by Dayne Taylor •
Lake St. Clair, or Glennies Creek Dam as it is also known as, can be found nestled among the undulating foothills of the Mount Royal Range, approximately 30 minutes’ drive from Singleton, in the Hunter Valley.
The dam’s main purpose is to supply water for irrigation, and for the township of Singleton. But thanks to NSW DPI Fisheries and local fishing clubs, there has been an ongoing fish stocking program in place. Their efforts have made for some fantastic recreational fishing opportunities to be had by both kayakers and boaters alike.
There’s no sugar coating it: the dam is fairly secluded and out of the way. However, you do still have a few options when it comes to accommodation.
There is endless unpowered camping available lakeside, and a very limited few powered sites at Lake St. Clair. When you call the caretaker (02 6577 3370) to book, they will be able to tell you if there are any powered sites available.
The grounds have both electric and wood fire BBQs, toilets and shower blocks, and a camp kitchen – all for a very reasonable and affordable price. Keep in mind just how secluded you will be out at the camp grounds; there is no phone service, and no kiosk or café. The nearest is 30 minutes’ drive away.
If you prefer some creature comforts, and a cabin or motel is more your style, Singleton has plenty of options to choose from. A quick search online will show you literally hundreds of bed and breakfasts, motels, and even a few sneaky winery resorts if you wanted to make the most of a trip to the Hunter Valley.
To get to Lake St Clair from Singleton, simply travel north over the New England Highway bridge and turn right into Bridgman Road. Travel along Bridgman Road, which flows onto Carrowbrook Road. A turn off to the left at 27km will lead to the dam wall at Glennies Creek, or you can continue for another 8km and you will reach the entry gates into the Lake St Clair camp grounds and recreational park. Whether you are there for a week or a day, you are required to call into the caretaker and pay for the use of the facility. They except cash only, so remember to stop by an ATM before heading out of town.
As for fishing tackle and camping equipment, there isn’t much available from Singleton other than the stock standard Big W range. I recommend making the effort to travel up and see Nick at Aberdeen Fishing Tackle. He has a great range of gear, from rods and reels, line, hooks, bait, and of course plenty of lures to choose from. Nick fishes St Clair regularly, and he can help point you in the right direction as to what the fish are dialled in on at the present time.
Lake St Clair could seem pretty daunting for a kayak angler due to being such a large body of water, but you really don’t have to travel far to catch a fish. The dam is stocked with Australian bass, golden perch (yellowbelly), silver perch, and catfish. They feed mainly on small gudgeons, insects and yabbies.
A fast action 7’ rod in the 4-12lb range will handle all the fishing scenarios you are likely to encounter, and a selection of line and leader in the same weight class will suffice.
The dam has a couple of different types of fish-holding structure, including thick, weed-lined banks, standing and fallen timber, and a few small rocky/bolder areas. Casting 2” paddle-tail soft plastics such as Keitech Easy Shiners, Berkley Powerbait T-Tails and ZMan Slim SwimZ in natural colours along the weed-lined banks usually produces good numbers of fish. During the warmer months I always tie on a surface lure, imitating a wounded insect such as a cicada, or even a walk-the-dog style stickbait. When used early morning or late in the evening, these topwater lures reap great rewards on the bass, often producing a better class of fish.
A selection of reaction baits is also a productive way to target these fish. Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits have all landed me fish in Lake St Clair.
The weather up in the hills of St Clair is often unpredictable. In summer it’s HOT and in winter it’s FREEZING. The area can get wind and storms from time to time, so be sure to get yourself and your kayak to safe ground as soon as you see any signs of this unfavourable weather. It can be easy to lose track of how far you have travelled on the dam, so always stay aware of your surroundings or use a GPS/sounder to record your tracks so you can find your way back. Always keep in mind the lack of mobile phone reception and the remoteness of the location.
I hope you are inspired to head to Lake St Clair in the near future. The scenery is amazing, the peacefulness is a bonus, and the fishing is fantastic.