Fishing around Queensland…
Fishing. It’s a funny old game you know – it’s the single most popular hobby, sport and pastime in the world… by a long shot.
Every day people head out to ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans for pleasure, sport or survival to hook, net or spear a fish.
And everyone remembers their first fish. Mine came on a family holiday in the east of England, a 2.2lb European chub. Not a big fish by a long shot, but hugely memorable when you’re eight years old.
I still remember the snatch on the line, the accelerated heart beat (mine), the game of tug and war that went on until finally the invisible force materialised as a splash on the water’s surface.
I’ve never been good at it but, from the first, I was hooked!
Dotted throughout Queensland are stunning inland lakes, lots of them – and where there’s water, there’s usually fish. This week I escorted six fishing journalists on a dream trip through Central Queensland on the Bass to Barra trail.
Our first stop is near the town of Gin Gin. At 4am we roll out of our beds. Apparently fish prefer to do things early in the morning. Very early.
We arrive at Lake Monduran, the first of our freshwater locations, as the eastern horizon is turning tangerine. Our guides are waiting at the lake’s edge, tinnies beached on the bank – that’s an aluminium-hulled boat to anyone not from Australia – engines purring quietly away.
This is ‘Barra-Country’ – home to the elusive barramundi, one of Australia’s finest table eating fish and, whilst we won’t be taking any away with us, barra are one of the best fish to try and hook as they’re prone to jumping and eating lures. In these parts, the bass fishing is pretty good too.
Lake Monduran Holiday Park sits on the banks of the dam. Rob Howell runs the place with cosy cabins and camping available, and there’s also barra charter boats should you feel the need to give-it-a-go yourself. The moment reminds me of the infamous Bubba Gump Shrimp Company scene in the Forest Gump movie… except here you can eat barra, chat about barra, barbecue your barra, fish for barra or enter a competition to bag the biggest barramundi. If fishing isn’t your bag, there’s plenty of water to indulge in a spot of kayaking, canoeing or swimming.
Two years ago the dam was only 7 per cent full. This year it’s up to 107 per cent, which means the scenery is spectacular and there are plenty of arms, bays, rocky ledges and flats, so a little local knowledge on where the fish are biting can go a long way. Cruising about the still waters, winding our way through the dead tree stumps and skirting along the near-full dam heightens the anticipation. I learn to cast pretty quickly, cleverly dropping my lure at the edge of lily pads and by submerged stumps, right where the barra hang out.
Monduran has a reputation for being hard, but rewarding, work and in four hours of fishing I fail to catch a barra. A couple of slimy catfish yes, but the barra remains elusive… well, for me anyway. That’s part of the fishing game and makes me more determined to grab some mates, some Squidgy Slick Rigs (we’re told they’re built for barra and bass and the fish love chewing them) and my Environet and come back so I can brag about bagging a Monduran monster.
We finish up and drive onto our next location, Lake Cania, 90 minutes away from our previous spot and around 37km north west of Monto. The motivation continues enroute “you’ll catch something here for sure”. Let’s see.
Cania Gorge is home to some stunning scenery, the eucalypt sandstone hillsides are cut into by the rivers creating towering lookouts and deep gorges. The lake is rumoured to be over 300m deep in places and sits on the banks of Three Moon Creek, a tributary of the Burnett River.
Here, you can fish from shore or take to the boat. There’s no barra – you can hook them at nearby Callide or Awoonga – but Cania is a top spot for those waiting to bag saratoga, Australian bass (the other hero fish on this trip), golden perch, silver perch, spangled perch, eel-tailed catfish and snub-nosed garfish amongst others. It’s also one of the reasons the boys from The Australian Fishing Championships picked this spot for a round of intense competition.
A scorching afternoon on the water is amply rewarded with a bounty of fish for all of us. I totally lost count of how many tiny spangled and silver perch I caught, but it felt SO good to be successful for once. There’s no mobile reception, so it’s important to keep the mobile charged to take plenty of pictures to keep for posterity.
We retired to the comfort of BIG 4’sCania Gorge Caravan Park for the night exchanging stories of “the big one that got away”. I’m feeling more like a fisherman every day!
Our final day of freshwater fishing is another short drive through the green central Queensland countryside to Biloela and Lake Callide. The local fish stocking community have turned out to host us for the day. Again, you don’t need a boat to fish these parts and anglers report good success fishing the banks. As for us, we launch a mini flotilla and the locals whisk us out onto the water to test our luck. Three tinnies depart and four hours later three tinnies return….with tall stories of the ones that got away.
But we’re not empty handed. Red claw is abundant in these here parts so it’s well worth placing some tagged traps to catch these beauties. These interesting little critters closely resemble crayfish and are particularly easy to catch, if you have the right equipment. Our host, Kev Banks from Creek2Coast Tackle, laid his traps a few days ago and as we haul them up lunch begins to materialise.
Fishing in the heat of the midday sun definitely helps work up an appetite and red claw is on the menu cooked with plenty of garlic, ginger and chilli.
We’ve all tried our luck against the freshwater fish of central Queensland with varying degrees of success. But you can’t expect the world from a whistle-stop tour and, if fishing has taught me anything, it’s the art of having patience. Plus, this trip has given me the chance to learn an entirely new ‘manly’ vocabulary:
- “I can see colour” = The moment a hooked fish appears for the first time.
- “Had a couple of follows” = Caught nothing.
- “Lost it on the reef” = Had a bite, but lost it.
- “You little ripper” = Got one!
My next blog is coming very soon and this time we hit the “bluewater” – that’s “the ocean” for the uninitiated!
Until then, Ben