Blitzen barra!
  |  First Published: December 2015

Santa Claus is polishing the sleigh and making sure his reindeer are in good condition. Now is the time to put in your orders, leave some subtle hints or just go out and purchase that fishing gear you’ve been eyeing off! Christmas school holidays can be a bit hectic on the water but the lead up is still a nice quiet time to get out for a fish. The days will be pretty hot so make sure you dress appropriately and whack on a hat, sunnies and sunscreen. Don’t think you’re tough and can handle it!

Sun exposure out on the water is a different experience to just general outdoor activities due to the high reflection of UV rays. As relaxing as fishing is meant to be, if you put in a full day on the water, the sun zaps the energy out of you and you’ll be left feeling quite weary by the end of the day. Cover up, and drink plenty of water so the old body can handle the abuse.

Hot days means hotter water temperatures. This increase in water temperature will cause a spike in golden perch activity and entice the barramundi that are stocked further south to come out to play.

Barramundi – isn’t it closed season? The East Coast is definitely in closed season for barramundi until midday 1 February, but these prized fish can still be targeted in the dams in which they are stocked. For the full run down of the rules (especially if you want to keep fish for the table) check out the Qld DPI website.

The barramundi went absolutely nuts in October. The northern lakes – Proserpine, Kinchant and Teemburra were the standouts, with some magnificent fish caught. Further south, Monduran, Awoonga and Callide also produced fish but these waterways should only improve over the coming month. Lake Lenthalls has been closed for some time but check out the report below – the barra should be lining up to take a lure.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Many people don’t realize when they are reviving fish boat side at this time of year; they can be doing more harm than good. We all know the top layer of water on any lake, still river, or even swimming pool is hotter than the water below. This hot water isn’t where the fish live – they find comfort in the cool, oxygen rich water below. For this reason, take care when releasing fish. Often it is best to spear them in so they are past this hot water and into the comfort of the cool water. Golden perch and Murray cod are two fish that suffer from the effects of hot surface temperatures. With this in mind, think about where you are pumping your livewell water from, and if you can make it more comfortable for fish by drawing the water from deeper or having it chilled prior to putting them in and then running on closed recirculation.

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest

Lure casting has been quite tough at Cressy. The fish are hard to tempt on most occasions and are likely to scatter more through the deeper areas this month. This should see an increase in the number of bass caught on trolled lures. Lure trolling in over 9m of water out in front of the ramps and down the middle towards the Eagles Nest should see you in with a pretty good chance. If you catch one, there is a good chance there will be others in the surrounding area.

Choosing the right lure is important, as the fish can be fussy. Watch the sounder to see what depth the fish are holding and run the lure at this depth. Lures like Blitz Bagas, Golden Childs, the Kezza Freak and the Little Rippa are great for Cressbrook bass. Be sure to run a selection of colours to see what the fish want to eat most.

If you are able to locate a patch of fish in the middle, try drifting with the wind over the top of them. Soft plastics, spinnerbaits and tail spinners are all worth a try. Redclaw numbers have picked up a bit over the last month, so if you have some pots at home make sure you bring them.

For all your fishing supplies and the latest reports on Cressbrook and the surrounding dams, call in to see the specialist tackle stores in Toowoomba. Tackleworld Toowoomba in Ruthven Street on the north side, and Fish’n Bits in Alderly Street closer to the south side have a great range of lures and fishing gear. Support these tackle stores because they will be able to direct you to where the fish are biting and offer invaluable advice.

Just remember there is a speed limit of 8 knots and a restricted area at Cressbrook Dam. Check out the signage to ensure you stay out of trouble and abide by the rules. The gate hours for the boat ramps and day use area are 6am-8pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Bass fishermen hoping to pull heaps of fish casting lures can find the fishing a bit tough at this time of year. Schooling fish are still holding around Bay 13 and Pelican Point as well as a few other areas around the lake. Reaction baits will be your best bet. Deeply presented spinnerbaits, tail spinners and lipless crankbaits will all tempt the fish. One of the best approaches is to drift over the schools using the wind. If it’s a still day, try fishing around the boat while moving on the electric motor. I find if I sit still, the bass school below the boat and refuse to bite.

Lure trolling will improve in the open parts of the lake. The bass should scatter here which makes them better targets for the lure troller. Pick a lure that dives to the depth the bass are schooling. Often the smaller bass will hold higher in the water column in the deep water. These bass will take shallower lures like 50mm Poltergeists or StumpJumper in the smallest size. Bigger fish can be trickier to tempt and will hold closer to the bottom. This is where deep divers that can reach 10m come into play. Golden perch will also take a liking to these lures especially in the middle reaches of the main basin, around the drop-off to the old riverbed where there is the odd bit of structure.

The timber north of Kirkleigh is a great place to target golden perch. There have also been a couple of bass schools holding around the start of the timber. Trolling the edge of the old creek and riverbed or across any 7-10m flats will see you in the right zone for some golden perch action. Medium running lures like the Golden Child or Smak 16 are perfect in the timber. Make sure you have a lure retriever in the boat as these handy bits of gear will pay for themselves many times over when fishing around snags.

Quality sounders will reveal sunken piles of logs and sticks. I like to run the side image feature on my Humminbird, which scans out to either side of the boat. These areas are often worth a jig with a blade. Small blades can be jigged vertically around this structure with great results. The golden perch really fire up at this time of year and blading can score dozens of fish when you’re in the right spot.

Redclaw crayfish have been around in reasonable numbers. You certainly have to work to get enough to feed the crew or family though. Leaving the pots in overnight and checking them first thing in the morning seems to be the best way to put better numbers in the boat.

Closest Towns: Aratula, Boonah

Moogerah Dam has been very tough over the last couple of months. The fishing is likely to pick up again soon. Deeper schooling fish have been suspending in around 20m of water. These fish are tough to entice.

In the timber, the action should be a bit better. Look for fish around the start of the timber. Often they will be suspended through this area. Trolling hardbodies is a good way to search and locate the fish. At times they sit only 3-5m down and slow trolling a good hardbody can do the trick once you’ve found them.

There are numerous shrimp in the dam and if you have shrimp pots you’ll catch them. Live shrimp should go well in the trees – try fishing on the bottom as well as in mid-water depth.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

The bass action should be great this month. Surface lures worked around the weed beds early and late in the day, will deliver. As light level increases, the fish go deeper. You can follow them with a suspending jerkbait before they settle deeper in the shadows of the weed.

Through the day, reaction lures worked down the weed face will score plenty of strikes. Bass love to ambush prey from their hideouts in the weed. Spinnerbaits, beetle spins and lipless crankbaits are great for fishing the edge of weed or any deeper holes. To probe even deeper, switch to a 1/4oz blade bait or smaller tail spinner. These lures can be hopped down the face of the weed and then across the bottom back to the boat.

Bait fishermen using live shrimp will manage a mixed bag of fish. Inside the timber in around 7-8m of water is prime baitfishing territory. Bass and golden perch will dominate catches although the odd spangled perch or eel-tailed catfish may pinch a few baits.

Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The golden perch have fired up slowly in Cooby. Around a month ago, there was a run of Murray cod caught by anglers in boats as well as those fishing from the rock wall.

Afternoons are the prime time to fish this lake. The fish tend to bite better just before the sun goes down. Baitfishing with live shrimp or frozen saltwater yabbies will assure you some golden perch and eel-tailed catfish. Jigging smaller blades vertically or hopping them back across the bottom is another good method. You can also try drifting and hopping lipless crankbaits in hard and soft versions. These bigger lures are more likely to tempt a passing cod.

Anglers who target Murray cod specifically should stick to casting the edges with spinnerbaits or trolling hardbody lures. At times, the drifting weed can make trolling a pain but it’s necessary to keep your lures weed free. Keep a close eye on the action of your rod tip. Weed will dull this action and needs to be removed to get a bite. Smaller trolled lures around 60mm long will catch golden perch, and the occasional cod. To target the cod specifically, try running a bigger profile lure or one with a stronger action. The Kezza Mud Mouse is a great option. It has a strong thumping action which the cod love but a small enough profile for the goldens to want to devour it.

Cooby is an electric motor only dam. Outboards can be left on boats but must not be used. Being relatively small, it is also well suited to kayaks and canoes. You can pick up all your supplies including bait and live shrimp near the dam at Highfields Bait and Tackle. Call in and see Doug, he is just behind Subway on the New England Highway.

Closest Town: Warwick

We are entering the prime months to fish Leslie Dam. Fish have fired up and love to chase lures at this time of year. Murray cod and golden perch are the prime targets and are munching trolled lures in the main basin of the dam. The area across from the dam wall and just north of the ski club has been producing well. Medium diving lures are generally best in Leslie but it pays to run a range of offerings to see what the fish want most. The golden perch will take lures that dive between 4-8m deep.

Earlier in the day, it may be worth casting to the edges of the lake around any structure. Cod and golden perch love these areas but will move deeper as the day draws on. For edge fishing try either a spinnerbait or lipless crankbait. Casters can catch fish throughout the day by targeting fish on structure in deeper water. Try to find rocks or sunken trees close to the old creek bed drop-off and you’ll be in with a good chance. Vertically jigged blades and lipless baits are the key to pulling fish from these areas.

Baitfishers have had good success on live shrimp, or as a backup, use frozen saltwater yabbies. Worms can pick up a few fish but are nowhere near as effective as the crustacean baits.

The water level is getting lower so take care when launching from the dirt banks. Keep an eye out for soft ground where others have had trouble and if you see a safe, well-used section, head for it.

For all your supplies and advice on catching fish in the area, call in to Warwick Outdoor and Sports. The store is in Palmerin Street, Warwick and has a great range of quality gear for chasing freshwater fish.

Closest Town: Inglewood

Last December was an excellent month for trolling and this year is shaping up to be the same. The golden perch and cod went crazy for trolled lures in the deeper water around the old creek and riverbed. You can basically start your troll from straight out in front of the boat ramp. Head either left or right as soon as you see the drop off to deeper water on the sounder and follow the ledge. A mass of circling boats will usually be a good indication as to where the fish are holding in numbers.

While trolling, keep an eye out for significant structure along the old creek bed. This is the home to big cod and during the hotter months, they will be quick to take a trolled lure. Lures that dive 5-8m are ideal in this section of the lake. One of my favourites is the 80mm Halco Poltergeist. We’ve had sessions where the fish go nuts on one colour while refusing to eat other lures in the water. You can never have enough lures, so make sure you have a good selection and rotate them until you find the one the fish like best.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only a kilometre away from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway, but far enough away from the noise of trucks to get a good night’s sleep. The park offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. The park now has an extra two wheelchair friendly cabins to add to their older ones. Camping is also available near the boat ramp with toilets and hot showers to make your stay more comfortable. 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.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

We have just entered the prime month for lure trollers at Boondooma. Hardbody lure makers from the local area get excited at this time of year as they watch the lures disappear off the tackle store shelves. Trolling is an easy way to get stuck into the action, with bass and golden perch falling for this style of presentation.

The middle reaches of the lake around the Junction and Leisegangs Ledge is prime bass country. These fish can be found right out in the open water where they scatter and suspend. Sometimes they can venture right up to the dam wall where they hold wide of the first few points leading away from the wall. Running the sounder over the area you intend to fish should reveal their presence if they are home.

Golden perch will be found closer to the shore. Working along the rocky banks, and in particular, the points that extend into the dam can catch numbers of these fish. Try to work along a contour – if your lure runs around 8m deep, try to keep it tracking close to the bottom in this depth.

Surely the fish must be sick of purple lures by now! For years this has been the most popular colour to use and it still continues to produce. Brown is another favourite for many but the fish will take all different colours. The important part of the equation is to present lures at the right depth. If you have any doubt about the lures you already have, try some of the locally produced ones like the Blitz Baga, Brolga or Smak 19.

In the timbered arms, spinnerbaits have been scoring some great bass and golden perch. The hotter water temperature may drive these fish a bit deeper. Early in the morning will be the time to work around the edges and as the day wears on, trying sinking lures more and fishing tighter to the trees.

Boondooma is a great place to camp, right near the water and sit by the fire while enjoying the view and a cold one. You canalso stay in more style and comfort by booking into one of the cabins overlooking the dam. The kiosk at the main office does hot food and other basic items including fishing tackle. For campsites, cabins and bunkhouse rooms call Corey and Niki on (07) 4168 9694.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

Bjelke has been a great lake so far this year. There has been some red-hot fishing at times, but like everywhere the fish have been stubborn whenever they like. Now that it’s hot, the schooling fish should scatter throughout the dam. Trolling lures will be a great option to produce bass and golden perch.

Shallower lures like the Smak 12 and Smak 16 are ideal for Bjelke Petersen. Purples, natural, and dark colours are preferred. Try working around the edges of the lake with the lures cruising above the bottom, or venture along the old creek bed drop off. Golden perch in particular will inhabit the drop-off area more often than the open water roaming bass.

There are still a few fish coming from the start of the timber on spinnerbaits. Take care if you are venturing up this far as the falling lake level presents new hazards.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into your local ‘Bass 2 Barra’ store. You can see Matthew at Kingaroy, or Dylan in Dalby and the boys will have you all geared up and ready for action in no time. ‘Bass 2 Barra’ stores stock an awesome range of gear suited to chasing our freshwater fish and the boys have all the knowledge to guide you on how to use it.

The Yallakool kiosk is all set up with a great range of tackle if you don’t happen to have the right lure or lose one. Be sure to call in and check it out. Give them a call for accommodation and camping bookings on (07) 4168 4746.

Closest Towns; Maryborough, Hervey Bay

By the time you’re reading this Lenthalls should be well and truly open for business. A quick check on the Wide Bay Water website would be recommended.

The dam was closed while work was being carried out earlier in the year and this fishing reprieve should have the bass and barra keener than ever to jump on a lure. The water level is down close to the old original level it was before the wall extension took place. There are very few water lilies but there is a bit of weed around the edges.

If you are planning a trip, just remember there are some restrictions in place. The open hours are 6am-8pm. Boats must have a 4-stroke or low emissions 2-stroke outboard motor no bigger than 60HP and travel under 6 knots.

Closest Town: Bundaberg

If you’ve never caught a quality bass on a surface lure, get yourself to the Isis Balancing Storage. The bass have been nailing topwater baits like the Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy early in the morning. There is only a short window of opportunity before the sun rises to nail some fish. Once the sun is up, switch to subsurface presentations around the weed beds. Soft plastics can produce but often during the warmer months, reaction baits will outperform them.

Spinnerbaits, 1/4oz blade baits, and Beetle Spins will all tempt the hungry bass in Isis.

Look for healthy weed clumps and try fishing the edge where the weed tapers away to deep water. The timbered arm has also produced around the dead standing trees.

The dam is full and looking very healthy. For a few months, the level was kept low while work was carried out on the weir in the Burnett River where the water is pumped in. Launching boats is again much easier and the lake is a beautiful place to fish.

Capricorn Region
Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

On the October full moon the action fired up in the dam. Quite a few travelling anglers staying at the Awoonga Gateway Cabins managed to hook into some quality barra. Lyn from the cabins commented on the quality of the big fat fish and said, “It’s amazing! Where did all these big fish come from - and where have they been hiding the last few years?” There is a lot of water between the fish but if you are keen enough to put in the time, you’ll find some action. Mark from the cabins speaks to all the guests and fishes himself so he usually knows the best places to target some fish.

New Zealand Gully, Iveragh arm, and Gold Mine Point are just some of the most reliable areas. Casting hardbodies is one of the most effective ways to score a fish but now the water has warmed up, soft plastics will also be worth a go.

Some of the best reports last year were right after Christmas. The hot weather seemed to get the fish schooling up and easier to find and catch.

If you are keen to try to tackle some fish in the river or dam, give Lyn and Mark from Awoonga Gateway a call on (07) 4975 0033. At Awoonga Gateway you’ll find clean, modern cabins and your hosts will be full of useful advice to help you try to land that barra of a lifetime. Make sure you tell Mark I sent you, and pump him for the secret spot.

Mackay Region
Closest Towns: Pinnacle, Mackay

The barra action at Teemburra has been awesome. Plenty of fish under a metre long have been getting into the action with the occasional big girl over the magic metre as well. Around the October full moon, Matthew Manley had an awesome trip boating around 50 barra for his stay. Matt gave a few tips for anyone visiting the lake.

Try the shallow, sandy points that have deeper channels nearby. The key bite times are based around tide changes in the saltwater, moon up and moon down. Position the boat in around 4m of water and just keep flicking plastics. Matt takes advantage of his sounder setup to score more fish. He runs a Humminbird with the 360 Transducer. This gives a radar-like image of what is around the boat. While we all think the barra cruise along a contour line or the edge of the weed, the 360 shows them cruising out wide at times and with the range set on 80ft, Matt can direct a cast to intercept the cruising fish.

Closest Towns: Marian, Mackay

Falling water levels will be experienced until the next lot of big rain. Irrigation is sucking the water out of the lake at a fast rate. Last month, the weed beds were still in a healthy condition but the big bays were losing water fast and reducing the amount of fishable water. When you consider you have to share this basin area with ski boats you can expect the fishing to be a bit tougher.

Night sessions have been the best time to fish. The kayak guys have had some exceptional fishing. It seems their ability to troll stealthily sets them apart from bigger boats. Running sounders and GPS, kayaks are able to tow hardbodies or soft plastics along the weed edges – this has scored them plenty of fish. David Brace landed one of the standout fish caught. The beast measured 130cm and he should be congratulated for keeping his cool and boating a monster like this from a kayak (in the dark).

If you are planning to try a kayak assault, keep a couple of things in mind. Safety is important during the day but if you venture out at night alone, it becomes much more important. Be sure you can reboard a flipped kayak. Practice this first - don’t wait until you need to do it. A life vest is also a handy bit of gear. In the dark, kayaks are hard to see and there can be bigger boats out fishing and moving around. A few guys are running solar lights on their kayak but whatever you decide to use make sure it can be seen by other boats navigating the same piece of water. Lights are deceiving at night. From a travelling boat, they can appear to be miles away, when they are literally right below you.

Whitsunday Region
Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

Mixed reports have flooded in from Lake Proserpine this month. Some guys have nailed the big barra while others have had barely a bite. Those in the right place have been rewarded and now the fish are moving out into the main basin, there will be fewer fish in the one area as they become more widespread.

The lure trollers won’t mind, as they are able to score good numbers of monster barra trolling out in front of the dam wall. The sea of red and green navigation lights at night indicates where the action is happening. Try trolling deeper lures like the Scorpion Crazy Deeps and 80mm Poltergeist.

Up in the timber, there will still be a few barra hanging around the weed beds. Deeper water nearby will be important now things are heating up. This allows fish to move in to feed and back to the deep to chill out. The big weed point before the timber on the dam’s southern side will also be worth investigation.

Lure casters have been doing well on soft plastics during the daylight hours and then throwing a mix of plastics and shallow diving hardbodies to great success once darkness falls. Don’t be afraid to fish away from the weed in deeper water during the middle of the day. Fish will fall back into the creeks and deep channels when things heat up. Deeper diving hardbodies are one of the most effective ways to get these fish to bite.

If you are heading out to the dam, make sure you call in at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. The store is on to send you in the right direction and help with nailing the lake’s big fish. The storeowner Lindsay Dobe runs charters on the lake and bookings can be made through the store on (07) 4945 4641.

Callide Dam
Closest Town: Biloela

Callide Dam is back on the map with aggressive barra and giant yellowbelly. Earlier this year, Cyclone Marcia dumped an uncontrollable amount of water into poor little Callide Dam, causing the dam to flow over the wall and flood the surrounding areas. Common thought was that Callide had lost many of its barramundi and yellowbelly over the wall. Cyclone Marcia had left Callide like a large brown milky soup over winter – the water was filthy. But as the water temperature started to rise, the water started to clear up and the redclaw came back on the bite as did the barra. Reports of the odd fish caught began slowly coming in, and as soon as the water temperature jumped above 28°C there was tales of very productive afternoon sessions with fish all in the 800 class.

In October, the Callide Valley Native Fish Stocking Association held the Lake Callide Family Fishing Classic. This weekend was a battle against the elements, with storms and rain each day. These conditions didn’t deter the mad keen fishers! The water temp had dropped, which sent the barra into hiding and only the one barra was caught for the weekend – an absolute horse at 91cm. Giant yellowbelly were also on the bite throughout the weekend with one standout giant which went for 61cm. All those that braved the weather had a great weekend.

To find the barra, work the wind blown bays around the timber. If you don’t have a boat, don’t let that hold you back as Callide hosts a fine selection of landbased opportunities where you can find bays filled with barra holding timber. The barra bite has been very aggressive due to the spike in water temperature, but the lure of choice has been 110mm soft plastics on a slow roll, Subwoofers by Lethal Lures, or a good old Gold Bomber.

Use a little scent on you lures helps when the barra are shut down – UV Aniseed by Dizzy scent has enticed many a barra. Many barra fishers have been hooking yellowbelly as by-catch while working the snags. Reports have been made of schooled yellowbelly in the snags up the back bays, with one angler reporting over 20 yellowbelly caught and released from one area. The yellowbelly have taken a liking to slow jigged soft vibes. The good old live worm is always a good back up.

If you would like more info on how the dam is fishing you can drop in and see Dave at the Disposal Camping store in Biloela, or check out Callide Valley Native Fish Stocking Association page on Facebook, as well as join the group, Bilo Barra Hunters. –NIGEL KRUEGER

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