December delicacies
  |  First Published: December 2012

Lure fishers will be licking their lips this month as the estuary fishing will be red hot. With cooler than average temperatures persisting through much of spring, the lure fishing in creeks and estuaries has been sparkling in patches. And as we get deeper into summer, these braid burning sessions should begin to get a lot more consistent.

One variable that has been a real feature in the creeks around Bowen over the last couple of months has been the massive amount of small whitebait that have taken up residence right throughout the systems. We saw this phenomenon last year and it really made for some exciting fishing as the copious amounts of bait saw the fish, especially the jacks, put on some size.

It also made finding fish a lot easier as tell-tale signs of fish feeding were pretty obvious. This small white bait tends to spray across the water when ambushed by a predator fish. It is often the case of casting small softies into or around these fleeting baitfish and a hook up was likely. In fact, it made for some pretty awesome night lure fishing sessions, especially under a full moon, when the fish really went to town on these big shoals of bait that congregated around the mouths of Boat and Meatworks Creek.

Matching the hatch is an important factor when these small baitfish become the staple of the target species as large hardbody lures tend to go untouched. Shifting down to small soft plastics, especially shad patterns and grub, around the 3” size is perfect for this scenario. Small hardbody lures, in particular blades, are also a top option when the bait is being harassed away from structure.

More often than not, the fish will sit below the bait school so a slow sinking option is ideal; worm hooks or light weighted jigheads are a must. If you are using a hardbody, in particular a suspending lure, try beefing up the trebles a bit to get that extra bit of weight to get the lure to sink a little quicker.

Mangrove jacks will be the pick species in December in the creeks with the barramundi enjoying a much needed break. The ingredients for finding these red devils this month is pretty simple. Obviously, finding the bait is important however finding some clearer water is also important. It pays to do a bit of reconnaissance before throwing a few lures and if you can find both these variables the odds will be in your favour.

Jacks love to school up this time of year so multiple catches are quite possible, especially if you use a combination of hardbodied and soft plastic lures. Having a couple of rod and reel combinations working in tandem is a great tactic this time of year and working a likely looking area with a combination of offerings will often bring the best results.

Size and quality will be what really amazes in December as the jacks really put on the beef quickly with the huge amount of bait around. Fish up to 55cm are quite possible in the creeks, especially those north of Bowen, and when you get connected up to a fish this size you will need a bit of luck to get it out of the structure and into the open water.

Ensure your gear is up to scratch. I tend to up the poundage a bit for this time of year in braid and fluorocarbon leader, so you can really put the skids on the fish when you need to. Trebles and rings are just as important and switching your trebles over to the Decoy Wide Gapes is worthwhile when you know that your lure is going to see plenty of action. Wide gapes hold a lot of advantages over your normal treble as they are stronger less prone to bending, and seem to penetrate and hold fish better, especially hard swiping jacks. I get a lot more hook ups on semi-strikes as they really tend to bite deep into the fish and work even deeper during the battle.

With the heat comes the rain, and the mud crabs should begin to get moving in December. It has been a little lean this year in terms of mud crab catches; most of the locals attribute this to the lack of wet season we had during the monsoon. There seems to be plenty of just-undersize bucks around at present and as the wet comes through these crabs should put on the extra couple of centimetres to make that magical 15cm mark.

Finding muddy spots to put your pots is a good start in the creeks around Bowen. Many of the creeks are dominated with sand so finding a couple of banks that are thick with mangrove mud or weed is ideal.

If the creeks are not your thing, then the offshore fishing will also be favourable this time of year. With no reef fin fish closure in December this year, fishing around the new moon should see excellent catches of coral trout and other tasty reef fish. This is when these fish spawn and congregate in big numbers so finding a bait-filled bommie off the back of one of Bowen’s many islands is a good place to secure a feed.

Big baits, in particular strip hussar or stripey baits, with the wings and tails still attached are ideal, however it is hard to go past a 7” grub or jerk shad worked aggressively off the bottom. There should be plenty of crayfish around as well, so don’t forget to throw in your snorkelling gear. Just remember to cover up as stinger season will be happening.

Next month should see the rain begin to fall and while the target species in the creeks will remain the same, fishing strategy will shift in a big way. Finding clean water will become more difficult and therefore so will finding the fish. In saying that the extra challenge is always worth the reward as finding feeding fish during a run-off can be one pretty exciting experience.

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