Barra Bliss and Blight
  |  First Published: May 2011

There will be plenty of Queenslanders looking forward to the excellent fishing on offer this month, and also to see the back end of what can only be described as a horrendous wet and cyclone season.

With the wet weather beginning to stabilise and blue skies beginning to dominate, there will be plenty of opportunities for creek and blue water fishers to get amongst the fish in May.

Lure anglers will be the big winners in May as many of the inshore and estuarine waters return to some normalcy in freshwater influence and water colouration. May typically heralds the return of clear water in the creeks as many of the catchment outlet systems begin to recede. This clean water is a big plus for lure anglers, especially when targeting sight feeding predatory species like barra and mangrove jacks.

This year has seen one of the best barra seasons in Bowen for over a decade. However, it has been a real shame to see these barra populations so heavily netted. Stories of tonnes upon tonnes of barra being netted, night after night, right through the majority of creeks around Bowen have unfortunately not been an exaggerated fishing tale but a tragic reality. With the majority of these netted fish between 90-110cm long, these big females provided an opportunity (now lost) for a return to healthy barra populations in our area. Taking so many of these big breeders out of the creeks in one foul swoop can only have a negative impact for both recreational fishing and the sustainability of Bowen’s commercial barra industry over the long term. With the majority of these large fish gone, only time will tell as to whether the Bowen barra can return to numbers like they were two decades ago.

Fortunately there are still some barra on offer for those willing to put in the casts and weed through the rats with plenty of smaller fish still around. In fact, last month saw a sight not seen for years in the Bowen area with barra returning to the brackish reaches of the Don River in the Inverdon area providing plenty of fun for anglers chasing a leaping fish from the bank.

The barra will slow down a little in May making them a little easier to target, especially with the tides and weather becoming more consistent. Once you find these fish it will not be hard to crack the pattern. Creeks, like Splitters to the north of Bowen, have been producing the best fish; however most of the bigger systems are still harbouring plenty of just legal fish with the odd thumper among them. The headlands from Adelaide Creek down through to Kangaroo Creek to the south will still produce good barra, especially as the bait moves into these areas during the big run-in tides.

If it is a really big barra you are after then the Bowen Boat Harbour is the place to go with some huge fish on offer. These fish, which are up to and above the magical metre mark, are visible on the surface at night, however getting them to bite is the hard part as they often have their heads down in anon-feeding trance.

Live prawns are your best bet for barra and concentrating efforts on day light and dusk is essential as this is when these big fish feed.

Whoever said you can’t catch crabs when there isn’t an ‘r’ in the month obviously has never set a pot in Bowen as May is usually the best time of year to chase a big muddy. As the weather cools the crabs seem to become very active and keen to feed, making them easy targets for crabbers. What makes the crabbing even better is the distinct lack of jenny crabs that seem to disappear as the cool snaps kick in.

It is not unheard of for crabbers to rack up cricket score catches of muddies in May. All creeks will produce crabs throughout; systems north of the Don like Bob Moses, Boat and Meatworks creeks will guarantee a good haul.

Another crustacean that rears its head in good numbers in May is the painted crayfish. As inshore waters clear up and cool, painted crays begin to move up into the shallows around Bowen’s many islands making them easy targets for snorkelers. Glouster Island’s many coral filled bays are a great place to start looking and with most crays found in less than 10ft of water the effort is certainly worth the reward.

The islands should produce plenty of crays in May, and one fish which has continued its excellent run has been the big black spot tuskfish or bluey. These fish have been hard on the bite around the inshore islands from Lighthouse Island right through to the Glouster Island Passage. The quality of these fish have been outstanding with plenty of fishers coming off second best to fish above the 10kg mark with many breaking heavy lines and even bending and snapping high quality hooks!

Small crabs have been the gun bait, but tuskfish have also been falling victim to large grub style plastics.

Known for their dogged and sometimes unfair fighting qualities, I have found many of the larger tuskfish seem to fight cleaner and fairer when subjected to lighter drags. It seems the more fight and hurt you take to the fish the more they fight and hurt you and your gear back. So resist the urge to put some hurt on the fish will to lead to better results, especially when using a rod and reel.

Out wide on the reef, the coral trout have been non-existent in the shallow waters with most fish coming from the 30-40m mark. I have heard stories of huge shoals of trout congregating around wonky holes and ditches in deep water usually associated with red species. It seems Cyclone Yasi has still got them running scared.

Next month will see the bait casters retired and the high speed jigging and spinning gear return with the onset of the pelagic season. With reports of small Spanish already turning up, this year’s mackerel season looks like it will be a cracker!

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