Eight Men and a houseboat
  |  First Published: June 2010

Lake Monduran is rapidly becoming one of Australia’s premier barramundi fisheries.

While there are many impoundments across the state and a few in the Northern Territory and Western Australia as well, few have gained the big barra ethos that has firmly settled on the shoulders of this vast and picturesque waterway.

Another massive plus for this location is that it is the southern most big barra lake in Australia, making it easily accessible to Brisbane and environs in one day – in fact it’s an easy four and a half hours in the car heading north on the Bruce Highway.

Lake Monduran is a stocked impoundment with 130,000 barramundi fingerlings going into the lake annually. No one knows what the survival rate of these fish is, however even at only 10% the population of serious fish in the lake must be on the increase.

This waterway has previously been stocked with Australian bass (100,000 this year). This program is currently under review as by far the majority of anglers would prefer to see the barra program increase catch rates of metre plus fish, as opposed to dropping a few bass into the lake. It’s also likely the bass fingerlings have a pretty low survival rate when swimming with millions of barramundi!

Most anglers who target barra in stocked impoundments miss out from time to time. Some of us even become quite adept at catching absolutely nothing, despite the best intentions, plenty of effort and all the right gear.

However, the answer is simply to persevere. Nothing beats time on the water. The more casts you put in the more chance you have of that trophy barra belting your lure.

Recently I was lucky enough to join seven other keen anglers on a four night angling adventure using a ten berth houseboat and four tinnies. It was a perfect arrangement!

The team arrived at the ramp adjacent to the dam wall at the previously arranged date and time. When Rob Howell, local guide, campground owner and hire boat operator, turned up we had all but loaded the vessel and were just about ready to hit the water.

After a short briefing we set off to SDA Bay, only 15 minutes away. From this mooring we could easily access most of the lower half of the lake, in particular Bird Bay, where a mate and I boated three fish well over 1m a couple of months prior.

Casting was the preferred method for pretty much all on board and we had plenty of structure to cast at! Of some concern was the fact that recent monsoonal rain in the area had seen the level of the lake increase by more than 6m. In a lake of this size that is an immense amount of water.

It would seem this massive influx would have significantly lowered the water temperature, which is not a great thing, as most barra anglers would agree. However, the few days prior to our arrival were warm, so all in all we were quite positive that we would find a few good fish, and that we did.

Night one produced one barra as I recall it. Casting at structure such as fallen logs, submerged trees and sunken lantana had delivered the goods here in the past, so why wouldn’t it now regardless of the enormously different features before us? Cool water means slow fishing, but we were encouraged by the warm weather and slowly increasing temperatures.

The first fish of the trip was an absolute horse, caught on a grey C-Lures Barra Pro after a hook upgrade. The fish took close to ten minutes to subdue, and after the obligatory photographs the beast was duly revived and released.

It was a pretty good start at 1.18m and somewhere around 30kg! This fish performed admirably with short fast runs, three giant leaps well clear of the water as well as periods slugging it out deep. Do true wild fish go any harder? No way!

The next few days delivered an assortment of barra from 75cm to just shy of 1m. Most were caught after dusk or at dawn. Fishing during the day proved fruitless. Amazingly we witnessed many anglers heading back to the ramp just prior to dusk and thus missing out on prime time. Many more arrived on the water at 8am, two hours after the action had ceased.

Trollers seemed to be doing it tough, and at one stage or another most of us indulged in a troll or two. From time to time we witnessed or heard some celebratory hollering from trolling crews, but on the whole casting seemed to be delivering the most success.

The next couple of nights saw the mothership moored at White Rock, which was only a couple of metres out of the water! This allowed us easy access into many upper lake locations, specifically ‘B’ Bay and Jacks.

More barra came into the boats around this area. Two southern fishos had a ball one morning with two boated barra and two or three lost fish including a horse that moved some serious water as it powered its way around the boat and threw the lure during a frenetic jump.

I witnessed this event, and was not surprised at the gob-smacked look of dismay on the poor bloke holding the rod. This session revolved around Squidgy Slick Rigs, although the good old Barra Pro pulled one good fish off a point just after dawn. Accurate casts close to submerged foliage were the key to success here.

Two of the guys found a large mob of surface feeding barra late one evening, well after dark in fact. After some experimentation with various surface lures a most respectable barra of 95cm was landed and released shortly after. Surface fishing is a blast, however despite my best efforts I was unable to attract enough attention from the barra to draw any surface strikes.

The four nights on board the excellent Emily Jo were an absolute hoot. We had plenty of fun; we were all comfortable, with beds as well as a hot shower and a more than adequate galley.

The bonus of course is being on the water 24/7. Any of us at any time were able to step into a boat and head off to wet a line. With eight on board the cost is very economical, and there was more than enough room for all of us to be comfortable.

Day time snoozes were pretty common after lengthy night time sessions on the water. Again, this was all too easy. Dam fishing will never be the same again for me, that’s for sure.

Rob and Kelly Howell run an excellent service at Lake Monduran with the fantastic houseboat, a party pontoon and a series of polycraft boats for hire. The campground is only a few minutes away and it boasts a camp kitchen as well as all the usual amenities, all two minutes from some of the best barramundi fishing in Australia. You can talk to them yourself for all the info on 0410 599 147 or 074157 3881. What are you waiting for?

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