SEQ barra go off
  |  First Published: January 2016

The barramundi fishing has been top notch across many of the lakes where they are stocked. Big fish in excellent numbers have been reported right through the latter part of last year with some seasoned anglers reporting the best fishing in years.

A lot of the action has taken place at night with the fish a lot tougher to tempt during the day. You’ll often find this the case around the full moon, as the moon offers plenty of light for the fish to feed during the darker hours. On a new moon there will be more activity during the day, but the prime times are usually around dawn and dusk.

Plenty of fish being caught are around a metre long, so they are strong and powerful. Like any form of fishing, being prepared will certainly increase your chances of boating one of these beasts.

Recently, I spoke to a couple of people who tried to tackle their first impoundment barra and both commented on just how underprepared and under-gunned they were. If you want to go to the effort of fishing hard to hook one of these fish, you need to stand the best chance of landing it.

On a recent night session at Monduran Dam, I took workmate Ian Ryan out to try and land his PB barra. Here’s an example of how things can unfold when you are trying to boat these fish. Ian and I anchored the boat in the chosen spot well before dark. We had studied the shape of the weed edge and positioned the boat in the best spot to land fish and fight them in the open water away from submerged hazards. Right from the start, fish were swimming through frequently on the side image of the Humminbird 1198.

Before dark, we had several short taps, which didn’t result in a hook-up. Ian was first to convert one of these bites into a hooked fish. The barra took to the air and spat the soft plastic out. Next I hooked a fish while rolling a swimbait back across the 2-3m deep flat. The fight was short-lived and another fish managed to dislodge the lure. As we fished into the night, the bad luck continued and the first five fish we hooked and fought all managed to throw the hooks. Sometimes this is a sign of how the fish are feeding. If they aren’t really in the mood they are often hooked around the outside of the mouth and manage to dislodge the hooks easier. Usually when you hook a barra, there’s about a 50% chance you will stay connected.

Ian had the next bite and this fish took to the air and moved around 10m across the top of the water in a couple of jumps before powering off in a solid run. Finally, it seemed the hooks were going to stick and we had one of the best fish so far at over a metre in length on the line. Unfortunately, the powerful run saw the fish swim past a submerged fence line and barbed wire made quick work of the braided line. It seemed we just couldn’t win.

I hooked the next fish right near the boat and it danced in the air twice before all went slack. I wound in to find the 50lb braid broken. A nick in the line had allowed the braid to break well below its rating and another fish was free. Seven hook-ups and not one fish landed – this was getting ridiculous.

Ian hooked the next barra and after a spirited fight we finally managed to get it boat side and slip it into the net. At 93cm it was the biggest he had ever caught and we were happy to have finally put a fish in the boat and achieved the main objective of the trip. Minutes later, I was on and my smaller 85cm fish played up but was also netted, photographed and released. With a fish each and the bite slow for the next hour we headed back to camp for some well-earned rest.

Not all barra sessions unfold like this but it just shows how easy the fish can win their freedom. You can put in all the hard work to hook them only to see them win their freedom moments later.

Unlike the guys I spoke to, we felt like we were prepared. Sure, there was probably a couple of things we could have done differently to try and better our chances (like fishing singer hooks). Barra are a fish that will find any weakness and at times frustrate you with their ability to throw hooks, despite your best efforts to stay connected. When you do make the hooks stick, you want to stand the best chance of landing that fish. Often it takes ages to get the bite so a little extra time spent preparing can make a lot of difference.

You can probably tell I get a bit excited about barra and that’s because they are my favourite fish to catch. The closed season may still be in place for wild fish but we can enjoy targeting stocked impoundment fish year round. We have one of the world’s best sportfish right on our doorstep and they are biting better than ever. You’d be mad not to go and give impoundment barra fishing a go.

Sponsor a Barra

One of the closest lakes to catch metre long barramundi from Brisbane is Lake Monduran just north of Gin Gin on the Bruce Highway. The lake has made a steady comeback after the severe flooding events from 2011 onward. Monduran has a massive surface area to explore, and so many hideouts for the fish to live in. It could therefore use more fingerlings each year to boost the numbers closer to the allowable stocking rate, which is based on water levels. I recently spoke to the person behind it all, Julie Whalle.

Julie started the Lake Monduran ‘Sponsor a Barra’ Facebook page to try to raise awareness of how Lake Monduran was recovering after the floods. She began raising money for the purchase of more fingerlings to help restock the lake.

“You can assist us by sending me a message and I’ll forward information to you, or hit ‘Like’ on our Facebook page and make a donation by following the top post. We also sell fishing shirts and Brag Mats to raise money,” Julie said.

Because of the size of Lake Monduran, extra funds are needed to stock the dam to its current capacity. Every dollar helps, so please make a donation and help us maintain this amazing waterway for future generations.” 

It’s not only barra on the move in the dams. Over the last month, there have been plenty of bass, golden perch, saratoga and monster Murray cod taking lures. Read on before you plan your next fishing trip.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

Closest Town: Crows Nest

There have been a few bass about early in the morning around the lake’s edges. Casting spinnerbaits should produce a few fish before they go off the bite as the sun rises. The afternoons have been productive in the upper parts of the lake. Both Cressbrook Creek and Bull (Beams) Creek have been holding reasonable numbers of bass. These fish are falling for tail-spinners and hopped blades.

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 until 8pm.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Suspending bass will be found around the lake’s main basin. These fish can be tough to cast up but trolling can work quite well. When casting lures to the fish, try heavier jighead rigged soft plastics. The old faithful Slider Grub has dominated with a lot of catches. Fishers have rigged them on 1/2 and 5/8oz jigheads. Let your lure sink to the bottom below the fish and use a faster wind to bring them up through the suspended fish.

Suspended bass tend to scatter, which makes lure trolling a great option. You can stick with soft plastics and troll them at around 2-3km/h and try to get lures swimming at the depth the fish are suspended. If this sounds too tricky, try trolling deep diving hardbodies at the depth the bass are suspended.

Bass have also been holding inside the timber north of Kirkleigh. This area is more likely to produce good numbers of golden perch as well. Trolling lures like the Smak 16 and Golden Child will give you a good chance of scoring a mixed bag. The flats at the start of the timber about 50m past the buoyline and inside the trees are definitely worth a go. There are several laydowns across this flat, which fish well with vertically jigged blades.

Closest Towns: Aratula, Boonah

There have been some good bass getting around at Moogerah. It seems the tree area working the best with good catches last month on a mixture of lure styles. The bass should still be holding in the trees and you’ll need to sound around to find the best concentrations. Soft plastics have been reliable most of the time and when the fish are cooperative, tail-spinners have worked very well and produced better numbers.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

Reaction lures will produce bass and the occasional golden perch this month. Spinnerbaits, beetle spins, lipless crankbaits, blades and tail-spinners are all worth tossing. The better quality bass often hold closer to the weed beds. In the mornings and afternoons, try working lures tight to the weed edge and deeper pockets to tempt the larger bass. Surface luring will definitely be worth a go early and late in the day.

Schooling bass will also hold outside the weed edges in deeper water. These fish can be tempted with blade baits and tail-spinners. Hopping the lures through the school will usually get the desired result. In the deeper areas, the bass should bite all day long.

Closet Towns:
Highfields, Toowoomba

Cooby has started to fish a little better. Golden perch numbers have picked up but there still hasn’t been any bulk numbers caught. It seems most people are averaging a few per session. Hopping blades and lipless crankbaits in the deeper areas has produced some better numbers. Trolling late in the afternoon with lipless crankbaits or small, medium diving lures has also bagged a few.

Over the last month, there have been some monster Murray cod caught and released. One lucky angler trolled back to the ramp late in the afternoon and nailed a 113cm cod just when he was about to call it quits. It was a monstrous fish and judging by the Facebook picture I saw it would have weighed 80lb. The capture of this cod got people excited and extra boats got out to try their luck. One boat managed to land five big Murray cod trolling the steep banks. The biggest of these was a ridiculously big fish at 125cm in length.

The cod don’t always come easy at Cooby and the smaller models have been quiet over the last few years. Big fish like this are usually rare but it just goes to show if you put in the time, sooner or later, a speckled monster will eat your lure.

Cooby is an electric motor only dam. Outboards can be left on boats but must not be used. Being relatively small, it’s 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

There has been a mix of species getting into the action at Leslie. Murray cod, golden perch, silver perch and catfish have been plentiful. The main basin has been one of the most reliable areas for lure and bait anglers.

Bait fishing with shrimp, saltwater yabbies and worms has been the way to score a mixed bag of fish. Silver perch and eel-tailed catfish prefer baits to lures. Try anchoring the boat in 5-8m of water. If you aren’t having any action after 15 minutes make a move and try a new spot. You don’t have to move far to make a big difference in the catch rate.

Lure fishers troll hardbodies in the basin and score golden perch and the occasional cod. If you slow the troll down and use an electric motor or a steady paddle in a kayak, you can try trolling lipless crankbaits. The TN60 Jackall has accounted for quite a few goldens and smaller cod over the last few weeks.

Jigging hard and soft vibes or small blades around the structure in deeper water is one of the best ways to score good numbers of fish. Locate rocks or old trees near the drop-off and you will be in with a very good chance of nailing bulk amounts of golden perch.

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 tom chase freshwater fish.

Closest Town: Inglewood

Golden perch and Murray cod are still biting well at Coolmunda. I saw pictures of at least three cod over a metre in length. I know that two of these cod fell to Kezza Lures while the other was caught on a spinnerbait. Most of the cod still come from surprisingly shallow water. The trees and laydowns in the timber produce some of these fish. It would also be worth a troll in the main basin around the drop-off to the old creek bed.

The deeper water of the basin and the drop-offs have held better numbers of golden perch. These fish will take a trolled lure but are sometimes hard to excite. If this is the case, switch to a blade bait and hop it across the bottom or vertically below the boat. The Ecogear ZX40 in dark night colour is one of the most popular lures for this style of fishing.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around one 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. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. The park now has an extra two new 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.

Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

There are plenty of bass, golden perch and redclaw crayfish to keep you busy at Boondooma. Trolling has been one of the easiest ways to catch fish. The fish have moved closer to the dam wall ,so try trolling the deep water and points of the main basin. Closer to the edges, you are more likely to encounter golden perch while the bass are often found holding out a little wider.

Lure casters will do well to cast spinnerbaits and tail-spinners to schooling fish or working the banks.

Live shrimp are the best bait by far and will catch both species. You can try the timber or the rocky points for golden perch. To specifically target bass, head to the deep water and sound them up. Try to suspend the live shrimp below the boat at the same depth the bass are schooling.

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 could 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

The fishing has been sensational at Bjelke with plenty of big golden perch and smaller bass to keep anglers happy. Trolling and casting spinnerbaits in 5m of water has been one of the best ways to score both species. Bass schools can be found in the top half of the dam around the edges and humps in the middle of the lake. These fish will take blade baits and tail-spinners hopped through the school.

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

Since reopening, the bass have been willing to play but the barra have been shy. I’ve heard several reports of quality bass from around the lake’s weedy edges. Bass to 40cm have been common with a few larger ones thrown in.

Usually a barra or two would make quick work of a bass lure but these fish have been elusive. One angler reported spooking a couple barra in the shallow water. Hopefully someone cracks a pattern for catching these fish soon.

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

Monduran Dam
Closest Town: Gin Gin

Monduran Dam has fired up over the last few months. Big fish to around a metre long are not uncommon with most between 80-90cm. Monduran is a massive lake, and the ratio of fish to water is pretty low when you consider its size. To narrow down the best spots, try to fish it after the wind has been blowing the same direction for a few days. The fish congregate in the backs of the bays the wind is pushing into.

Bird Bay and the northern and southern arm of ‘B’ are good spots to look. Bring up a Google map of the lake to see where the biggest bays are that the predominant wind will be blowing into. If the fish aren’t there, you won’t catch them. A quality sounder with side image is the most valuable tool for locating barra. A quick scan through the bays should show any fish holding around the base of trees or outside the weed edges.

When you locate the fish, pepper the area with casts. Soft plastics have been one of the most reliable lure types. We fished the lake and had excellent results on a new sinking barra swimbait I have been developing. Night sessions are more productive than fishing daylight hours. The fish seem hardest to catch during the middle of the day. We managed to hook nine fish at the end of November during a night session. I also heard of another boat that fished the same area the following night hooking over 20 fish for the session.

Rob Howell from Lake Monduran Guidelines Fishing Charters reported a few big barra caught from the main basin within sight of the dam wall. These fish started to school last month on some of the ridges in the basin. Lure trollers were first to catch a few of these fish, which measured up to around 110cm in length. Hopefully these fish hang around in the same areas for the next few months. If this is the case, some night trolling around the full moon will be definitely worth a try. Anglers who are able to pinpoint the better concentrations of these fish in one area should try hopping or rolling plastics and vibes through them.

Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

There are a few areas where the barra have been holding in good numbers. Side imaging sounders are showing good numbers of fish, it’s just a matter of putting in the time to locate the better spots. Finding barra on the sounder is definitely the way to go as the lake has been littered with fork-tailed catfish. These fish can be a pain when you have your sights set on barramundi so placing lures into known barra water is going to give you a much better chance.

Last year, Awoonga fired up around Christmas time and fished well for the first month of the year. The barramundi were coming from a few areas. The Iveragh arm, Gold Mine Point area and New Zealand Gully were some of the reliable areas.

With little in the way of rain to influence water level and quality, the weed beds have returned. Casting the edges of the most healthy weed beds in the main basin should see a few barra hooked. Soft plastics can be worked out from the edges of the weed with a steady retrieve or hopped out of the weed.

If catfish are plaguing lures, try to use a heavier weight plastic. These lures can be fished with a faster retrieve. A faster presentation can discourage the catfish, and at this time of year, when the water is warm, the barra go nuts over a bit of extra speed.

If you are keen to try to tackle some fish in the dam or river (after the 1 February), 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.

Closest Towns: Pinnacle, Mackay

Teemburra continues to fish well for barra. There have been a few big fish well over 100cm long mixed in with the average sized ones closer to the 80-90cm bracket. The points throughout the dam hold plenty of fish and once you stake out your spot, the side image on the sounder will soon tell you if the barra are there or not.

Casting soft plastics has been one of the most reliable ways to catch these fish. Some anglers swear by the black and gold 130mm Slick Rig. The fish will also take other plastics, hardbodies, vibes and swimbaits. It pays to try something different if there are a couple of anglers fishing from the same boat.

Closest Towns: Marian, Mackay

The low water level hasn’t stopped the barra from chewing. The barra are located around the healthier weed edges. When the water level falls it can kill off the weed so look for the lush green stuff. If the dam has a rise after rain, the same rules apply; look for healthier weed.

During the day, soft plastic frogs tossed around the healthy weed and lilies can be a lot of fun for the smaller fish. Barra around 80cm love a plastic frog rigged on a weedless jighead. I love the Owner 4/O weighted Beast Hook screwed into a Zoom Horny Toad and find the really wide gape give a better hook-up than some of the other hooks available. The occasional bigger fish can also be encountered in the weed using this approach and fish to almost a metre long aren’t uncommon.

Plastics worked down the edges of the weed will produce fish through the day. The Transam 95 vibe fished down the weed face is one of my favourites. As the lure touches the weed and fouls up, give it a solid rip to free it and continue working it down the weed. The ripping motion of fishing seems to excite the barra during the daylight hours.

Polarized sunglasses are necessary if you plan on fishing the weed edges during the day.

When the sun is up, study the shape of the weed and plan where to fish at night. Position the boat on the anchor a cast away from where you plan to fish. I like to pick a spot with several casting alleys from where the boat is positioned. Soft plastics have been one of the most reliable ways to entice the barra after dark.

Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

Plenty of barra have moved out into the main basin of the lake. This is the time of year, trollers do well working deep diving lures. A very popular spot for trolling is out from the dam wall. With the lower level this year, there are several old creek beds leading out of the timber that should also fish well. These areas can be trolled with Halco Crazy Deep lures, the deep diving Sebile Koolie Minnow 160 and similar lures that reach around 10m.

The barra have been mobile in the basin and have been hard to keep up with. You can find or catch one in an area only to find the fish are moving along quickly and gone when you return. There are staging areas where the fish rest for long periods of time and even though they are in rest mode, the right lure can get a response. Sinking a big soft plastic and rolling it though the fish is a good option if the fish won’t look at a trolled lure.

The edges will fish well earlier in the day with surface or shallow running lures like Laser Pros, X-Raps or surface walkers and poppers. Best results do tend to come from deeper water, and weed edges that end with a good drop-off to over 4m of water are worth prospecting. The main basin has plenty of good weed at the moment where the barra are cruising around.

If you are heading out to the dam make sure you call in at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. The staff there should send you in the right direction and help you nail the lake’s big fish. The store owner Lindsay Dobe runs charters on the lake and bookings can be made through the store on (07) 4945 4641 the highway through Proserpine and stocks all the barra gear you could possibly need.

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