Tough break on the lakes
  |  First Published: May 2010

Back in April, I ventured north for the first Barra Trophy event held at Monduran Dam.

The word was the fish were shut down after the rise earlier in the year. After hearing reports of dead fish and smelly water from some areas of the dam, things didn’t seem very promising.

I managed a half a day of pre-fishing and was able to hook a monster barra on a Transam 95 and also mark a few more fish in the same area with the side-imaging feature on my Humminbird. This gave me a little confidence going into the competition.

The Barra Trophy competitions are a team event and my fishing partner, young Tommy Wood, didn’t let the team down. Tommy fished hard and his efforts accounted for more than half our fish – including the first fish of the tournament caught on his second cast.

The sharing nature of the other competitors gave everyone a chance to fish successful techniques in productive areas. Suspending and slow sinking hardbodied lures were effective for most teams. Daniel Grech and his partner Belinda Winton took the honours. They had a different strategy to the rest of the teams and fished FLT Transam 95 soft vibration baits to deeper holding fish. This just goes to show, thinking anglers are often rewarded.

I had a top weekend and was able to catch up with a lot of great barra anglers and talk fishing while sinking a few cold ones. Matt Fraser did a great job of running the first ever Trophy event. The next Barra Trophy event will be held at Awoonga on 21-22 August. For more information visit www.australianbarra.com.au.

For a lot of freshwater anglers, winter is often the time for a spell. There are still plenty of options but the colder weather is enough of a deterrent to keep them at home. This can be used as a time to ensure all your gear is in good condition.

Checking over rods and then giving them a clean and polish will make them look like new. Old line can be replaced if necessary and reels can also be given a service. It can be hard to find someone to properly service a reel and trust them to pull apart your expensive investments.

JT Reel repairs offer a professional service specialising in reel repairs, Carbontex drag systems, stainless steel bearings and modifications. The business is based in Mackay but they have serviced reels from all over the state. You can contact John Trigg from JT Reel Repairs on 0427 552 485 to get your reels in top shape before their next fishing session.

The weather will be changing and influencing the fish over the next couple of months. The action has been slow across the board but it has been better in some lakes than others so make sure you read the following reports before heading out.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Crows Nest, Toowoomba

Quality bass have been hard to find at Cressbrook lately. There has been quite a bit of action with the smaller fish willing to take lures.

The surface action in the mornings and afternoons has been good. The small bass have been hunting up in the shallow grass and at times won’t stop whacking a surface lure until they hook up.

Small poppers like Mazzy Poppers, Rapala Skitterpops, Zara Puppies and Sammy 65s are ideal. These can be worked around the shallows until active fish are found.

To make things more interesting, try fishing a surface plastic. A 3” paddle tail plastic rigged weedless on a worm hook can be buzzed across the surface then paused and twitched just under the surface. Bass go crazy over this presentation. Lightly weighted worm hooks or adding your own sticky weight will increase casting distance but still allow the lure to work on top.

The cooler months of the year are a great time to experiment with crankbaits and jerkbaits. Try using different sized lures from 40mm up to 85mm. There are stacks of lures that work well in Cressbrook including Jackall Squirrels, Cultiva Rippin’ Minnows, Rapala Husky Jerks, Jackall Chubbies and Rapala Countdowns. Suspending and sinking lures can be more effective when the fish are shut down.

Soft plastics rigged on 1/4oz jigheads should account for some of the better quality fish this month. Cast them into the shallows and use a twitching retrieve to jerk them back out into deeper water. Once clear of the grassy and slimy bottom, the plastic can be slowly rolled back to the boat. Squidgies 65mm Fish, Powerbait 3.5” T-tails and smoke/yellow core coloured Rippers are great plastics for this retrieve.

The water level is still low after pumping from Wivenhoe and the rise earlier in the year though boats can be easily launched from the solid gravel ramp. 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

The last BASS Pro tournament held at Somerset Dam is a good indication of just how tough the fishing has been. All the anglers struggled to catch fish although the angling pressure certainly contributed to the poor catches.

Schooling fish have been holding around the southern side of Pelican Point. These fish can be caught on light and heavy blade baits and deep fly presentations. When there is less angling pressure, the schooling fish are easier to find and catch. Sounders and boats have been drawing the fish from the schools and splitting them up.

The best approach when a school is found is to mark it on the GPS and move a considerable distance away. Position the boat so the school of fish can just be reached with a long cast. Even though there may be no fish on the sounder, you should be throwing back into the school. Marker buoys are a great tool for this type of fishing.

Trolling lures through schooling fish is less likely to break the schools up provided you don’t stop on top of them for too long to pull in a fish. Deep diving lures will account for a few fish but the cooler water temperature will usually call for smaller profile baits. Trolling blade baits and soft plastics using the speed of an electric motor to control their depth can be quite effective.

The odd bass and golden perch have been taken while casting lures around the edges of the lake. This has been very inconsistent with a spot producing one day but failing the next. Several Mary River cod have been caught while targeting bass up in Wyangi Creek. These monsters have a liking for spinnerbaits but will also fall for lipless crankbaits. Wyangi is a top spot to target cod due to the undulating contour of the banks and structure present in the water.

Redclaw crayfish have been thick in the shallower water over the past months but their presence will slow right down due to the colder water temperature. Vary the depth at which your traps are set to see if you can come up with a more productive zone.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closest Towns: Meringandan, Toowoomba

The fishing at Cooby has been really slow, though there has been the occasional golden perch and Murray cod taken by lure casting and trolling anglers. The results on lures will be even poorer this month as the golden perch slow down another notch due to the cold water.

Bait fishing from the bank or boat will pull the most fish. Live shrimp and worms will tempt the odd hungry golden or silver perch as well as eel-tailed catfish.

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 so take battery power into consideration on windy days. 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: Warwick

Leslie Dam has been the best fish producing lake in the Toowoomba area for some time. The golden perch have been actively smashing cast and trolled lures – though this action has already started to slow and there is a definite pattern of the goldens starting to prefer live baits to artificial offerings.

Hopping Jackall Masks through scattered fish on the sounder has been a good way to tempt goldens. Hop the lure off the bottom and allow it to fall on a tight line when chasing goldens. The tight line slows the descent and the goldens seem to prefer this style of slower retrieve to the faster fall as used in bass fishing. Mix up the size of the hops. If big hops off the bottom aren’t working, try small ones to try to tempt the lazy fish.

Trolling shallow diving lures will continue to produce the odd golden perch. The gun lures have been the 3m Poltergeist and the Halco Combat. Running at around 3m deep, these lures seem to be at the right depth to attract the bites.

Live shrimp will probably be the best option if you are looking at catching numbers of fish. Other baits like worms or even saltwater yabbies and frozen prawns will take their share. In the cooler water, the metabolism and the feeding habits of the golden perch slow down, making bait a good option.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

The Isis Balancing storage is one of the few lakes producing good numbers of bass. The size of the fish has been down but by putting in the time and working on some of the deeper schooling fish, quality bass can be pulled.

The early morning is a good time to try luring a fish with surface presentations. The Zippin’ Ziggy and Sammy 65 have been drawing quite a few strikes from smaller bass.

Topwater fishing can also work well on big bass at times. Changing the approach and working in the very shallow water around the weed and lilies before the sun rises could produce better quality bass.

The weed edges hold plenty of fish, which can be caught on lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits. With the cooler water temperatures, try downsizing baits and using soft plastics. The TN50 Jackall is a great lure to use and is not given enough time in the water by most anglers who prefer the bigger TN60. When using plastics, try paddle-tails rigged on 1/8-1/4oz jigheads and use a jerky retrieve through the weed. A few bigger bass are likely to show up in the shallower water once the water cools down.

Deeper schools can hold small and big specimens. These fish can be worked by hopping and winding 3/8oz blade baits through the better concentrations. The noise of a TN60 Jackall worked deep in the same fashion will also draw some strikes. Strangely, I have seen this method work in even the most heavily pressured lakes.

For more information on this awesome little lake call in and see the guys at Salty’s Tackleworld in Bundaberg. The store is located at 22 Quay Street and can be contacted on (07) 4153 4747. Access is gained from Voss Road about 20km south of Bundaberg on the Isis Highway.

Closest Town: Monto

Over all the years I have written for QFM, this is the first time that I have ever had to say the action at Cania is poor. The bass, goldens, catfish and saratoga are all playing hard to get at the moment. This is due to the lake having a big rise several months ago. The rise flooded plenty of long grass which is now dying off and making the fishing very tough.

On a positive note, the ecosystem has received a boost and the rise in water levels has created a huge supply of food for the predators. This is great news as the quality of the fish had been going downhill over the past few years. The action should really start to fire up around spring.

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: Eidsvold

Interesting things have been taking place at Wuruma and will continue to do so over winter. Barra have been quite common with fish between 60-70cm common. The key is to find the areas the barra are holding and persist.

The cold weather this month will shut the barra bite right down. I am guessing the barra will move into the shallow bays for warmth which will concentrate them, making them easier to find when they start biting again around September. Let’s hope the extreme cold weather experienced each year at Wuruma doesn’t take its toll.

Wuruma is a great winter bass fishery. Huge bass to more than 50cm can be caught from this lake and they really bulk up at this time of year and pull hard. The water quality was poor coming into last winter and the bass fishing was hit and miss. The rise earlier in the year should encourage the bass to move up into the shallow bays and bite better this winter.

It would certainly be worth marking a date on the calendar to come and visit this lake later in the year when both the bass and barra are willing to smash your lures. I can’t wait!

Closest Town: Biloela

The barra have been a bit on the quiet side with only a handful of anglers catching them, though some have been lucky enough to hook into good numbers of fish. The bite will start to slow right down over winter.

By the time the water warms up in September and October, the action should be good. Trolling will produce midsized barra and some monster golden perch while lure flicking into the shallows can locate some good barra concentrations. One thing to remember when barra fishing is that if you do catch a fish or get a bite, that fish is rarely hanging there on its own.

If you are fishing Callide, call in and see the staff at Creek to Coast in Biloela. This tackle store is on the doorstep to the lake and staff can offer some local knowledge as well as all the right gear.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

At more than 80% capacity, this huge body of water should hold its core temperature over the cold months to come, giving the big barra a good chance of surviving any cold winter snaps. This will also make it a good cold-water barra location.

When the water temperature is warmer, the barra are comfortable to spread out in a range of locations and depths. The cold weather may make the fish slower but it can concentrate their numbers. Look for fish in any of the warmer bays and windblown points. Shallow water will certainly be worth a look so select lures appropriately.

There is no point throwing a heavy Slick Rig or Mullet into the shallows as the noise of the lure splashing down will be enough to spook the fish. Use lighter soft plastics like the Hollow Belly and Slick Rig Pro and try to land casts gently and past the target area.

Hardbodied lures have been working quite well and these lures really suit the mood of the fish during winter. Weighting a shallow diving hardbodied lure so that it suspends or slowly sinks will keep it right in the face of barra when it is paused. This slow presentation is just what is needed to turn the barra on when their activity level slows down.

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 there 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

The barra have been quite tough to tempt at Awoonga lately. Stable weather patterns where the weather remains the same for a few days in a row or even more are the ideal conditions to put the barra into a feeding mood. Considering the fish were already tough to tempt in the past weeks, the cooling water will only make the fishing tougher.

The main basin of the lake is a good starting point for both lure trollers and casters. When trolling lures, it may pay to take a different approach when deeper diving lures in the open water aren’t working.

Shallow offerings like the Laser Pro, B52, 1m Scorpion and other similar lures can be worked slowly through the shallower water. Use an electric motor and tow a long line to help avoid spooking fish. This method covers plenty of water and can be handy for locating actively feeding fish. Once found, the schools can be thoroughly worked over or even cast to.

Soft plastics will still produce a few barra this month. Unless fishing in windy conditions where the barra have turned on, it may pay to slow the retrieve down. Lightly weighted soft plastics or the Storm Suspending Shads are ideal for slower presentations. Hollow Belly plastics are great straight from the packet while other brands may need trimming on the tail or boiling in hot water to bring the tail to life on the slower retrieves.

The shallow tapering banks with the wind pushing into them are likely spots to find fish. The afternoons will be more productive than the mornings due to the fish warming up throughout the day.

Jason Wilhelm from Barra Madness fishing charters is very switched on when it comes to fishing in tough conditions. His ability to read the various factors influencing the barras’ mood certainly helps when it comes to putting his clients onto fish. Fishing charters are a great way to learn more about these awesome sportsfish. For more information visit www.barramadness.com.

Mackay Region
Closest Towns: Mirani, Mackay

With the slump of winter sinking in, the water temperature will significantly influence the barras’ mood. Fishing Kinchant’s waters in winter can be very frustrating but also rewarding, therefore a smart approach is the key to good fishing during the winter months. Fishing in the warmest parts of the day is recommended, as this is when the barra will be most active. Try arriving at the dam around 1pm and fishing until dusk.

Kinchant is built on clear, slow sloping grazing land and when the water level is high (like this year) it is full of windblown weedy bays that hold warm water in the cooler months. Barra often become inactive when the water temperature drops but throughout winter, barra will retreat to these warmer areas to feed.

A single barra might only feed a few times a week and spend the rest of the time skulking in or around these warmer areas oblivious to nearly anything around them. The key is to find the barra that are feeding and concentrate on them.

By being aware of the other wildlife around the dam, you can target these fish quite easily. Kinchant is a quite open dam and birds can be seen easily. Birds feeding mean there is bait nearby. This is obviously the same bait that barra eat, so concentrating in and around this area gives you the best chance of finding feeding fish.

Once the water gets around the 22°C mark, even the feeding fish will be sluggish; this means slower retrieves will be needed to produce strikes. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

Use suspending hardbodies like Rapala X-raps, Rapala Gliding Raps and Stiffy Boney Breams over the top of weed beds or around weed edges to create a lot of attention that draws a fish to strike.

Other lures to try are soft plastics like the Berkley Hollow Bellies. These lures can be rigged with a weighted jig head to fish around weed edges or drop-offs. They can also be rigged on a weedless hook which allows them to be fished over the top of shallow weed beds. Hollow Bellies have a unique action that allows them to swim very slowly which is perfect for winter barra.

For any extra information on the Mackay region feel free to email me at --e-mail address hidden-- – Daniel Grech

Proserpine (Peter Faust)
Closest Towns: Proserpine

Faust received a lot of rain over the summer along with copping the brunt of tropical cyclone Ului which has left it at 91%. While spending much of 2009 around the 80% mark, the current water level is the highest it has been for many years which makes fishing very interesting.

Although it has had its fair share of dull fishing over the last year, it seems as though Faust has become immune to the bad fishing that affected the other dams over the past few months. The stable weed growth could be one of the major contributing factors to this good fishing as over the past few months the weed been growing modestly.

The general layout of Faust allows something for everyone. Roughly 40% of the dam is a thick timbered, structural wonderland with large shallow points and hundreds of horizontal timber hides with barra literally crawling all over them.

The rest of the dam is cleared and the main basin area and is quite deep. If you prefer to fish clear weedy deeper points, the points in this main basin area should fish well over the coming cooler days of winter.

Faust has a wide age group of barra, from the freshly stocked fish around the 40cm mark right up to some of the large barra on record around the 135-140cm mark! So make sure your gear is up to the challenge of extracting one of these monster fish from their timber homes.

Winter in Faust is known for some great big barra action as these fish cruise around the shallow weed beds waiting to pounce on any stray baitfish.

As with most dams, Faust can get quite rough when it is windy, so during winter use this to your advantage and fish the windblown bays with shallow lures like Rapala X-Raps and Berkley 7” Jerk Shads rigged on a worm hook.

If you’re visiting Peter Faust over winter stop in at Proserpine Bait and Tackle and ask Lindsay Dobe or one of his other staff members where the fish are biting and they are always more than happy to give you a point in the right direction.

For any extra information on the Mackay or Proserpine region feel free to email me at --e-mail address hidden-- – Daniel Grech

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