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Brisbane River Bass Fishing - Lake Wivenhoe to Bremer River Junction

THE lure landed with a splash just a bit louder than what I would have prefered but landed nicely just next to a snag that was angling down into the water. Directly over head a mixture of bottle brush and mulberry tree and a higher canopy of river gums were blocking out the early morning sun. Everything seemed perfect for a big season openning session.

The water looked great, perfect weather & two keen anglers. 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 I was sure was just about to happen. The lure was then slowly retrieved the 30 odd feet back to the rod tip 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 Mid Brisbane River offers some beatiful scenery

The area had changed a bit since the last visit to the spot on the Mid-Brisbane 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 at this time the section of water that normally held good numbers of fish was barren.

The Author with an average Brisbane River Bass Following the once plentiful section of river along until it widened out to a broad stretch of deeper, slower moving river, a well presented cast was snaffled right next to the first snag in a cast that was simply lucky enough to get in under the overhanging trees and make it to that lazy backwater they were hiding.
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 (30cm) would be an above average fish but the thing stripping off my 6 pound line was in a different class all of it's own, causing both my partner and I to both call it as a fork tailed catfish. Pulling it along side the boat it became obvious that this mid 40 something cm bass was not one of the remnant population of fish that are normally here. A 30 minute frenzy of cast, catch & release prevailed until the fish got wise to us and we moved on in search of more action.
With the heavy rains in the summer of 1999/2000 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.
Lake Wivenhoe in flood

Savages Crossing - Fernvale

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.
*Note 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 around 15 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.

The Brisbane River is roughly formed into three sections.
The Lower-Brisbane River being the tidal reaches from the mouth upto below Mt Crosby Weir.
-The Mid-Brisbane River is approximately 60 km from Mt Crosby Weir upto Lake Wivenhoe.
-The Upper-Brisbane River is from the top of Lake Wivenhoe at O'Sheas Crossing right up to the headwaters meandering through the Esk Shire up past Linville.
Apart from the lower reaches, access is possible at numerous bridges, culverts and reserves both in the mid & upper reaches if the river. While boating is possible, these two small-water sections of the river a best explored by canoe or kayak. There are many pristine sections of the river that probably haven't changed much since Capt. Logan first explored this great river.

There are several access points to go fishing on the mid & lower 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 has a no fishing zone extending 600m from the base of the dam wall. Reasonable bank access here. About a 50m walk from the carpark to the water. Suitable starting point for a canoe/kayak trip. Gates are locked here at sundown. No camping. Canoeing this great river is the best way to get to the best fishing spots

2- Shines Road. Wivenhoe Pocket. The river can be accessed via the road / recreation reserve at the end of Shines Rd. This is not recomended as a river access point as there is a very steep hill to negotiate and a sheer drop off at water level. No facilities provided.

3- Harpeng Road. This is probably one of the most important access point to the mid Brisbane River. Since the 1940s this has been a popular access point for family recreation activities, canoeing, fishing and swimming. It offers gently sloping banks and shallow water; the only safe canoe launching point from the log jam upstream. Until recently boats could be launched here to be able to access the long holes upstream, however some over zealous local land owners have fenced the road reserve blocking the long time access to boats, thus canoes / kayaks are currently the only viable option unfortunately. The main flow of the river goes via the anabranch on the opposite site of the privately owned island. The anabranch narrows up here & the water velocity increases as it approaches a massive log jam. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO KAYAK DOWN THE ANABRANCH AS IT IS VERY DANGEROUS. To get past this dangerous log jam you need to portage along the shingle crossing at the Harpeng Road reserve. No facilities provided.

4- The Bends on the road between Fernvale and Lowood. This spot is immedaitely off the road between Fernvale & Lowood. A steep dirt track leading down to the water is suitable for 4x4s only. Limited bank walking area. A good canoe launching site. No facilities to speak of.

5 - 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. Small boats can be launched both above & below the bridges with care. Camping is allowed & can be a popular location on weekends. Toilets are provided on both sides of the river. Small boats can fish with due care.

6- Savages Crossing. Popular camping spot. This spot is right in the middle of shallow rapids. A good swimming location & fairly safe for kids. It is possible to launch a small boat here, however there is little navagable water with more serious rapids immediately above and below. Large area for bank walking however not a very productive fishing location at most times.

7- Burton's Bridge. A small access spot. Virtually impossible to launch a boat here. Canoes can be carried down yo to the waters edge. Long, shallow fast water immediately below the bridge make paddling back up difficult.

7a - There is also occasional access a couple of kilometers downstream via private property. Depending upon the recent form of visitors, public access may be allowed or denied. A good stretch of bank that holds the occasional fish. No vehicle access now-a-days so its a couple hundred meters walk to the river when public access is allowed. A section of the river only accessible by canoe

8- Kholo Bridge. (No further public access is allowed between Kholo bridge and Mt.Crosby weir) A popular swimming location for Ipswich locals. Usually the pick-up point for (normally 2 days unless you're Grant Kenny) river long canoe/kayak trips.

9- Mt Crosby weir. (No fishing 200m above and 400m below main weir). Some good fishing downstream at times. The Old weir approx 800- 1000m below the main weir is disused but has a 50m no fish zone on the dowstream side. Further down are mid-stream boulders that hold fish at times. Alot of area for bank walking and canoeing. A short paddle of less than an hour will see even a novice paddler arrive at Colleges Crossing. Toilets on west bank side near weir and at nearby cricket field. No fishing 400m below & 200m above Mt Crosby Weir.

10- 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. A regular haunt for anglers chasing gar, mullet, bull sharks and the occasional bream and bass.

11- 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.

Garry Fitzgerald

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