The closed season for barramundi in Queensland runs from November to February, but some of the best barra waters are exempt and this includes the fabulous Lake Proserpine, often called Peter Faust Dam, 26 km east of Proserpine. This 44 sq km lake is one of the jewels in Queensland’s fishing crown where, since 1996, barramundi, sooty grunter, sleepy cod and saratoga have been stocked.
To fish here you require a Stocked Impoundment Permit, which raises funds for more fish stocking. Permits are available at tackle outlets and post offices. Most anglers come to catch barra, which is what you would expect given that it has produced specimens to 30 kg. Make no mistake, the barra here are the stuff of piscatorial legends. Nowhere in Australia are so many ‘Holy Grail’ barramundi being caught, and in water that at best can be described as challenging.
The lake isn’t easy to fish. The northern side is littered with stands of dead trees and logs. On completion of the main dam structure, workers set about clearing the main basin, but while letting their chainsaws cool, enough rain pelted down to float the Ark. The result is a snag city.
Inexperienced anglers find the going tough, but the environment suits barramundi. On a big day in the snags, it’s common to bang the rod on a branch during a cast. It’s also usual to end up securing just one fish in five. Hooked barra may only need to run a rod length to haul you into the sticks. When they’re 10 kg, you can stop them dead and bring them thrashing to the surface, eyes crossed, jaws dislocated. However, when they’re 25 kg, the take is explosive, the run supercharged and you have about eight seconds to gain control.
Most of the main basin is as treeless as the Nullarbor. The Dam Wall and the Horse Paddock are deepwater locations suited to trolling. The fish can be the size of Shetland ponies, but among the open spaces, even the most inexperienced fish stay in the saddle. The trend for anglers new to the area – many a bit light-on when it comes to knowing barra – is to join the clusters of boats trolling the main basin. But the higher strike rate in the sticks is commensurate with the challenge. Short rods are better suited than long. Barra can be caught more than once, and can be just as inclined to rush to open water as plunge into the snags.