Author: Nige Webster
With stocked barramundi impoundments starting near Maryborough and running all the way up to Cairns, as well as out near Queensland’s centre at Mt Isa, there are plenty of places to try your luck.
Impoundment barra are a year-round possibility but they are much easier to catch throughout certain months of the year. Nearly all of the lakes will fish at their best once the water begins to warm in spring and before it gets hot in summer. The warming water in spring draws the fish up into shallower areas. In the hotter summer months, the barra spend shorter periods in the shallows and stage out in deeper water where they are more comfortable. If you hope to catch one by casting lures to the edges, plan a spring trip. If you want to mix it up and try the deeper water with vibes, deep plastics or trolling then plan to hit the lake around the hotter months.
If I had to choose a time of year as my favourite, it would be a few day either side of the full moons in October and November. We hear it all the time, ”barra bite best on the full moon.” For night time fishing this can often be the case with most fish caught after sunset. Most anglers choose to hit the water later in the afternoon around 3 or 4 pm and settle in their chosen spot waiting for the action to start after dark when the fish move up on shallow points or weed edges to feed. The bite time can change from day to day. This is a result of the moon being about an hour later to rise each day. Despite dams having no visible signs of being tidal, gun barra anglers make sure they are in prime spots around the turn of the tide in the saltwater nearby. This trick can help put more fish in the boat both during the night and day.
Prior to the full moon, the moon will set before the sun rises and this can also be a good period to fish. Due to concentrated efforts around the afternoon/night session, most anglers will be off the water and tucked up in bed. Once things go dark, listen for boofing fish feeding on the surface and stealthily move into their feeding area. As a hint of light glows on the horizon ensure you are positioned in a likely spot and casting your favourite lure.
Night Time Fishing
Not all fishing needs to take place at night but often the best bite period will take place under the cover of darkness. Rather than move around in the dark, it is advised that you anchor on a chosen spot and watch the sounder closely to see if barra are swimming through. If you do see fish, you definitely want to be casting. Position the boat in 2 to 5 m of water and deliver casts to the weed edge or exposed points. Barramundi should be seen on the sounder’s side image as they swim by. Pick out your night time spots during the day. A GPS is invaluable for this as you can quietly return to your different marks at night without too much trouble. I love choosing spots in the middle of the day in weedy lakes. With sun overhead you can spot all the holes and points in the weed formation. A good anchoring spot should have several casting locations where fish are likely to move through or come to feed. I even look at the surrounding trees or horizon so I have a reference for where to cast once things get quite dark. You don’t want to be working this out by trial and error when you can barely see your hand in front of your face.
Once the moon is up, it’s surprising just how much you can see. Keep lights in the boat to a minimum. Once eyes are adjusted to the dark it’s best to keep it that way until you’re really in need of some added brightness. Fishing in the dark adds a bit more danger to a relatively safe pursuit. Ensure your navigation lights are in working order. Always carry a head torch or hand torch in case they fail and for general work around the boat. LED light bars are so cheap nowadays thus a lot of boats have them fitted up front to spot any hazards while on the move. Wear your safety lanyard while on the move in case you are tossed from the boat (at least you’ll have a chance to swim back to it and have something to hold onto). And if you are fishing with a mate, remember he is there for company not to embed a heavy-duty hook into the side of his face. Be aware of your surroundings!
Anchoring in the Right Spot
Having a boat or kayak is a big help to access the best fishing grounds. Some barra impoundments like Awoonga, Proserpine and Monduran can require travelling some distance so a boat is definitely an advantage. The open water on these dams can get rough so a boat of at least four metres is recommended. In lakes like Lenthalls, Kinchant and Teemburra, the action is close by and you can get into fish from a smaller boat or kayak.
How do you pick the right spot to fish?
It’s pretty simple to choose a good spot. Look for points or bays that have plenty of wind blowing onto them. The more prominent the point, the better it will be. Think of it like this: even if the barra aren’t coming to the point you are fishing to feed, they will need to migrate around it from one bay to another. This increases the traffic flow by funnelling the fish through that particular area. If you can find a shallow fishy looking location with deep water nearby, the fish can move from the deep up into the shallows easily when they are ready to dine. The wind creates oxygen and attracts bigger numbers of baitfish to the area. Sometimes even a dirty water line will be present from the wave action and this provides the ideal ambush zone for predators.
Anchoring in the wind can pose some problems. A sand anchor with a decent chain will suffice when there isn’t a lot of wind. If there is a lot though, these anchors tend to drag through weed and the build-up makes them useless. The boat rocks up and down with the wave action and the boat keeps drifting right over the area you want to fish. To counteract this, I add a 10 kg plonk to the front of my anchor chain. My plonk is a lump of lead with a short length of chain in it. You could use a heavy lump of steel which is compact enough to carry in the boat.
Barra, especially the bigger models, are a tough fish. They require a quality reel with a good drag because once hooked they do peel line. You want at least two outfits ready to rumble just in case one fails. A wind knot at precisely the wrong time in the hot bite window will cost fish, so the more rods at the ready, the better.
Spin rods are great for delivering soft plastics or for those not accustomed to a baitcast reel. Opt for a rod around 7’ with a rating of 5 to 10 kilograns. This should be fitted with a 4000 size reel filled with 20 to 30 lb braid. Always top this off with a leader of 60 to 80 lb fluorocarbon. Leaders don’t need to be long; 60 cm will do but always start with around double this. It doesn’t take long for lure changes to eat up leader length when loop knots are being tied. A baitcast setup is ideal for tossing hardbodies. Even a heavier swimbait style setup is worth considering for punching out long casts with heavier plastics and hardbodies. These reels should feature 30 to 50 lb braid and again be topped off with a 60 to 80 lb leader.
So just how much gear do you need to successfully catch one of these prized barramundi? To be honest you could try your luck with one outfit and one pack of lures and succeed on many occasions. Fish though, dictate what they want to eat and therefore you will need to front up with a selection of tackle and a couple of rods if you are taking the challenge seriously. Make sure you have something like this in the boat:
- Deep trolling hard - Halco Scorpion 125 or 150 8 m Crazy Deep
- Shallow casting hard - Bomber 15A Heavy Duty 11.9cm
- Deep casting hard - Jackall Squirell Super Double Deep 115mm
- Top water hard - Zerek Skittish Dog 115mm
- Plastics: 5 to 6” - Molix Shad 140mm
- Soft vibe - Jackall Transam 95
- Weedless plastic - Zman 6’ Swimmerz and Owner 6/0 Weighted Beast Hook
- Weedless top water plastic - Zman 4’ Frogz and Gamakatsu 4/0 Worm EWG HW Hook
BCF have a wide range of Barra Lures & Reels for you to choose from that'll help you land that cracker fish.
Sunscreen, bug repellent, hat, mutiscarf, big landing net, pole lure retriever, lights, waterproof jacket, camera, brag mat, pliers (long pointy nose) and refreshments. I highly recommend Dri Screen sunscreen as it's super effective and doesn't repel fish.
Top Barra Locations
- Location: Around 20 km north of Maryborough on the Bruce Highway, turn left onto the unsealed road into the forestry. Follow the signs 10 km to the dam. A word of warning though, this road can be rough and corrugated so take caution.
- Size: 28400 ML, 766 ha
- Fishing options: An easy lake for kayakers as it has long protected arms which make it look more like a big river than a lake. Boats are limited to 60 hp outboards and must have 4-strokes or low emission 2-strokes.
- The lake has plenty of weed beds and water lilies. These fish well with weedless plastics. It is best known however for its excellent surface fishing. Walk the dog style stickbaits are ideally cast around the shoreline of this lake. Most fish are smaller models but there are some bigger class fish still in this lake. The warmer months are best here. Try between October and April for the best action.
- Lure selection: Duo Realis Pencil 85mm, Zman Swimmerz 4”and Gamakatsu 4/0 Worm EWG HW Hook
- Accommodation/camping: Short stay camping of up to 3 days/2 nights is permitted. The maximum number of campers at any one time is 18 plus up to 6 self-contained camper vehicles that have waste storage facilities. The number of campers is limited to the capacity of the on-site sewage treatment facilities to protect the main drinking water source of Hervey Bay. Burrum River Caravan Park has comfortable accommodation and is located a 35 minute drive away from the lake. Head north on the Bruce Highway. For bookings call 1800 649 721.
- Nearby supplies: BP Torbanlea (20 minutes north on Bruce Highway)
- More information: www.frasercoast.qld.gov.au/wbw-camping-and-recreation
- Location: Around a 25-minute drive north of Gin Gin. All sealed bitumen roads and well signed.
- Size: 562000 ML, 5340 ha
- Fishing options: Monduran features an abundance of shoreline so look for the bays where the wind is pushing into. Stable weather with a predominant and predictable wind is best. Soft plastics work well in the warmer months and at night.
- Smaller suspending hardbodies excel when it is cooler and during the day. Monduran, despite being so far south, is a great year-round fishery. The key is to pick the warm sunny days with a wind that is predominantly blowing from the one direction. Line up several of these in a row and the barra become more predictable and bunched up in better numbers in the bays that the wind is feeding into.
- Gear selection: 50 lb baitcaster and 30 lb spin rod
- Lure Selection: Jackall Squirrel Super Double Deep 115mm, Zerek Live Mullet 5.5in,Molix Shad 140mm
- Accommodation/camping: Powered and unpowered sites, cabins and a holiday house are available through Lake Monduran Holiday Park. You can even book a fishing charter, hire boat or house boat through the kiosk (07) 4147 3881.
- Nearby supplies: The kiosk has basic supplies including tackle suited to the lake. Within a 30 minute drive, Gin Gin has 24 hour fuel, pubs, and a supermarket.
- More Information: www.lakem.com.au
- Location: Near Gladstone turn off the Bruce Highway at Benaraby and head out to the lake.
- Size: 770000 ML, 6750 ha
- Fishing options: A big open lake, Awoonga is best suited to boats over four metres. It is a huge expanse of water and the best fishing lies around the main basin and the smaller arms which run off it. Try fishing the weedy edges with soft plastics and surface lures. The deeper trees in the main basin of the lake can also hold good fish. Try casting suspending lures to the spindly tree tops and hold on.
- Gear selection: 20 lb spin gear and 50 lb baitcast outfit
- Lure selection: Jackall Squirrel 79mm Hank Tune, Samaki Vibelicious 100mm, Squidgie Slick Rig 130mm
- Accommodation/camping: Camping and cabins are available at the Lake Awoonga Caravan Park and there is a kiosk on site (07) 4975 0155. The Awoonga Gateway Lodge is just off the highway and has modern style cabins which cater perfectly to an angler’s needs. They can be reached on (07) 4975 0033.
- Nearby supplies: Hire boats are available through Lake Awoonga Boating and Leisure Hire 0457 929 889. Fuel and basic supplies can be sourced in Benaraby (15 minutes from the dam). For important things like beer, KFC, and a supermarket, head back south and turn off to Tannum Sands (25 minutes).
- Location: An easy 40-minute drive west of Mackay.
- Size: 62800 ML, 920 ha
- Fishing options: This round shaped lake is one of the easier barra impoundments to work out. It only has a handful of predominant points and no standing timber. The edges are often lined with weed beds and lilies but fluctuating water level due to irrigation can cause the weed to die off at times. After a rise in the wet times, the weeds are quick to re-establish.
- Barra can be caught in the bay directly below the camp ground, making it easy to slide in a kayak for an early morning or late afternoon session. Boats are still preferred and it can get very busy at night around the full moon. Ensure all your lights are working for safety and if fishing from a kayak have some sort of light fitted so boats can see you.
- The weed is home to plenty of fish; making this a great lake to skim weedless rigged frogs across the top. Weedless plastics fished sub-surface can also perform well. At night more fish will move around the outside of the weed edges. These fish can be caught on soft plastics and soft vibes. Pick a likely spot, anchor up and wait for them to move through.
- Gear selection: 20 lb spin outfit
- Lure selection: Zman 4’ Frogz and Gamakatsu 4/0 Worm EWG HW Hook, Jackall Transam 95
- Accommodation/camping: Kinchant Waters Resort has plenty of camp sites and some basic cabins and dongas. They are nothing flash but quite affordable. The office doubles as a public bar where meals are served five nights a week. Bookings can be made by calling (07) 4954 1453.
- Nearby supplies: The closest town with supplies is Marian (15 minutes). It has a pub and fuel station but only a general store. If you are after a bigger grocery store head back to Walkerston (20 minutes).
- More Information: www.mackayregion.com
- Location: Turn west from the Bruce Highway at Proserpine and continue through the cane fields for 25 minutes to reach the lake.
- Size: 491400 ML, 4325 ha
- Fishing options: Proserpine is a massive open lake with many fishing options and currently renowned as Queensland’s best big barra impoundment. Close to the ramp, and very popular from October to January is the trolling run out in front of the dam wall. Deep diving lures trolled out in the open water account for plenty of fish throughout the day as well as morning and evening. This area can be accessed by smaller boats and kayaks as it is sheltered from the predominant winds.
- Heading across the lake, you will find Proserpine Point which is always worth a night time fish. A little further and you will enter kilometres of dead standing timber. Inside this the barra hold on points and stage in deeper areas where they move up onto nearby flats. A quality sounder is very important to find fish inside this jungle. Resting fish will also be found in the deeper water of the old river and creek beds which wind through the timber. The morning is a good time to cast deeper hardbodies into the tree tops lining these creeks and allow them to float back several times trying to wake the barra up. At times the lake has healthy weed beds and when this is the case, barra are never far away.
- Gear selection: 30 lb spin outfit and 50 lb baitcast setup
- Lure selection: Halco Scorpion Crazy Deep, Classic Barra 120mm 10’, Squidgie Slick Rigs 130mm, Zerek Skittish Dog 115mm.
- Accommodation/camping: Camping is not allowed at the dam but there are sites and donga style accommodation available at Lions Camp Kanga which is only a few kilometres away. Bookings are essential to guarantee a spot (07) 4947 2600. Proserpine has several accommodation options including caravan parks and motels. One well suited to catering for fishing boats is the A & A Motel just opposite Barra World on the highway (07) 4945 1888.
- Nearby supplies: Proserpine (25 minutes) has everything you will need including fishing tackle, supermarkets, pubs, fuel and fast food.
- More Information: www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au/peter-faust-dam
STOCKED BARRA LAKE’S FISHING RULES
A closed season applies outside of stocked waters every year from midday 1 November to midday 1 February. A take and possession limit of one barramundi applies during the closed season in all of the lakes and dams mentioned below. The barramundi may be greater than 120 cm.
Recreational fishers may continue to fish in the listed dams and lakes once they have reached their limit of one barramundi. Outside of the closed season, in the dams and lakes mentioned below, a take and possession limit of five applies to barramundi that may include one barramundi greater than 120 centimetres. The minimum size for keeping a fish is 58 centimetres.
Aplins Weir (also includes Black Weir and Gleeson Weir)
Awoonga Ben Anderson Barrage (also includes Paradise Dam, Claude Wharton Weir, Jones Weir and Wuruma Dam)
Burdekin Falls Callide
Fred Haigh (Lake Monduran) Kinchant
Peter Faust Teemburra
Tinaroo Wuruma Dams
Lake Fred Tritton Lake Gregory (Isis Balancing Storage)
Lake Morris (Copperlode Falls Dam) East Leichhardt Dam and Belmore
Corella Julius and Moondarra Lakes
Reaching your destination and settling in with all the right gear and some idea of what to expect will see you in with a good chance of success. Still, barra fishing can be frustrating and at times when they just don’t want to play the game. Make sure you visit your local BCF before you head off. You can find your local with the store locator on the BCF website. With 2-hour click and collect, you can snag your barra supplies before you head away. Chartered fishing trips are a great option to speed up the learning process. Guides fish the lakes regularly and can take you straight to fish and hopefully help you achieve your goal.
Impoundment barra are one of my favourite fish to chase. They can be ridiculously frustrating to tempt one minute and biting every cast the next. A metre-plus of chrome belting your lure and then dancing across the surface is as good as it gets. Hard work from stocking groups has truly created world-class fisheries. Big numbers of fish all stuck behind a dam wall with no tides, no saltwater and no crocs. It’s an angler’s paradise. The fish are there and waiting, all you need to do is start planning your own barra adventure.