dam, it is still producing small bass. The bigger models are harder to tempt.

Reaction lures come into their own on the hot summer days. Bass will be holding tight to the weed beds and will respond well to spinnerbaits, beetle spins and lipless crankbaits. For a bit of fun, try throwing surface lures.

The morning bite will be quite short due to the sun being up so early but an afternoon session with surface lures can be a lot of fun. Many of the strikes come from small fish. It’s not uncommon for the same fish to have several goes at the lure. When this happens, resist the urge to strike and try to keep the lure in the zone. Each time the fish hits, it has to reposition itself under the lure to have another go so don’t be too hasty and pull the lure away from the zone. When the lure is taken, you should feel the tension on the line before lifting the rod. On big strikes, you’ll get a fright and not striking is sometimes easier said than done.

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.

Somerset
Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

The schooled bass have scattered throughout the lake. This is normal behaviour for them at this time of year on Somerset Dam. The lake sees a lot fewer tournament style boats and more lure trollers when this is the case. Lure trolling is a great way to catch these spread out fish as it covers plenty of water.

Hardbodied lures have been scoring plenty of fish. There have been times when the fish refuse these in favour of soft plastics, but so far this year that hasn’t been the case. Strong action diving lures that track well behind an outboard powered boat will do the trick.

Choose lures that run to the depth the fish are holding. Quite often the quality bass will suspend at around 5m deep. Match lures to this depth and you should find success. Running a deeper diving lure that tracks at around 9m deep will often score some big golden perch and smaller bass.

While trolling, work proven areas like The Spit, The Hump, Pelican Point and Bay 13. Keep an eye on the sounder in case any schooled fish show up as this is the time to break out the casting lures. Blade baits, soft vibes and soft plastics are all worth trying. Often the fish will only respond to one lure style so try them all if there are plenty of fish on the sounder.

Redclaw are still being caught in good numbers. Opera house traps set in over 5m of water and baited with rockmelon are luring them in. Be sure to check your pots often. The redclaw have a habit of munching the flesh of the fruit, leaving the skin and then finding their way out. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your pots as there are a lot of dishonest people about who don’t think twice about raiding or even stealing other people’s pots.

Sunshine Coast Region
MacDonald
Closest Towns: Cooroy, Noosa

Bass are on the move at Lake McDonald. They are spread out and taking lures in the shallows. The shallow point straight across from the boat ramp at the Botanical Gardens is a good place to start. This area always seems to be a good warm water hang out for bass. There are plenty of fish here in the high 30cm range that are willing to take blade baits. Blades have also been working along the strip near Grange Road.

The main weed point in the dam at Bass Bay has also been holding good numbers of bass from 35-40cm in size. Here the fish will take lipless crankbaits worked over the tips of the submerged weed. The tip of the point can be a very productive area. Lipless crankbaits are also effective along Fry’s Run. Blades can work well here too and don’t be surprised if you pull fish up to 40cm long.

Mark Pertot from Davo’s has been trying to get out and use some weedless plastics on the saratoga. The thick weed makes targeting these fish difficult but a weedless presentation skimmed across the weed tops could do the trick. Mark is guessing a barra style rigged frog will cast well, work through the weed and possibly hook one of the lake’s toga.

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.

Borumba
Closest Town: Imbil

Fishing the lake edges has become a good option with the warmer water temperatures. The steep bank on the left-hand side of the dam opposite the second yellow buoy has been holding good numbers of bass. The fish can be caught both shallow and deep from such areas but are normally found holding close to the bank. Blade baits are very effective as they can be allowed to sink and worked back from any depth. The steep bank opposite The Eagle’s Nest is fishing in a similar fashion.

Both bass and saratoga can also be taken under the bottle brush trees. Look for trees out from the weed edge and place lures right under them in the shade. These trees attract bait and provide an ideal ambush point for predators. They are top areas to fish as the strike will come shallow due to the amount of shade these trees produce. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits will score the fish from these trees.

Saratoga will be very active but you may need to find a quieter area to get them to bite. There have been some bigger saratoga patrolling the upper reaches of the Yabba arm. These big models will hunt down small soft plastics and love the Megabass Anthrax. With recent reports of toga over 70cm long there should be plenty of fun to be had.

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
Cooby
Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

Reasonable catches can be expected from Cooby this month. Lure trollers and casters using spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and small hardbodies can expect golden perch and the odd Murray cod and silver perch. The weed edges will produce and so will the deeper water of the main channel.

The fish are now confined to a small area due to the low water levels. This makes them easier to find but the low water conditions don’t necessarily make them very hungry. Cod can be caught right through the day but the late afternoon is prime time for golden perch. Fishing until dark can be worthwhile as there is often a window when the fish bite with the dying light.

If there are any building storms, the cod can become more active. On these days, it is not uncommon to catch more than one. Remember to stick to the size limits as an undersized cod is still a reasonable fish.

Anglers using live shrimp in the deeper water of the creek channels will have mixed success. If you are on the right spot at the right time, you’ll have your work cut out for you keeping up to the fish but at other times the bites can be few and far between. I guess like most fishing, it’s a game of chance.

There is a boom gate at the entrance to the lake which 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.

Coolmunda
Closest Town: Inglewood

Surprisingly the action at Coolmunda has been slow. The golden perch would normally be biting their heads off at this time of year. Anglers visiting the lake are still managing to boat a few fish but they can be hard work. If you put in the time and plan to move around to find the fish, you should be rewarded.

The goldens have been quality fish. Many of these are falling to live shrimp fished around the drop-off to the main creek channel. With the warmer water temperatures experienced over summer, more fish should concentrate in these deeper water areas and numbers of fish caught should increase. There are plenty of live shrimp in the dam. These can be caught from the edge of the dam at night in collapsible shrimp traps baited with cat food. During the day shrimp traps may need to be set in deeper water around some form of structure.

Lure trolling is a great way to cover plenty of water and locate areas holding fish. Choose lures that run close to the bottom and try to work them around the drop-offs. Small profile lures like Oar Gees, 50mm Poltergeists, Smak 19’s and Brolgas are fine examples of the style of lure successful in this lake.

Murray cod are often caught on lures trolled for yellowbelly. You can specifically target them using big lures, but on most occasions they are taken on smaller offerings.

Camping is allowed near Lake Coolmunda itself but, for more comfort, the Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around 1km away from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway on the way into the dam. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. To take advantage of this and the great fishing opportunities in the lake and the river below, give the park a call on (07) 4652 4171.

Connolly
Closest Town: Warwick

Casting and trolling a range of lures will produce a mixed bag of fish this month. Lures like spinnerbaits, mumblers and diving crankbaits will all take fish. Smaller lures will be more likely to attract golden and silver perch. Larger offerings like big spinnerbaits and Mumblers will score Murray cod and the occasional other fish.

Working lures close to the banks and weedy edges will be the trick to catching most fish. Some fish will also be found in deeper water. Here they will hold close to drop-offs to the creek bed. Fishing shallow areas that are in close vicinity to deep water will often produce as the fish here can move from deep to shallow water whenever they feel like it.

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.

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

Bjelke will be a good option this month. The low water level should keep skiers away and the dam should be relatively peaceful. The fish have managed to get through several summers now when the lake is at such a low level. Hopefully this will again be the case and the fish will maintain their good condition.

Trolling medium diving lures around the drop-offs to the creek channel will produce bass and golden perch. These fish will also take a slow trolled spinnerbait or lipless crankbait. To slow your troll down use an electric motor or tow a bucket when using the outboard.

Bait fishing and casting will be a bit slower this month but fish can still be taken. The afternoons would be prime time for bait fishing especially from the bank.

Boondooma
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Boondooma is sure to be a hive of activity this month, with anglers, skiers and jet skiers all sharing the lake. Keep this in mind if you are planning to fish the dam as it can be busy.

Trolling lures around the steep rocky points in the main basin will produce some quality golden perch and the occasional bass. The more open water of the main basin from the wall right down to The Junction can also be trolled. Here the main target is suspended bass. Deep diving lures like the Blitz Baga, Brolga, Smak 19 and Halco 8m Poltergeist 50 are ideal. Try a range of colours including purple, green and brown. Sometimes a simple colour change can make all the difference.

Suspended bass may be holding in concentrations worthy of a cast at the wall end of the lake. When these fish are found try lures like soft plastics, blades and soft vibration baits. The weed beds may also be holding a few fish but are likely to fish better in the early morning and late afternoon. The middle of the day heat might force the fish to hide deep in the weed or retreat to deeper water.

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.

Lenthalls
Closest Town: Maryborough

Many bass anglers will be happy to hear there are still plenty of bass to be caught in this lake. It was thought by many that almost all of the mature fish escaped over the dam wall.

Now that the lake level is lower, it is at a similar level to before the wall extension was carried out. This has brought the fish into a more confined space allowing angler to fish the same spots they used to years ago. The major weedy points and outcrops are all holding their share of bass.

Working these areas with spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits will draw some interest. In the mornings and afternoons, surface lures may also be worth a try. Most bass have been in the low 30cm range but there are still plenty over 40cm to be caught.

Don’t be surprised if a barra decides to grab one of your bass lures. There are quite a few being caught. The area around and opposite the boat ramp has been one of the most productive for targeting barramundi. If barra are your main target upsize your leader and lures. Try offerings like the Tilsan Barra, 4” swimbaits and 100mm surface lures.

Lenthalls Dam is only open during daylight hours and there is a restriction on outboard size. Only FICHT style two strokes and 4 strokes to 60hp are allowed.

Cania
Closest Town: Monto

Bass have been schooling in good numbers in the lower dam area. Fishing around the boat ramps has been good with the area on the opposite side of the dam and just inside the dam wall exclusion zone producing plenty of bass. These banks can be fished with lures but live baiting with shrimp is a great way to have some fun.

Bass are quite plentiful in this area and if you reach your bag limit of two per person be sure to let the rest go. Shrimp are plentiful in the dam and can be caught in collapsible traps.

Lure casters can also get into the action. The warmer months produce some excellent surface fishing sessions at Cania. Working topwater lures like Sammy 65s, Zara Puppies, Rapala Skitter Pops and Frenzy Poppers will draw some smashing strikes in the early morning and late afternoon. During the warmer and brighter parts of the day try deeper lures like soft plastics, lipless crankbaits, 1/2oz spinnerbaits and blade baits.

When luring, bass can be caught from most banks. Use an electric motor to explore different areas until you find concentrations of fish. At times, schools will be found and lures can then be worked through the schooling bass. While luring Cania, it is not uncommon to catch yellowbelly, silver perch and saratoga.

If you want to try trolling lures, stick to the deeper water at the wall end of the lake. Here you will find bass suspended in the deep water as well as holding along the steep banks. Try running small medium to deep diving lures or slow troll lipless crankbaits and soft plastics.

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.

Callide
Closest Town: Biloela

Callide Dam has started to again produce reasonable numbers of barramundi. As more people hear this news, the region will again start attracting tourists and the reports will start to flow in.

Legal-sized fish have been falling to soft plastic lures. The main basin of the lake is a good place to start but you will need to fish this area when it is quieter. After the skiers and jet skis have packed up and gone home is a good time to try your luck. Basing trips around the full moon will give you more light through the night and the barra often feed better throughout this period.

Stacks of redclaw are still being taken from the main dam body. Traps baited with rockmelon won’t take long to attract some of these tasty crustaceans. Try deeper water during the day and both shallow and deep at night.

Creek to Coast tackle store in Biloela can give you the heads up on the latest action at the dam. They carry a range of barra lures suited to the lake and might be able to give away a few spots as well.

Monduran
Closest Town: Gin Gin

The dam is currently dropping at an alarming rate. This is due to water being released for irrigation. This makes predicting the barra fishing a little tougher as the water allocation to farmers will slow down if big rain gives the area a drenching. If, however, the irrigators need the water, the dam will continue to drop fast.

Falling water levels has meant that last month’s hot spot could be high and dry. Weed beds are struggling to grow and there is only the odd bit around in very shallow water. To some anglers this makes catching the barra easier as they don’t have to worry about pulling them from thick weedy areas. Being prepared to look around to find likely spots will pay off because despite the falling level, the barra have been quite willing to play.

The lower half of the dam has been fishing the most consistently. This could be because the deeper water provides more comfort to the fish. Falling water levels in the upper dam make shallow flats disappear quickly and fish have to move around a lot more to find new homes.

The upper reaches of the dam can also become quite unhealthy looking. The hot water often turns a murky green with algae growth making the lower part of the dam look much more appealing.

Fishing the shallow area from late in the afternoon through until early morning will produce fish. Some anglers have chosen to park their boats on the windy banks and fish back into the wind. This approach shows the barra are quite willing to feed in the very shallow water. When working this water try swimbait plastics like Hollow Bellies and light Slick Rigs.

Barra can still be caught throughout the day. The lazy fish won’t move too far from the shallow areas they hunt during the low light periods. Try deeper water close by and explore it with heavier lures. Heavier soft plastics like Berkley 5” Mullets or Storm’s range of pre-rigged swimbaits are excellent for this. Be prepared to experiment and throw other lures like rattling and silent lipless crankbaits.

If barra are found on the sounder try hopping plastics through them or even try rigging a Hollow Belly on a dropshot rig. Likely looking snag piles can be worked effectively with hardbodied lures like Halco Scorpions, Classic Barras and Reidy’s Judge. Plough the lure right down into the snag and then fish it erratically through the middle of it.

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 as well of lots of exciting new stuff you won’t find elsewhere. 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
Awoonga
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

Thick weed beds will ensure the barra continue to bite right through summer. On the hot days, fish slightly deeper areas using heavier soft plastics. Some barra have been holding wide of the weed edge in the main dam basin. It pays to sound around and look for these fish as often they are the bigger specimens.

On some occasions the barra can be found in more than 10m of water. If these fish are found try a 5” Berkley Mullet or a full weight 130mm Slick Rig. Use the sounder to determine the retrieve. When the fish are off the bottom wind the lure through them and then let it freefall back to the bottom. If the fish are hugging the bottom, try a hopping retrieve which keeps the lure close to the bottom.

Later in the afternoon you can make a switch to lighter weighted soft plastics and fish closer to the weed formations. Try to get as close as possible to the weed growth with your lures and try fishing them deep around the base of weed beds. Use daylight hours to survey areas and pick out night spots. At this time you can still pick out the weed and see productive holes, islands and points to cast around. Try to pick a spot that has several casting targets and anchor there for your night session.

When fishing a point, try to position the boat to work the tip of the point as well as both shoulders leading to the tip. If you are fishing broken weed pockets, study the area and remember where to place your casts in the dark so you are not continuously fouled by weed. Landmarks on the bank can often work to your advantage when fishing at anchor after dark. A single tree or the outline of a hill on the horizon can all help you place casts in the right spot. It’s handy to know where you’ve had a hit or where you’re getting in a deep running retrieve without fouling in the weed.

Trolling lures has also been accounting for plenty of fish. Working around the points in the main basin is a good option. Try running deep diving lures in over 6m of water. Scorpions, Classics and Storm Deep Thunders are all good choices.

If you are struggling in the deeper water, try trolling the weed edge with a shallow runner at night. Mix it up close to the weed edge and use a shallow runner like a Laser Pro or B52 and a small profile deeper lure like a Tilsan Barra. The Tilsans have been ideal for working close to the bottom without fouling in the weed too much.

The Boyne River is also worth a troll at night. The area up past Futter Creek has been producing some big fish on the last few full moons.

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