by Wayne Kampe •
Camping in peace and solitude is not something everyone is going to enjoy, but most anglers – myself included – just love it. That quiet serenity is exactly what you get at beautiful Lake Lenthalls, where the only night sounds are water birds, perhaps the slap of a nearby fish or the gentle whistle of a bush curlew in the adjoining scrub land.
Lenthalls Dam has an interesting history. Because the camping area has been operating for only a couple of years many people assume the dam is a new one. Not so. The impoundment was established in 1984 to supply water to Hervey Bay and surrounds and has, in fact, been stocked with native fish such as barra, bass and golden and silver perch since that time. The Fraser Coast Fish Stocking Association is currently stocking the dam and by all accounts doing a very good job. A Stocked Impoundment Permit is required to have a crack at these fish.
Lenthalls’ surface area covers 765 hectares, and it’s divided between three fairly slim main arms which run to six much smaller upper arms. The three main arms from the boat ramp at the camping area stretch south, west and northwest before dividing into the smaller arms. From the south these are Doongul Creek, Logbridge Creek, Harwood Creek, Sugarbag Creek, Duckinwilla Creek and Woolmer Creek.
Lenthalls Dam was constructed just east of the junction of the three main sections which means it’s easy to launch near the dam and travel up any of the sections for a crack at the fish. Because this waterway is a relatively small one compared to other southern barra habitats such as Monduran and Awoonga, it’s an easier area to fish and is very suited to canoe and kayak anglers due to the shelter within the long arms.
Power boats are permitted but must be 3-star eco friendly. Boaters are allowed to have direct injection two-strokes up to 60hp or four-strokes up to 60hp. A strict speed limit of 6 knots is in place.
This dam is on the headwaters of the Burrum River system, and with a very large catchment area to the west in the Seaview Ranges it doesn’t take much rain to keep the impoundment topped. It’s a very rich waterway; pasture and tea-tree scrub grows virtually to the water’s edge with plenty of fallen or standing timber along many of the reaches. Lily beds are on the make again, and stands of weed are common. Most anglers are on the lookout for barra and bass and these fish are where you find them. No one section is best, and it’s a treat to cruise gently up a narrow arm in stealth (electric) mode and cast a lure or fly and wait for the tug of a bass or the wallop of a barra.
Open plan camping
Wide Bay Water have generously established the camping area at Lenthalls Dam. Given that it’s the major water supply for Hervey Bay I believe thinking anglers will understand the reason for a couple of the restrictions that are in place. I will discuss these shortly.
First, the camping area. This consists of a wide area of cleared and grassed land southwest of the dam wall. As there are no allocated camp sites it’s first in best dressed when choosing a site. It’s virtually a necessity to contact the ranger (07 4129 4833) to prior book permission to camp because camping is restricted to max. 18 people at a time, plus up to six self-contained camper style vehicles, which takes in caravans and camper trailers. For day visitors wanting to fish there are no restrictions on numbers.
At the camping area there are picnic tables, a fishing platform along one bank, toilets, and even a viewing platform near the spill way. The ranger’s office is also easily located and with a couple of sets of toilet blocks and a shower (sorry, cold only!) plus a washing up sink behind the top toilet block, things are pretty well set up. However, there is no drinking water on site so you have to bring your own. Fires aren’t allowed either so you have to bring a gas cooker. Still, I don’t think this is too much to ask for a crack at fish in such a pristine environment.
This is the interesting bit. Most people agree that the road into Lenthalls Dam is pretty rough, especially after rain. Low sedan-style vehicles will be tested here. An SUV or 4WD is best.
The dam and camping area is situated in the Wongi State Forest which starts just north of where the Maryborough turnoff bisects the Bruce Highway. If you’re heading north on the Bruce Highway a very good local landmark is the service station with the popular Sexie Coffee restaurant adjoining it.
The Lenthalls Dam turnoff is not far north from there. Keep a look out for it as you approach the two conspicuous communication towers on the right side of the road, where the pine forest is. The Lenthalls Recreation Park sign is right opposite these towers. If you’re travelling south on the Bruce, these towers and the turn-off will then be 6.6km from the Torbanlea turn-off.
Once you’re on the road within the Wongi forest it’s a careful drive on an unsealed and sometimes quite rough bit of road to the dam turn-off. The sign is on the right a few kays in from the Bruce Highway. The road picks up a bit from there and the dam wall looms into sight after a few minutes.
If you’ve made prior arrangements with the friendly ranger, it’s an easy task to set up camp and enjoy that first sunset to the west, basking in the anticipation of fishing next morning.