Impoundment fishing for native species in southern Queensland has enjoyed phenomenal growth and it all began at Lake Wivenhoe. Situated about 80 km west of Brisbane on the Brisbane Valley Highway, Wivenhoe has a surface area of about 108 sq km and an average depth of 11 m. This dam and the Brisbane River below offer superb fishing for anglers wanting to catch Australian bass and yellowbelly.
Wivenhoe was completed in 1983. More than one million native fish have been liberated there, and the lake regularly produces 4 kg- plus trophy bass (May–September) and big, pot-bellied yellowbelly (September–May). Local guide Gary Fitzgerald told me other stocked fish included silver perch, Mary River cod (Murray cod) and saratoga.
Lungfish were translocated to the Brisbane River in 1890 when it was thought they were on the verge of extinction. These creatures thrived in the river, and continue to do so in the dam. Anglers sometimes catch them, but lungfish are fully protected and must be released.
In recent years tilapia, banded grunter and redclaw crayfish have found their way into Wivenhoe. Tilapia, a declared noxious fish that rates as the Queensland carp, has become popular with anglers due to its table qualities.
Redclaw, originally native to the Gulf of Carpenteria drainage system, have multiplied to form the basis of a recreational activity that sees many folk expending more time and effort pursuing them than fish. Locals will argue that redclaw is the most scrumptious of all freshwater crayfish.
Anglers who prefer to fish rivers will find the narrow confines of the Brisbane River below Wivenhoe a viable alternative. Boat access is at Twin Bridges, about 6 km below the dam. In stark contrast to Wivenhoe, the river is almost claustrophobic, flanked by bottlebrush, casuarina and melaleuca trees. Beneath the surface, small fish and crustaceans provide food for the likes of Mary River cod, Australian bass, yellowbelly and tilapia.
The fishing technique on the lake is mainly trolling, working lures near weed beds, rocky points and drop-offs. River fishing is about working snags, drifting slowly while casting lures towards bank indentations, beneath low-lying, shady overhanging trees and to fallen trees. Start the retrieve as soon as the lure starts to disappear. If you let the lure sink too far you will hook on a snag and may lose the lure.
Boating on Wivenhoe is restricted to electric, paddle or sail. If you are running an electric, it pays to take extra deep-cycle batteries to ensure that you make it home. During the summer, the afternoon south- easterly breeze can turn the surface of the lake into white caps.
Boating access is restricted from daylight till dark, with all access gates locked at night. A South-East Queensland water boat permit is required for all trailer boats. Popular fishing spots include those known as Platypus Cliffs, Hamon Cove, Tulungra Inlet and Billies Bay.
Camping is permitted at ‘Captain Logan Camp’ and Lumley Hill: booking is essential at peak times and a camping fee applies. Toilets, barbecues, a public telephone, hot showers, playground, picnic tables, drinking water, limited firewood and a kiosk are provided.
Baitcasting and threadline outfits, with the reels spooled with 6 kg braid line, are popular for trolling and bait fishing. A 15 kg monofilament leader is standard for bass, as they have gill cutters.
Worms will account for the likes of yellowbelly, tilapia and even bass. Use a No. 10 to 2/0 medium shank hooks. You can fish on the bottom with a running sinker rig, or else flip an unweighted bait into the snags, let it sink and wait for the strike.
Lure fishers casting at snags will find spinnerbait lures a better option than bibbed minnows, as the former are less likely to snag on a branch. Soft plastic lures are popular for bass, as are Jackals and metal Vibes.