By Dan Kaggelis •
Saltwater barra anglers will often testify that an impoundment barramundi lacks the aggression and fight of a wild saltwater barra. The central argument is that these traits can only be refined through years of living in a wild, uncontrolled hostile environment.
To all those anglers who share this ideology, I challenge you to fish the waters of Peter Faust Dam and go toe to toe with one of its Jurassic fish, as you will soon realise this is far from the truth. It is common knowledge to those who have tangled with these Faust fish that they are best described in one single word – angry.
These fish hammer lures and fight with such aggression and determination that you would swear someone had injected them with Spartan blood. These beasts will take to the air with every opportunity than rampage away while your baitcaster cries in agony. They are far from the swamp donkey description and more akin to a rampaging thoroughbred.
While I may be a little biased about Peter Faust, many share the same beliefs that it does hold the toughest, meanest and angriest impoundment barra in the world and, pound for pound, they will test every bit of your angling gear and ability just as much as their saltwater cousins.
Where to Fish
Anglers have three main options when fishing Faust: the dam basin, the Timber and the old riverbed of the Proserpine River.
The dam basin is a large open area and can reach as deep as 70ft. It is characterised by a very large open area bordered by the dam wall at one end and the semi-submerged timber forest. Fishing the dam wall is restricted and a 20m exclusion zone bordered by a roped off barrier limits your options in the basin.
The basin is a popular spot for trollers because trolling allows for an easy way to cover plenty of ground and find feeding fish. Having a good quality sounder is vital if you are going to fish this area, as the fish often aggregate in numbers in certain parts of the basin, and being able to run your lure through large groups of fish will dramatically improve your chances of success.
In my earlier days on the dam I spent a lot of time trolling in the basin as the low water restricted much of the fishing, so here are a couple of tips I picked up that increased my success.
I found using a spread of lures diving at different depths was really important. On many occasions I would troll over a good show of fish at 8m and the 3m lure would be the first hit because the feeding fish were lying higher in the water column. Next if you come across a good showing of fish, try slowing the boat down and really working the rods to get a more erratic action out of the lure. Remember action creates action so try being active if you are going to troll the basin.
While trolling is one way to fish the basin, you can also try vertical jigging, especially if you locate a good school of fish on the sounder. If fish are showing at a certain depth on your sounder cast out your lure then count down one second for every 10ft and then when it reaches the desired depth begin your retrieve.
The Timber, as it is commonly referred to by anglers, is characterised by the hundreds of semi-submerged trees that can be found in the central section of the dam. The Timber is for lure casting fishers, as there is plenty of structure to target.
Proven techniques include bouncing through the Timber randomly targeting different trees until you find fish, or alternatively anglers can anchor up amongst a spread of timber and flick away.
The problem with fishing the Timber area is that it can be quite extensive with thousands of trees so it can be a tough place to find fish, however, if you find one you are likely to find multiple fish.
One of the best ways to fish this area successfully is to use your sounder to try and locate large numbers of fish around tree structure and to target their bases or any horizontal lay down style timber. One of the most successful lures used for this technique is the Lucky Craft Pointer 100XD and 100DD, which really gets down into the timber and into the fish’s faces. Finding fish on the sounder can be tough even with SI technology as they can hide behind lay down timber and stumps.
Fishing the timber can be equally as fun as frustrating as fishing tight against structure for big angry fish can often see awesome hook-ups and even more dramatic bust offs. In this area anglers are sometimes forced to free spool hooked fish around structure before the fight can commence. Other tips for fishing the timber are to target areas where the timbers end or begin. These areas can act as highways for fish and finding a spot where fish move through is the key to finding fish on the dam.
Finally you have the old Proserpine riverbed area up the back of the dam. This area is home to numerous bays created by feeder creeks, which pour into the dam during the wet. These bays are lined with weed beds, lily pads and submerged timber.
The trick to fishing this area is to target the points of these bays by casting tight against weed beds. While these are visible from the surface, it is the submerged beds several metres underwater that hold the fish. If you can keep your lure above them you will be in the strike zone.
It’s also worth targeting the middle of the bays as this is where the water is the deepest or channelled out and can often hold big fish. My general rule is that if the weed beds and points look healthy with lots of greenery and there is bait flicking around, then the fish are usually not too far behind. It’s these weed beds that hold the bait and if you can find some structure close to these areas, then the fish are usually there as well.
Best Time to Fish
Low light is always a great time to target Peter Faust Dam barra. Sometimes the morning bite can be better than the evening bite, so it’s always a good idea to fish the dam over a couple of days to work out the best bite times.
Fishing at night is also a very good option, especially over a full moon period. The barra are always active at night and they can be easier to target as they tend to feed a lot harder during the dark. You are more likely to pin fish in shallower water at night, so finding a shallow weed bed area and using a shallow running lure to suit is always a great idea to target big fish in the dark.
Loading for bear is the best way to describe gear preparation for Peter Faust; heavy braided lines are a must. More importantly heavy leaders around 50-80lb are essential as these fish can really suck a lure down a long way and their rakers can make short work of poor quality or light leader material.
I prefer to fish with either twisted or a quality fluorocarbon like Sunline, as they are very abrasive and can really take some punishment from both the fish and the structure.
Rod selection is also very important. Having a shorter rod (6’ bait caster) to work amongst the timber is useful while a longer rod (6-7’) is perfect for achieving those long casts when fishing weed beds and points. Having multiple rods brings both versatility and ease of fishing to the plan.
While it may look like overkill, having eight rods in your boat for two anglers, but it really makes a huge difference to your success when you are ready to fish all depths and conditions. Having rods ready rigged for shallow or deep areas allows for quick transitions from environment to environment, especially when fishing over weed.
When it comes to terminal tackle, it’s important that you choose quality extra heavy trebles, rings and quality lures. These fish have extreme power and will bend terminal tackle with as much power as a big GT.
Technology is essential to your success on the dam. Having a good sounder is vital for finding fish and matching lure depths to the structure you are fishing. The closer you can keep your lure to the top of weed beds or structure the better.
One piece of tech that is proving invaluable to fishing Peter Faust is the Hydrowave. This machine has the ability to bring fish to your location through its ability to send out a sound wave that mimics feeding baitfish. The guys from Hydrowave Australia have really perfected a range of sounds that get the barra excited and on the chew. I was sceptical at first but I have seen enough evidence to be well and truly convinced that the Hydrowave is definitely a big advantage to have in your boat.
Peter Faust Dam is home to the toughest, meanest and angriest impoundment barra in the world. While 12 hours may seems like a long way to go for those who live in the south east corner, I can promise you all those hours in the car will seem worth it when you feel a metre+ of pure aggressive Spartan barra on the end of your line.