Subtle changes make waves
  |  First Published: April 2012

Subtle changes in weather and air temperatures are the big factors to consider when fishing the waters of Bowen this month.

As we slide closer towards the drier and cooler months of the year, the hot humid weather seems to slip away, not only making fishing conditions a little more bearable, but blue water and creek fishing also becomes more consistent.

Last year April and May produced the best barra bite of the year in the creeks around Bowen, which many anglers attributed to the slight cooling of the water. So far this year we have seen some pretty hot water temps in the creeks and it has adversely affected the fishing, so a change to a milder temp could prove to be a positive variable.

April tends to be one of the drier months, however many are saying we could be in for a late wet this year. If the weather follows a traditional pattern many of the creeks should be pretty stable and not affected by run-off, which is good news for lure fishers who love that cleaner water. If the waters remain relatively clear lure fishers will be best to target snaggy banks for jacks and areas of pressure for barra in particular where there is a bit of depth.

Despite commercial netting there are still barra to be caught in the creeks around Bowen, however anglers are best to target the top ends of creeks where the nets are prohibited. While the calibre of fish does drop and finding that metre fish is a little harder, fishers should still find plenty of 60-80cm fish on the chew which are probably the best eating fish anyway.

April also spells the beginnings of the mud crab run in the creeks in Bowen. While the crab run tends to peak around mid May and June, April is a guaranteed time for a reliable feed of big rusty bucks from all creeks around town and surrounds.

The bigger tides around the full moon and new moon are the best time to target these tasty crustaceans as the bigger runs tend to get them moving around. Fresh bait really is the key to a good feed of crabs and changing your baits after every harvest is the way to go.

On the offshore front the news has been quite positive with many of the outer reefs fishing very well for coral trout. The return to the shallows of these fish has been good news for reef fishers as they have also begun to bite well again after Cyclone Yasi. There have been some excellent catches coming from the further out reefs and travelling that extra 20km or so is often the difference between a good trip and a great trip.

On the inshore front the bait concentrations around Bowen have been absolutely amazing this year which has lead to some incredible bait ball sessions on all manner of mac and longtail tuna, giant trevally, golden trevally, mackerel and even the odd cobia.

I have given my spinning gear such a flogging that both rods have gone in for runner repairs due to over use. Flicking metals can often take its toll on runners and it always pays to check your runners for any signs of wear, especially if you are fishing low poundage braid. All it takes is a slight nick or wear in a runner and 10lb braid attached to a surging longtail will snap every time.

The bait balls are found from the tip of Queens Beach right through the bottom end of Sinclair Bay and hitting them early is the best time to maximise your catch.

Next month Bowen waters go through a real transition with the onset of the cooler weather. The subtle changes move into more obvious changes and can really affect the fishing, especially in the creeks.

I firmly believe that fish like barra and jacks begin to feed harder during these first cold snaps as they can sense the cold weather and hibernation is just around the corner. Getting amongst them during the first major changes is a top idea and can lead to some awesome sessions, especially in shallow water.

May will also see the best run of the crabs and you definitely don’t need to have your quota of pots in the water at this time of year to score a feed. Throwing in a couple of pots while chasing a barra or jack usually sees enough crabs to keep everyone happy.

Cold weather spells mackerel in Bowen and if we get an early snap we should see the small doggies and greys making their way to the patches just off Greys Bay.

Barra Netting

Unfortunately 2012 may spell the end of the prolific run of barramundi in Bowen as the severe lack of rain prior to the open season meant less than optimum breeding conditions for those big female fish. In January we would have been lucky to get more than 50mm of rain, which is well below what we would have wanted to get those big girls breeding.

Couple this with the extensive commercial netting that took place right on day one of the open season and most of the big breeders have already been taken out of the systems.

In one creek alone I saw a total of 1400kg of barra taken out in one night. Only a couple of days later I found several big dead females washed up on the bank and all three fish were full of roe and had yet to spawn.

While I don’t condone commercial netting of barra it makes you wonder whether the whole system could be a little more refined to deal with these poor monsoonal events.

The other issue is also the increased number of professional fishers who have moved from other areas of the state to commercial net for barra. This has really made the world pretty small for many local commercial operators in Bowen and some creeks that usually see maybe one or two guys harvesting fish are now seeing three or four, which has to have some impact on the barra populations.

When this starts happening you wonder why there isn’t a rule for commercial guys to let the fisheries know when and where they intend to net so at least someone can collect data on how heavily harvested some areas are. This process happens for offshore trout fishermen who have to log when and where they catch fish so why shouldn’t it happen in inshore areas as well?

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