KIDSTON DAM: AN ASSET WORTH PRESERVING

05 Jul, 2001 12:00 AM
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IF you are ever gripped by a perverse desire to demolish a boat trailer, try a trip from Townsville to the Kidston Dam. In keeping with the tradition of every great fishing story, the trials and tribulations were many but the rewards were great.

Rumours have abounded for years about the rich pickings on offer for anglers since construction of the Kidston dam to meet the water needs of the nearby gold mine in 1985.

They included stories of sooty grunter that made the 3kg monsters in Tinaroo look like guppies and there have even been suggestions that the odd barra might have found its way into the impoundment.

Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted and over the years it became evident that a boat would be essential to successfully fish the dam.

Opportunities for shore based angling are restricted to the boat ramp and downstream from the dam spillway in the Copperfield River.

The balance of the terrain around the dam would test an astronaut.

Now the boat trailer involved may have been a bit short of the engineering standards applied to those offroad camper trailers with coil springs and gas shock absorbers but it had crossed a few dry gullies - and a few wet ones - in its day. The widely used Northern Territory practice of a boat cradle mounted on a single length of RHS steel to avoid the problem of A-frame cracking had allowed the trailer to be towed into some out of the way Territory hot spots without incident. Herveys Range Road made a mockery of those efforts with both mudguards coming adrift and getting seriously mangled in the process.

The trip along the Gregory Development Road proceeded without further incident until the intervention of a member of the local constabulary around Greenvale.

At 2.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon he was very keen to establish the state of the driver's health, or at least that is what I thought the roadside test was all about.

The condition of the trailer was again severely tested on the normally well maintained and unsealed road from the Oasis Roadhouse through Carpentaria Downs to the Kidston mine turn-off.

A shredded tyre on a 13-inch rim was the first symptom that all was not well in boat trailer land. The fish plates on the square axle had worked loose allowing the wheel to shift way out of alignment. The tyre had shredded on the remains of a weld which had previously secured one of the aforementioned mud guards.

The axle was repositioned and fish plates tightened but the 45km trip from the mine turn-off to the dam wall was done at a considerably reduced pace.

Boat launching at the Kidston dam is not for the faint hearted. Unless you are keen on serious sump damage and burnt-out clutches, a four-wheel-drive vehicle would be highly recommended. A steep rocky jump up on the western side of the dam wall leads to a boat ramp which has been literally carved out among the boulders.

The local fishing forecast was less than promising following recent rain which had put another run into the Copperfield River.

The state of the water at the boat ramp clearly indicated you would have to troll a lure directly into the mouth of any waiting predators to secure a hook up.

The river obviously carries a reasonably heavy silt load. If it was not for the rugged terrain you could be forgiven for thinking you were standing on the banks of the Barcoo or Thomson Rivers.

The eternal optimism of the angler prevailed and the first run of about 8km up into the backwaters of the dam was an opportunity to set some redclaw crayfish traps.

Two clear favourites have emerged in recent years as redclaw fishing has become a routine pastime in the North.

Opera house style traps set with the humble potato - part boiled if you wish - as bait.

The first pot was set and pulled within an hour and the results were more than promising given that it was still only mid afternoon.

A dozen large crayfish were removed from the pot and six smaller crays were released back into the dam to spend a bit more growing time in the murky depths.

The camp feasted well that night on cray tails cooked with garlic.

There are clear indications that the dam may be experiencing a redclaw population boom similar to the early stocking days of Tinaroo and the Burdekin Dam where some serious efforts is now required to catch them.

The efforts of one angler who recently visited the Kidston dam and carted away 1500 crayfish will not help the long term sustainability of recreational fishing and were certainly not appreciated by the locals. They'll be watching closely if there is a repeat attempt.

Fishing effort over the next two days produced a more than adequate supply of crayfish for the camp but the fish were decidedly uncooperative. The only fish seen were a few small banded grunter which decided to share a feed of potato in the pots.

The sheer volume of the dam and its isolation, however, clearly indicate that under the right conditions some extra large sooties would be a welcome bonus.

Photographs of fish caught by local anglers show that naturally occurring fish which previously survived in a seasonal river have clearly taken advantage of a permanent water supply.

The success of fish stocking in other North Queensland dams also indicates that stocking of such a large body of water would also provide long term benefits.

The dam setting provides more than adequate consolation for those whose angling efforts may be frustrated by unavoidable circumstances.

It would take many days to thoroughly explore the backwater studded with extensive stands of snags and sheer rock drop-offs and that is just in the immediate field of vision. Lift your eyes from the dam and the skyline is filled with spectacular escarpments, gnarled trees and rock formations that in some cases appear to defy gravity.

It comes as no surprise that Undara Experience pioneer, Gerry Collins has spoken in glowing terms of the eco-tourism potential of the dam.

Any move on the part of the State Government to reduce the size of the dam wall to allow its reclassification as a weir could only be regarded as extremely short-sighted. There is no doubt that some sort of basic infrastructure development will be required to secure the future of the dam as a popular attraction. Two or three fishing parties now constitute a crowd around the base of the dam wall and any additional groups would find themselves hard pressed to find enough level ground to comfortably roll a swag.

At the same time there is unassailable logic in the position of people campaigning for retention of the dam.

The Einasleigh district has been given an invaluable asset and every effort should be made to keep it.

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COMMENTS

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I'm all for it - let's bog the police and courts to the eye balls in this crap.
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'An integrated holistic approach' as advocated by Ms Kyte is a euphemism for taking decision
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Sure Philip - you can't put a number on it as we don't have both options. My average return