Big runs are lots of fun
  |  First Published: February 2013

February is all about big tidal runs and big barramundi and it’s a great time to be on the water.

I both love and hate the beginning of the barra season. On one side, I can now dust off the big suspending lures without feeling guilty, but on the other side, watching tonnes of fish being netted out of creeks by commercial operators is always like a stake to the heart. Last year in Bowen we had a massive unbalance of commercial barra netting operations where on many occasions multiple different operators were unknowingly netting the same systems on consecutive nights, which really gave these creeks little time to recover and recuperate. The constant netting saw not only massive amounts of barra taken but also some huge amounts of bycatch. I can only hope this year there is a little more communication between the commercial guys for the sake of sustainability.

Focusing on the brighter side, the whereabouts of barra will be heavily influenced by the tides and February is always a time when big tides rule the traffic. Lots of water means lots of movement especially in terms of bait schools. Bait will often be pushed out around the mouths of creeks and this will be where many of the bigger barra will be found.

One of the best spots to get amongst a few big fish will be in the south of Sinclair Bay in Bowen around the Gregory River and adjoining Billy’s Creek. These systems have multiple mouths with huge sand gutters and mangrove-lined islands, which are havens for bait and big barra. Don’t just concentrate on luring the banks, troll big lures out around the mouths especially on bigger tides will score those larger trophy fish. If there is a bit of run off this will be an even more attractive option.

Big tides means headland fishing is a superb option and thankfully Bowen has plenty of rocky foreshores that are proven barra haunts, especially in February. These are awesome options on the big 3m+ tides. Spending a bit of time around these areas will soon get you in the know of where the barra love to frequent on certain times and time on the water is always the best variable to becoming a better barra angler. These spots are great for quick sessions as they only fish well for a couple of hours and really suit those who are time limited. Some of the better spots are around the mouth of Duck Creek and Adelaide Creek just south of Bowen and a quick boat trip from the Bowen Harbour across the bay will reveal plenty of prime country. Don’t be surprised if you come across a few other tasty species like mangrove jacks and even black spot tusk fish. These fish love to frequent these areas and will jump all over your barra offerings as well.

I love throwing soft plastics at barra as they can be worked really slowly and allow for greater time for these fish to get their gob on them. Through the no-take season I actually had to put several soft plastics away as all they caught were barra. One in particular, the Jellybean Prawn from Tight Lures, was simply devastating and come the 1 February this will be the first softy I will be tying on without hesitation. There is just something about a perfectly imitated prawn hoping around in the current and I never tire of the soft barra slurp when they suck them down like jellybeans.

The other exceptional form of fishing which comes into its own in February is flats fishing. Having recently started getting into kayak fishing I am chomping at the bit to get amongst the multiple sand flats around Bowen on the big February tides as the species on offer are amazing. The diversity is something that has to be seen as you can be casting small crab softy’s at golden trevally one minute than switching to big chuggers after lone GT the next. Then there are the barra schools, king threadfin and even tusk fish and jacks. The flats around Bowen are very spectacular and while I don’t have a fascination for fly fishing if you love the long wand this is one place you will really enjoy.

My favourite target species is the golden trevally and with their big golden pectoral wings and vivid black stripes they just look awesome cruising through the water sucking down yabbies and crabs with their vacuum lips. They go even better when hooked and pound for pound go just as hard as GT.

Big tidal runs are also good news for reef fishers, especially around Bowen’s many islands. While big tides are cursed by offshore deep water fishers around the shallow fringing reef islands they really fire up the trout and sweetlip. Fishing baits and softies right into points where the current is flowing the strongest will bring plenty of fish in February. Fishing around the islands is a top option as there is always some protection and the scenery and natural environment is incredible.

March will bring much of the same as February however variables such as freshwater run off and monsoonal activity will begin to lessen, which will make finding fish particularly in the creeks a little easier. Once the run off diminishes basic creek tactics will apply and catches will become more consistent and patterns easier to put together.

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