Mid spring usually heralds the beginning of the wet season build up that spells one important thing for Bowen fishers – awesome mangrove jack and barramundi fishing.
While this year has been unseasonably warm, the relatively high water temps has kept the creek bite alive through much of the late winter months. The creek bite will really begin to heat up when the stormy conditions associated with October moisten the air making it hot and sticky, which brings on some of the best creek fishing Bowen has to offer.
Last October was definitely one of the most productive months for mangrove jack and barra fishing. On one particular afternoon session produced some of the best jack and barra luring fishing I have ever experienced.
I was fishing a system just north of the Don River and was travelling up the creek when I was hit by a stormy squall that left me completely soaked. In typical fashion when it cleared the humidity went through the roof, the wind dropped off completely, the mosquitoes and sandflies came out in droves and the water along the mangrove studded banks came alive with boils and swirls as the jacks and barra just came alive. Fighting through the clouds of mosquitoes I fired lures into the boils with action that can be best described as absolute carnage as swarms of jacks fought each other to the lure hooking up on almost every cast.
What was truly special was the size of some of these brutes. Some fish pushed the tape up around the 55cm mark and some just tore the trebles off lures and straighten split rings with minimal effort. And the barra weren’t too far behind either. Deeper running suspending and slow rising lures were the necessary ingredient to latching onto these silver scaled beasts.
Bowen is not renowned for its populations of barra, as most creeks are less than 4ft deep at the top of the tide and bone dry at low, but there have been plenty of fish caught if you invest the time and effort.
One key ingredient is definitely the use of deep-diving suspending, slow rising lures. One of my all time favourites is the Lucinda Hunter lure, as it gets down deep quickly but has the ability to be stopped during retrieval, suspend in the water for a few seconds before slowly rising back to the surface. More often than not, I have witnessed in the clear water creeks, like Adelaide and Gordon creeks just south of Bowen, is barra following the lure from the snag and staying inches behind it right to the boat. To counter this, pause the retrieve a few metres from the strike zone and allow the lure to suspend mid water. This tends to give the barra time to contemplate the offering. As the lure begins to rise to the top it will move above their eye level, which seems to create the right variables for the fish to snatch the lure and hook up. I attribute much of this behavioural pattern to the position of the barra’s eyes. If you have ever seen a barra feed in a fish tank you will understand what I am talking about.
Barra will be on offer in all the creeks in Bowen. Some of the less obvious productive spots are the rocky headlands and mangrove-lined banks between the creeks to the south of Bowen. These creeks tend to run dry at low tide, which often force the bigger barra out onto these headlands where they take refuge around oyster-encrusted rocks and weed beds.
Casting lures and soft plastics around likely ambush spots near rocks or where weed beds are visible can be very productive and worth the effort. Keeping an eye out for scattering schools of mullet or nervous bait pushed right up to the shore is also a good sign that predatory fish are in the area. Because these spots are littered with shallow reef and oyster encrusted rocks it is a good idea to use abrasive braid and some good quality leader or else the fight will be very short lived.
There are also a range of other species on offer in the area, including mangrove jack, golden trevally, GT and even reef species like sweetlip, stripies and even the odd coral trout in the deeper water drop-offs.
On the blue water, the mackerel should be well and truly gone by October and most blue water efforts will concentrate on the excellent coral trout bite. October is a key spawning month for coral trout and other reef fin fish, which sees fish congregate on coral bommies in readiness to breed. These fish become highly active and very hungry making them prime targets for bottom bashers and soft plastic fishers.
Unfortunately due to the Coral Reef Fin Closures these fish and other designated coral reef fin fish will once again be off limits from the 5-9 October. If you are heading out to chase a few tasty reefies make sure you check your dates.
For inshore fishers, likely spots will include big isolated bommie areas like the back of Stone Island, Southern Cross Reef, Middle Island and the east side of Glouster Island as well as the Glouster Passage. To the north, Euri Creek bommies and Phillips Reef near Abbot Point will also be hot spots where the trout will congregate. Further out the Wallabies Group and Old Reef to the north will be prime spots to target good numbers of coral trout as well.
Out wide, the saddle-tail snapper fishing will heat up as the weather gets warmer. The bottom shoals about 10km off Holbourne Island have been producing some extraordinary fishing over the last month from around the 160ft mark.
Next month should see the excellent creek fishing continue and with the wet just around the corner, lure anglers will need to make the most of the clear water before it begins to run fast, brown and fresh.
November is not much different to October in terms of the blue water fishing on offer, however late November usually spells the arrival of big grey mackerel, GT and golden trevally, which feed on large schools of wolf herring in around Dalrymple Point.
Even though these fish are not very appealing on the plate, this event is always highly anticipated as the sport fishing and fly fishing opportunities on offer are really exceptional. With such a diverse array of species this month, it really is like a lucky dip on what you could hook next.Reads: 1990