The jewel in the crown of the Bass to Barra Trail, Lake Awoonga is Queensland’s premier barramundi impoundment. Clean waters, the result of a largely undisturbed watershed, contain barramundi, mangrove jack, forktail catfish, redclaw, sooty grunter, saratoga, sleepy cod, mullet, bream and silver perch. It is the only water on the trail that does not require anglers to buy a Stocked Impoundment Permit.
It is truly magnificent: 50 sq km of lake surrounded by bush, featuring rivers and feeder streams set against the backdrop of Castletower National Park. The lake serves the domestic, industrial and recreational needs of the Gladstone region and features extensive and beautifully maintained facilities. Even better, it’s easy to find: just 6 km off the Bruce Highway about 28 km south of Gladstone.
Unlike many barramundi waters, there is no closed season, although from 1 November through to 1 February there is a bag limit of one barra in possession. The bag limit for the remainder of the year is five, although only one fish over 120 cm is allowed. Minimum size limits of 58 cm apply year-round. In Awoonga, this translates to a fish about a year old.
Stocking in the lake began in January 1996 and since then millions of fingerlings have been liberated. The barramundi are about 50 mm long when liberated, but grow at an astonishing 3 kg a year. An average Awoonga barra is about 95 cm long and weighs 15–16 kg.
I have visited Awoonga several times and fished with various anglers including local ranger Gary Wode, fish breeder Andrew Hamilton, houseboat operator Ross Peace and fishing guides Rod Harrison and John Mitchell. Each angler had a different perspective on how and where to hook barra.
On my first visit, the barra were working best in the evenings, feeding in about a metre of water among the light timber lining the many coves and bays along the southern shore. On other visits, the fish have been hanging deep, working the shallow grass area at the back of the lake or attacking baitfish in New Zealand Bay.
I have cast and trolled lures and seen fly-fishers do well. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter how you fish, just so long as your lure or bait is in the water.
Facilities include cabins, powered and unpowered camping sites, a licensed restaurant, kiosk, picnic facilities, tackle, hire boats and houseboats. The main boat ramp is at Ironbark Gully.