Kayaking the Upper Noosa River

Kayaking the Upper Noosa River

Intro – Imagine a pristine paradise of glassy waters, lush vegetation, a place so silent and peaceful but for the sound of cicadas and insects buzzing. A place where the serenity is only shattered by the sound of an Aussie bass smashing your lure off the surface and trying to bury you in its snaggy lair.

Welcome to the Upper Noosa River, a paradise not seen by many, enjoyed immensely by a few and home to the Australian bass.

Destination – Far from the bustle of Noosa’s glamour strip of Hastings Street, the upper reaches of the Noosa is a paradise for anglers, kayakers and nature lovers alike. This part of the river displays such diversity in its bank-side flora and fauna that watching the river change as you progress upstream is a real highlight of the trip.

Upper Noosa River

Anyone used to fishing the lower reaches of east coast estuaries will find this piece of river a real pleasure as you seldom have to compete for the best snag or campsite. The Upper Noosa River caters well to the angler and camper alike. The river offers 15 camp sites, courtesy of Queensland Parks and Wildlife, which need to be booked ahead of time via the QPWS website. The sites are simple cleared areas, with toilet facilities only in the lower camps. Keep this in mind when deciding on what gear to take and be prepared by carrying a trowel to dig a pit toilet.

kayak upper noosa river

A strict no fire policy is in place to protect this environment. That means carrying in your own fuel stove. The lighter the better. The onus really is on all of us when we travel here to follow the rules and consider the environment. That way ensuring we have access in the future. Remember the old saying: ‘You carry it in, you carry it out”.

Other things to consider when canoeing or kayaking the area are: Drinking water: either carry it in bottles or be prepared to bring a filter or purification tabs. Food: Make sure you have enough to maintain your energy throughout the day and a hearty meal at night will set you up for the second day’s paddling. A real pleasure once you’re past your 20s is a lightweight shelter and sleeping bag. This will be lapped up after paddling all day and I highly recommend you bring a thin Thermarest to sleep on and for ultimate luxury an inflatable pillow.

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Dream Catcher 4 Fishing Kayak

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Getting there – While some people enjoy the paddle across Lake Cootharaba, after too many rough trips home in a boat let alone the canoe or kayak, I definitely prefer to drive into Harry’s Hut and launch from the purpose-built jetties. The drive via Kin Kin will take about 1.5hrs from Noosa Heads. The last 10 kms of forestry road can be quiet rough depending on recent rains and will be slow going in anything other than a 4wd. Though still achievable. If you do want a real adventure then you can launch from Boreen or Elanda Point.

Fishing target – The Noosa River is one of the few rivers on the Qld coast that is not either dammed blocked by a weir and it does support a very healthy population of wild Australian Bass. While not reaching the size and girth of its impoundment cousins it does produce a few fish in the 40cm+ bracket and is a real highlight for local anglers. The average size of Bass in the river seems to be in the 25-35cm with a healthy population of small fish also making their presence felt by attacking lures bigger than themselves. This is a great sign for the future as the fish are breeding and flourishing in this environment. As a side note recent Suntag information coming to light indicates the fish are only growing 5mm per year. This may indicate they are avoiding the gauntlet of nets each breeding season as they head for the salt… let’s hope so. This is also another great justification for catch and release.

Australian Bass have distinct behavioural patterns. Each year they head to the salt to breed and at the end of that cycle they start heading back upstream as far as they can go. Their location on the river can vary and is often dependent on recent rainfall, water levels and salinity. These are the things to consider when hitting the Noosa River. I’ve personally found they will extend the whole length of the river, but it’s the density we are after as anglers.

Timing it Right – Prime time for bass on the river is dawn and dusk, although they may be targeted throughout the day with the appropriate technique.

Keeping in mind the closed season for Bass from 31st of May to 31st of August your technique and success may vary. Early season you may find the surface bight better in the afternoon as the water has had a chance to warm. This may dictate the use of plastics, divers or very slowly retrieve surface lures early morning. As the seasons progresses you may find the opposite scenario where the hot summer water has made the fish sluggish and very reluctant to bite. This circumstance is very hard to fish and requires massive effort for little result. In this case try everything in the box.
As the season progresses and the fish start thinking of breeding again, you will find the density of fish will increase in the lower reaches and can reward the angler with great sessions.

Fishing method – The ultimate in bass fishing has to be the surface bite early in the morning and late afternoon. There really is nothing like sound and sight of a Bass smacking your lure off the top. Casting accuracy is key for effectively fishing surface as with other methods, but a perfectly placed cast, tight to the snags, the grass edges or shady pockets of overhanging trees, will often be hit instantly, giving the angler a real adrenaline rush. When really on the chew you often see the fish hit the lure multiple times until it feels the hooks. This is surface at its best.
Lure choice is a personal thing and the choices on the market are mind blowing today. I always include some classic shaped poppers, surface walkers and recently a whole lot of “creature baits” such as the mouse, grasshoppers, and cicada and frog imitations. This new generation of lures have really taken some fish for me and got a whole lot of attention in the Noosa River.

As the sun rises and the surface bite slows, you need to change tactics and start targeting subsurface structures and deeper holes. There are several effective options here to extract Bass throughout the day. My first method is fishing weedless plastics. This is a super effective technique that allows you to fish deep into tiger country without fear of snagging and losing expensive lures. Rigging a 2.5 to 3in plastic on a worm hook with a tiny amount of lead inside the loop will allow you to skip your cast well under overhanging trees and allow it to slowly waft it down into the snag and hopefully a waiting fish. I definitely prefer a plastic with some built in action, such as the paddle or wriggler type tails as this allows an action packed freefall into the bite zone. Again endless options here so try all your favourites.

In more open country with less overhanging structure to catch my lures, I like to use small minnows in the 50-70mm range. While not surface, it does have appeal as your input really does affect its action and its appeal to the fish. The options are endless with how you can retrieve these minnows. At times a simple retrieve will produce the goods, however a more focused approach can be to pull a well-placed lure down into the zone, pause it momentarily then give it a couple of twitches and pause again. The suspending lure will often be smacked in this pause phase. You can continue this retrieve with short bursts of winding and suspension all the way back to the vessel. Experimentation is the key. When considering your offerings look at quality brands that have the reputation of success.
Last but not least is the deep holes. These can be inhabited by school fish due to water temps or time of year. This is the time to crack out your vibes. I have achieved great catches on little metal vibes such as the eco gear…. as well as the smaller soft vibes like the. A classic lift and wind maintaining contact with the lure will produce results.

Tackle – Due to the average size of fish encountered outfits suitable for wild Noosa bass, need not be overly heavy, nor expensive. I use well-balanced Daiwa 1-3kg and 2-3kg rods matched to 2000 sized reels, spooled up with 4 to 6lb braid. When considering leader choice, experience has shown me that by using 1.5-2m of 8-10lb quality abrasion resistant fluorocarbon most fish can be pulled from structure on light main lines. This length of leader seems to give enough insurance and time to turn the fishes head and get him into clearer water. Sure you may lose the odd bigger fish, but for me it’s about enjoying every fish. Besides, there’s nothing like telling your mates about the one that smoked you on light line. Sometimes this is as good as landing it.
This is one very accessible trip that will appeal to many anglers. Close to major towns and offering a true adventure, the Noosa river Bass fishery is well worth the effort.
For more info check the QPWS website and drop into Hooked on Angling and outdoors in Tewantin and speak to the specialists for up to date info on the fishing.

Follow the author’s fishing exploits at Sportfishing Adventures on Facebook.

by Ken Rowling

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