Fishing South East Queensland's Freshwater

BRISBANE RIVER BASS

by

Gary "Fitzy" Fitzgerald

The lure landed with a loud plop just next to a snag that was angling down into the water. Directly over head was a mixture of bottle brush and mulberry tree blocking out the early morning sun. As the water settled and the rings dissipated I twitched the lure once, then twice as the anticipation and excitement of the surface strike that was just about to happen. The lure was then slowly retrieved the 30 odd feet back to the old canoe without so much of a nudge. The next few throws resulted in the same response as the first, with the melody of a kookaburra in the background laughing it seemed directly at me.

The area had changed a bit since the last visit to the spot on the upper Brissy River, but with a few decent flows through the system earlier in the year the fish could be holding anywhere. This particular location had yielded plenty of bass last summer right up to the closed season but this time the section of water that normally held good numbers of fish was barren. Following this section along until it widened out to a broad stretch of river a well presented cast was snaffled right next to the first snag in the deeper water.

We had found a large school of all 40-cm plus bass holding close to the bottom in 20 feet of water. In previous years a legal sized bass would be an above average fish but the thing stripping off line was in a different class all of it's own, causing both my partner and I to both call it as a forky. Pulling it along side of the canoe it became obvious that this 40 something cm bass was not one of the remnant population of fish that are normally here.

HISTORY
Since all the rain in February/March this year and the subsequent opening of the floodgates at Lake Wivenhoe, a fair number of fish stocked into Wivenhoe and Somerset now reside in the 60 kilometres of river down to the tidal reaches near Ipswich. Fish up to and over the magical 60 cm mark have and still are being caught along this section of the Brissy to the point where even inexperienced young fishos can go out and get amongst them without too much effort. These large fat females are used to plenty of food in their old environment and are now more than happy to have a go at anything that swims past them as food is a lot scarcer for them now. Catches of up to 20 and 30 in a session are common place around the areas where public access is allowed, namely down stream from the Mt. Crosby weir.

It must be noted that there is a total ban on fishing 200m above and 400m below Mt. Crosby weir, which is approximately down to the old weir. This should possibly be extended further downstream as bass are schooling up just below the old weir (which the fish have trouble getting through as well as the main weir) and it would be quite fair to say that an unfair advantage exists for fisherman in this situation. The same can be said for the section of water directly below Lakes Wivenhoe and Somerset where a few people have been caught exceeding their bag limit.

As a lot of the stocked bass in the upstream lakes have been originally bred from Noosa River strain fish it would be fair to say that there is and/or will be a mixed gene pool of fish here. And as Noosa bass tend to spawn earlier than most other strains the question begs to be asked if the two strains will be in the same place at the same time come next spawning season. There well may be some remnant fish here that have grown to these sizes but to give you some indication of growth rates a bass in the river may take eight to ten years to reach the legal size of 30 cm, a bit over 12 months in lake Wivenhoe will see the same size achieved.

It must be remembered that bass have been stocked into lakes on regular basis for over 10 years now. It seems that not all of these liberated fish are reverting to their natural riverine habits. Many are being found schooling up in the deeper sections of the river some in open water all day and at night. Wild bass tend to stay under the cover of overhanging trees and around submerged logs during the day and venture out to hunt in the open water and shallows at night. Some things noted on some of these bigger fish were sores, cuts and a few split tails, further evidence of their passage through the floodgates.

LOCATIONS
There are several access points to the upper Brisbane River available to the public with all other access, permission is required by landowners for entry. These are: 1- Lake Wivenhoe spillway common (when open) This area is being reviewed to make it a no fishing zone. 2- The Bends on the road between Fernvale and Lowood. 3- Twin Bridges. This is the old river crossing west of Fernvale on the Brisbane Valley Highway, a popular starting point for camping canoeing trips down the river. 4- Savages Crossing. Popular camping spot. 5- Burton's Bridge. 6- Kholo Bridge. (No further public access is allowed between Kholo bridge and Mt. Crosby weir) 7- Mt Crosby weir. (No fishing 200m above and 400m below main weir) 8- College's Crossing. Ipswich. Tidal flows through this area. Popular picnic and canoeing area. A boat ramp exists but is for canoe use only. Kiosk and toilet facilities. 8- Kookaburra park. Karana Downs. Tidal. A popular skiers area. All upstream boating is limited to six knots maximum. Upstream travel from here can be hazardous around Johnson's Rocks. Use extreme caution. Toilets. Bass can be caught at all these locations with relative ease depending on weather patterns and water flow.

Bream, Flathead, Tarpon and Sharks are common captures at College's Crossing and Kookaburra Park at certain times of the year. Other species present are Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Mary River Cod, Saratoga, Mullet, Spangled Perch, Eel Tailed Catfish (Jew), Fork Tailed Catfish, Eels, Snub Nosed Gar, Tilapia and Lungfish which are totally protected. Some of the country along the upper Brisbane River is in pristine condition. Platypus, snakes and birds are a common sight in some of the quieter areas. Please leave this river as it was before your visit and future generations may also enjoy the beauty and quality fishing that is on offer.

REMEMBER TO
LIMIT YOUR CATCH
DON'T
CATCH YOUR LIMIT!

Fitzy

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