Cania Gorge DamSouthern Central QLD
Cania Gorge Dam, near Monto in southern central Queensland, is without doubt one of the country’s prettiest — and most productive — stocked impoundments.
“The most prolific fish species encountered by anglers in Cania Gorge Dam are Australian bass, golden perch (yellowbelly), eel-tailed catfish, saratoga, silver perch, snub-nosed garfish and the smaller spangled and banded perch or grunter.”
Cania Gorge National Park lies some 35 km north west of the town of Monto, in Queensland’s sparsely populated Burnett Region, an easy day’s drive from Brisbane. This park is famous for its striking scenery, rocky bluffs, fantastic bushwalks, remnant “brigalow belt” vegetation, diverse wildlife and a rich Aboriginal history stretching back at least 20,000 years. It’s also home to Cania Gorge Dam, a modest-sized freshwater impoundment with a big reputation among keen anglers.
Part of the “Bass To Barra Trail”, Cania Dam is built across Three Moon Creek, an intermittent or perennial tributary of the extensive Burnett River system that ultimately empties into the sea near the coastal port of Bundaberg, some 150 km to the east. Nestled between thickly timbered hills and steep ridges, and towered over by dramatic rocky escarpments, Cania Gorge Dam is without doubt one of the most strikingly attractive of all the man-made lakes in this part of the world.
With a surface area of at least 720 hectares when full to its maximum capacity, and an average depth of around 12 metres, Cania is best described as a medium-sized dam, with less than half the potential total area of either Boondooma or Barambah (Bjelke-Petersen) Dams, further to the south. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of water here to explore, especially when the impoundment is full, allowing boaters to travel well upriver through the flooded timber and twisting backwaters. (Be extra careful of the navigation hazards posed by submerged trees or fence lines at these times!)
Kept at very low levels by the intense drought of the “noughties”, Cania finally re-filled and overflowed during the extremely wet seasons of 2010 and 2011, and has remained within a few percentage points of its maximum capacity ever since, occasionally spilling again following significant rain events. However, with the onset of another El Nino climatic cycle, there’s good reason to suspect that water levels may soon begin to fall once more. Fortunately, Cania remains a viable destination for travellers seeking native fish and red-claw crayfish, even when its water level is low.
The most prolific fish species encountered by anglers in Cania Gorge Dam are Australian bass, golden perch (yellowbelly), eel-tailed catfish, saratoga, silver perch, snub-nosed garfish and the smaller spangled and banded perch or grunter. Bass, yellowbelly, silver perch and saratoga are regularly re-stocked into these waters, while the other species mentioned reproduce here naturally.
There are also very good numbers of red-claw crayfish present, and while not native to this particular catchment, they are always very welcome with visitors, who trap these tasty crustaceans in baited “Opera House” nets. (Be sure to check the current rules and regulations governing the permitted number, size and required labelling of all traps.)
Both bait and lure fishing tactics work well at Cania, while a few more adventurous anglers even opt to fly fish here, especially for the spectacular and prehistoric southern or Dawson River saratoga that has established itself in good numbers throughout the shallower bays and backwaters of Cania Dam.
Saratoga grow slowly and only produce small amounts of eggs each year, so most fishers choose to release these rather bony and unpalatable adversaries to fight another day. By contrast, the dam’s bass, golden perch and catfish (called “jew” by many folks from outback Queensland) can make a welcome addition to the camp dinner table. However, always observe bag and size restrictions and take only enough to satisfy your immediate needs.
Live shrimp taken in the same traps that work so well on red-claw crayfish make excellent bait for fishing in this dam, as they do in most others. Skewer these critters lightly on a No. 2 to 1/0 hook, weight them with a small, running sinker and drop these clicking, flicking offerings down alongside any flooded trees or rocky edges. If you don’t register bites within 10 minutes or so, move on and try another spot.
You’ll really need a boat of some sort, or at least a kayak or canoe, to get the best out of fishing at Cania, although a few hopefuls do reasonably well by throwing a baited line from the bank in the park area near the two-lane concrete launching ramp. Remember that you’ll need a Stocked Impoundment Permit (SIP) to fish anywhere in this lake. These permits can be easily obtained on-line before your visit by going to this link.
While camping is not allowed around the dam itself, there are two excellent accommodation options nearby. Beautifully secluded and peaceful little Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat can be contacted on (07) 4167 8110, while the larger Big 4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park is best reached on (07) 4167 8188, or via a free-call to 1800 673 018.
Cania Gorge Dam is definitely one of our favourite fishing destinations in this part of the world (or anywhere else, for that matter!). There’s just something extra special about watching the afternoon sun light up the dramatic, rocky bluffs high above the lake’s main basin as you wait for the day’s last bite. If you’re anything like us, I suspect it’s the kind of place you’ll find yourself drawn back to again and again!
Cania Gorge National Park is about 225km west of Bundaberg, and can be reached via Cania Road, which branches off the Burnett Highway 12km north of Monto (or 82km south of Biloela). Travel through Moonford for another 13km to the main picnic area. If travelling from Brisbane, the park is around 500km north-west of the city.
From Bundaberg: Head east towards Gin Gin and the Bruce Highway on Gin Gin Road. Turn right onto the Bruce Highway and then on the northern edge of Gin Gin, turn left onto Mt Perry Road. Travel to Mt Perry and turn right onto Monto Road and travel through to the Burnett Highway. Turn right and follow Burnett Highway approximately 35km to Monto. Continue on the Burnett Highway through Monto and after 11km take a right turn onto Cania Road and follow for 12km to enter Cania Gorge National Park.
From Gladstone: Head south-west on the Dawson Highway to Calliope. Continue west on the Dawson Highway towards Biloela for about 100km. At Biloela turn left and travel south onto the Burnett Highway for about 80km. Take another left onto Cania Road and travel for 12km to arrive at Cania Gorge National Park.