Fishing Cania Dam

By Scott Mitchell

We first visited Cania Dam back in January of 2003 after watching Matt Frasers “Dam Hot” DVD series. The bass & saratoga fishing appeared to be amazing so we made the big road trip up from our home at the time in Cooma NSW to fish the “Bass to Barra Trail” starting at Bjelke-Petersen Dam we caught up with Australia’s No1 Bass fishing legend Matthew Mott. Not having done a lot of impoundment or dam fishing at the time Matt helped us get started and we had some great bass sessions in both Bjelke-Petersen & Boondooma dams before moving on to Cania.

Cania was at an all time low as far as the water level at the time being at down to around 7% or 8% of capacity from memory which also made launching our boat difficult. As the saying goes there was “less water between the fish” and we had some of the most memorable sessions on the bass & saratoga to date on both spinnerbaits & fly! 

Since that memorable trip we have been back to Cania half a dozen times and always love it.  There’s a lot more to fishing Cania Dam than simply the species of fish on offer as the scenery is also exceptional. The impoundment is located with-in Cania Gorge National Park with beautiful coloured sandstone walls towering above the skyline in various areas. You also get to see lots of birds and wild life around the dam and it is the only place I have encountered the local Bettongs or “Rat Kangaroos”.

Officially the dam has been stocked with Australian bass, saratoga, silver perch, snub-nosed garfish and bony bream. There is also a naturally occurring population of eel-tailed catfish and spangled perch.

We now live in Hervey Bay Queensland and one of the reasons we chose Hervey Bay other than its diverse fishing and year-round temperate climate is you can also easily access a number of popular dams with in a 3-4-hour drive – with Cania still being our favourite.

Likewise, I absolutely love the fact that mobile phone reception is patchy while staying at the dam. It means there’s no way for work to find me and, better still, your kids can’t spend all day on their phone texting their mates. It’s quality family time that’s getting harder and harder to find in this busy world.

I recently turned 50 years of age – I know some said I wouldn’t make it! So, with an ex-tropical cyclone bearing down the Queensland coast directly heading towards Lady Elliot Island where I had booked my weekend away to celebrate this mile stone 6 months in advance – the reservations team where happy for me to defer our trip to August. This left me with a decision to make on short notice as to where I wanted to spend what could be the start of a “middle age crisis “.  It didn’t take long before we had booked a self-contained cabin at the BIG4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park.

So where is Cania Dam? It is located in central Queensland, approximately 37 kilometres North West of Monto. The dam was created on Three Moon Creek, a tributary of the Burnett River and is currently at around 90% of capacity. We have always stay at the great BIG4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park which offers comfortable cabins and camping sites, great camp kitchen and facilities and most importantly is only a short drive away from the boat ramp on the dam. 

Before you go fishing on any of Queensland's dams, you need to check whether you need a "Stocked Impoundment Permit (SIP). The one permit covers 32 dams in Queensland, with Cania dam coming under this scheme. You only need one permit per couple (married or de facto), and if you are under 18 you don't need one at all. It is a great scheme with the money raised going to the fishing stocking groups that manage the dams “so make sure you tick which group you would like your money to go to. You can buy them on-line @ https://www.qld.gov.au/recreation/activities/boating-fishing/rec-fishing/dams

It is an easy 4 hour drive up to Cania from Hervey Bay which we arrived at just in time to unpack the car and settle into our comfortable cabin before kicking back with a couple of cold beers around the BBQ in the fantastic outdoor camp kitchen.

The next morning, we put in around 6am and headed off to do some searching as it had been 12 months since our last visit – although the water level was similar at around 99% full. I had just upgraded my two Lowrance HDS Carbon units with the new Lowrance software update which includes FishReveal and was looking forward to seeing how it displayed as well. We sounded around the main basin looking for schooled up fish and did manage to find a couple of small schools and was really impressed with the way the new FishReveal separated the better fish from the bony bream schools. The target separation with the 3D Downscan appears clearer than CHIRP and using the different colour pallets makes picking out the better-quality fish from both structure and bait schools super easy. 

We managed a couple of bass between 35-40cm on Halco Twisty’s which Dane Radosevic had custom rigged for us at his family business “Fisho’s Tackle World Hervey Bay” when we called in to top up on some new sweetwater lures. I would never had thought I’d be casting 20-gram Halco Twisty’s on bass or any the freshwater species for that matter – but they are a great match for the bony bream when the bass are schooled up in the deeper water.

We headed further up the dam where the timber starts as you come into what would have been the original river bed and marked a lot more fish suspended around some large standing trees. Again, the Halco Twisty got the best bites with some better-quality fish to 42cm being landed by Katrina. I also managed a few fish on the 70mm Squidgy Fish in Silver Fox on a TT-RevHead – which when matched against the bony bream was also a great imitation.

The next day we explored further up the back of the dam in through the timber along the old river bed but didn’t find and significant numbers of schooled up fish. After a lunch and a siesta ( that’s Spanish for nana-nap ) back at the cabin to fill in the middle of the day we headed back out around 3pm for the afternoon bite. 

We decided to switch tactics and work the shore line with Katrina running a Jackall TN50 Vibe and I elected for a SMAK Spinner bait. It didn’t take long before my SMAK Pro Select 3/8oz Spinnerbait in NT colour got whacked & resulted in really fat 45cm bass!

That was the start of a great session with Katrina also swapping her Jackall for a SMAK spinner bait in a dark purple pattern. We noted that all the fish we caught working the shore line where better quality than those we had found schooled up in the deeper water with all of them being above 40cm and as fat as pigs! Katrina finished off the session with a beautiful saratoga which are always suckers for a spinnerbait and are another reason we love Cania!

Arriving back to our cabin we were surprised to find that the park managers had light a fire barrel for us at the rear of our cabin to celebrate my birthday – which was a lovely gesture and made for a great night reminiscing under the stars. We also got to see a few of the unique BIG4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park local bettongs which really do look like a "rat kangaroo” - in a cute way! There's lots of wildlife around the park with bird feeding each afternoon and plenty of other critters for those on the lookout.

We spent our last day again working the shore line with spinner baits starting in the main basin along some deeper banks in amongst some timber which resulted in more quality fish between 42-48cm and I dropped two nice saratoga after they managed to jump and throw the spinnerbait. We found that mixing up our retrieves produced more consistent bites switching between a standard "slow roll” and putting in a few "burn & kill” retrieves accounted for aggressive bites often just after a pause. We both applied S-Factor to our skirts regularly as well.

The weather was perfect for our stay with warm days, light winds and cool nights – a stark contrast to the 25+ knots of SE and rain back home in Hervey Bay. I have been privileged to have fished some amazing places in great company over the last 50 years and having my beautiful wife Katrina by my side for more than half of that time makes it even more special. I can’t wait to see what adventures lay ahead from here – And if there is one thing I am certain of – we will be back to Cania again!