Lake Baroon – The Jewel in the Crown By Steve Bolin
How lucky am I to be living here on the Sunshine Coast in South East Queensland? Within a 25 minute drive north, south and west from my house there are three dams stocked with Australian native sports fish. Throughout the region there are also numerous sweet water creeks and streams, also alive with bass and other species. Ten minutes due east I have mangrove lined nurseries teeming with flathead, bream, whiting, trevally and mud crabs to name just a few; then another five minutes away the Pacific Ocean welcomes me with some of the world’s best fish on offer. All these places are yak friendly in the right conditions but the jewel of them all is Baroon Pocket Dam, always able to be fished regardless of the conditions.
Lake Baroon is situated on the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland about 40 minutes drive from Mooloolaba or 10 minutes from Maleny. It covers a surface area of 400 hectares and the average depth is around 15 metres with the deepest spots getting down to 45 metres. It dams Obi Obi Creek, which below the dam, flows down the range northwest to eventually join the Mary River near Kenilworth. The lake is relatively young with the dam only being completed in 1989. It filled in its first year after a good summer of rain.
There are two areas on opposite sides of the lake where you can launch your yak. The northern ramp is close to the dam wall and is nearest to the popular tourist town of Montville. The southern ramp is closest to the township of Maleny. At both ramps there are picnic areas including BBQs, undercover eating areas with tables and seats and great areas for the kids to play while dad or mum slips out for a fish.
Records from stocking groups reveal that over 85,000 bass, 45,000 golden perch and 6,500 Mary River cod fingerlings have been released into the lake since 1989. There are also spangled perch and eel tailed catfish that breed naturally in the dam. Since 1989 there have been numerous over flows of the dam and a lot of fish have gone over the dam wall to their freedom down through the Obi Obi Valley and into the Mary River.
Fishing Lake Baroon is patchy to good in winter and fantastic in the warmer months. I’ve personally caught catches of over a dozen legal bass in a session when they were really hungry, with all my colleagues with me at the time also scoring similar quantities. During winter,some of the best methods include targeting the edges and points with jig heads, spinner baits and chatter baits all working. Casting close to the bank and slow winding with the occasional twitch or two often gets that finicky fish frustrated and they strike your offering in anger. Hard bodies also do the job but it’s a pain having to remove the weed after every second cast, which cuts into your fishing time. I guess you could change your trebles to singles for a more snag free lure but for me spinner baits and plastics are the way to go. When the temperature warms up, the bass tend to school up in the deeper water during the middle of the day. Deep divers like RMG Scorpions and Jackal TN type hard bodies slow trolled will put you onto the fish if you don’t have a sounder. If you have your yak wired up with a sounder then dropping plastics, blades or ice jigs into the schools will get the job done.
The 50+ cm bass I have caught at Baroon have all been loners with just the one arch showing on the sounder. On occasion they have come from outside the sounder’s beam and smashed my lure scaring the crap out of me. The unexpected fish really gets the adrenalin flowing and trying to get a good photo after the fight is hard to do when your hands are still shaking from the rush. This is one of the main reasons why I love fishing so much, especially from the yak.These big girls must think like every other animal on this planet including us; once they get to certain age and size they don’t want to be hassled by the youngsters anymore and off they go and do their own thing!
The bass in Baroon don’t hang around in the one spot like other species, such as cod. They travel all around the impoundment looking for opportunistic feeds. I once captured a 38cm tagged fish down near the dam wall. When I got home and logged into the Suntag site with the tag number, I found it had been released a couple of kilometres away right up the other end of the lake and it had grown about one centimetre in just over a year. Where you find them one day doesn’t mean they will be there the next.
One fine day in February over 100 legal size bass up to the 45cm mark were caught and released by my mates and me in a three hour session that I can only describe as unbelievable. They were in a feeding frenzy that I have only ever seen once before and that was when an impoundment near Brisbane was opened up to fishing after a seven year closure. I was lucky enough to be there on opening day, but that’s another story. Back to Baroon and on this day the bass were smashing everything. I even tied on some very dodgy looking lure that was a freebie with a fishing magazine and I had painted myself. It was instantly smashed as well. I’m not sure why the fish were going troppo like it was their last day on the planet or their last ever meal but we all had a ball for a few hours with nonstop action aplenty.
The feeder creeks to the lake are also worth a look. At the southern end Obi Obi creek winds its way through some spectacular country. Steep rock walls on one side topped with thick bushland and gentle rolling hills on the other, that have been cleared for pasture for the beef and dairy industry, make the paddle up here easy on the eyes as well as being home to some nice fish. Along the rock walls there are lots of snags from fallen timber and having a lure retriever on hand is a must when you target this area. Further upstream in the shallows, casting plastics right into the weed on the edges and ripping them back out often gets you a hit.
On the western edge of the lake there is another feeder creek named Bridge Creek. Its entrance is guarded by a big stand of drowned trees, now dead and grey. Some of the trees would be 50-60ft tall out of the water and when you add the 30ft depth under you they are some big units. I have never had any luck up this creek but other people I know have… just have to try harder and keep casting I suppose. Mary River cod would surely habit this area with its hundreds of trees that you can see above the water and the hundreds of trees that are under the water creating a perfect home. Maybe their presence has scared the bass away? Remember the Mary River cod are totally protected.
All fish us Ol Fartz catch in the fresh are released to be caught again at a future date. If they are a worthy specimen they are quickly measured and photographed and then bragged about. No photo proof and it didn’t happen are our rules, and the ones you lose at the side of the yak don’t count either.
Lake Baroon is a hidden gem and often you can have the place to yourself if you’re there on a weekday. On most weekends you are usually still only sharing with just a few others.
All of us old Fartz are proud members of the local stocking group which manages this dam and also Ewen Maddock Dam. Recently both dams have been added to the Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme so you need to have a licence to fish them. In the near future when the licencing funds are distributed it will give our stocking group a welcome injection of money to add to our own fundraising efforts to purchase more fingerlings and keep the fish stocks at a healthy level. Our dams are building a reputation as some of the best freshwater sportsfishing destinations in Queensland, so we want to keep this intact. Remember that bass don’t reproduce in impoundments and they are only there because of stocking groups so support your local fish stockers wherever possible.