Diversity is the best way to describe the fishing around Bowen in March, as there are plenty of target species on offer for blue water and creek fishers.
The challenge in March is finding a way to make the unstable monsoonal conditions work in your favour. With most creeks and rivers in a state of instability due to the wet, anglers are best suited to concentrate their efforts around headlands and mangrove-lined bays between creek mouths where the water is a little clearer and saltier.
Bowen has myriad creek systems north and south, and between these systems lies plenty of rocky foreshores and mangrove banks that are home to creek species like barra, jacks and salmon during the times when creek waters run fresh. These bays and rocky foreshores become refuges for bait that are often pushed out of the creeks, especially around big tidal flows or big rain. These bays offer stability for bait, which in turn brings in the predatory fish.
Identifying the most productive areas is quite easy; look for cleaner less brackish water and the all important congregations of bait. Targeting these areas on the incoming big tides is ideal but these spots tend to fire the most when the tide begins to run-out and the bait has to leave the safety of the rocks and mangroves. Don’t be put off by the shallow water as it is quite common to snare barra and mangrove jack in a foot of water in these areas.
Slow sinking weedless plastics work a treat especially around the rockier sections and I have taken a particular liking to the Z-Man PaddlerZ range at present due to their slow sinking fall and excellent skip ability. These things bounce across the top of the water like a skipping stone and allow the angler to get right between rocks and mangrove cover with ease. Hardbody shallow running minnows like Bombers and Rapalas also work a treat.
These spots also tend to hold schools of GT up to 10kg, so keep your poppers handy but make sure your gear is pretty heavy as hooking a medium-sized GT in less than a foot of rock-infested water can be a little tricky, but loads of fun.
Bowen’s best fishing feature is the reef habitat that has formed close along most of the coastal area. This means you can be fishing on actual coral reef less than 100m from the shore in a number of places. In some areas, especially to the south of Bowen around Adelaide Creek and Thomas and Poole Island, you can be fishing mangrove snag filled bays then move the boat 15m away and be fishing rocky weedy ground, and then another 20m can have you fishing on coral reef bommies.
Working the different habitats is quite possible on a single trip and on most occasions you really don’t need to change tactics or gear all that often. The mangrove-lined bays are home to mostly barra, jacks, grunter and cod. If you move out onto the rockier weedy ground you can target species like grassy sweetlip, golden and giant trevally and, the most wanted species, the black spot tuskfish.
Black spot tuskfish love the little crabs and shellfish that live amongst the weed and rocks and, unbeknownst to most anglers, will take a soft plastic quite ferociously. Atomic Prongs, Berkley HollowBellies and Gulp Crazy Legs have all proved successful offerings in the past, however I have lost more fish than I have hooked as they are serious heavy weight brawlers. The best things about fishing for black spot is their iridescent blue is often seen a while away making them a sight casting species. There is nothing better than sight casting to a big fish! I tend to use a larger spin reel for the extra spool and line capacity as the fishing is all about going softly, softly as trying to put the brakes on them will only leave you in tears.
While the rocky weedy areas has plenty on offer, the fringing reef has its fair share of treasures, with the bar cheek coral trout being the true crown jewels. These great tasting hard fighting fish can be found right up in the shallows and respond well to slow rolled big grub style plastics and even big suspending barra lures. More commonly found around the 40-50cm range, I have seen and caught plenty over the 4.5kg mark in less than 3.5m of water less than 1km from the shore. March is a key time to target these fish as they really love to get up into the shallows during the warmers months, and they are hyper aggressive and greedy as well.
Next month sees the gradual transition to cooler weather and water temps, which means the barra and jack fishing begins to taper off and the pelagic season begins! Last year we had an early run of Spanish in late April so here’s hoping they will turn up again this year.
The big mover in April will be the mud crabs. It is the usually the best time to get your fill of big rusty crabs in Bowen.Reads: 2023