By Nicholas Moore
If you have never dedicated a fishing trip or even a few sessions to impoundment sooty grunter it is definitely something an angler you should consider. Firstly the impoundments that have good numbers are absolutely beautiful and have amazing backdrops. The one impoundment I will focus on is the beautiful Eungella Dam inland from Mackay in Queensland. It has waterside camping where you can leave your boat parked next to your camp. It’s a great relaxed camping area.
Sooty grunter in impoundments are different to their creek-based brethren. They behave differently and you can fish a multitude of different techniques compared to the clean fast-flowing freshwater streams they natively inhabit. They can be very challenging but you can crack techniques and or patterns, and when you do you can have double-digit sessions without much trouble.
There are a few well-known techniques that work well for sooty grunter and I’ll cover off on a few of them briefly. There is so much detail with each technique, however, we will only look at the broader techniques to get you started.
A commonly known technique is to fish under roosting cormorants and shags. If these birds have been roosting in areas for a few days the sooty grunter congregates under the roosting birds to get an easy feed from the processed remnants of the birds' meal from the day before. The day before you try this, spend 30 minutes traveling around the dam at dusk finding these roosts. You may have to forgo a late arvo bite.
At dawn, the next day travel over to the roosts, stop far enough away that you don’t spook all the birds. It’s really handy to see the individual trees that birds are sitting in. If you come in hot it’s easy to miss which trees they were in. I like to use a 2-5kg rod with 10lb line and 12-16lb leader. For this technique, it’s best to either use a surface lure like a Duo Popper 64 or a slow sinking plastic. Three-inch curl tail grubs in white work really well. Electric in slowly to the trees and work your lures under each tree that had birds in it. This technique is one of the surest ways of getting fish.
Another technique is working deep trees with vibes and spinnerbaits. You want to fish the tops of submerged trees. With this technique, you want to focus on areas where there are large congregations of bait in these trees. You will need to keep a keen eye on your sounder. Take note of the depth of bait and sink down your lures to the depth of the bait. Slow roll your lures back and wait for the crunch from their incredible hit. The key to this technique is to cover a lot of ground until you find really productive areas. Then slow right down and work these areas methodically.
A fun technique is to fish the edges of the dam. At certain times in the year, this can be a deadly technique. You want to look for areas that have a bit of variety in structure. You can work the biggest variety of lures on edges. Good choices are small hardbodies like Steez Shads, Steez Spinnerbaits, and small hard vibes 50-70mm long. Work the edges slowly and methodically.
Sooties can be found from 1ft to 30ft of water on the edges and don’t be afraid to work the full depth range. Sometimes they can be found scavenging above the weed or up tight to the weed edge/other structure or even sitting a little away from structure down deep. The key is to take note of bait and if you do get a fish replicate what you were doing as it may not be an isolated case.
Sooties can be caught throughout the day but there are minor and major periods pending on the time of year, lunar cycle and time of day. There is definitely an increase in activity at dawn and dusk. So next time you have a few days free and want to try something different give the impoundment sooty ago.