February is usually the wettest month of the year in Bowen, but if you can find a way to put up with the rain and the influences it has on both the fish and fishing areas then you will certainly find yourself tangling with plenty of quality creek and reef fish.
Most keen creek anglers will know that the first day of February spells the end of the closed season for the iconic barramundi and for many anglers this date will not come soon enough.
With a couple of bumper wet seasons under our belt, Bowen fishers are starting to reap the rewards of optimal barra breeding conditions which has seen barra numbers going through the roof with this year seeing some of the best and most consistent barra fishing for a couple of years.
In fact the early onset of the wet season in December really fired these fish up and plenty of mangrove jack target trips were littered with barra captures from rats right up to the magical metre size.
February will be a prime month to target these fish properly, and with them biting so well already there should be plenty of fish on offer for both lure and bait fishers.
While there will be the odd larger fish, February usually fishes the best for those fat fish between 60-70cm, which have matured over the closed season. These are great fish to target as they often school in good numbers so when you find one fish there should be plenty of others on offer as well.
If you find yourself in this position, don’t be in a rush to move away from the spot as sometimes it takes a bit of time for the fish to calm down from the first capture. Changing up your lure or softy and even your retrieve is also good idea for chasing these secondary spooked fish. One of the things I love about February is the fish are usually very hungry so multiple captures from the single snag is always on the cards.
When lure fishing for barra don’t be in too much of a rush to move from snag to snag and take your time to fish a snag or bank properly with plenty of casts. When you think you have fished the area or snag properly throw in another three to five casts as persistence, patience and plenty of casts are a big factor when lure fishing for barra.
Just recently I was fishing for freshwater barra in crystal clear water where we could quite easily see the fish lying in the snags. On just about every occasion the fish didn’t become interested in the lure until about the third of fourth cast with them beginning to bite on the fifth or sixth cast. Many anglers will put two to three casts in tight to structure before moving away often leaving when the fish are primed to bite.
Water clarity and freshwater run-off will be a major influential factor in February for those chasing barra and jacks in the creeks. Many of the catchment systems are already very wet and pumping plenty of red silt ridden freshwater into the many estuaries and creeks around Bowen.
While this scenario may put a lot of creek fishers off, it is simply a matter of changing strategy for you to be successful. Instead of working lures in creeks and estuaries that are flowing hard full of fresh, concentrate on areas outside of the mouths of creeks where the flow is not as strong and clearer saltier water is still present.
Many of Bowen’s creeks and estuaries harbour excellent mangrove and rocky structure around and in between creeks and these spots are definite hot spots for barra and jacks during these run-off times.
Lure colour is also important, as fish need to see your lures for them to strike at them. White is definitely a good choice as it really stands out in dirty water and contrasts well against dirty browns and reds. Lures with maximum action at a slow retrieve are also favourable as it allows for more time in the strike zone. Hollow Bellys work well in this scenario and hardbodies like Rapala X Raps in ghost are also a good option.
Barra and jacks are not the only species in the creeks on the move in February. Mud crabs will definitely be on the run in big numbers in February and sinking a few pots will not go unrewarded.
There are plenty of options on offer for those chasing a few crabs in February with the northern systems like Boat Creek, Bob Moses and Meatworks Creek being the best options as they can easily be accessed from the Don River Boat Ramp.
Just make sure you run your pots around the high tide mark, as all creeks need at least 1.7m of water for access. With plenty of big tides in February, dropping a few pots in the big open dugong grass covered flats from the Bowen jetty right down into the bottom of the Bowen Harbour Bay and around to the Big Mango is also an excellent idea.
There are a number of creeks which feed this spot and this area traditionally hold plenty of crabs this time of the year.
There are plenty of blue water options in February as well, however unstable weather this time of year coupled with a strong La Niña can make it very difficult to pick a good day to get out wide. Many of the inshore islands fish very well for bar cheek or coastal coral trout in February especially around the spring tidal runs.
Many of the islands around Bowen are easily accessible on a good day in small tinnie and are excellent fishing with both bait and soft plastics. When using bait fish the deeper water bombies and use plenty of berley.
Berley really is the key in these areas, as it will bring the fish right to your baits especially coral trout, which are very curious fish.
For lure anglers, jigging large plastics like Berkley 6” Grubs, Squidgy Flick Baits and Bozo Krunchas off the many coral reef ledges around the islands is definitely the way to go. Most people make the mistake of using light soft plastic rods in these areas, but this will prove fatal as even small 40cm trout can easily brick you up in this shallow reef environment. For best results use similar gear to that when chasing jacks as the bite and fight is very similar.
Next month will prove similar to February in terms of the fishing though the weather will begin to stabilise somewhat compared to the downpours we are experiencing at the moment.
The creeks will still be fishing well for jacks and barra and with a bit more stabile weather around they should also begin to clear up, which will certainly be better for those chasing jacks and barra on lures. The crabs will also continue to run strong as well.
Out wider the fishing will continue to improve as well and hopefully the La Niña will begin to weaken so we can get a few good days out wide on the water.Reads: 2923