Report: Beating the odds at “Lake Disappointment”

NAMED in honour of distinguished Bathurst resident and former Australian Prime Minister, Ben Chifley Dam is a major water storage facility located on the Campbells River in the NSW central west.

Completed in 1956, the dam soon became popular with trout anglers and appeared in many fishing magazines at the time extolling the virtues of this small waterway. 

Redfin also became established in Ben Chifley Dam after a farm dam above the impoundment stocked with redfin over flowed during heavy rain and allowed the pest fish access into the dam.

Soon the trout rich waters were a thing of the past and populations of redfin boomed. One hundred plus redfin a day was easily possible in the early years with some good sized fish amongst them, along with the odd trout and native. The population of redfin in Ben Chifley Dam became so great that “runting “occurred and the fish actually became harder to catch.

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While also stocked with Murray cod, golden and silver perch as well as trout, the fishing at Ben Chifley Dam has become a real “hit and miss” affair – often delivering more misses than hits. A lot of anglers I know refuse to fish it any more as they regard it as a “dead” dam. Some refer to it as “Lake Disappointment“ or “No Dam Good“ as it does present a real challenge to anglers.

For most who have fished BCD of late, there are far better fishing destinations within close range and waterways such as Wyangala, Windamere, Burrendong or Lake Lyell get more attention from local and visiting anglers.

I still visit Ben Chifley on a regular basis, more for the fact that is within a short drive from home and if taking kids fishing then it’s so handy for a quick run in the boat as well as a chance to catch a fish or two – redfin are a great kids’ fish.


Keen youngsters Josh Watton and Bill Watson prepared for redfin action. 

The thing is the dam does fish well at select times of year; spring and early summer are some of the best times and then the period around Easter historically also fishes well.

Native fish in the dam will at times show themselves. Huge Murray cod grow fat and obese here on bite size redfin. There are also golden perch that defy the normal size limits of river fish to an extent that they make their relations in Windamere Dam look average!


Unlike other impoundments, Ben Chifley Dam doesn’t have a lot in the way of timber structure for anglers to concentrate efforts on. 

Reports of silver perch being caught on bait at Ben Chifley still surface, as well as the odd catfish catch. The catfish were reported to have been stocked many years ago by the local CAS group who gained approval to net catties from a creek lower down that flowed into Burrendong Dam. These fish were then transported back to Chifley Dam by tanker and released.


The dam is home to the sort of football sixed goldens that are commonly associated with waterways like Lake Windamere. 

The last few months have been pretty good for me at the dam with a few good fish coming including some nice Murray cod, golden perch and redfin falling to cast lures and baits and plastics when “bobbing” with the kids. 

Chifley Dam has a shortage of structure, aside from extensive weed beds that flourish in the warmer months. These “salad bars “are a good option to fish the edges of using plastics, lures or bait. The few standing trees will at times hold fish; rocky points are few and far between but the ones that are there are worth concentrating on.

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A 54cm cod that fell to a lumo-painted spinnerbait fished off a rocky point. 

For those chasing redfin, trolling lures is one of the best ways to catch these fish. Once a school is located it’s a simple matter of trolling back and forward through the school or sitting over the school and bobbing with purpose made bobbers, soft plastics, bibless minnows or blade type lures.

The use of a sounder makes locating schools of fish a lot easier; the sounder will also show some big fish arches and at times you will see these arches sitting on the edges of schooled up fish getting an easy feed. Daniel Finn, who lives close by the dam and occasionally fishes there is a master at reading and using downscan and sidescan sonar.

Finny found one of these big fish feeding on a school of redfin close to a submerged tree with his Lowrance sounder. Flicking a Black Masked Vibe, Finny hooked the large fish which in turned out to be one of the monster cod that inhabit the dam. The fish was photographed and released.

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Local angler Daniel Finn, with a big cod he’d first spotted on his sounder. Image: Daniel Finn

Of late, my best results have been using custom made spinnerbaits by Edgecrusher Lures. The colours that have been working best are black, hot pink and a special I had made that’s painted up with Luminous Glow. This has been an exceptionally good colour when working deep water as well as fishing early mornings and late evenings. Add in some lures such as Transams, blades, vibes and bibless minnows and the odds of “hit and miss” here can sometimes favour the angler. 

If you like challenging fishing I can highly recommend a visit to Ben Chifley Dam, but if it’s consistently good fishing you’re hoping for you’d be better advised to leave it off your list of angling destinations!

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