Slow rolling spinnerbaits adjacent to the timber was the method for catching the timid bass.

Stuart River kayaking adventure

ENTHUSIASTIC at the prospect of kayak fishing for a variety of freshwater species and sharing some great times and experiences with good mates, we recently explored the upper reaches of Lake Boondooma thanks to Corey Goldie’s Pontoon Boat Charters.

Joined by Nigel Middleton, Garry Harman and Cody Haynes, who are renowned anglers in their own right, we set out on an exciting freshwater kayaking adventure up the Stuart River. Arriving at Lake Boondooma mid-afternoon, we noticed Corey had already docked the boat to the pontoon, waiting for our arrival.

Extremely excited to get going, it didn’t take too long to load up the boat with our fishing gear, swags, a bit of tucker and a couple of Eskies laden with a few cold beers. Soon enough and with a turn of the key the Runaway Bay Pontoon Boat powered by a 150hp Mercury outboard was on the plane.

Noticing how much gear we had on board, we were surprised by how well the boat performed and responded through the water. Within half an hour we were getting close to our destination and began to meander through the heavy timbered area of the Stuart River guided by a Lowrance HDS-12.

Throughout the weekend I was in awe of Corey’s experience in driving such a large vessel through the labyrinth of upright trees in the water, at times losing sight of the river amongst the dense timber. Surveying the river as the sun was setting we got our first glimpse of our campsite, which was a flat grassed area surrounded by undulating river sand dunes.

The boat banked hard to starboard after rounding a small island in the middle of the river, which marked where we would be pulling up stumps in the days ahead. Camping within the upper reaches of Lake Boondooma is strictly prohibited and can only be organised through Corey’s lake adventures because he has permission from private landholders to do so.

Within an hour our camp was erected, firewood was collected and our kayaks were set up in readiness to hit the water with what light we had left in what was already a great day. We decided to split up in pairs, heading up and downstream to explore the area and see if any fish in close proximity to the campsite were worth targeting the next day.

Unfortunately, each group was unsuccessful in luring a fish, however several short strikes from timid fish and a sighting of a saratoga slurping an unsuspecting insect off the surface gave us confidence for the following morning. Upon paddling back to camp, Nigel noticed a mob of pigs grazing on the luscious grass along the bank in a small gully.

He stealthily got almost within arm’s reach of them, and times like these brought back fond memories of fishing the western rivers along the Queensland/NSW border. Up early the following morning, we weren’t in any great rush to get on the water, instead enjoying a coffee and bacon and egg breakfast.

However the sound of insects and the glow of wings from fluttering bugs through the rising sun was just too hard to resist and soon we all headed downstream. Nigel and I had kayaks equipped with fishfinders, and with the lake sitting at 65 percent capacity at the time of our visit we found it hard to locate active fish feeding.

With recent rain falling within the catchment area there was a small flow and the water was filled with suspending sediment, which presented ideal conditions for targeting golden perch, however it was an Australian bass that Harmo caught on a spinnerbait in deeper water. It measured in the high-30cm range and we celebrated the first fish for the adventure.

We worked hard, paddling further downstream where we found fish stacked and racked on top of each other. They were suspended above and within a midwater thermocline in about 6m of water alongside the old creek bed. We cast various lure presentations at these suspended fish, picking off one or two bass but unfortunately we couldn’t crack a pattern.

So we decided to sneak into the timber where Nige noticed single fish sitting hard on the bottom. Using brown and bronze 1/2oz and 5/8oz spinnerbaits and letting them sink to the bottom beside the bases of the trees before retrieving fairly quickly was the successful method.

We soon regained faith in our abilities, capturing several fish prior to heading back to camp for a well-deserved rest and to find relief from the searing 30C-plus heat. It’s on days like this that wearing Sun2Sea FishCulture clothing as a primary barrier from the sun’s UV rays is extremely beneficial for keeping cool and protected. Sun2Sea Camo Tech Pants are a must for avid kayaking anglers.

Throughout the morning session we witnessed several saratoga swimming on the surface, however because they are mouth-brooding fish and it was their spawning season they were too hard to tempt with lures and this was no different during the afternoon. We concentrated on targeting bass and golden perch, finding confidence in sticking to those heavier spinnerbaits. My preference is for the TT Lures range of spinnerbaits while the other boys used similar lures from Bassman and SMAK.

Between us we were getting our fair share of fish. Most of the perch we captured were about 40cm in length and fought hard.
We could feel them knocking the timber below in an effort to elude their seizure yak-side. Cody was on a roll, catching a couple of good specimens.

Garry with an afternoon bass caught in the shadows of a rocky outcrop.
Garry with an afternoon bass caught in the shadows of a rocky outcrop.
Persisting with casting spinnerbaits, Nigel came up trumps when he landed this solid yella.
Persisting with casting spinnerbaits, Nigel came up trumps when he landed this solid yella.
Cody was all smiles after landing this golden perch. These fish go hard on light gear.
Cody was all smiles after landing this golden perch. These fish go hard on light gear.
The fish even took a liking to soft plastics.
The fish even took a liking to soft plastics.
Kayak express. The pick-up zone on the Stuart.
Kayak express. The pick-up zone on the Stuart.
Slow rolling spinnerbaits adjacent to the timber was the method for catching the timid bass.
Slow rolling spinnerbaits adjacent to the timber was the method for catching the timid bass.
Preparation is the key to a good session on the water.
Preparation is the key to a good session on the water.
One hell of a backdrop from the author’s campsite on the river.
One hell of a backdrop from the author’s campsite on the river.
Corey was fishing from the boat nearby and doing well also. The decision was made to take a few fish between us to cook up for dinner using Harmo’s secret herb and spice mix that Colonel Sanders would be proud of. As the sun set on another spectacular day, we headed back to camp, which took about 45 minutes of travel in very low light.

We then enjoyed a cold beer as we shared what had transpired during the day. Nothing beats a good campfire, and the friendly banter continued throughout the night, however it wasn’t long after filling our bellies with a good feed of fish that our body clocks told us it was time to get some shuteye to recharge the batteries for the day ahead.

Peering from the covers of my swag and gazing at the million glistening stars above, I pondered what I sometimes take for granted, thinking just how good it was to be out in the bush again. Sunrise the following morning didn’t disappoint, casting long shadows behind the highlighted trees in the river as the mist lifted through the blaze of orange from the sun.

Experiencing twitchy arms that were eager to get fishing again, we had a quick breakfast before packing up camp and heading down the river for what would be our last session. Saving the best location along the river for last, we enthusiastically tied on our preferred lures and because no one had really tried using soft plastics the whole weekend I thought I’d tie on a Z-Man 3” MinnowZ, which turned out to be a rewarding decision.

Although the fish were a little shut down, we were still remunerated for our efforts, catching about 12 fish between us within a couple of hours. It was an eventful weekend, with many bass and golden perch hitting the yaks, but most of all it was just great to get back to where our fishing passion originated: camping alongside a river.

The euphoria of being chartered to and from fishing hot spots just added another dimension to the experience, which was sensational.
Corey manages the campgrounds and kiosks of Lake Boondooma and Yallakool Caravan Park on Bjelke-Petersen Dam. Bookings for charters can be made through the kiosks for anglers keen to be guided onto some fantastic fish in both fisheries.

You can even customise a charter for avid kayaking anglers for a fishing and overnight camping experience like no other, similar to what we did. To catch up on the latest information from Corey’s charters, check out the Lake Boondooma and Yallakool Caravan Park Facebook pages or give Corey a call at the Lake Boondooma Caravan & Recreation Park on 07 4168 9694.

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About Dave Brace

Dave Brace

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