I’m in Cairns as you read this, fishing day trips with an old mate, Kim Andersen, at Copperlode Dam. Copperlode is about 30 minutes out of Cairns, practically at the top of the nearest hinterland. You reckon the mornings are cold in Darwin right now; I can tell you it’s brass monkey weather on the dam at first light. Copperlode is where Queensland DPI Fisheries developed its highly-successful barramundi breeding and stocking project back in the 1980s; it is also Cairns’ principal water supply. Kim has had a lease on the dam for five years now, offering exclusive guided fishing and the hire of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. For obvious reasons, the dam is electric outboards only, and there’s no pissing in the water allowed. The water is funnelled down to a filtration plant and comes out pure. With permission from various authorities, Kim has been steadily stocking the dam with barra fingerlings. We’ve caught a few around 60cm, but there are thousands which are much bigger, many in the 80s and plenty of metreys too. Kim’s wife Natalie, an accomplished fisho in her own right, caught a 150cm barra in Copperlode in 2015. It was estimated at 50kg and was released, and was almost certainly a survivor from the old DPI days, or at least one that didn’t go over the spillway. Barra grow super fast in impoundments, and that’s not only because they have no currents to deal with; it’s also because of the abundance of food. For some reason, all the great barra impoundments in north Queensland are chockers with bony herring, which to barra are sweet lollies and so easy to catch and gobble down. Kim reckons it’ll be hardly more than another year before his 80cm fish reach a metre, and won’t that be a great recreational fishery to tap into. It’ll cost you to access these fish, but it’ll be worth it given Copperlode’s proximity to Cairns. I first met Kim in the late 1980s when we both worked at NT Fisheries. He moved to north Queensland and I went private. In 1997, when I was involved at the early stages of the Fishing North Australia Channel Nine Darwin television show, I jumped aboard a game boat Kim was skippering off Cairns. I had film crew in tow and I remember when we were organising the trip that Kim told me the three days we would be at sea were, in his opinion, the best three days of the Cairns big marlin season that year. Also with me fishing on the trip was great old mate Roger Gentle. Well, Kim was sure right: we hooked and tagged an estimated 550kg black marlin, had a grander (in pounds) demolished by sharks and tagged several more around 200-300kg… in just three days! Kim, Roger and I joined forces again to compete in the second NT Barra Nationals. Roger and I had won the inaugural Nationals, and actually filmed it for Channel Nine, and we were a close runner-up the next year, also filming, with Kim winning Champion Angler… he knows how to fish this boy. For well more than a decade, Kim skippered various big game boats out of Cairns, and was justifiably rated as one of the top skippers. Then along came the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the introduction of vast closed zones to fishing, and Kim swapped his game boat for a mothership chasing barra and bluewater speedsters out of Weipa in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s been fun catching up with Kim again, and doing a major NAFA shoot on “his” lake. We haven’t caught a big one yet, but what do you expect when water temperature is around 22 degrees. If you’re visiting Cairns in the next two or more years, keep Copperlode in mind for a quick and easy metrey. Yep, it’ll be as simple as that. PHOTOS 📷 1. Melanie Ottaway, Kim Andersen and Crystal Neal with a beaut Copperlode barra which Crystal caught on a 15A Bomber.
📷 2. Darwin’s Jenna McKinstray acquainted herself with Copperlode Dam sooty grunters thanks to a Reidy’s vibe.
📷 3. AJ with a Copperloda barra, tagged and ready for release.